Note: Adult students can replace the word "Parent" with "The responsible me"
When people of all ages sit in front of a piano for the first time, they usually feel a mixture of excitement, curiosity and awe. They will try pressing the keys, listen to the sounds they can create and will warm up to the instrument quickly.
Once they have been taking lessons for a while, it would be great if this excitement at experimenting with sounds and touch could remain. Theoretically, the higher the level of playing, the more tools you have for creating your own music. But often the student is told right at the beginning of their musical journey not to do this. They are scolded and told to practice properly so don't get the chance to develop this side of their playing.
To avoid misunderstandings, I would like to make it clear that obviously if you are taking piano lessons ,you should practice whatever your teacher assigned you to do throughout the week. There is almost no chance you will make progress if you don't follow the guidance of the teacher. But you will also profit by being able to also have some free time at the piano where you can doodle, improvise and just let go.
I once heard a piano teacher say that the piano is like a sand pit. As a child you sit in the sand and experiment. Building and ruining, then trying another way of building- you can spend hours on end learning about how to create sand castles and dig tunnels! In the sand pit the child is developing motor skills, coordination, patience, endurance and basic knowledge about gravity and the laws of nature.
The piano too is a wonderful place for experimenting. The patterns of the keys on the keyboard need getting used to. Pressing the keys and listening to the changes in the tone and pitch is fascinating and critical for understanding how piano playing works. Discovering that you can make up little tunes on your own is a revelation! Playing snippets from songs or movie themes is exciting and very good for the development of aural skills. I have often found that what seemed at first like a student annoyingly just messing around at the piano was actually an exploring of a certain pattern or a discovery of a tune. This so called messing around is to be encouraged! It can help the student connect with the instrument, and develop their creativity.
The black keys of the piano form a sequence called the pentatonic scale. Penta being five, as there are five black keys (set in a pattern of alternating groups of two and three keys ). This pentatonic scale sounds pleasant and soothing since the keys are far away enough from one another so as not to acoustically clash. If the student hasn't discovered this yet or hasn't been told about this by their teacher, you (the parent) may want to suggest to them to try and play those black keys while pressing down the pedal on the right with the right foot. Then see what it sounds like without using the pedal. Let them try playing tunes all over the piano on the black keys. Encourage them to try out and experiment and let them show you proudly what they have created. Let them enjoy the sand pit!
- Pattern Play Improvisation
- Interview with Forrest Kinney about Improvisation
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