Group piano classes - Effective techniques for group play

Discuss the pros and cons of various "methods" with other teachers

Postby Piano Wannabe » Sun Apr 30, 2006 4:50 pm

I teach a group piano class of about 10 students. This is a beginner class and I want them to have fun playing together as a team. We note sing as we play and some other fun things.
I make recordings of the exercise pieces and play them in class, on a CD player. I select a track (which is an exercise) and put it on repeat, instructing the class to play along with it in unison.
This is a new technique to me, so I am doing some experimenting with tempo. Currently I am recording each exercise at two tempos, 72 and 80.
I let the track play repeatedly while walking the classroom, observing each student and providing assistance where needed.
I would like to get some feedback as to how you feel about this technique and particularly what tempos you would use.
BTW, I use an accompaniment background in place of a metronome to make the exercises more appealing.
I should really be playing.
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Postby pianoannie » Mon May 01, 2006 11:22 am

It's impossible for me to judge an appropriate tempo without knowing what the exercises include. Obviously a met at 72 for an exercise using half notes is going to be easier than met 72 for eighth notes.

But in general, I think that if I were going to record two different tempi, I would have a greater difference than 72 and 80. (probably a difference of 20 bpm)

I'm curious, did you record yourself playing exactly what the students play, or is it a background accompaniment (fuller)?
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Postby Stretto » Mon May 01, 2006 11:36 am

What might make a fun twist on the whole tempo thing is depending on if it would not be too much work, record 4 or 5 speeds one getting a little faster than the next until you have a speed that is borderline way too fast to possibly keep up. Then if every one can play the exercises at your minimum required speed ok, then have them play bumping the speed up a notch in speed each time getting faster and faster. - Sort of like those songs kids sing that start out slow and repeat getting faster and faster each time. - Just a goofy idea that may or may not work well in reality :D ! - Maybe do it this way as a reward just for fun after everyone is doing well getting the hang of your regular way.



Edited By Stretto on 1146505086
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Postby Piano Wannabe » Mon May 01, 2006 6:26 pm

pianoannie wrote:It's impossible for me to judge an appropriate tempo without knowing what the exercises include.
But in general, I think that if I were going to record two different tempi, I would have a greater difference than 72 and 80. (probably a difference of 20 bpm)
accompaniment (fuller)?

The met setting is for quarter notes. I record each exercise as written except that I have "style" drummer keeping the beat instead of using a metronome.
I've just begun this technique, prompted to do so for a couple of reaseons:
1. The recording can repeat without tiring, providing several minutes of practice for each exercise.
2. It allows me to leave my piano and assist a student while the others continue practice.
This is an 8 week course, consisting of 8 one hour lessons. T Some of the students start at level zero, se we have to be patient and not play too fast too soon.
I think a jump of 20 is too much for some students. On the other hand 72 may be too boring for others. Getting it right for most students is the secret to teaching group.
I should really be playing.
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Postby Piano Wannabe » Mon May 01, 2006 6:35 pm

Stretto wrote:What might make a fun twist on the whole tempo thing is depending on if it would not be too much work, record 4 or 5 speeds one getting a little faster than the next until you have a speed that is borderline way too fast to possibly keep up. .

I like the more speeds idea. It reminds me of when I was learning morse code. We would start taking at 5 word/min and when we achieved an accuracy of 90%, we were moved to the next level, until we could take over 20 wpm.
I'm going to try three levels per exercise and see how that goes. Probably two at an exercise speed and one at a performance speed.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Tue May 02, 2006 6:20 pm

Glad you are teaching group piano. I wish there were more teachers, privately and in schools, spreading the joys of learning to play the piano.
I have had students walk to the music, play instruments, clap or tap - half may be playing and half keeping the rhythm. Then they switch. It helps some to feel the beat that way and hear it.
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Postby Piano Wannabe » Wed May 03, 2006 5:37 am

You know, as I think about it, thats really the motivation. Anyone who enjoys playing will get lots of satisfaction from sharing it.

I like your ideas for getting students involved in the music. Keeping the beat, but keeping it fun is a key concept. Giving half the class a clapping break will probably be a fun way to do it.
We had class last night, and I found that for the beginner group class 72bpm worked best. For the next level, it depended on the exercise.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed May 03, 2006 8:57 am

Sometimes I do it to keep the boys active - walking and playing instruments helps and they do stay with the beat. It seems most of my students are not able to sit a long time and pay attention. The world today? Not just the boys either. My grandchildren are no exception! (6 and 8).

Running groups can be a challenge, but SO rewarding. So much is learned from each other and a little competition is good. And as Dr.Bill mentioned, it is offering piano in a social setting.

I better get to it now and set up another group


:laugh:
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