“Never send students home with a piece without capturing their interest and excitement in the piece, and giving them a sense that they can master it easily.”
– Frances Clark
One part of this quote particularly permeated Frances Clark’s lectures: “A sense that they can master it easily.” If the students feel they “can” and they are also are excited about the piece, they will go right to the piano to learn it. Recently, the New School faculty discussed this quote, which seems a bit self-explanatory. Though the meaning is clear, thoughtful teaching will bring these ideals to fruition:
Interest and excitement
One teacher emphasized the importance of playing students’ repertoire beautifully for our students. To expand on this idea, practicing our students’ repertoire will be a helpful step in preparing for our lessons. If we teach repertoire that we love, our enthusiasm will tend to transfer to the student. Keeping in mind the student’s own preferences for mood and style will help guide the repertoire selection.
A sense that they can master it easily
Find something that students can memorize right away (chord pattern, ostinato, etc.). Alternatively, teach a bit of the piece by rote. With these teaching techniques, students are playing right away. Another way to get the student to the piano right away is to have the student play a duet with the teacher (the student plays one hand and the teacher plays the other).
Help the student to see what is easy about the piece. For example, students can discover that the left hand only plays broken and blocked fifths, that the right hand only uses 3 fingers, that the beginning section repeats later, and so on. With intermediate pieces and advanced pieces, there are a variety of techniques that will help the student to discover the essence of a piece or a passage. For example, blocking the chords in an Alberti bass pattern will help a student to see how many different chords are really being played and to see past the mass of sixteenth notes.
One teacher recalled her work with her high school teacher who chose the most difficult parts of the piece as an exercise, at first just assigning these bits without playing the piece. Before she knew it, she could play impressive-sounding pieces with more ease than she could have imagined. We all agreed that a clear practice plan is essential, with the student summarizing the practice strategies before moving on to the next activity.
What kinds of things do you do with your own students that relate to this Frances Clark quote?