Teaching the tricky intermediate stages, by Karen Marshall

My guest post this week has been written by piano teacher and author Karen Marshall. Karen feels passionately about keeping students engaged in their piano studies, with emphasis on enjoyment, so they want to continue their piano playing. I asked her what elements she considered most important when teaching at the intermediate level (approximately Grade 3 – 5). Over to Karen…


The intermediate stage of learning the piano – and indeed any instrument – is a notoriously tricky period. Many teachers may find students dropping off, losing interest and quitting lessons. I’ve been teaching now for over 25 years and it could not fail to come to my attention that these stages of learning were some of the most difficult to progress through.

There are multiple reasons for this, but I believe it is often at least partly due to increased school work (leaving less time to practise), at the same time as music becoming considerably more complex.  Students who have a good ear and have previously been able to memorise music will start to struggle to do this with the longer repertoire.  Added to that, frustrations mount as music becomes more technically and musically demanding, resulting in slower progress.

My solution to these problems was to come up with an intermediate curriculum for my students that would help to develop their musical understanding and provide a holistic learning experience. But I also realised that my students required variety, the opportunity to be creative, and a continual sense of achievement. If these elements are combined with key theory, technical development, and carefully chosen repertoire, I found that note-reading will be improved, technique and musicality developed and students will gain a greater understanding of what they are learning.

The Intermediate Pianist is an amalgamation of my life’s work, tailoring this holistic approach for use with Grade 3 to 5 level students. It is a series of three books that has emerged from years of working with these students, aided by many attractive compositions by Heather Hammond.  It is, in essence, a music curriculum that piano teachers can use to fit their teaching style, either by working through each chapter in lessons, or by getting students to use it at home.

Co-author Heather Hammond and I have paced the books to take into account varying time students have to practise. We made sure that the music deliberately spanned a range of difficulty levels and styles, so some pieces can be learnt in just one or two weeks, whilst others are more challenging. This approach has been highly successful in ensuring my students didn’t give up the piano, and very luckily I was able to get this curriculum published. Here’s a quick look at the different elements:

To provide variety and understanding

25 Styles of music explained with definitions and activities over three books.  Including March and Lullabies, Swing and Boogies; Polka and Baroque Dance Suits, Four chord Pop and Reggae; Latin and Theme and Variations, Impressionism and Minimalism.

To provide opportunities for creativity and understanding

Musicianship activities included throughout from playing by ear to transposition, listening activities to recognising cadences.  Theory is included in a creative and attractive way with word searches and quiz activities.

To provide pace and ‘quick wins’

Quick learn material for sight reading – lots of easier material is included so students will have enough time to complete the whole book and experience lots of styles, keys and improve their sight reading.  Pieces move forward and backwards in levels for consolidation.

To provide understanding

Technique – All keys’ scales and arpeggios are covered up to five flats and five sharps along with carefully selected technical exercises or repertoire to develop key technique.

To keep students inspire using the repertoire of great composers

Repertoire – Core repertoire has been selected from Bach’s Anna Magdalena Note book and his Two Part Inventions, Schumann’s Album for the Young, Tchaikovsky’s Children Album, Clementi Sonatinas Opus 36, Burgmuller’s Opus 100, Chopin’s Preludes and Bartok’s For Children.  This is combined with new composition and arrangements or famous classical music from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony to the Flower Duet by Delibes, Howard Goodhall’s QI theme and Por Una Cabeza Tango.

You can purchase The Intermediate Pianist from all good retailers, or from Faber’s website, here.


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Weekend Competition: Christmas Piano Duets

Christmas Duets

As we find ourselves hurtling towards Christmas, today’s competition features a festive piano book. Christmas Cool Piano Duets, arranged by popular British composer Heather Hammond and published by Kevin Mayhew, contains twelve favourites, perfect for a student/teacher combination, or two students. Great for the end of term Christmas concert, or any piano party!

The pieces are approximately early intermediate level (around Grades 3 – 5), but the primo parts are generally easier than those of the secondo (which is why they would be perfect for a teacher and student). Also excellent sight-reading material for more advanced players. Included are Frosty the Snowman, Good King Wenceslas, Joy to the  World, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and Walking in the Air.

The winner of this collection will also receive a couple of practice notebooks, written by Heather and published by Mayhew. A Practice Fun Book and a Practice Record Book; they will hopefully encourage young players to practice regularly and keep a record of their work. Each book contains useful tips and exercises.

To win, just leave your comment in the comment box at the end of this post. I will select a winner on Monday (November 9th) evening (British time). Good luck!

You can purchase Heather’s duets here, the practice record book here, and the Practice fun book here.

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My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Weekend competition winners…

winners-are

Thank you all for taking part in my Weekend Competition. Get Set! Piano author, Heather Hammond and I have enjoyed reading your comments. After much deliberation, we have awarded the books as follows…..

Betsy Stocksdale wins Pieces and Tutor Book 1, and Marla Mosiman wins Pieces and Tutor Book 2. Congratulations! As always, please send your addresses via the contact page on this blog and your books will be on their way tomorrow.

You can find out more and purchase Get Set! Piano here.

More competitions coming very soon!

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My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


Weekend Competition: Get Set! Piano

Get Set Piano 1

It’s Friday! And therefore time for another weekend competition. Today’s prize features several copies of Get Set! Piano which is a tutor (or method) book series published by Bloomsbury and written by Heather Hammond and Karen Marshall.

Tutor Book 1 is accompanied by Pieces Book 1, and there is Tutor Book 2 and Pieces Book 2 as well (I’ve a copy of each, therefore two lucky readers will receive either both Tutor and Pieces Book 1 or 2), and this combination provides lots of material for beginners. Posture, hand positions and improvisation with teacher are highlighted, as well as writing exercises and simple, but effective illustrations. The thumb is introduced sparingly, and little tunes are slowly incorporated.

As usual, all you need to do is leave a comment in the comment box at the end of this post, and Heather Hammond and I will select two winners on Sunday evening (British time).

You can find out much more about Get Set! Piano here.

Get Set Piano


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


Ballads Without Words: the Winner is…

and-the-winner-is

The popularity of my weekend competitions, prizes and giveaways is steadily increasing, and I hope you are enjoying them as much as me! Thank you  for taking the time and trouble to leave a comment this week. They are all much appreciated.

Sadly, there could only be one winner this week. It was a very difficult choice because (as you can see) there were many comments, but composer Heather Hammond has selected a winner (drum roll!)…

Learnatune – Many congratulations! As always, please send your address via my contact form here on the blog. A signed copy of Ballads Without Words is on its way to you.

There will be lots more competitions; I have some wonderful piano prizes from various composers, writers and publishers, so stay tuned!

If you would like to buy Heather’s piano pieces Ballads Without Words, click here.

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Friday Competition: Ballads Without Words

Ballades-Without-Words-for-piano-by-Heather-Hammond-296x415

It’s Friday! Therefore it’s a competition day here on my blog. Today’s prize is a signed copy of British composer Heather Hammond‘s new piano compositions, Ballads Without Words. Published just this week in hard copy (you can also purchase a digital version too), Heather has written a group of eight colourful pieces intended for those of intermediate level (Grades 4-6), which are full of contrasting moods and melodic surprises.

Written in modern pop ballad genre, some pieces have a real jazzy edge, with frequently changing meters and pulsating chordal passages, whilst others are calm, tranquil, and occasionally tinged with sorrow. They are perfect students and teachers wanting to explore new Contemporary repertoire, and great for those who fancy an interesting diversion between exams.

As usual, leave a suitable comment in the comment box at the end of this blog post to  be in with a chance of winning. Heather will pick a winner on Sunday evening (British time), so stay tuned for the result…

You can listen to all the pieces (played by Heather) and purchase a copy here.

EVC Music Publications