How to Teach Beginner Piano Students [No Book Beginners] - Creative Music Education
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How to Teach Beginner Piano Students [No Book Beginners]

By Tim Topham | Creativity

Mar 26

What is the best way to teach beginner piano students and to inspire, engage and motivate them in their first lesson?

Is it through opening a method book and teaching students how to read middle C?

Or, is it through:

  • Exploring the piano
  • Creating musical stories
  • Playing games
  • Playing by ear
  • Transposing
  • Harmonising, and
  • Improvising?

If you ask me, beginner piano lessons should be the most exciting, creative and engaging lessons you teach. It is your chance to help form the beginning of a life-long passion for music and piano in your new student.

And you can do it all without even touching a method book.

Let me show you exactly how to get started with my No Book Beginners Framework.

teaching beginner piano

No Book Beginners

Today, I’m going to show you exactly how to teach your beginner piano students in a creative way without opening a method book.

I call this my No Book Beginners (NBB) Framework.

It’s designed to give you enough ideas so you can teach beginners for 10-weeks (or more) without a book before you start to teach reading with your favourite method book.

There is a huge amount of evidence that suggests the best way to teach music is firstly through listening, copying, singing, creating and exploring well before anything to do with reading and writing.

It’s the same way that we learn to speak our native language. You’d never think of teaching a child to read and write before they can speak and improvise in their language, so why do we do it for music?

Related: Why I Teach Beginners Without a Method Book 

It’s why I’m so passionate about helping other teachers to immerse their beginners in an experience of music before they start trying to read.

The Framework I’m going to show you in the videos below is just that: a scaffold of ideas for your own teaching.

The Framework is about showing you what’s possible.

It will give you lots of ideas so that you can expand your current teaching methods by adding creative activities.

These activities will ensure your beginner piano students are:

  • Set up with the basics of technique, sitting position and knowledge of the keyboard
  • Immersed in creative music-making activities that will hopefully continue for a lifetime
  • It will ensure they are challenged to explore music and be curious about how it works
  • Your students will be given the fundamentals of meter, rhythm, beat and time and feel it in their bodies
  • They’ll be able to transpose tunes and hear and understand harmony
  • They’ll listen, sing and pitch-match from the beginning
  • And they’ll be 100% engaged and having fun with music before they start the next phase: reading

Things to Keep in Mind

Every student is different.

For some students, the 10-weeks of lessons I provide in my No Book Beginners Framework may take 6 weeks to absorb. For others, it may take 6 months, so make sure you’re flexible with your approach.

If it’s taking longer and you want to introduce some reading, you can do this at any stage and use NBB alongside your reading approach.

Make sure you’re always flexible and teach in a way that matches your student’s abilities and interests.

This Framework is designed for teaching beginner piano students around 7-11 years old, having 30-45 minute weekly lessons and is designed for teachers working 1-on-1 with students in a private studio setting, but could easily be adapted to work in classroom and group settings.

I call this a Framework as it’s designed to scaffold your teaching and provide ideas and direction. You don’t need to take it as gospel and I encourage you to explore, change, remix and edit it as much as you wish.

It can work alongside your current teaching style, or you could try it as a replacement for a student. It’s totally up to you how you’d like to use it. I’m not precious about how my ideas are used and you’ll need to adapt it to suit your student in any case!

Feel free to add your own ideas and teaching resources as much as you’d like.

FREE Lesson Plan Download

You can get a full FREE lesson plan download for NBB Lesson 1 below.

Make sure you print out your lesson plan so that you can follow along. Feel free to pause this video while you get it ready!

Lesson 1 – Part 1

In this video, watch as I explain exactly how to teach Lesson 1. Make sure you’ve got your lesson plan download ready.

Lesson 1 – Part 2

Then we start improvising on the black keys and, as you’ll see when you download your lesson plan, I’ve included some accompaniment patterns to get you started.

 

Want Lesson Plan 2 & More Creative Help?

This training forms Lesson 1 in my 10-part NBB series for beginner piano students.

The series is available in full to members of my Inner Circle community or as a stand-alone course here.

In this course, I’ll be sharing activities that cover 10 weeks of creative beginner lessons including:

  • Technique and sitting position
  • All the notes of the piano keyboard and using the pedal
  • Listening and aural skills
  • Pitch matching
  • Singing
  • Playing by rote
  • Hearing, singing and playing harmony
  • Rhythm creation, tapping, chanting
  • Improvising all over the keyboard
  • Making up musical stories

It’s all the activities that we should be doing with beginners before they start reading, but that most of us don’t do!

You can access the full course right now by becoming a member of my community or purchasing the course here.

Got any Questions?

Do you feel this method of teaching beginner piano students will work in your studio?

What activities do you like/dislike? What other activities have you used that seem to work well? Leave your thoughts below!

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About the Author

Tim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at timtopham.com and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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