Robert Pace - National Conference On Piano Pedagogy
4 - Modes of Instruction & Teaching Strategies

Next, we shall consider modes of instruction and teaching strategies. Probably more piano teachers throughout this country use these books in individual or private lessons rather than in groups. In recent years, many articles have appeared in the various journals in which the relative merits of group and individual piano instruction have been discussed, therefore, it does not seem necessary to review those ideas here. However, it might be appropriate to reflect on how harmony, ear training, sight-reading, improvisation, etc., are taught at the college level. Obviously, these are all taught n some sort of group or class to reduce unnecessary repetition and redundancy. For this reason, alone, I would encourage teachers to use the Theory, Creative Music and Finger Builder Books in a group learning situation. Ideally, this could be done with a dyad plus another session with eight or ten students, but excellent results can be obtained from overlapping two dyads as shown here:

          3:00 Dyad                       Repertoire

          3:40 Class of Four           Theory, Creative Music, Technique

          4:20 Dyad                       Repertoire


Teaching repertoire with a dyad is exciting since the teacher can involve both students in helping each other solve their various problems. This lively peer interaction is valuable preparation for meeting the challenges of daily practice and helps avoid plateaus and doldrums. Constructive peer evaluation encourages students to learn pieces quickly, to play accurately and in a musical way, and to be prepared at each lesson. These interactions provide an excitement about one's own learning, (growth motivation), as opposed to the deficit motivation of contests gold stars and other "payoffs."

A final point which is central to this approach is that sufficient knowledge and competence must accrue at each level of advancement so that students will always have something to show for their efforts. No one can forecast exactly how long students will continue to study nor what level of achievement they will attain. A few may ultimately use music as their profession, but for the vast majority, music should provide pleasure and personal satisfaction in their lives. After several years of instructions, one student might wish to transfer form piano to another instrument, while another might simply want to explore music on his or her own. Because of their musical literacy and competence, both students would have the basic knowledge and variety of experiences to pursue their own interests with no feeling of musical failure for having discontinued piano lessons. Indeed, this musical preparation will help all students go on their own more easily in the future.

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