HOW SHOULD WE PLAN A FIRST PIANO LESSON WITH A BEGINNER.
The first piano lesson of every beginner child is very important.
What should we teach on a first piano lesson?
How are we going to teach?
We need to have a lesson plan that we can count on it.
Children come to this first lesson full of hope and joy for new knowledge and experiences. They are here because they would love to play the piano!
But on the other side, they are anxious and stressed. Will they be able to learn to play the piano? What difficulties are they going to face?
It’s our job to make these children feel comfortable and trust us.
Always remember that the first impressions of a student will be in his memory and will affect him for a long time.
That is why the first lesson is very important and we need to know exactly what we are doing to give our student the feeling of trust, confidence and joy.
You may read more on the psychological aspects of piano teaching in my post Becoming a better piano teacher-a practical psychological approach.
So before I give you ideas on WHAT to teach on a first piano lesson I would love to share with you some general thoughts to consider.
- Create a beautiful positive music learning environment
Entering a beautiful teaching area can give our students joy and inspiration.
We can do this in many ways and in our own style.
You can read more and get ideas and inspirations in my post How to create a positive music learning environment.
- Welcome your student to your place
Introduce your new student to your piano studio or music school to make him feel less a stranger.
Show him the teaching area, the waiting room and also show him where he can drink some water and where the WC is.
When you get in the teaching room explain the different corners/areas of the room.
"Here we are going to sit and play the piano",
"There we are going to play our board games",
"Here we are going to sit and do our written exercises" etc.
- Get to know each other
Have a small conversation with him to break the ice and reduce the fear that the student might feel in the first lesson.
Ask him how his day was, tell him a few things about your day. Ask him about his school, his family etc. But be careful! You don’t want to sound like you are interrogating him about anything.
- Give him the supplies he is going to need for his lessons
I usually don't give books on the very first lesson because I want to make sure that the method books I am going to use are the right ones for each student. I wait a couple of lessons, sometimes more, before I decide which method I am going to give my student.
But I give my students a manuscript book on their first lesson.
It's a very nice idea to give your student a small welcome gift which he is about to use during his piano lessons. It can be a manuscript book and a pencil or a folder or handbag to put his books in or anything else you prefer.
Don’t worry if you don’t want to spend money on a welcome gift. It’s just an idea that I suggest but it’s not that you definitely need to do it.
Length of a beginner’s piano lesson
The length of a first piano lesson depends on the student. Generally speaking, I would say that a first piano lesson could last from 25 minutes to 45 minutes. Of course someone can have a one-hour lesson.
Personally, I prefer teaching my beginner students twice a week for thirty minutes. I find it more productive and practical since most of the beginner students don’t have an acoustic piano. Teaching them twice a week for thirty minutes gives them the opportunity to play on a real piano twice a week.
And now it’s time for our lesson!
WHAT DO WE TEACH ON A FIRST PIANO LESSON?
Meet the piano
Most children don’t know a lot of things about the piano as an instrument. They don’t know how it works, some of them think that an electric keyboard and a piano work the same.
As a first approach explain and show your student how a piano works. Show him the strings, the hammers the pedals and give him some info about how all these are connected and produce sound. Children would love this!
Play some piano music that shows all the beauty of this instrument. You don’t have to play difficult pieces, you can play popular music, slow, romantic, more lively, whatever you feel you want to. This is a nice way to discover your student’s taste in music.
If your student is interested you can also refer to when the piano was invented and by whom. Talk about the difference between the upright and the grand piano. Finally explain the difference between an electric piano, a keyboard and an acoustic piano.
If the student is too young or not interested in all the information, you may choose not to give many details to your introduction and keep it for some other lesson.
From my experience most children get excited when they see the inside of the piano so I suggest you do that.
- Body and hand posture
Before starting the exploration explain and show the proper body and hand posture someone may have in order to play the piano .
- Piano keyboard topography
Introduce the student to the groups of two and three black keys. Teach him how to find them easily.
Talk to your student about high and low sounds and play some. Talk about loud and soft sound, too.
- Finger number identification
Teach your student the finger number system and make sure he identifies the left and the right hand.
There are many nice exercises in different piano method books for hand and finger identification, but I personally prefer to draw my student’s hands and ask them to color or number the fingers.
I ask them to place their hands on their manuscript book and I slowly draw the outline of their hands.
Learning using the student's own hand is really fun and he enjoys it!
- Playing exercises and little songs on the piano
Now that you have explained the right body and hand posture, talk about finger position.
Show your student how to place his second and third fingers on the two black keys and ask him to play them.
He can also try to play the three black keys using fingers 2-3-4.
No matter what piano method you are about to use, I suggest you teach a few short melodies on the black keys for the first lesson.
This hand position feels more natural than Middle C position for a beginner. Placing 2-3-4 fingers on the black keys gives some space for the thumb to fall naturally on the white key.
And now you can teach him by rote or with only finger indications some melodies on the black keys.
There are several methods that suggest some songs on the black key hand position.
Of my favorites are Faber Piano Adventures primer book and Faber My first PIano Adventures series . There is also a step by step First lesson plan for book A of the above series that you can find and download here. If you have those methods you can try some exercises from there. I suggest the 'Two Black Ants' and the 'Two Blackbirds' from Piano Adventures primer level for a start. If you are not familiar with those, you may teach your student the exercises I suggest below. Teach them by rote or with finger indications only. You may also add lyrics to the melodies.
Find the exercises by clicking on First Piano Lesson Melodies.
Another important element you should teach on a first piano lesson the music alphabet and where is each note on the piano keyboard.
After explaining the whole piano keyboard, it’s good to mention the note C and teach the student how to find all Cs.
Ask your student to play with the second finger of his right or left hand all the notes on the piano while saying their names. If he can do this easily then ask him to go backwards while saying the notes again. This is more difficult of course. Some children can easily memorise the music alphabet descending. Some others don’t. In this case it’s a good idea to ask them to memorise only the half ( C-B-A-G) and the next lesson he will memorise the other half (F-E-D-C).
We never push the student to learn something because it is part of our lesson plan. Each student learns on its own pace and we should respect it.
Staff, Lines and Spaces
One last thing that you could teach on a first piano lesson is the staff with its five lines and four spaces. Show and ask your student to identify whether a note is on a line or in a space.
As you notice, the first beginner’s piano lesson should have a bit of everything.
You don’t have to teach everything I have mentioned though. Stop wherever you feel the student had enough.
Make sure to repeat whatever the student has been taught at the end of the piano lesson.
During the first piano lesson of a beginner child, we, as teachers, should try to understand how our student learns easily. If it’s easier for him to learn by ear, by memory or by reading symbols. We should also try to understand if they have a good ear, a good tempo, if they understand the lines and spaces in the stave.
Only if we understand our student we will be able to teach him the ideal piano method for him and to help him become a capable piano student.
All the above make the first piano lesson of a student very important for us.
But the first piano lesson is very important for the student, too.
You are his teacher and his mentor!! You are important!! You are the one to give him the self-confidence, the belief and the skills he needs to become a good piano player.
So here you are!!
Make your lesson plans and be ready for many beautiful first piano lessons!