Why Bother with Scales?

Pathways for Teaching

“For many, scales and arpeggios are an academic, dry and soulless part of learning the piano, and have to be practised because, like cod liver oil, they are ‘good for you’.”

Anthony WilliamsThe Piano Teacher’s Survival Guide (Faber, 2017, p.31)

Why bother with scales? (by which, for the purposes of this article, I also mean arpeggios and broken chords) …

In order to properly answer this question, this article will consider these related questions, of vital importance to students and teachers concerned to know about the purpose and value of teaching and learning scales:

  • What are the benefit of learning scales?
  • Is it important to use consistent fingering?
  • What are the benefits of cumulative learning vs. exam preparation?
  • How can scales practice and creativity go hand-in-hand?

Let’s get started by considering the core benefits of learning scales…

Continue reading Why Bother with Scales?

A Piece a Week Grade 4

Sheet Music Review

Paul Harris’s excellent A Piece a Week series has already prompted many of us to reevaluate how we encourage our students to develop their reading skills at the piano, providing delightful collections of pieces suitable as quick study material at Grades 1 to 3.

I have previously reviewed the Grade 1 and 2 books here, explaining the concept of quick study material in more depth; if you are coming to this review fresh please have a read of that introduction before going on.

I have also reviewed the Grade 3 book here. And for a second opinion, check out Liz Giannopoulos’s comments in her recent article about playing at sight here.

I am delighted to see, and to let you all know that those books have now been joined by the Grade 4 book – so let’s take a quick look!

Continue reading A Piece a Week Grade 4

Your Stories: Paul Harris

Your Stories

Paul Harris is one of the world’s most respected music educationalists. His compositions have delighted players and audiences around the world, and he has over 500 publications to his name. Paul is in great demand as a workshop and seminar leader in the UK, USA and the Far East.

Here he shares the story of how he discovered the piano as a child …

Continue reading Your Stories: Paul Harris

The Pianist’s Generosity

The Pianist’s Reflections Series

As I write it’s December, and in keeping with the season, I’m going to consider generosity

Let me start by sharing this brilliant quote from my good friend Paul Harris, which nicely sets the scene for my thoughts on generosity:

“Performing is an act of giving.
If we perform with artistry and skill – at any level, and with unconditional generosity – then everyone is the better for it.”

Continue reading The Pianist’s Generosity

Improve your sight-reading!

Sheet music Review

“When pupils can sight-read, not only do they do well in exams but (rather more importantly) it allows them to learn pieces more quickly, which frees up much of our teaching time, allowing us to concentrate on developing the musician. Ultimately, it gives them independence: they are able to learn music on their own – the greatest gift we can give.”

So says best-selling author Paul Harris in the introduction to Improve your sight-reading: Teacher’s Book – latest addition to his ever growing Improve Your Sight-Reading series, just published by Faber Music.

Written to work alongside the well-known, long-published Improve your sight-reading ‘pupil’ books, the Teacher’s Book mirrors the introduction of keys and concepts in those, as well as offering useful tips for teachers.

Most important of all, the Teacher’s Book includes dozens of new progressive practice tests for each of Grades 1-5, which can be used in lessons to complement the use of the pupil books for home practice.

As such, the book offers the potential to elevate what was already a great resource into a more complete sight-reading system which bridges both lesson and home use.

Let’s find out how well it succeeds in this aim…

Continue reading Improve your sight-reading!

A Piece a Week: Grade 3

Sheet Music Review

Reviewing Paul Harris’s A Piece A Week grade 1 and 2 books last year, I concluded:

“While not all players will have need of these books, a great many will benefit from using them, and A Piece A Week admirably fills a gap in the market for outstanding “quick study” material.

A Piece A Week lives up to the excellent standards Paul Harris and Faber Music have previously set, and for which they are so well known. I would say that the series is a genuine “must have” for all piano teachers.”

In the months since that review, I have started to use the books with students, and can confirm from experience that they succeed in all the respects that I previously hoped and noted. The books really are very good!

Indeed, the quick study format of A Piece a Week is establishing itself as one of my preferred ways of helping students develop their reading ability, which I find nicely complements my generally holistic, multi-sensory approach.

So before reading on, it would be a good idea to recap my previous review of the first two books, which gives a better idea of what the series is all about – you can read it here.

Continue reading A Piece a Week: Grade 3

A Voyage of Discovery

Pathways for Teaching

Guest Author  Paul Harris  explores how lessons might best unfold.

A lesson is a journey.

A lesson is a journey. But a rather special kind of journey: more a voyage of discovery. And we, as teachers, are both pilot and guide, working alongside our pupils, sometimes planning the route together, with the ultimate intention of teaching them to guide themselves. And what makes each journey – each lesson – so exciting, is that we don’t necessarily know either the route or exactly where we are heading … until we get there! But, crucially, we need to ensure that the journey is both enjoyable and productive.

As a wise man once said – you may be able to predict the teaching, but you can never predict the learning; so, even though you might have some idea of where you want to go, the lesson may wish to go somewhere else!

We do of course have a certain amount of control over a pupil’s progress through a lesson. So let’s have a look at how learning really should work.

Continue reading A Voyage of Discovery