Teaching Beginners – A Journey of Discovery

Skills and Concepts Introduced During the First Year of Lessons

I believe teaching beginners is one of the most responsible and pleasurable experiences a music teacher can have. The responsibility for cultivating and developing a child’s musical and technical capabilities, for instilling a lifelong joy and appreciation of music and creating a solid foundation upon which all other musical activity is built are some of the goals we, as teachers, strive towards nurturing in our pupils.

Instilling the Joy of Music
Instilling the Joy of Music

I believe teaching beginners is one of the most responsible and pleasurable experiences a music teacher can have. The responsibility for cultivating and developing a child’s musical and technical capabilities, for instilling a lifelong joy and appreciation of music and creating a solid foundation upon which all other musical activity is built are some of the goals we, as teachers, strive towards nurturing in our pupils.

The skills reinforced in the first years of learning will colour children’s attitudes towards music and will largely determine their tastes, practice habits and how they will view music later in life.

I believe in introducing my students to a wide variety of activities designed to stimulate the ear, the eye and the mind. As well as focusing on the necessary skills of note reading and co-ordination at the keyboard, I strongly encourage the development of aural awareness and creative musicianship. Above all, I believe learning should be an enjoyable and stimulating experience, a shared journey of discovery for both pupil and teacher.  

The following is an outline of the practical knowledge gained and the type of activities I introduce to my pupils during their first year of tuition. 

Understanding of Printed Material

  • Pitch & Rhythmic Notation
  • Note Reading
  • Terminology
  • Fingering
  • check
    awareness of stave, clef, location of notes on the stave, letter naming
  • check
    know values of commonly used notes and their equivalent rests
  • check
    recognise different time signatures, describe how many beats per bar

Application of Printed Material

  • Sightreading
  • Theory
  • check
    pitch name recognition
  • check
    rhythmic competence (time signature, barlines, rests)
  • check
    simple composition
  • check
    ‘mechanics’ of drawing clefs, notes and rests
  • check
    knowledge of scales, tones, semitones, intervals and triads

Keyboard Geography & Hand Positioning

  • Keyboard Layout 
  • ​Five Finger Patterning
  • Hand Coordination
  • check
    position of notes on the stave correctly associated with their corresponding position on the keyboard
  • check
    black key groupings

Posture & Technique

  • Posture
  • Hand Position
  • Arm Freedom
  • Touch
  • Scales & Exercises
  • check
    simple major and minor scales introduced hands separately, gradually progressing to hands together
  • check
    basic beginner exercises introduced to strengthen fingers and develop greater independence

Aural Skills

  • Pitch Recognition
  • Rhythmic Recognition
  • Expressive Qualities
  • Tonality
  • Singing
  • check
    respond accurately to pulse in music and feel the number of beats in a bar
  • check
    clap and count accurately
  • check
    echo clap patterns and successfully recall rhythmic units
  • check
    count beats out loud

Musicianship & Interpretative Skills

  • Musicianship
  • Phrasing
  • Aural Imagination
  • check
    stimulate imagination by linking sounds to other instruments or non-musical sounds
  • check
    visualise a scene related to the music

Performance & Knowing the Instrument

  • Shared Music Making
  • How the Piano Works
  • check
    duet work
  • check
    opportunities to perform throughout the year and hear other students at different levels of experience