The Musiah Piano Teaching Method Video Overview
In this talk, which took place recently at Griffith University in Brisbane, I discuss the Musiah Piano Teaching Method, and in particular the aspects of this piano teaching method that apply to teaching student how to read piano sheet music.
My Background And Experience As A Piano Teaching And Piano Lessons Expert
A lot of people ask me... Did I really start teaching at age 11, and yes, it’s true. I started learning piano at age 7, and I had various teachers including a Chopin specialist, Professor Anthony Glavin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and for pocket money, from age 11 I used to teach all the neighbouring kids on Saturdays and Sundays. So teaching has always been an important part of my life.
But more recently, I had the unique opportunity to spend thousands of hours over 17 years training and observing more than 800 hundred piano-keyboard teachers whom I would visit and coach in schools as they taught their piano-keyboard lessons.
And every time I visit a piano teacher I ask myself the same question. What is the one thing that most needs to change in order to make this teacher’s lessons better or more effective? And when you reflect on a question like that for 17 years, you start to come up with some interesting answers.
And that’s what I talk about in this video… Aspects of the Musiah Teaching Method and in particular how it applies to teaching note reading.
Common Mistakes Made By Piano Teachers All Over The World
Why is it, for example, that all over the world, at least 95% of all piano students will freely tell you that their left hand is weaker than their right, both in technique and in note reading?
The answer is simple. All over the world, at least 95% of well-meaning and otherwise good piano teachers are doing their students a disservice by making a simple mistake, and that is they habitually teach the right hand first.
Logically, rare exceptions aside, if God gave you and me two hands, why would you habitually favour one hand over the other? Surely, logic would suggest that we should start new pieces with the left hand at least 50% of the time. And yet the majority of teachers always start with the right hand.
If you ask them why they do it, they don’t know. That’s just the way they’ve been taught, and it’s how their teachers before them were taught. And so they haven’t thought the process through.
Piano Lessons Tip #1: Start with the left hand at least 50% of the time
So as simple as it sounds, the first foundation stone of the Musiah Piano Teaching Method is start with the left hand at least 50% of the time. And if every piano teacher did this all around the world, you would quickly start to see this erroneous collective consciousness among piano students that says the left hand is somehow harder than the right hand dissolve away.
Piano Lessons Tip #2: Think of the treble and bass staves as one Grand Staff and read the notes accordingly
Now notice, I said at least 50% of the time. Because apart from the need to reverse this collective consciousness among right hand–biased piano teachers across the globe, there is actually a very good reason why we should go further and start with the left hand not just 50% of the time, but almost all the time.
Some of you will have heard that, according to legend, piano music was originally written on one single stave of 11 lines like this (a slide is shown in the video) and instead of treble and bass clefs, there was a C clef which looked something like this (see video).
Looking at music on this stave, it’s hard to tell where the middle C line is, because there are so many lines. So someone quite cleverly came along and rubbed out the middle C line and instead gave middle C its own little line which we call a ledger line, and so we have the treble and bass staves we know today. But let’s not forget that the treble and bass staves are still joined to form what we call the Grand Stave or Staff.
Now the advantages of the new arrangement of staves is obvious. The notes are easier to read, but there was one advantage to the old system. When reading a chord of say 4 notes like this (see video), we would read the notes from the bottom up in one single eye movement.
But now, when we read the same notes on today’s Grand staff, because most modern teachers habitually teach the right hand first, today's piano students scan up the right hand notes and then in a second inefficient eye moment, they scan up the left hand notes on the bass staff. And so they’re constantly reading 1, 2, 1, 2 (demonstration of typical eye movements students use when reading sheet music). And that’s just crazy. It’s still the Grand Staff even if middle C now has its own line. And we should be teaching our piano students to read it as one stave, i.e. reading up in one eye movement from the bass stave through to the treble stave.
And that’s why, it’s a good idea to get your students into the habit of starting most pieces with the left hand first, then the right hand — so they get used to thinking of the left hand first, then the right hand, and that in turn will help their note reading.
Piano Lessons Tip #3: Avoid using phrases like "Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit"
And while we’re on this topic, there’s another very basic trick that you can use right away that will shave at least two years off the time it takes your piano students to master their note reading. And I’m going to tell you what it is right now for FREE. And remember folks, you heard it here first. The trick is… wait for it…
Don’t use the phrases "Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit" and "Great Big Dogs Frighten Auntie" (or any other variations) because they will slow down your students' reading. Particularly with young kids who are still at primary school who are still getting used to the alphabet, let’s say they’re reading the top treble note and they go "Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit", they don’t instantly make the connection that the note is an F in the same way an adult would.
Piano Lessons Tip #4: Use Tongue Twisters To Rapidly Improve Note Reading
Instead of these phrases, teach your piano or keyboad students to say "EGBDF" like a tongue twister. How quickly can you say "EGBDF"? "EGBDF" gets you there much quicker. And in the left hand "GBDFA" — saying it is almost like saying "Jibidy FA". Use this technique and your students’ note reading will improve dramatically.
Piano Lessons Tip #5: Learn every second letter of the alphabet from A to G as a sequence
As a piano student, it was my 3rd piano teacher who got me onto this tongue twister technique, and it really improved my reading very quickly. But while this technique is great for notes that are on the stave, how do you teach your students to read notes that are say on the 4th ledger line above the treble stave (slide is shown in video)?
That’s where this next technique comes in. If you haven’t seen this before, write this down. ABCDEFGABCDEFGA.
Teach your students that no matter where in this sequence you start, it always comes back to the letter you started with. (Examples are given in the video).
So when reading this note on the 4th line above the treble staff (see video), before I learnt this technique I would go "EGBDF" and then... "G in the space, Aon the line, B, C" and so on.
But now, we can just go "EGBDFACEG". It’s a G (this is much quicker).
So this is the ultimate in note reading efficiency for more advanced students.
These are just a few examples of the Musiah Piano Teaching Method and in particular how it applies to teaching students how to read the notes on the sheet music.
Piano or keyboard teachers out there, please feel free to use these piano teaching techniques in your own piano or keyboard lessons.
For more information about Musiah or the Musiah Piano Teaching Method, please browse through this site or check out some of the articles below.
To begin your online piano lessons with Musiah today, simply take our Online Piano Lessons 14 Day Free Trial.
Thanks for reading or watching.
Til next time,
Brendan Hogan L.Mus.A, A.Mus.A.
Piano Teacher & Musiah Inventor