The comprehensive piano curriculum is designed to turn music students into well-rounded musicians who can see music notation and hear the music in their head, hear music in and write it out in music notation, improvise and compose their own music, and play in a variety of styles including reading chord charts.
Students learn to navigate the keyboard by using the repeating patterns of two and three black keys. They will learn to name the keys using letter names (A, B, C etc) as well as the fixed-doh and movable-doh solfege system of naming the notes (do, re, mi etc). Keyboard geography for advanced students is further developed through technical work such as scales and arpeggios.
Beginners are taught the basics of technique: how to sit properly at the piano, form a good hand shape, play notes properly with fingers and use the pedal properly. As students advance, they learn more complicated techniques in order to fulfil their musical intent. This involves how to use the forearm and the wrist to attain desired phrasing, articulation and dynamics, advanced use of the pedal, and memorisation techniques.
One of the great things about learning piano is that there is amount of repertoire to choose from. The piano can imitate ensembles such as bands and orchestras, thus there is no shortage of arrangements of students’ favourite pieces.
Students learn twenty to forty pieces of repertoire each year in a variety of styles. They are regularly reviewed so that the student is always ready to perform them at a moment’s notice.
Improvising and composing
Students are guided through a step-by-step process that gives them the tools to explore the sounds of the piano and write their own melodies, harmonies, and even lyrics to their own songs!
Scales and chords form part of those tools. They are the building blocks for most music we hear today. For students, knowing that they will use scales and chords to create their own music gives them good reason and motivation to practise them. In composing their own music, students learn to harmonise melodies using chords, and use notation software to notate and beautifully present their works.
Students first learn how to read music notation. This involves note-recognition , interval recognition and pattern recognition. Separately, it also involves interpreting rhythms. The system is logical but complex and it takes time, regular review and lots of practise for students to become adept at note-reading. Fun games are utilised to make the process enjoyable.
The theory curriculum is comprehensive and students learn all about scales, modes, intervals, harmonisation and transposition. This is never done in an abstract way though; it is always taught in the practical context of repertoire the student is learning, or improvising and composing the student is doing.
The purpose of musicianship is to allow a student to hear a piece of music and see it written out in music notation in their mind, allowing them to play it back on piano, transposing it as they wish. Musicianship involves ear training in a variety of ways: melodic, rhythmic and harmonic dictation, transcribing and transposing exercises, and singing.