Today, pianists who aspire to do well in their field of study are often required to know a diverse range of functional keyboard skills. The spotlight has been placed on a more multi-faceted pianistic career path and the skills that come with it. Many schools now demand students be well educated, possessing multiple areas of knowledge that integrate into project-driven assignments, and with skills that will make an immediate impact on their competitive career paths.
Through years of teaching college-level piano in both lesson and classroom settings, I have experienced the challenge of trying to teach students many skills from one authoritative source. I had existing sources on hand, but they were scattered among different books written or compiled by past authors who did not understand the current industry. Eventually, I felt the need to consolidate and summarize these many skills and tricks into a single textbook. This online resource should not replace other similar books in the field; indeed, it offers very useful guidelines in regards to where and how to incorporate them as supplementary materials. The purpose of this course is not to reiterate what has already been written, but rather to encourage new approaches and a heightened understanding of what it takes to be a multi-functional classical pianist by today’s industry standards.
I use examples that I find pedagogically appropriate and intellectually engaging, along with activities and games that work well in a group setting. The first four chapters are ideal for an undergraduate piano major course spread out over multiple semesters. The final chapter is geared toward a graduate collaborative piano one-semester course.
Each chapter consists of several modules. Each module has a consistent format that includes Prerequisite(s), Main Concept(s), Drills and Improvisations, and Goal(s) for Next Class (which is meant to offer assessment tips for the instructor and reality checks for the individual student). It is ultimately the instructor’s decision on how to present each module in a given class length. Depending on the topic and class circumstances (such as the receptiveness of students), some modules may require coverage across multiple classes. It is recommended that the student previews one module ahead and researches any new concepts before the following class.
I have had the pleasure of successfully testing portions of this course in the Yale University Department of Music keyboard lab component of the aural skills class, in the Soochow University School of Music Advanced Musicianship and Improvisation Skills for Keyboard Majors (AMISK) class, and in various opportunities as a private instructor for students (one of whom auditioned for a conducting major at Curtis Institute of Music and was acknowledged for his keyboard skills training).
A comprehensive methodology behind keyboard skills is what I believe to be the “calling card” in the current market today. My hope is that this holistic approach makes students more marketable in the long run and provides teachers with alternatives to potentially repetitive drills. The more the diversity of functional keyboard skills is introduced in school, the more doors will be opened for students in their post-graduate studies and for jobs down the road.
While artistry often waits for the “eureka” moment and inspiration, skills cannot do the same, and it is the educators’ responsibility to introduce these skills early on in school. I have spoken with many colleagues around the world teaching in this field about my text; they offered extremely valuable comments on its content and structure, as well as insights on how they would use it in their classes. I am very grateful for their feedback and I am pleased to publish this course for them.