Lately my favorite go-to book for teaching technique has been the Dozen a Day series. My teachers did not use the series when I was learning to play, so I had been unfamiliar with this staple literature until I was introduced to it in graduate school (way back in the early 2000’s). I still didn’t start using the series until just a few years ago after going through old piano books and re-discovering what I had in my collection.
I started out slowly, only trying the books out on a few students at first until I figured out if I really wanted to incorporate the books in a comprehensive way and until I figured out how to teach these little exercises well.
But once I started in, there was no turning back. I can see clearly why these books have stood the test of time and why teachers continue to use them. These little exercises are gems. These are some of the reasons I love them:
- They are repetitive. I assign 1-3 new exercises a week, depending on the difficulty of the exercises. Since it takes an average student about 4-5 weeks to complete one group, the beginning exercises of each group are played over and over again for 4-5 weeks. The exercises are also repetitive in the fact that you see the same exercise repeated in another group but at a slightly higher difficulty.
- The Mini Book does a great job preparing students to play steps and skips, introducing legato/staccato and two-note slurs, changing fingers on a single note, and beginning the practice of turning the thumb under scale-style.
- The Preparatory Book builds on the Mini Book by extending the teaching of the scale, introducing major and minor sounds, beginning chromatic scale studies and expanding the teaching of broken chords into arpeggios.
- Book One begins to teach spatial awareness at the piano by extending the range of registers in which the student plays. The book also builds upon the concepts taught in earlier books.
- The books comprehensively cover so many technical aspects, including: intervals, various rhythmic units, legato/staccato, two note slurs, chords and inversions, chromatic scales, C scale in parallel and contrary motion, arpeggios, pedaling
- The books are excellent for transfer students who may not be up to speed on reading or technique. They provide a terrific way to reinforce reading skills and/or technique without having a student perceive they are “going backwards” by taking out easier material.
- You can easily teach relational rhythmic values in the exercises containing quarter notes followed by eighth notes followed by sixteenth notes.
While I haven’t used Books 2-4 extensively in lessons, I look forward to introducing them to my advanced students and also using them with my younger students as they grow into them.
Do you use the Dozen a Day series? Feel free to share your comments and ideas!
Our studio piano recital is fast approaching. We have about three weeks left to refine the pieces chosen about a month ago. I love the excitement the students show in being able to choose and prepare a piece which (usually) become personal favorites!
These are some goals I have for my students upon the completion of a recital (or any other playing event):
- Learn a piece of music which is a bit more difficult than the week-to-week pieces, possibly developing new skills, broadening knowledge of music history, and learning how to pace the learning of a bigger piece
- Have a sense of accomplishment, even if the performance didn’t go as well as was hoped for
- Being a blessing to those who hear us play – parents, audience members, judges
- Showing traits of humility, gratefulness and joy in performing
How do we accomplish these goals?
- Discuss how to handle disappointment at the piano – what happens when I forget a passage? How do I keep going?
- How to talk to yourself – only kind and helpful self-talk is permitted access throughout the recital preparation process and the recital itself
- Practice your performance – no stopping is allowed during the performance – no silences (unless the piece calls for it). You must practice this at home.
- How to convey the mood/character of the piece – often the student and I come up with elaborate stories of what is happening throughout the piece – this is lots of fun!
- Several weeks ahead of the recital we record a performance of the piece in the studio. Then we get to evaluate (with positive comments) what went right and what we need to work on. Students are always amazed at what they can hear when they aren’t concentrating on actual playing.
- Play for other people!
- Remember the recital hall is bigger and you will need to adjust your touch. Usually this means playing more deeply into the keys to allow the piano to resonate fully.
- Listen to your playing!
- Relax – you have prepared for this day. Trust your preparation
- Enjoy! You are giving a gift of time and work to your audience to produce something lovely.
How do you prepare your students? Feel free to keep the conversation going by adding to this list in the comments section or linking to your own blog!
Last week we added a fish to the studio. The students have enjoyed thinking of good names for a musical fish. Here are their suggestions:
After a week of collecting name suggestions, we spent the next week voting on the names. And the winner is…
A very musical name, indeed.
But Mr. Bubbles was a close second. So our fish may have many names…maybe Coda Mr. Bubbles?
My students make me happy! Here are some things I’m thankful for this month:
- Teaching with windows open! Love the fresh breeze coming through the studio.
- With the arrival of daylight savings time, the changing light in the studio. I now have daylight through my entire teaching day.
- A new beta fish for the studio, and the fun of students suggesting and voting on names for the fish.
- Students preparing for spring competitions, recitals and festivals. And the joy of choosing exciting pieces for these events.
- These awesome erasers. I am using them to help teach scales, whole steps, half steps, intervals, up and down on the keyboard, etc. The students love them and want to take them home!