KEYBOARD EXPRESS - TEACHERS NOTES
You may download all or any part of these notes on one condition only. You must include the following acknowledgement: From soundswell.co.uk courtesy of Mick Jones GNSM ARCM. This acknowledgement should be included in any form of electronic or paper sharing with, or distribution to any third party of all, or any portion, of this document for any purpose whatsoever. By downloading all or any part of this text you agree to this condition. If you do not agree, do not download.
EXPRESS - TEACHERS NOTES
Keyboard Express started out as a way of organising my own ideas about teaching the keyboard, but as it progressed I found myself trying to achieve specific goals. I wanted to strike a balance between providing a songbook and a teaching book. So often, in my view, printed keyboard tutors are good as one, but rarely both! I also wanted to provide a track to progress on that would need the minimum of support from a tutor. Not to make teachers redundant, after all I am one! Partly to give an entertaining avenue for the independent minded learner to go down, and partly to provide busy teachers with a ready made structure which they can adapt as and when they like. Only you can judge whether I've succeeded or not.
If readers of these notes would like to e-mail comments about the book (plus and/or minus) or if teachers have tips or anecdotes they might like to share, I may well be inclined to add them to these notes.
If you would like to know more about my background in music, possibly looking at Music Resource as a potential provider of workshops or school production support, I would be happy to e-mail you a copy of my CV. Just e-mail me first, and make your request.
You will find that the choice of songs that have two audio examples appears quite arbitrary at first. There is in fact some reasoning behind it all, but you really don't need to know! If on nothing else, trust me on this! You can use the pan controls (Left/Right balance) on your stereo to choose between backing (L), 'solo' keyboard (R), or both together (Centre). If you find the solo keyboard parts on the left, check that you don't have your connections reversed!
I like to think that the CD provides a rich mix of styles and sounds to engage and enthuse the learner. There is no need to be phased by the classy sounds of the Technics KN6000. Even working on more limited instruments it is possible to achieve great results, but if you have difficulty getting the best out of your own instrument, then simply enjoy what you have on the CD. The price of quality keyboards is continually dropping, so watch out for deals, if you are shopping round, you will be amazed as to how far even a limited budget will stretch.
The main message I try to convey through the CD is the importance of SLOW PREPARATION. If you think you detect a hobby-horse, you are absolutely right! In my experience (both as a classical viola player and a rock keyboard player) slow practice does give the most secure and efficient results. "Slow practice equals fast results", has become a mantra for me, and my long-suffering pupils!
p5 MEET MY FINGERS Tr 1
Even when pupils claim to know about basic notation, this provides a firm place to start to ensure there are no misunderstandings, to ensure teacher and pupil are both on the same wavelength, and to get the right hand in a nice tidy position. More generally, this is a good time to look at posture. Try to ensure an upright back, and that the player is sat at the 'right' height for the keyboard; i.e. the hands can rest on the keys without the player needing to reach up or down. When the hands rest on the keys the wrists and forearm should be comfortably resting slightly higher than the music keyboard itself.
CD: Only one track here. Younger children may like to sing the words with the CD before they try and play. As a general rule, allow pupils to have plenty of time to prepare before they attempt to play along with the CD. If it doesn't go well at the first attempt, involve them in the decision about having another go straight away, or whether to do some more practice 'solo' first. Don't forget that you can use the pan controls (Left/Right balance) on your stereo to choose between backing (L), 'solo' keyboard (R), or both together (Centre).
p7 LONG & STRONG Tr 2
I do not go into great detail about the bass clef at this stage. It usually seems sufficient to point out the treble and bass staves are different. The words help to clarify which notes fall where. Teenagers and adults may be reluctant to say the words out loud, and that's just fine. Younger children have no such hang ups, and it's all part of the fun for them! I would recommend that teachers point out the difference(s) between bass and treble clefs, but do not take up too much time in doing so. Experienced teachers will have their own views and approaches, and if they work, then far be it from me to interfere! My ideas are simply floated for those who wish to try them.
CD: Only one track. One is enough I think!
p9 COUNTING FIVES Tr 3
The sooner you can you can get pupils to this point, the better (within reason of course). For someone who has never played both hands together before, this piece, in spite of its simplicity, can provide a real sense of achievement, and in turn a thirst for more success. When pupils find things hard going at first, I spend time pointing out that music often repeats itself, so for instance, if they can manage bars 3 & 4, they have also already learnt bars 7 & 8! I find that 'reducing' the workload acts as an encouragement! This can apply not just to the pieces in my book of course, but to music in the wider context, and for ALL instruments!
Finger games: Experienced teachers may well have their own repertoire of finger games.
TRY THESE IF YOU LIKE!
GAME 1. Hold the hands out, fingers together, but fingers and palms straight. Bend each finger (NOT thumbs) one at a time, not from the first (top) joint or knuckle, but the second. This usually gets a few 'ouches' and giggles. Pupils love it when they can do it better than the teacher! NO PRETENDING THOUGH, if you are a teacher, give it your best shot as well!
GAME 2. Clench both fists. Remind pupils that for piano & keyboard purposes, the thumb is finger no. 1! Start in sequence holding up just finger '1's (R & L hand together) keeping the rest of the hand clenched. Put '1's away, hold out finger '2's, and so on. Each time though make sure previous fingers are put away back in the clenched fist. Finger '4's usually creates trouble (and fun). After going through in sequence, try calling them at random, and then gradually get faster and faster. I usually finish up going back and forth between '1's and '5's ridiculously fast for no other reason than it seems to make people chuckle. It's probably just me! Play the game along with your pupils so they can see exactly what is required. (Teachers may need to practise it themselves first, or risk getting caught out!)
CD: Only one track.
p11 ODE TO JOY Tr 4 / 5
As this piece is so well known, it makes a good vehicle for teaching the dotted quarter note / eighth note rhythm. On the down side, this is the point where many pupils start to look at their hands rather than focusing on the music! Time for battle to be joined! It is of course virtually impossible to resist completely the temptation to watch hands and fingers. It is though well worthwhile to encourage learners to look at the music as much as possible. I have two strategies to offer.
i) Ask the pupil to attempt to prove they have memorised the piece by playing all the way through with their eyes closed. When they achieve that, you can point out that they have just proved that they don't need to watch their hands. Wow! How sneaky can you get? It works though, at least for a short while!
ii) Find a nice big book and hold it over the pupils hands to create a mask. Let them get into position first, and explain exactly what you are doing and why. Small children particularly like this game, and mum and/or dad can provide this kind of support without knowing anything about music at all! Small children like mum and/or dad to help out.
CD: 2 tracks. The tempos I use are only suggestions. They work for me, but you may wish to start slower, and take pupils to a quicker tempo. The audio tracks are provided for guidance and support. Yes, you can use the backings for school concerts, auditions and so on if you wish. I don't wish to infer there is anything definitive (or worst of all binding) about my choice of speeds.
p13 MARRIANE Tr 6 / 7
This is mainly about holding a note down in the right hand, whilst finding a new one in the left. As the text on page 12 suggests this is a good piece for experimenting with different keyboard sounds (as indeed is Ode To Joy). Encourage the pupil to try different sounds. Even if you know that they are not ideal choices, give time for thought, and trial and error.
Even simple exercises like these can be usefully broken up into smaller components. Look for patterns. Notice that in the first exercise, the first three bars are a mirror image of the last three. Encourage pupils to think about fingering, and be as fussy as you like about getting well organised from the start. Try and establish good habits from the outset, e.g. think about the changes between 'F' and 'G7' chords. Emphasise the importance of using finger 2 as the 'pivot'. Be vigilant about posture and hand positions. Bad habits get harder to unlearn the longer they are left.
p19 EASY AS CAN BE Tr 8
This tends to be very popular with younger pupils. Again, this piece provides the opportunity to observe patterns in music, and how often some of the material is repeated, sometimes exactly, sometimes with alterations.
CD: Only one track.
p21 LONDON BRIDGE Tr 9 /10
Here is another familiar tune, which will often find pupils looking at their hands. After all, we are now looking at a new hand position! Time to reapply the strategies suggested for Ode To Joy. At bar 7, encourage pupils to reach down for the 'D'. 'Hopping' is to be discouraged at this point. Take time to explain the significance of changing hand positions and emphasise the positive aspects of the achievements so far. Finger 1 is not going to be glued to middle 'C' for all time. This is the first of many steps towards being able to move their hands all over the keyboard. It is hoped that pupils will feel they have a good foundation by now. Fine! Time to build on this firm basis by doing more adventurous stuff!
CD: Two tracks.
PRACTISE TIP. I take trouble in Keyboard Express to encourage the use of separate hand practice. Striking the balance between how much practice is done one hand at a time and both hands together is never easy. I would remind both teachers and pupils though that if one hand only isn't working on it's own, it can't really be working successfully in tandem with the other hand. Pupils do sometimes say that they can only play certain pieces hands together. Maybe... but take care about this. I encourage my pupils to break their practice down into single bar units to get both hands working together. RH only first, then LH, then both together. It may seem like hard work, it may seem fussy... but it gets results!
p23 MATACHINS Tr 11 / 12
What a great little tune this is! I first discovered it whilst teaching a AB Grade 1 violin pupil. He got a perfect mark for this piece in his exam, and both his success and the tune have stuck with me! In bar 4 (and 7 etc), take care that the LH finger 2 is used for the 'F'. ALL other LH top notes should be played with the thumb. Matachins also makes a good piece for school orchestra. You may need to do some transposing and arranging to accommodate different sections of the orchestra, but it can and does reward effort of this kind. There is of course plenty of scope for simple but effective percussion work.
I have a number of mini presentations that I drop into lessons from time to time. Partly to break up the routine of lessons, partly to educate and hopefully, partly to entertain. If you have ideas you would like to share, please e-mail me, perhaps I'll attach it to these notes. Until embarrassingly recent times I was unsure about spelling the word 'staccato'. The solution came with help from a trio of nine-year-old girls I used to teach. They spotted that most of the letters appear twice, and this gave me an idea. I teach the spelling of the word thus:
Drawing on a board where possible, I start by saying out loud "SO"...
there are two 'T's,
and two 'C's...
If you look carefully there are also two cats! (One forward, one backward). This works best with 7 to 10 year olds, (unsurprisingly) but most important, I now have the spelling secure in my own mind, at long last!
CD: Two tracks. I went for the 'authentic mediaeval' approach here. The 'Koto' used in the LH (track 12) isn't as far as I know an authentic English instrument, (I think the tune is, so if you know otherwise please tell me) but I felt it had the sound of a primitive lute or similar perhaps. The tune will stand all sorts of treatments, (it will comfortably take a higher tempo than my 150bpm for track 12) so if you fancy going heavy metal, grunge or techno, then fine. I'm told that Matachins is a bransle (pron. brawl?). Whatever, it needs to be boisterous!
p25 JOHNNY TODD Tr 13 / 14
I hope the thinking behind my fingerings is apparent. They do work! I realise that fingering is a personal matter and you may have your own good reasons for doing things differently. At the end of the day it is the sound and spirit of the music that is our holy grail. This said, my fingerings do generally work!!
CD: Two tracks. I tried to capture the spirit of the 'Z Cars' theme (a British police series from the sixties) rather than the traditional folk tune approach.
PRACTISE TIP. Teachers! Do you really teach your pupils how to practise? When I was a teenager, I was lucky to have some great teachers, but good as they were, they never really explained how to go about the practice process. Don't apologise for demonstrating the various aspects of practice. It will help your pupil to understand what to do if they can watch and observe while you do some repetitive work in front of them. Focus on a single bar (or even half a bar), and polish for a good minute or so. Ask them to do just the same thing, and let them experience the improvement that can take place by that concentrated approach. Far too often pupils have the mistaken idea that practice means starting at the beginning of a piece and trying to play through to the end. Take time and trouble to ensure that pupils do not have this misunderstanding about practice.
p27 EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE Tr 15
This is a good opportunity to check pupils understanding of musical sums. How long does the first 'C' last in the RH. This simple arrangement is included here, because I wanted to introduce the Amin chord. For pupils who are working through the book quickly, and won't be phased by something a little tougher you could refer to the version at the back of the book on page 56. At this stage, I do not discuss the incomplete bar at the start. Pick up notes (the anacrusis) are referred to in the text on 'When The Saints'. If it's helpful to do so, you might look at that text out of sequence. If you teach pairs or groups, use the three staves to give each person an opportunity to play independent parts. If the group is 4, 5 or 6 strong then let them double up.
CD: One track. There is a second track associated with the version in the appendix. I must apologise to 'Sting' for this abridged version. This is a truly beautiful song, and the end of the first section should really resolve to A minor. That inspired musical surprise is central to the spirit of the music. My excuse can only be down to limited space. I don't really think this is acceptable, but, if he ever hears it, I hope he will forgive me anyway.
p29 TIME FOR A WALTZ Tr 16 / 17
This piece is significantly harder than the previous material. I think it is OK to throw in tough pieces now and then. If you have a pupil that struggles with this piece, allow them to tackle say the first two lines (even separate hands if necessary) continue to the next piece and return to this one later. This said, it is healthy (in my humble view) to give pupils challenges that may take more time and effort than they are used to. Be sensitive to their reactions, but if they can be encouraged to persevere, their success will enable them to breeze through the next few pieces. Observe the patterns again. It does help! e.g. on line 3 the second two bars are simply a restatement of the first two bars one step higher. Point out that they only really need to learn two bars, not 4! On the last line it may help to show the connection between the (LH) single notes and the chord pattern on line 2.
MEMORY JOGGERS. There are loads of ways of helping people remember and recognise the lines and spaces on musical staves. I surfed across a suggestion by an experienced teacher who only taught bottom lines ('E' in treble; 'G' in bass). Her view was that you can work everything else out from there! Why not? If it works, it works! My preference is for the four spaces Bass & Treble.
When I introduce the treble clef spaces I ask pupils to identify each one starting with 'F'. When I get the first correct answer, I draw (on a board if there is one available) a large circle; the next space, 'A' gets two dots inside the circle (eyes); 'C' gets a vertical line just blow the dots (nose); and the 'E' prompts the drawing of a smiley 'mouth'. Children AND adults enjoy this minor entertainment (yes I know it's a bit twee, but it works!) and further, for younger pupils the word FACE happens to rhyme with SPACE. How much more do you need to help make it stick in people's minds? Actually, even with this little gem, you need to do it more than once!
CD: Two tracks. If I have a criticism of my own book, it is the scarcity of 3/4 material. If enough of you (a) buy the book, and (b) agree with me and (c) actually tell me so, then perhaps I'll put this right in the second edition!
p31 NEW WORLD THEME Tr 18 / 19
This piece should prove very straightforward. It is a good opportunity to be very precise about the dotted and un-dotted crotchets (quarter notes). If this excerpt seems too easy then try the longer version in the appendix (p58). You might also look at Sad Song (p61) and/or Upside Down Song (p62). Following hard graft on Time For A Waltz, these pieces make good rewards as they are usually mastered quite readily.
CD: Two tracks. For the purists, I must apologise for the use of this sugary preset ending. It was quick and it worked, give me a break! If you really can't take Dvorak with a drum kit then try using track 37 instead.
Although this is the first time scales are dealt with in the text, scale work should already be underway. It is my practice to introduce the B major scale in the second or third lesson. The reason for the late appearance of scale in Keyboard Express is purely a matter of presentation and space. Pretend you read this sooner!
p35 WHEN THE SAINTS Tr 20 / 21
This is another familiar tune where eyes will invariably be drawn towards hands. The section that usually causes most difficulty is section 3. Not surprising perhaps, but it isn't usually the two fancy new chords, but the tied 'F' in the RH which causes most confusion. I recommend slow practice and careful counting. Also try starting exactly at the beginning of line 3 as well as at the indicated start of Section 3. May I also refer you back to my observations about practising in the section about JOHNNY TODD? I believe teachers should take care not to assume that pupils understand what the word practice actually means. We learn to walk by observation and instinct, but we learn to read with assistance from someone who knows how! How many people know how to practise instinctively?
CD: Two tracks. I almost included a third track here with right and left hand parts split across the stereo image, but decided in the end that this was an option best left for the teacher to do as and when appropriate. To clarify, teacher can play left hand while pupil concentrates on the right (with or without the backing) and vice versa. You can clearly use this idea for any piece, but I find it works particularly well here.
p37 AURA LEE Tr 22 / 23
Watch LH fingering in bar 3. It is important that finger 4 is used for the 'D' in the minor chord, and that finger 2 is secure as the 'pivot' to G7. Try the technique of practising changing between just two chords. First back and forth between F major and D minor i.e. .simply changing from 5th finger on 'C' to 4th on 'D'; and then between Dmin and G7, always keeping finger 2 securely on the 'F'.
CD: Two tracks. This is another of those tunes that works with a wide variety of different instruments, so it makes another good opportunity to explore various sounds on the keyboard.
p39 TAKE THESE CHAINS Tr 24 / 25
Some pupils take a while to settle with the repeated LH chords, but once confidence is found it soon becomes second nature. This piece though is particularly well worth preparing thoroughly one hand at a time. As with When the Saints practise in sections as work is started on putting both hands together. Previous comments about (particularly RH in this case) fingering apply, yes there may be some very sensible alternatives, but the fingerings shown do work and work well.
CD: Two tracks.
p41 EASTENDERS Tr 26
This is simply a fingering study. UK kids know this tune very well and get a real buzz out of learning to play it properly. If you teach groups, then use the three-stave version (p57) to give each member of the group the opportunity to play something different. If the group is 4 or 5 strong then let them double up (e.g. use more than one sound for the 'pad' chords), or work out a part for someone to supply the harmony thirds and sixths.
CD: One track only here, there is a second in the appendix. This is the wrong key to play along with the telly! I never watch the soap, but I think the real TV theme tune is in Eb major. You could use the transpose button if your keyboard has one!
p43 YELLOW SUBMARINE Tr 27 / 28
I was concerned to avoid the issue of various interpretations of the dotted quaver / semi-quaver rhythm. Here, in Yellow Submarine, the intention is to use the swing (or shuffle) style which is in fact a triplet. When dealing with my own pupils I sometimes discuss the difference between the strict interpretation of this rhythm and the way it is used in jazz and pop music. On other occasions I brush past and leave that discussion for a later date. I do this on the basis of using my own judgement about whether the moment is right to present that information. I like to think I usually get that right. How often I don't is another matter! RH fingering has been avoided because this piece really does lend itself to lots of perfectly good alternatives. You may accuse me of copping out, (you're perfectly at liberty to do so) but... you could also try the strategy of allowing the pupil to work out a fingering for themselves, and then use their ideas as the basis for discussion on the strong and weak points in their suggestions.
CD: Two tracks. This particular number goes down well in schools as a sing along number, so if you have contacts or work in schools, you may have an opportunity to give some keyboard players the opportunity to accompany a choir!
p47 5-6-7-8 Tr 29 / 30
Encourage pupils to play the written rhythms rather than their perceived version of the hit record. As always, some seriously slow preparation should to the trick. If you are working with a group, make it mandatory (as far as possible) that they speak the numbers... no, SHOUT the numbers at the top of heir voices. I would be surprised if they don't enjoy the lesson! The rhythm for the 'guitar solo' on line 4 is simplified for keyboard playing purposes. The repeated notes in the alternative version are obviously more demanding, if however your pupil(s) prefer(s) that version, then fine, just go with the flow. Again, I recognise that my fingering for the version on p46 is just one way of doing it, perhaps this could be another discussion point, looking at other options and assessing which might work best.
CD: Two tracks. The second version (Track 30) includes the examples from the text (p46). These lines are added at the end of the music version as shown on p47.
p49 LIFE IS A FLOWER Tr 31 / 32
Complex rhythms to untangle and unexplained new chords! In one sense, this is the last piece in Keyboard Express, so pupils jolly well ought to sweat a bit!
CD: Two tracks.
Starting p54:- APPENDIX Tracks 33 to 41
The pieces that follow have been provided as added value, to extend repertoire and to allow pupils to test themselves against new material which isn't supported by text and graphic guidance. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting this book together, so I do hope you enjoy using Keyboard Express, as teacher or as learner. Please feel free to e-mail me with your comments. email@example.com I cannot guarantee to reply to all e-mails, but I will do my best to respond as and when I am able. Thank you for your interest, I wish you success and fun with your music!
To close, I must just say thank you to all those people who helped me in ways too numerous to mention, but a special thank you must go to Jethro Hill (of Gamz fame! Go and visit www.gamzuk.com sometime) who has been the key person in the long process of turning my ideas into reality!
KEYBOARD EXPRESS - TEACHERS NOTES (Oct 2000)