Karen Marshall, co-author of The Intermediate Pianist series discusses tips and techniques on how to guide piano students through that tricky intermediate stage.
approaching the tricky intermediate stage by Karen Marshall At school, I was lucky to have a very inspirational music teacher. As part of our GCSE classes, he provided us with a huge amount of listening material, with music from all periods and genres, which opened my ears to a whole palate of music I’d never heard before. Added to that, he was brilliant at playing by ear, performing jazz, arranging music for ensembles and transposing pieces on demand. This was a musician who had a full package of musical skills and, as a young teenager, I found this almost magical. As a piano teacher and someone who works with dyslexic GCSE and A-level students, I’ve always tried to ensure my students develop this full set of skills, including the ability to play by ear, compose, transpose and interpret a wide range of styles, as well as knowing all their scales and arpeggios and having the confidence to play as part of an ensemble. The Intermediate Pianist is an amalgamation of my life’s work, tailoring this holistic learning experience for use with Grade 3 to 5 level students. This intermediate stage of learning the piano – and indeed any instrument – is a notoriously tricky period, when many teachers may find students dropping off, losing interest and quitting lessons. These books tackle the issues faced by students and teachers through these stages and provide a music curriculum to engage, excite, enthuse and educate pupils, helping them to understand the music that they are playing and developing them into well-rounded musicians. Heather and I organised the material in The Intermediate Pianist into chapters that are each designed to give approximately one month’s work. Each of these chapters contain a variety of elements and styles, and the terms used throughout also support and reflect those required for GCSE Music. We made sure that the music deliberately spanned a range of difficulty levels, so some pieces can be learnt in just one or two weeks, whilst others are more challenging. We developed the series to be ideal for use by private and peripatetic piano teachers. However, GCSE music teachers may also find it helpful for pianists in their classes as some of the vocabulary has been included and it’s a fantastic way to revise genre and period along with theory and composing techniques. The Intermediate Pianist is in essence a music curriculum that piano teachers can use to fit with their teaching style, either by working through each chapter in lessons, or by getting students to use it at home. And it’s equally suitable to be dipped into a chapter at a time, to complement the teacher’s standard curriculum. Each chapter contains a variety of elements which include quick-learn pieces, theory, technique, core repertoire, challenges, activities and recital pieces. Quick learn Bold maestoso 1 Play these two pieces, one in 3 4 (simple triple) and one in 9 8 (compound triple). What do you notice? Why are both called ‘triple’ time signatures? Three-four Heather Hammond rall. 5 4 5 1 2 1 3 3 3 3 mf f 3 3 3 3 3 5 3 3 3 Quick learn There are a lot of short easy-to-learn pieces included that are at least a grade below the ability level for each book. These pieces and studies consolidate skills, maintain interest and improve note recognition and sight-reading. 10 Bold maestoso Nine-eight 1 5 4 1 2 1 5 mf f Faber Music Piano Catalogue 5 rall.