On Piano Teaching —Raf Nazario

A short overview of how I teach beginning piano.

A sentence is a collection of words assembled to convey meaning. In music we have chords.

That is what the musical phrase is, a collection of assembled chords that convey a notion; instead of vowels and consonants we have notes—naturals, sharps and flats. Words contain vowels and consonants. Chords contain notes. In many pieces of music, the notes spell out the chords. (Not dissimilar to the way consonants and vowels spell out words.)

That’s why I teach chords first, what I call “chord literacy”. If a piano player can read chords, she or he can decipher and play almost any popular song.

Knowing what the chords are in a classical piece helps not just to understand the harmony involved but is also a great aid in memorising the piece.

Most people are taught piano as an exercise in mechanical reproduction. They too often start by learning pieces that bare no emotional relevance to the individual’s musical tastes or their age. They learn music as a series of rules, dogmatic, unyielding, unforgiving; often taught by instructors who take a disciplinarian approach to piano teaching—coercing rather than coaching. Imposing the dogma of repetition. The student dutifully trudging through ‘Für Elise’ in a manner that almost guarantees he or she will hate Beethovenfor the rest of their lives.

I believe teaching people how to read music without them understanding what they’re playing is like teaching kids to read aloud without them understanding what they’re saying.