Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Piano girls

Piano, yes. We have a lovely piano. Erin plays it like a maniac. Noah took piano lessons for a couple of years but I encouraged him to bow out almost three years ago when, due to a teacher mismatch and a lag in reading skills, he was at an early Grade 3 level but suffering worse perfectionistic paralysis than ever. He's never developed any interest in returning to his studies. Sophie has had no interest in piano, thank you very much. Fiona has been rather interested, but I put her off until next fall when she'll be a little closer to six, since she won't have a Suzuki teacher.

Today, though, Fiona and Sophie took to the piano of their own volition. Fiona told me she wanted to learn to play something "hands together." I showed her how to put the tonic or the dominant note in the left hand to play along with the melody to "London Bridge." She took that idea and ran with it for a long sustained period of figuring-out. Within half an hour she was playing the melody easily and had figured out the correct left hand note for each bar. Sophie came over to the piano and imitated her easily. I showed Sophie how she could create a tonic triad and a simple V7 chord. Within a few minutes she had that mastered and had turned her new skill loose with "Mary Had a Little Lamb", harmonizing quite capably with her I and V7 chords.

Back and forth the two girls went from the piano. I showed Sophie the IV6/4 chord so that she'd have the whole basic menu for harmonizing most simple folk songs. That was neat. More possibilities opened up. She was quickly doing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

And then, while I was prepping dinner, Sophie came down to the kitchen and remarked "she's a sponge." That's when I realized that it wasn't Sophie playing the chords to accompany "Mary" but Fiona. I asked Sophie if she'd taught Fiona that. Nope, she said, Fiona had just picked it up.

After supper, I heard Fiona creating a melodic variation of "Twinkle" with a little motif (C-D-C-B-C, G-A-G-F#-G, A-B-A-G#-A, G-A-G-F#-G, etc.). All sorts of interesting creativity happening.

Harmonizing, or choosing appropriate chords to go with a melody, isn't actually all that hard if you have a good musical ear, which these girls do. But what amazes me is that they accomplished all this with absolutely no pre-existing piano skills. They had to figure out today how to play different rhythms with the two different hands, how to shift their hands so that the fingerings made sense and lay easily under their hands, how to utilize thumb and pinky in 'five finger position', how to find C and G in different octaves. And they did most of this learning, plus figuring out how to harmonize, in the space of about two hours today.

Sophie now says "I wouldn't mind learning piano .... .... ... if I didn't have to have a teacher." I suppose she would be a good candidate for an adult beginner teach-yourself book, since she already has good music-reading skills in the treble clef and lots of musical training.

Fiona is bound and determined to have her own teacher by next fall at the latest.

Who knows where this will lead, if anywhere.

1 comment:

  1. Amanda5:43 am

    Not directly related to this but I was tickled, reading the British Suzuki Institute magazine that arrived this morning, to spot Erin in an photo accompanying a very enthusiastic account by a British family of their time at the Suzuki Valhalla Institute last year.


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