Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A First Piano Lesson

My hand - Age 7
The first piano lesson is an exciting and memorable day. I  vaguely remember my first piano lesson with my childhood teacher. I know I traced my left hand and learned my finger numbers because I found my old dictation book from 1975 with my first piano assignment. I learned Middle C, D and E and could hardly wait to turn the page to start using F.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of giving a first piano lesson to a brand new beginner. She arrived with her Mom on Saturday morning with her piano bag, new glasses and a big smile. We had met earlier in the summer, so she knew there would be games and music and of course a kitten to enjoy.

Drip and Rainbow

I believe a good place to begin is with something the child already knows... finger painting! So we started at the table pretending to paint drips and rainbows with our fingertips. We said, "drip drip drip drip" as we tapped short sounds, and we said "rain-bow rain-bow" as we made long sounds. Then I gave her a set of drip and rainbow cards so she could create and tap her own rhythms. This is a point where I like to observe learning style. I find it interesting to notice if students like to use patterns when they create their drip and rainbow rhythms. During this activity I also make a point of asking for right or left hand, which leads nicely into the next segment. You may download and print your own Drip & Rainbow cards at Piano Discoveries.

Hands and Fingers

Next we found the page in her Music Discoveries workbook where we could trace her hands and label the finger numbers. From there we were able to play Flashy Fingers, where the student taps a sequence of finger numbers with RH or LH. You can download Flashy Fingers and the finger sequence cards plus other fun teaching aids by visiting my Piano Discoveries website.

High Middle Low

Next we moved to the piano where we took some time to explore the groups of two and three black keys. We made peeping chick sounds up high, mooing sounds like a cow down low and the cat sang "meow meow feed me now" right in the middle. My students learn to verbalize as they play from the very beginning. With eyes closed she could easily identify the sound of the chick, the cat and the cow. Then we placed the high, middle and low cards behind the groups of two black keys as a guide. I sent this photo home to help her remember where to place the cards on her own piano.

Rhythm Blocks

Back to the table where we discovered that in music we use tah for short sounds like the drip and we use half note for long sounds like the rainbow. I have a beautiful set of wooden rhythm blocks which fit perfectly on my Music Discoveries pages. We created rhythm patterns to clap together and then I clapped rhythms for her to notate with the blocks. This is a great follow-up activity to do at home with Mom and Dad.

Up We Go

We clapped and marched "tah tah half-note" around the room and over to the piano. Then we used our high, middle and low groups of two black keys to play "Up We Go" with the left hand...

(low) Two black keys what a breeze, 
(middle) short short long sing this song, 
(high) up we go high (low) low.

First piano lesson!

My student went home with a treasure chest box containing high/middle/low cards, drip and rainbow cards, tah and half note rhythm blocks and the Flashy Fingers game. Are we having fun yet?

Some of you may remember that I took the RCM Piano Pedagogy Viva Voce Exam back in June. One of the first questions I was asked was to discuss what I would cover in a first piano lesson. I can't think of anything more fun to talk about! I would be happy to give first piano lessons every day of the week.


  1. The smiles of one happy and lucky student!! DId you make those rhythm blocks? I LOVE them!!

  2. I agree- firsts are fun! I'm doing some of those tonight.
    Your lesson looks like it was packed with fun things!

  3. Wendy, I had the rhythm blocks produced professionally quite a few years ago when I was developing my Music Discoveries program. I love them! I have just a few sets left... hmm do I feel a giveaway coming on?

    Leah, have fun with your first lessons tonight. Lucky you!

  4. Anonymous said...Just visited Victoria, BC and saw my niece play some wonderful pieces by an "Anne Crosby." I told my SIL, "Hey I think I read her blog!" Being an American, I wasn't as familiar with the RCM literature, but my daughter loved "Starfish at Night." Didn't make it to a Long and McQuade during our visit, but I will be looking into online ordering!

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

  5. Hi Anne -
    I'm new here - but I am so excited I found your blog and website! I had the privilege of beginning 6 new piano students this fall and I agree - teaching the first lesson is a thrill! Thanks for some new ideas!

  6. (Ooops, sorry Stace I hit delete by mistake!)

    Stace has left a new comment on your post "A First Piano Lesson":

    Awww, I so LOVE this post. What great ideas you have! And look at that big smile.... what a cutie!

  7. Valerie, lovely to hear that you discovered my "Starfish at Night". I'm sure you'll find the others with a little browse on the Frederick Harris Music website.

    Sarah, welcome to the blogging community. Have fun exploring all the great blogs, we love getting comments :)

    Stace, sorry I deleted you by mistake! Thanks for your comment, this post makes me smile too!

  8. What a happy post! I teach a beginning piano group class and we just started last Saturday. I love asking kids to explore the range of the piano and imagine what types of animals make high, middle and low sounds. I always get the most interesting answers! Some highlights from last week: monster, fox and ostrich!

  9. No problem, Anne! Thanks for reposting my comment! :)

  10. Hi Anne. I've been checking out your Music Discoveries workbook more and more.... and I LOVE it! I've started using it with one of my new beginners and it's a great fit. I love how you keep going back and reviewing concepts--so few method books do this, but it's so important. Not only that, but it's just plain cute. And the pages aren't super-cluttered, so it's easy for kids to follow. Thank you so much for sharing these things on your site.... you're amazing!

  11. Thanks Stace, that is SO nice to hear. I love using Music Discoveries with my beginners, it's always a success and so much fun.

  12. Hi Anne,

    What a fun lesson! Are the Drip and Rainbow cards available?


  13. Have been using some of your stuff this year with my beginner students. Enjoy it. Do you have your "high, middle, low" cards anywhere we can download?

    1. Hi Tish, glad to hear your students are enjoying my beginner material. You can download and print the high/middle/low cards from my Piano Discoveries site. Here is the link: http://pianodiscoveries.ca/MusicDiscoveries/page01content.html



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