Monday, January 12, 2009

Teaching Pentascales: Half and Whole Steps

With my beginner students, I start to teach pentascales about the time that they begin playing notes on the staff.

I start off by explaining half steps and whole steps. Several years ago, I took a twin bedsheet and drew a keyboard on it with permanent marker, making the keys big enough to step on. It only covers the range of a 10th, but it's enough for what I need. (The kids at left are having way too much fun playing "Keyboard Twister" on my floor mat!) We start off by walking the length of the floor mat on the half-steps - stepping on every key. Then, we walk whole steps, stepping on every other key. I send home with the student a worksheet on half and whole steps. And that's lesson one for pentascales.

The following week, we play half and whole step games. Here's a game that can be done either on the piano or the floor mat. I have prepared a set of cards that read "Up a whole step," "Down a whole step," "Up a half step," "Down a half step." There are two each of the "up" cards and one each of the "down" cards. The student and I both start on the lowest note of the floor mat or the piano and the goal is to get to the other end of the floor mat, or if playing on the piano, to a designated goal note. He draws a card and follows the directions. If he draws a card saying "down" on the first turn, then he loses that turn. The first person who reaches the designated goal note wins.

Another fun game involves chocolate! I take out 4 Hershey's kisses. I place one kiss on a key. The student then draws the top card off the stack (using the cards mentioned above) and moves the kiss according to the directions. If he gets it right, he gets to keep the chocolate. If he's correct on all 4 cards, he'll get to keep all 4 pieces.

At the next lesson, I do a quick review of whole and half steps. If the student hesitates at all over them, we spend more time doing games. If they've got whole and half steps down pat, then we're ready to move on the learning pentascales. I'll write about how I introduce major pentascales in the next post.

1 comment:

Steven said...

Great blog! You have so many innovative ideas on teaching piano. I was intrigued that you teach whole steps and half steps before introducing the pentascale. I introduce whole and half steps after having my students play the penta and full octave major scale in C. I find that getting them playing scales is a better order of operations than teaching the theory of major and minor modes first. Your method is probably more traditional, though.

Again, thanks for sharing.

Steven P. Niles, DMA