Classical and Other Styles of Repertoire
Since I am primarily classically trained, I know that learning classical music also enhances any other style of music that a student aspires to play. If a jazz or popular pianist has also seriously studied classical music, then they will exhibit keyboard facility, precision, expressive phrasing, and sophisticated varieties of tone color in any style of music.
One of the best compliments that I‘ve ever heard was “You do something with every phrase.” No one wants to hear just a string of notes played without expression or meaning. Most classical music is written in regular phrases which need to be shaped in one way or another–to provide suspense, tension, release, or finality. Even young students can learn to do this with simple pieces. They can also learn to emphasize a beautiful melody with one hand, while subduing the accompaniment hand. Mastering a high-quality piece develops musicality, personal expression, confidence–and gives great satisfaction!
Therefore, I do expect my students to always be working on at least one classical piece at any given time. It’s important to me that my students really love their “Repertoire” pieces—those pieces that we plan to work on long enough to refine and play beautifully. So I always let them help choose these pieces.
I am also very happy to help them with other styles of piano music, if they wish:
- Arrangements of popular songs and movie themes
- Jazz piano arrangements
- Sacred music: hymns, hymn arrangements, “congregational style” hymn accompaniment
- Reading chord charts –for church worship teams or popular bands
Even though I highly emphasize sight-reading, I also encourage students to learn to play the piano by ear. This skill actually enhances sight-reading, and contributes greatly to general keyboard facility and confidence.
Sight-Reading Piano Music
I make a clear distinction between “Repertoire” and “Sight-Reading” assignments. Repertoire pieces (see Versatility) are mastered to the best of the student’s ability—up to tempo, and with appropriate articulation and dynamic nuances.
However, to become a good sight-reader, a pianist also must spend time reading through pieces that are easier than their Repertoire level—i.e., pieces which they can read fairly fluently. By covering several pieces each week—in various keys and styles—they will gradually learn to sight-read more difficult pieces.
© Eunice Wonderly Stackhouse, 2020. All rights reserved.