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Learner 2

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Learner Two is an accomplished guitarist and attended university to achieve a bachelor’s degree in popular music and recording. The learner came to work for me as a guitar teacher and decided to learn the piano. A cross over standard between later elementary and early intermediate was being covered and the learner was moving forward at an acceptable pace however because of the lack of a home instrument during the lockdown this progress was slowed. This allowed for a clear understanding of what had transferred to long term memory. When lessons resumed online a late elementary standard was selected as a starting point.


At the start of this period of study the learner had a considerable understanding of chords and keys, musical motifs and structure. The current aim is to develop finger skills in the appropriate patterns and skills for the keyboard. Due to the guitar skills already present (RGT Grade Eight Acoustic Guitar) there was a good base line of dexterity and suppleness. Whilst learner two has the ability to move ahead at speed it is essential that the process of required finger patterns were not overshadowed by the ability to move quicker than a learner would be expected to at this standard.


The intention of this course of study is to move the learner from a late elementary standard to the end of the intermediate standard by Spring 2021.


Due to learner two’s depth of musical experience I selected the pieces we needed to achieve the essential abilities and musical elements to achieve the culmination of an elementary standard.


The case study began with the learner playing Quasi Adagio[11] to develop subtle nuances of tone. This study initially used my exercises that have been developed specifically to allow understanding of the particular problems this piece contains. An example of an exercise can be seen in figure three. These focus point exercises enabled the learner to acquire the piano techniques without becoming disenchanted with repetitive work that is designed to give a learner experience. Fortunately this learner has this skill in excess.


This piece was mastered within a month alongside ‘Jazz! Goes the Weasel’[11] by Maxner and ‘Andante’[11] by Attwood to complete a Grade One skill set with regard to musical scores. Scales were completed with ease because key signatures were already known. Once the finger patterns were understood the scales and arpeggios came together quickly.


Ear Training was already at Grade Eight standard, however the sight reading coordination posed more of a problem and required more work. The ‘Improve Your Sight Reading’[12] books by Paul Harris provides a balanced approach to sight reading.


Following the completion of the Grade One standard, Grade Two pieces were chosen. At this time lockdown was announced. The learner did not have an instrument at home as it was expected that daily practice at the Academy was possible. Towards the end of April, following a period of quarantine,  a loan of a digital piano was organised and lessons recommenced on Zoom. One of these lessons was submitted as the specimen lesson with the essay and showed the initial lessons for the study of the ‘Musette in D minor’[13]. At this stage the learner had only had one lesson since lockdown began on March 23rd. Work continued with this piece and the phrasing and finger patterns were mastered by mid July, by which time the Academy had reopened and practice had recommenced on an acoustic piano.


Study for Grade Two techniques continued with ‘Musette in D’, ‘Homework Blues’[14] by Wedgewood and ‘Little Song’ by Kabalevsky. ‘Little Song’ benefitted from the work that had been completed on ‘Quasi Adagio’ with the nuances of tone required visible from the start of the work. ‘Homework Blues’ proved difficult to maintain the blues rhythm and movement. Once the movement became automatic, the rhythm began to flow more naturally and the guitarist became more apparent.


At the end of the study period sight reading has improved but is still substandard. This will continue to be addressed as more piano music is played. Moving hand position, melodic transfer, elementary articulation and dynamic variation are at the expected standard and ear training is complete. The technical work requires practice but once the patterns are learnt the scale becomes fluent.

During this case study period the learner has made good progress. The lockdown period did not affect progress to any detrimental effect. The learner is very thorough and diligent with details and whilst this is beneficial it also removes a natural sound, this should balance as experience on the piano grows. I believe the learner will now benefit from studying a range of late elementary music to consolidate the information learnt.

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Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

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