Learning how to play the piano can be a solitary endeavour. We usually practise alone. When we perform, we are front and centre – and all alone – on the stage. My students are becoming quite competent solo performers. But, some of my best times making music have been with other musicians.
At our most recent group class I introduced my students to the fun of four-hands/one-piano duet repertoire. About a month ahead of the group class date I partnered all my students together and chose repertoire for each duo. Except, I didn’t tell them who their partner would be! I gave out one part of each duet to every student, and asked them to learn the music with the correct rhythm and the ability to play while counting aloud. I rehearsed with each student at their private lessons.
At the group class all the students performed their solo repertoire as usual. [This is how we gain performing experience and build our nerves of steel.] Then we relaxed and watched some YouTube videos of other musicians having fun together: The Piano Guys, Victor Borge, and the stunning Anderson & Roe.
Next I revealed the partners for each duo. We talked about the process of preparing a duet: solo practice, first rehearsal with your partner, continued solo and duo rehearsals, duo rehearsals with the teacher, and finally performance. Each duo had a chance to come to the piano and try out the first run-through with their secret partner. We discussed tempo, page turns, and pedalling choices, and adapted to reading duet score. [The page layout is slightly different than solo piano score, and it’s easy to get lost after a page turn.] Everyone learned how to sync up to a steady beat with another musician. Most importantly, we had a fun afternoon of making music together.
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