OK, So What's a Class Piano Lab?

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In a traditional class piano lab (sometimes called a "group piano lab"), students are at individual electronic pianos with headphones while their teacher can monitor and interact with them individually or in groups.

The teacher monitors and interacts with the students through a kind of audio mixer (a "teacher controller unit" or "conferencing system") in which are patched the audio of the individual student pianos. Consequently, the teacher can hear an individual student play and can play for and with an individual student without any other students in the class hearing.

There are really two philosophies for teaching class piano:

1. teach everyone together as a group or class

2. give individual "mini-private lessons"

Philosophy #2 is generally considered to be a poor pedagogical strategy. Teaching the class as a group does not mean that the teacher never interacts with individual students. Of course, the teacher gets up, walks around and observes students practice assignments, and makes appropriate individual adjustments to posture, fingering, etc. However, the best scenario is for the class to all be working along together in a group.

Although this may be the luxury of college and university piano classes, this is not always possible in elementary and secondary schools because often a class piano class will have students with MANY different skills levels in the same class. Consequently, it is not always possible for the class to progress together as a group.

The new class piano lab teacher controllers (conferencing systems) allows for the class to be divided into various groups according to ability. Consequently, the teacher can address and teach one group while other groups continue undisturbed with their practicing.

For example, say there is a class piano class with 16 students:

- 4 are beginners who do not read music and have trouble finding notes on the keyboard.

- 4 have had some music instruction in band or choir and consequently can read music and know some notes on the keyboard but have never had "formal" piano lessons before.

- 4 have had private piano lessons several years ago and can still read music and play simple pieces.

- 4 are advanced players who can play difficult repertory.

The teacher will be challenged to keep the students working together within their groups according to their abilities. However, with the assistance of a modern class piano lab controller it is very easy to assign individuals to groups and then address or listen to them as a group while others are undisturbed.

This is reminiscent of the old ONE-ROOM-SCHOOL-HOUSE where teachers had similar situations. Often the difficulties were overcome by encouraging advanced students to work with beginning students and in so doing, reinforce concepts and practice techniques.

Additional possibilities are afforded through the use of computers and interactive music software. It is probably naive to believe that if a class is divided into 4 diverse groups that all students will "remain on task" in their own personal practice while the teacher works with other groups. A computer can be the answer to keep students involved and engrossed in the often tedious task of learning notes and reading music. For example, some students could be working with interactive software on their computers learning the notes on the staff and combining written notes with keys on their keyboards. Others could be listening to sequences of their repertory pieces and practicing (playing) along. Still others could be intently practicing their advanced repertory while the teacher works with an individual group on a specific technical or musical problem.

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Site last updated: May 1, 2013