Category Archives: Teaching

What Piano Skills Do Singers Need?

As a follow up to my blog post “How does piano training fail singers?”, I wanted to make a clear list of the actual skills that singers need in order to be successful.   Let’s face it:  many of us are going to need to be employed in a range of different ways in order to piece together a living.  Many of the job opportunities available to singers require strong keyboard skills.  Here is my master list of skills singers need.

All singers should be able to:

  • Play voice exercises in 12 keys hands separately
  • Play major and minor triads in 12 keys hands separately
  • Play melodies in the right hand with decent fingerings
  • Create simple accompaniments using chords (“faking”)

This basic skill set will enable a singer to practice on their own, accompany themselves, teach voice lessons, work as a section leader of a chorus, direct a community chorus and lead a singalong with children or adults.

In addition to these above skills, here are a list of piano skills that singers in different genres need.

Pop singers should be able to:

  • Play seventh chords and sus chords in 12 keys
  • Create simple accompaniments that include a bass line in the left hand
  • Play different rhythmic grooves in good time

Jazz singers should be able to:

  • Play seventh chords in 12 keys
  • Play from a lead sheet
  • Walk a bass line in the left hand, while comping rhythms in the right hand
  • Play jazz chord voicings
  • Play a Bossa Nova and other Latin grooves

Music Theatre singers should be able to:

  • Play voice exercises in 12 keys hands separately
  • Play major and minor triads in 12 keys hands separately
  • Play melodies in the right hand, while playing bass notes or chords in the left hand
  • Fake accompaniments of a variety of styles

Classical singers should be able to:

  • Play melodies in the right hand with correct articulation
  • Do simple chord analysis of scores, jotting in chord symbols
  • Play classical style accompaniments like Alberti bass and rolled adagio styles
  • Play at least 2 parts at a time of SATB choral music

Choral Conductors should be able to:

  • Play 2, 3 and 4 parts at a time of SATB choral music
  • Play a wide range of accompaniments for vocal warm-ups
  • Conduct from the piano, while playing exerpts of the score

General Music teachers should be able to:

  • Play simple accompaniments and sing at the same time
  • Play accompaniments for vocal warm-ups
  • Play interpretive music for movement and interpretation

Early Childhood Music Teachers should be able to:

  • Lead a singalong while creating simple accompaniments on the piano
  • Play and sing without looking at the keyboard (looking at student’s faces instead)
  • Play interpretive music for movement and interpretation

I have had the luxury of being employed in every single role I have listed here and these skills have been wildly helpful in my being successful in each position.

Have I overlooked any skills on this list?  Leave a reply above!

Are you missing any of these skills?  Don’t fret!  It is possible to learn each of these skills quickly, easily and inexpensively, with some work and consistency.  Check out Piano Skills for Singers – the only online piano course for singers, created by a singer.

Get Your Studio Ready For Fall

We’re in the middle of summer here in the US and yet we’re already seeing signs of fall.  Back to school sales are in full swing in every store everywhere. Now that I’ve had a little time to rest and work on a few projects, I’m starting to look ahead to the fall.  I have never been a natural organizer, but I know that being organized makes a huge difference in my mental state and helps me to run my business better.  Here is a massive list of tasks that will help you get ready for fall.  Choose the ones that you think will make your life easier this fall.  A little bit of preparation now will make your transition a thousand times easier!

  1. Go through your email and delete any saved emails from last semester and any students who are no longer in your studio. Archive any important ones.
  2. Clean out your teaching binder removing any notes or music from past students. File or delete unmarked sheet music.  Do the same with your files if you use a tablet instead of a binder.
  3. Go through your bookshelf.  Sort and organize all of your books, removing any books that you no longer use.
  4. Collect all receipts and statements from the current year and file them. (You will be happy you did this come tax time!)
  5. Do a deep clean of your computer and the cloud, deleting duplicate and old files. Do a full backup of your computer system to an external hard drive.
  6. Start files for new students and prepare materials that they might need.
  7. Check your current roster. Has everyone been assigned a lesson slot?  Are payments up to date?
  8. Check your fall schedule for any conflicts. Are there any holes in the schedule that you can fill?  Are any of your days too busy?  Do you have enough time off?
  9. Compare your fall calendar with your child’s school calendar and your family calendar.Are there any overlaps that you can correct now?
  10. Do an inventory of your music and supplies.Order books, copy manuscript paper, purchase hand sanitizer, straws and office supplies as needed.
  11. Get your piano tuned. (!!!!)
  12. Do a deep clean of the studio. Vacuum under the piano, clean your computer screen and keyboard, wash the windows, take everything off your bookshelves and dust under everything.
  13. Set your goals and intentions for the fall term.What did you learn from last semester? What goals do you have for you teaching, your business, your students and your own professional development.
  14. Make space in your calendar for exercise, breaks, family time and your own musical development. (Schedule it now before you get too busy!)
  15. Set some studio-wide goals for your students.More theory, stretching, practice journals, etc.
  16. Relax and enjoy the rest of the summer. You’re ready for fall!

How are YOU getting ready for the fall semester?