Beginner keyboard

A theory and practical unit teaching students simple keyboard repertoire for the right and left hands.

Duration

10 lessons

Focus

Teaching the basics of keyboard performance.

Overview

A theory and practical unit teaching students simple keyboard repertoire for the right and left hands.

Outcomes

Stage 4

A student:

  • 4.1 performs in a range of musical styles demonstrating an understanding of musical concepts
  • 4.2 performs music using different types of notation and different types of technology across a broad range of musical styles
  • 4.3 performs music demonstrating solo and/or ensemble awareness
  • 4.9 demonstrates musical literacy through the use of notation, terminology, and the reading and interpreting of scores used in the music selected for study
  • 4.12 demonstrates confidence and willingness to engage in performing, composing and listening experiences

Content

Students will learn to perform simple keyboard repertoire for the right hand, in the treble clef and then for the left hand, bass clef. A few final pieces will combine both hands. After initial instruction, students can then progress through the repertoire at their own pace. Pieces are combined with simple theory or musicology questions that enable students to develop an understanding of terminology used in traditional music scores as well as knowledge of the concepts of music.

The performance page of each piece (located in the resource section) can be copied and laminated or bound and kept in the sequential order provided, for class use. Theory pages can be copied for students to paste into their books for reference.

There are many sites on the internet where beginner keyboard sheet music can be obtained. Some are free, and some are not. Some that identify note names are:

  • Music for teachers contains free sheet music, including warm-ups and exercises
  • Music Notes contains a lot of modern, popular music available for purchase.

Cross-curriculum content and key competencies

  • Numeracy
  • Literacy

Assessment

All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.

Teaching and learning activities

Students will

  1. number the fingers (including the thumb) of each hand. An example of this can be seen below
Finger numbers showing the bass cleff numbers 1 to 5 on the left hand and treble clef on the right hand starting with the number 1 on the thumbs.
Image: Finger Numbers
  • discuss the relationship between the finger numbers and the notes in the music
  • place finger number one of the right hand on the middle C on keyboard (as per the image below).
Treble keyboard showing where the fingers of the right hand are to be placed starting with middle C
Image: Where the fingers of the right hand are to be placed starting with middle C

When learning simple pieces in the treble clef, the first finger (thumb) of the right hand, is placed on middle C, two on D, three on E, four on F and five on G.

All pieces for suggested repertoire are located in the resource section. Most have a theory page and then a performance page. The answers to the music theory questions, can be located on the supplementary performance page.

After teaching the first few pieces, students should be able to progress through the repertoire at their own pace.

Piece One: This is new, so are you.

Provide a copy of the piece one: This is new, so are you (PDF 5.08MB) sheet music and accompanying theory page to each student. Display a second copy at the front of the classroom.

Students will:

  1. listen to the teacher playing the piece, following the sheet music and become familiar with how it sounds
  2. note any similarities or differences between the first and second lines of music
  3. discuss and answer the questions on the theory page
  4. use the picture of a keyboard (example below) to learn the first piece by rote and use the visual for assistance, before sitting at the keyboard
Treble keyboard and scale to shwo how the keys and music match
Image: Matching music and keyboard keys
  1. point to each note on the music as the teacher plays and sings the pitch name/note. (Be sure to always count in '1, 2, 3, 4' at the tempo in which the piece will be played, before starting to play)
  2. repeat the previous step, but this time, sing along with the teacher while tracing the pitch
  3. point to each note on the music and sing the finger numbers as the teacher plays and sings
  4. place their right thumb on middle C of their paper keyboard and 'play' the first line of music along with the teacher
  5. repeat this process with the second line of music
  6. move to the keyboards (set clear guidelines for responsible use of musical equipment. Also, instruct students not to turn the keyboards on at this stage.)
  7. play the keyboard (with no sound) and sing the finger numbers while the teacher plays (with sound) and sings the finger numbers
  8. turn their keyboards on and practise playing the sheet music.

When students are practising, move around the room to assist and monitor their progress. It is a good idea to encourage peer teaching if students need to share keyboards. If anyone appears to be having difficulty learning new repertoire, the teaching techniques below can be employed:

Students can:

  • repeat the process of playing without sound as they sing finger numbers (or pitch names) while the teacher plays (with sound) and sings
  • clap the rhythm while saying pitch names or finger numbers
  • play in groups while the teacher claps a beat and calls out finger numbers
  • move into two groups completing the activity below:
    • teacher counts in, half the class claps the rhythm, while
    • the other half play the notes and the teacher claps the beat,
    • swap and repeat.

Piece two: Ode to joy

Provide a copy of the piece two: Ode to joy sheet music (PDF 5.13MB) and accompanying theory page to each student. Display a second copy at the front of the classroom.

Students will:

  1. listen to the teacher playing the piece, following along with the music
  2. discuss whether they have heard the music before or not
  3. move to the keyboards
  4. play (with no sound) and sing the finger numbers/pitch names while the teacher plays (with sound) and sings the finger numbers/pitch names
  5. turn the keyboards on and practise as the teacher moves around and assists/monitors their progress
  6. complete the theory page individually, or in pairs.

This piece will test who plays by ear and who reads the music, as the last bar of each line does not have dotted note values as in the original tune.

Piece three: Watch this carefully

Provide a copy of the piece three: Watch this carefully sheet music (PDF 5.04MB) and accompanying theory page to each student. Display a second copy at the front of the classroom.

Students will:

  1. listen to the teacher playing the piece, following along with the music
  2. discuss what they notice about the contour (shape) of the melody, particularly in the first line. (This will hopefully lead to a discussion about the musical term of sequence.)
  3. discuss the rhythm of the first bar on the second line (The title of the song matches the rhythm.)
  4. move to the keyboards
  5. play (with no sound) and sing the finger numbers/pitch names while the teacher plays (with sound) and sings the finger numbers/pitch names
  6. turn on the keyboard and practise as the teacher moves around and assists/monitors their progress
  7. complete the theory page individually, or in pairs.

Students still working on the previous two pieces can spend time perfecting them. Encourage playing with a steady tempo and holding down each key for its full value (particularly minims and semibreves).

Piece four: I like eating lizards

Provide a copy of the piece four: I like eating lizards sheet music (PDF 4.77MB) and put a second copy on display at the front of the classroom.

In pairs, or individually students will:

  • discuss the questions
    • What is the relationship between the title of the piece and the rhythm in the music?
    • How could this help you learn the rhythm?
  • practise and learn piece four: I like eating lizards or continue to work on previous pieces, if needed.

Piece five: Bass clef

Regardless of where students are in the sequence of repertoire, at the beginning of the fourth or fifth practical lesson, introduce the left hand/bass clef.

Students will

  1. work through the Bass clef theory page with the teacher
  2. use the bass keyboard picture (example below) to match the correct numbers and fingers on their left hand
Bass keyboard and music matched up
Image: Matching music and keyboard keys
  • finger one (thumb) of the left hand is placed on the G just below (to the left) of middle C, two is on F, three is on E, four is on D and five is on C.
  1. complete the questions on the Bass clef page of the worksheet
  2. listen to the teacher play exercise one
  3. discuss how the order of notes create a descending sequence of two bars, followed by an ascending sequence of two bars
  4. listen to the teacher play exercise two, following along with their finger on the sheet music
  5. move to the keyboards
  6. learn exercises one and two
  7. practise, learn and perform piece six: Bass clef is the best (PDF 4.54MB).

Piece seven: Repeat repeat

This piece is the first use of dotted note values and ties. Encourage students to hold notes down for their full value. The first line of this piece (played by the right hand in the treble clef) is then repeated in the bass clef with the left hand. Before commencing this piece, revise ties and dotted note values with the class.

Provide a copy of the piece seven: Repeat repeat sheet music (PDF 5.57MB) and accompanying theory page to each student. Display a second copy at the front of the classroom.

Students will:

  1. work through the questions and answers on the sheet
  2. listen to the teacher playing the piece, following along with the music
  3. move to the keyboards and learn the piece.

Piece eight: Too many notes and Piece nine: Frere Jacques

These two pieces use chords. Too many notes (PDF 4.97MB) has chords in the right hand and Frere Jacques (PDF 4.98MB) has chords in the left. Too many notes

Provide a copy of the piece eight: Too many notes and piece nine: Frere Jacques sheet music and accompanying theory pages to each student. Display alternative copies at the front of the classroom.

Students will

  1. listen to the teacher playing the music Too many notes, following along with the music
  2. move to the keyboards
  3. practise and learn to play Too many notes
  4. perform Too many notes as a class ensemble, then solo
  5. complete the theory page individually, or in pairs.
  6. listen to the teacher playing Frere Jacques, following along with the music
  7. count aloud the duration of the chords
  8. discuss how the chords in Frere Jacques are held for the full value of four beats, then played again at the beginning of the next bar
  9. practise and learn how to play Frere Jacques on the keyboards.

Encourage students to learn to play by reading the music rather than memorising finger numbers/pitch names or playing by ear.

Download, print and display the keyboard graphics in a poster form for your classroom (PDF 5.23MB).

Literacy and numeracy

Students will:

  • interpret music notation in the treble and bass clefs
  • learn music terminology associated with the music they are studying
  • learn to maintain a steady tempo, follow a beat and play in time with others
  • revise note values.

Differentiation

Extension

Students who can already read notation and play the keyboard can take on a leadership role by being assigned a small number of students to teach and assess.

Life skills

Life skills outcomes

A student:

  • LS 6 a student vocalises, sings or plays an instrument

copyright NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2003.

Students could:

  • attempt all practical exercises above, receiving support when needed
  • sing the sheet music, rather than play it
  • attempt to perform repertoire in time to a beat on the keyboard, or to play for their own enjoyment.

Evaluate

Formative feedback: questions on theory pages, active participation in practical lessons and class discussion.

Summative feedback: performance of set repertoire as an individual and/or as part of a group.

Reference list and resources

All images: Learning and Teaching Directorate, Secondary Education copyright NSW Department of Education, April 2018.

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