What do students learn in piano lessons at Brooklyn Music Factory?
Piano lessons at Brooklyn Music Factory focus on piano proficiency and music fluency. What do we mean by this? Well, proficiency can be thought of as technique or the physical relationship to the instrument.
- Learning the architecture of the instrument: Finding all notes, high VS low, hand positions, etc.
- How to move your body to play fast vs slow.
- How to get a good sound (soft vs loud…crescendo vs diminuendo).
- How to stay relaxed and open for long stretches of playing or under the stress of a performance.
- How to keep your body ‘in shape’
And fluency can be thought of as learning the language of music. Or building vocabulary, structure, and growing comfortable & confident communicating with others.
- How melody, harmony, and rhythm all work together to create a piece or song.
- Strengthening your ear to be able to memorize sounds and recall them instantly:
- Melodies (and how they are organized/built)
- Different chord qualities (identifying a Major triad VS a minor triad, etc.)
- Breaking down groove (knowing the length of notes by sound (quarter vs half vs eight, etc.)
- How song form dictates what happens on the piano.
- How Music Theory applies to absolutely everything we do on the instrument. (Music theory is like understanding all the math behind music construction…students start with 1 + 1 (where is middle C on the staff) and build up from there until they can do AP calculus, analyze a Beatles song by ear (form, all chords, the anatomy of the melody, and every rhythmic element).
- How to read notes on the grand staff and a lead sheet (the type of notation used primarily for pop, rock and jazz).
- How to listen beyond the piano, identify all the other instruments in a band and use them for musical cues.
Here is what a 45 minute Brooklyn Music Factory piano lesson feels like from start to finish:
- 5 Minute Warm Up: An Improvised and timed musical conversation on drums, piano, voice, or even body percussion.
- 10 Minutes of Skillz & Drillz: This is all about building technique on the piano as it applies to the sudent’s gig song (what they will be playing with other musicians at an upcoming performance).
- 5 Minute Weekly Goal Review: Every student has one weekly music goal and this is when it gets tested. The student and teacher play trough the weekly goal and then ask the question, ‘did we achieve our weekly goal?’ The teacher & student keeps track of Yes/No every week, all year and parents receive a report monthly.
- 15 Minute BLAM Game: BLAM stands for Big Lesson About Music. This is when the student builds music fluency and it’s all done through game based learning techniques. We game-ify everything because we have found kids are far more likely to grow their fluency when the exercises are disguised in a game. Oh yeah, and they LOVE leveling up. There are 15 levels for each game (5: BEG/5: INT/5:ADV) in each category making for 100’s of games. BLAM games are leveled from absolute beginner to professional. It takes our students 7-10 years to complete all 15 levels of each game. (see a more detailed explanation below)
- 10 Minute Song Work: This is when the student works on reading and playing songs out of their book or from BMF lead sheets of pop, rock, jazz songs. Brooklyn Music Factory uses the Music Tree method books for the first 3-5 years, depending on the students experience when entering our program.
- 5 Minute HomeRock Review: HomeRock is what we call lesson notes. Every student has a HomeRock binder that holds weekly lesson notes + all support materials. At the top of the HomeRock is the student’s weekly goal. The student reads allowed their weekly goal as the final step in their lesson.
BLAM (Big Lessons About Music) Explained:
At Brooklyn Music Factory, we focus on a game based curriculum…but what exactly does that mean? We have built a massive library (100’s of games/levels at last count) of what we call BLAM Games: Big Lessons About Music – Games. The goal is to build music fluency in four categories:
- Rhythm: Groove is paramount to any musicians success. Students study hearing and reading rhythmic notation (in all it’s divisions, sub divisions & combinations), as well as how to actually apply them to rock and pop music.
- Melody: Students learn to hear and analyze the contour and logic behind melodies. They study intervals (the distance between two notes) and how a melody is a combination of steps, skips and leaps within a major or minor scale.
- Harmony: Students build a working knowledge of chords and how they are combined to create progressions. Beginning BMFers start by working with chords start as three notes known as triads and over the next ten years grow a working knowledge of extended pop & jazz chords.
- Lyrics/Form/Composition: Composition and improvisation are a HUGE part of what we do at Brooklyn Music Factory. Students work from the very first lesson on growing confident expressing themselves in the language of music with our totally improvised duet, we call this the 5 Minute Warm Up. As well, students learn that songs are made up of a clear structure with lyrics driving the melodic and harmonic rhythm. Students dissect the importance of words and how each syllable has implications in the entire band. By midway through middle school, all of our students are challenged to start composing. Each year we feature ten original private lesson student compositions on an album release through BMF Records.
Please feel free to email or call with further questions. Learning and making music is a life long journey that requires both a community of supporters as well as mindful & attentive mentors every step of the way. While it may be easy to believe that the great musicians were ‘born with talent,’ the truth is anything that is worth doing takes true commitment, work, and a whole lot of help staying on the right track.
See you at BMF!