Marks Possible Each Lesson

(4+ marks in a given lesson = 1 credit; 6 credits = 1 lesson voucher)

Mark #1: Posture

  • sitting upright: a vertical position raises the shoulders and arms, granting the student a superior vantage point and easier access to the keys.  Sit upright when at the piano, whether in the midst of a piece or resting between pieces.
  • wrists straight: combined w/ appropriate posture, straight (as opposed to dipping) wrists allow for better finger position and more versatile movement.  Place hands in the lap between pieces, instead of resting wrists on the piano.
  • one “free” reminder allowed per lesson, per category

Mark #2: Finger Position

  • curved fingers: pianists should strike the keys with force generated from their fingers (and, very occasionally, wrists), not their arms.  Curved fingers grant improved control and greater accuracy.  The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers in particular should always be curved, even when playing accidentals (sharps & flats).
  • starting position: students should always make sure their hands are in the appropriate position—and within the correct octave—before playing the first note of any piece.  Practicing in the wrong location will complicate learning to associate the correct keys with the correct notes on the page.
  • one “free” reminder allowed per lesson, per category

Mark #3: Preparedness

  • materials present: students should bring all books in which a piece or exercise has been assigned, insure that they have completed any required theory exercises, and demonstrate that they have practiced every assigned piece.  Be sure to peruse the list of assigned pieces after each week’s lesson.
  • practice sheet present: students should practice every assigned piece at least two times each time they sit down to practice.  Beginning students up through Level 2 should practice at least four days a week, Levels 3-6 at least five days per week, and Levels 7-10 at least six days each week.  Students should remember to bring and turn in the sheet on which they recorded their practice that week.
  • students who do not bring an initialed record of their weekly practice will not earn this mark

Mark #4: Technique

  • eyes on the page: a pianist’s eyes may occasionally, rapidly flit downwards to their hands, but should customarily follow along and actively process the music and my notations as they play (unless they have already perfected the piece and been encouraged to memorize it).
  • technic exercises: ideally, students will perfect a given technic exercise within three weeks.  If a student plays a technic piece with no more than one error (in notes, rhythms, fingering, dynamics, etc.)—and their eyes remain on the music most of the time—they will earn a technique mark that week and check off the exercise.
  • we will sometimes move on from a given technic piece even if a student has not earned a mark for it, as lingering too long without progress (more than 3-4 weeks) over a given exercise can decrease its usefulness.

Mark #5: Progress

  • ponder before playing: prior to practicing each piece throughout the week, students should take 5-10 seconds to scan the music and remind themselves of my corrections.  Ideally, students will not repeat errors a week after I have highlighted them.
  • marked improvement: students will earn this mark during a lesson in which they do not repeat more than 1 out of every 3 errors marked the previous week.  I will use the following color-coded system to indicate the number of times attention has been drawn to a particular mistake.  Multiple colors swirling around the same notation indicate that an error has repeatedly remained uncorrected—not a good thing.  If a student receives a few green circles in a given lesson, or a single red circle, that alone can prevent them from earning a mark that week.
  • black: 1st mention made
  • blue: 2nd mention made (less than ideal)
  • green: 3rd mention made (a significant issue)
  • red: 4th mention made (a serious problem)
  • orange: this fluorescent color appears only to emphasize slurring.
  • we will sometimes move past a technic piece even if a student has not earned a mark for it if their progress on the piece appears to have slowed to a standstill.

Mark #6: Performance (recording optional)

  • polish: when students appear to have thoroughly learned a lesson, solo, recital, or masterworks piece, I will allow them to “perform” it for me without interruption or assistance.  A student may, at this time, request that their performance be recorded on audio or video (and I may occasionally suggest this myself).
  • near-perfection: if a student performs a piece with no more than 2 errors per page they will earn a mark. Errors include incorrect notes, rhythms, fingerings, dynamics, and so on.