Super teacher worksheets for easily increasing your piano students' understanding of key signatures, while improving hand and finger technique!
Why do I call them "super teacher worksheets"? Because not only will you be able to use them for finger exercises and transposing into all 12 major keys, but these free teacher worksheets will improve students' left-hand notereading.
And along the way, you can make use of them for right hand versus left hand articulation practice: one hand plays staccato while the other hand plays legato! Plus... (wait for it:) SOME OF YOUR STUDENTS WILL THINK THESE ARE FUN!!!
Download Schmitt Preparatory Exercises page 1
But wait a minute! Why is the right hand missing? Surely this page of exercises is meant for both hands, isn't it? Yes, but as piano pedagogy expert Martha Beth suggests, these super teacher worksheets present an excellent opportunity to force students to focus on the bass clef!
Students may initially be intimidated at the sight of all the tiny notes - SIXTEENTH NOTES! - but tell them exercise 1 will be a bit of a surprise. Hopefully, you will have already introduced them to plain pentascales some time before this, even if all they have done is play on the white keys.
Ask them to read the first few notes of the left hand, then continue playing to the end, and then ask them if this isn't familiar? It will be gratifying to them to read what they already know how to play by rote. Then, exercise #2 is just the same, only backwards!
Depending on the student, we MAY skip exercises 1 & 2 and go right to #3.
Once they have it figured out, I may have them begin transposing the exercise.
The first week, it will probably be just transposed to the key of D. Week 2, I will probably ask for C, D, and E. By then they are on a roll, and I will throw the whole ball of wax at them - C, D, E, F, G, A, and B!
Here's how we begin our understanding transposing into each new major position:
Starting on the new key, we sing together, "Tonic, whole, whole, half, whole!") After these are somewhat in hand, we begin work on the black keys: the keys of Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, and Bb.
Here is a quick lesson on the whiteboard conducted with a student today after going through just the pentascales for C, D, E, F, G, A, and B:
Just in case this photo is not self-explanatory, the open circles represent WHITE KEYS, and the colored-in circles are for BLACK KEYS. Oh, yeah - it's pretty sloppy, but my students don't worry too much about that! It's a quick break from the piano bench, and they like puzzles. Directly above the diagram, disappearing off the top of the photo, is a sketch of a small keyboard, drawn in with a wet-erase pen (obviously in need of a touch-up).
All this week my students working on pentascales have used the small keys as a reference for this exercise, murmuring, "Tonic, whole, whole, half, whole..." I love hearing those words!
Legato and Staccato Practice
Somewhere along the journey of learning these exercises (which are only the first 12 of the 213 exercises in Part I of the Schmitt Preparatory Exercises, Opus 16), we will also play them with legato versus staccato touch (one hand plays staccato & the other legato, then switch).
Rub the tummy and pat the head!
For beginning piano students who are doing this for the first time, I like to illustrate that it is a lot like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. Tricky! That makes it fun. This is also a suggestion from Martha Beth's book of tricks.
Change the Rhythm of the Scales or Exercises
Another variation with these exercises is to vary the rhythm, making it short-LONG, or LONG-short instead of straight sixteenths. Also good practice is to place stress on different parts of the beat. (My own piano teacher of long ago used this technique for me when I was learning the right hand of Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu, which is 4 notes against 3 in the left hand. It helped cement the notes into my finger memory.)
Download free teacher worksheets page 3
Using these first 12 exercises of the Schmitt book works very nicely if you have a motivation chart going -- it gives you easy & obvious goals for your students to work toward. I did that with many of my piano students last year, and I have to say I saw much real improvement with understanding of the pentascales in all 12 major keys.
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