Development Levels


Teaching Development level songs

QuestionQuestion
Joan H., Canada

I’m wondering of those of you teaching in Development 10 and beyond continue to learn each song off the page? I have done so through Development 12, and could continue but usually have other projects of my own on the go. With my previous piano training, I can sit down and sight read anything through D14 where my most advanced student is. I seem to recall in one of the TTM audios for one of the Development levels, a comment that the page could be used even as students play the songs to refer to if/as needed. Although so far my standard is for students to learn them in their entirety “off the page”.

So I guess I have 2 questions: one, do you as a teacher continue to keep all songs and arrangements, including accompaniment, jazz, blues & improv) alive once you’ve taught the entire curriculum through D18? Two, do you require your students to learn all songs in D10-18 “off the page” without any reference to the music?

Answer
Laurie Richards, Nebraska

The goal in the Development levels is for students to source their information from the page, then use a hybrid approach of reading- and playing-based clues to learn the song. The teacher’s role evolves to more of a facilitator role rather than actually teaching the songs. Since ‘the page’ is the only SHM resource provided in the Development levels, I’m not sure how else they would be able to learn them, other than relying completely on the teacher. Definitely don’t want that! The goal is for the students to be self-generative and create their OWN tools and strategies for the songs.

Regarding the playlist, I personally give a lot more leeway to the students in choosing what repertoire they want to keep alive. I like to have them keep a playlist of 30-40 songs of their choice, from whatever streams they choose. I’m sure other teachers do it differently.

You might want to review the initial audio by Neil in the Development levels where he talks about how the teacher’s role shifts.

Answer
Robin T., China

A teacher’s ultimate goal is to become obsolete!

QuestionQuestion
Joan H., Canada

I embrace and understand the approach you describe above which is what I’ve done with my D10-14 students so far.Of course as you say, they need the page to learn them on their own – but is the goal to ultimately no LOOK at the music at all once they have learned it? i.e. off the page entirely? I have not been doing any demonstrating of the songs so it’s 100% detective work on their part, which raised my second question – as teachers, do you learn all the Development songs off the page and keep them all alive in addition to everything else from all the other streams?

Answer
Laurie Richards, Nebraska

I don’t require students to memorize or be able to play their Development level songs without the music. For me it doesn’t serve a purpose. However, I find that the majority of students CAN play many of those pieces without music because of the way they have processed it while learning it.

There is quite a range of difficulty levels presented in Levels 10-18. I’ve had students master them all and others who have struggled with several of them. I think it just demonstrates what they are capable of. With the easy ones, they can develop them into arrangements, or turn them into accompaniment projects because of all they’ve learned. If there is struggling with the more difficult ones, I make sure that they realize they DO have the skills needed to play them. But I don’t require mastery if it is not a piece they are interested in mastering at that time. They still go through and find strategies and work on it. They know they can always come back to it later. I supplement with other music as well.

Regarding teachers keeping songs alive, I’m curious to hear what other teachers do. I have just played forever and am comfortable with the songs.

Answer
Robin Keehn, Washington

I make sure that we’re doing a lot of reading projects once we’ve finished TFMM. In fact, we are always doing a reading project. If I have a group, we do one reading project together and then students always have an additional piece of their choosing to work on. By the time we’re in the Development levels, they don’t struggle. As to Jesu, I teach the LH playing based so they only need to focus on the RH.

There is a balance, that’s for sure. I keeping working through the Foundation but make sure that I’m also doing other projects, one of which is ALWAYS reading. So they won’t learn a whole Foundation song in one lesson (almost always the case in my lessons). They’ll likely be doing part of a Foundation piece, a reading piece, improv & comp, and accompaniment in a lesson. Sometimes they’ll be doing an arrangement (a part of one) instead of improv & comp or accompaniment.

Answer
Anna J., Canada

I have the reading skills to comfortably play most of what’s in the Development program. I don’t generally keep all the upper level things alive myself. I just find I can’t at this stage of my life. I do play them regularly so I can demonstrate things to students as needed and because I enjoy them. But I haven’t devoted the time needed to process everything to “off the page” mastery. I find at this stage, my role as teacher has shifted anyway and demonstrations are not often needed, and in fact for some students it’s imperative that I stay off the piano so they rely on their other learning tools and not just their ears/eyes!

Similarly, I don’t require students to learn all these songs “off the page” either. At this stage, I give the students lots of leeway in deciding which pieces get mastered to that level and which aren’t, for whatever reason (too technically challenging for now, not aesthetically appealing, etc). That said, they do learn/process everything.

As for the material in the Development program, I personally rather appreciate the variety of levels/challenges. I find it’s helpful for students, particularly after having struggled with a particular piece, to then be delighted to discover they can turn the page and pretty much sight read the next one. I like to resist the temptation with more advanced students that, just because you can play harder material doesn’t mean you always have to. There’s some very beautiful music that is in fact rather simple, whether in its own right or as source material for arranging or improvising with, etc.

Answer
Colleen R., Washington

I love Development! We had a class today with six Level 10 students. It was delightful! They are each so uniquely creative! I hadn’t seen them for three weeks, so my expectations were low with many camps and vacations since our last lesson.

We began with a conversation of how the L9 to L10 transition was going for us. It was good to hear their observations. I was pleased that nearly all were plugging away at the fingering of Jesu.

Then I had them share a bit of what they had “moved forward” since our last lesson. One shared a rippin’ arrangement he had created of Pauly’s Patter. One played a reading project of Imagine. Another had recently completed two reading projects. One student sang a pop song and played her own accompaniment. Another accompanied the school orchestra at the end of school concert with River Runs Through It. She shared a bit of that. We briefly analyzed most of the pieces noting some of the learning strategies.

Then we learned a new scale, using Neil’s amazing approach. I could go on and on about the compositions that have arisen from scale improv.

It wasn’t the average lesson where I would have included Jazz and more reading project work, but we all left inspired and motivated.

None of my parents have ever asked about exams or competitions, although I feel my students could hold their own. We are having too much fun playing the things we love and stretching our creativity based on the firm foundation of a methodology that works…if our goal is as stated: to enjoy playing for our whole life long.