Advanced Group Piano Class Listening Goals

In May 2011, I outlined in great detail what I and my students enjoy doing so much at group piano classes. In the “High Schoolers and Adults” section, I mentioned that I sometimes like to assign each student their own musical issue to listen to.  I’ve been doing this exclusively with all seven of my advanced high schoolers over the past year, and we’ve all come to really love this way of giving feedback. The only problems with this way of doing things:

  1. Sometimes we start losing track of who is assigned to what issue.
  2. Every time we have a class, there is a different number of students, which means there will be a different number of issues to rotate between them. It’s a pain to have to spend a few minutes each class prioritizing what musical issues to cover.

So, after a class yesterday with 7 advanced high school students, I finally decided to make charts that would cover anywhere between 3 and 8 students that we can refer to in future classes.  I decided to share these charts with other teachers so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Before beginning, it is helpful to clarify for students what each listening item means:

  • Volume
    • Dynamics:  Overall dynamic markings such as p, f, crescendos and diminuendos.
    • Dynamic phrasing:  Dynamic shaping given to the melody, often not marked by the composer (i.e. tapering of phrases, dynamic peaks, etc.). Are sudden changes clear?  Are smooth changes smooth?  Unintended accents?  Ghosted notes?
    • Balance:  One hand playing louder or softer than the other (i.e. accompaniment softer than melody).
    • Voicing:  One finger playing louder or softer than another finger on the same hand (i.e. when playing chords, playing the top finger louder than other fingers, or in Bach fugues, playing the finger with the subject louder than the other fingers).
  • Timing
    • Tempo:  Was the choice of speed in various sections of the piece appropriate, or did any tempo choices detract from the music’s character?
    • Pulse:  Were the chosen tempos steady?  Were tempo changes smooth?
    • Rhythm:  The relative accuracy of the temporal onset of each note within the given tempo.
    • Evenness:  Was rhythm executed with precision, or did some fingers rush, especially in faster passages?
    • Togetherness:  Were hands exactly together when playing simultaneous notes?  Were fingers together when playing chords? Or were there a lot of accidental “buh-dums” between hands and fingers?
  • Duration
    • Articulation:  Legato (slurs), staccato, legatissimo, staccatissimo, portato, tenuto, leggiero.
    • Clarity:  Lifting of fingers soon enough to avoid accidental “blurring” of notes (i.e. avoiding “accidental legatissimo”). Look for flat or collapsed fingers.
    • Rests:  Listen for rests to begin exactly on time – not too soon or too late.
    • Pedaling:  Overlapping pedal technique too early, too late?  Pedal changes in the right places?  Pedal going all the way up / all the way down?  Heel staying on the ground?  Making too much noise when lifting the pedal?

Note: some of the tables below are too wide to fit in the limited width space of this post, so I’ve also produced a PDF for easy viewing and/or printing.

2 performers

Show »

 Student 1Student 2
Round 1(performs)Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance, Voicing, Articulation, Clarity, Rests, Pedaling, Rhythm, Togetherness, Evenness, Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Round 2Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance, Voicing, Articulation, Clarity, Rests, Pedaling, Rhythm, Togetherness, Evenness, Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo(performs)

3 performers

Show »

 Student 1Student 2Student 3
Round 1(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling, Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance & Voicing
Round 2Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance & Voicing
(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling, Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Round 3Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling, Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance & Voicing
(performs)

4 performers

Show »

 Student 1Student 2Student 3Student 4
Round 1(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling
Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance & Voicing
Round 2Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance & Voicing
(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling
Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Round 3Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance & Voicing
(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling
Round 4Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling
Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Dynamics, Dynamic phrasing, Balance & Voicing
(performs)

5 performers

Show »

 Student 1Student 2Student 3Student 4Student 5
Round 1(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingDynamics, Dynamic phrasingBalance & VoicingRhythm, Pulse, Tempo
Round 2Rhythm, Pulse, Tempo(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingDynamics, Dynamic phrasingBalance & Voicing
Round 3Balance & VoicingRhythm, Pulse, Tempo(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingDynamics, Dynamic phrasing
Round 4Dynamics, Dynamic phrasingBalance & VoicingRhythm, Pulse, Tempo(performs)Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling
Round 5Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingDynamics, Dynamic phrasingBalance & VoicingRhythm, Pulse, Tempo(performs)

6 performers

Show »

 Student 1Student 2Student 3Student 4Student 5Student 6
Round 1(performs)Rhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics
Round 2Dynamics(performs)Rhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasing
Round 3Dynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)Rhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & Voicing
Round 4Balance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)Rhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling
Round 5Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)Rhythm, Togetherness, Evenness
Round 6Rhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)

7 performers

Show »

 Student 1Student 2Student 3Student 4Student 5Student 6Student 7
Round 1(performs)Tempo, GeneralRhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics
Round 2Dynamics(performs)Tempo, GeneralRhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasing
Round 3Dynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)Tempo, GeneralRhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & Voicing
Round 4Balance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)Tempo, GeneralRhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or Pedaling
Round 5Articulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)Tempo, GeneralRhythm, Togetherness, Evenness
Round 6Rhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)Tempo, General
Round 7Tempo, GeneralRhythm, Togetherness, EvennessArticulation, Clarity, Rests and/or PedalingBalance & VoicingDynamic phrasingDynamics(performs)

8 performers

Show »

 Student 1Student 2Student 3Student 4Student 5Student 6Student 7Student 8
Round 1(performs)Rhythm, Tempo, PulseTogetherness, EvennessRests, PedalingArticulation, ClarityBalance & VoicingDynamicsDynamic phrasing
Round 2Dynamic phrasing(performs)Rhythm, Tempo, PulseTogetherness, EvennessRests, PedalingArticulation, ClarityBalance & VoicingDynamics
Round 3DynamicsDynamic phrasing(performs)Rhythm, Tempo, PulseTogetherness, EvennessRests, PedalingArticulation, ClarityBalance & Voicing
Round 4Balance & VoicingDynamicsDynamic phrasing(performs)Rhythm, Tempo, PulseTogetherness, EvennessRests, PedalingArticulation, Clarity
Round 5Articulation, ClarityBalance & VoicingDynamicsDynamic phrasing(performs)Rhythm, Tempo, PulseTogetherness, EvennessRests, Pedaling
Round 6Rests, PedalingArticulation, ClarityBalance & VoicingDynamicsDynamic phrasing(performs)Rhythm, Tempo, PulseTogetherness, Evenness
Round 7Togetherness, EvennessRests, PedalingArticulation, ClarityBalance & VoicingDynamicsDynamic phrasing(performs)Rhythm, Tempo, Pulse
Round 8Rhythm, Tempo, PulseTogetherness, EvennessRests, PedalingArticulation, ClarityBalance & VoicingDynamicsDynamic phrasing(performs)

About Chad

Chad is a pianist, composer, piano teacher and blogger with a Masters Degree in Piano Performance. He received the 2005 Nevada Arts Council Fellowship Grant for the composing and performing on his Ostinato CD.
Teaching

2 responses to Advanced Group Piano Class Listening Goals


  1. Thank you. This looks valuable.

  2. Joy

    Looks great! Nice idea.

Leave a Reply