Course Outline: Digital Keyboarding
Instructor: Mr. Spinelli

Eligibility: class is core and for AVPA-Music students only

Digital Keyboarding is an open-ended course designed to fit the individual needs of the student. Note: For AVPA-M students, this course is a three-trimester requirement. Beginner concepts, or for the advanced student, keyboard harmony (non-traditional clef reading, transposition, harmonization, and fundamentals of improvisation) are the main objectives.

Typical class involves a three-to-five minute session per student. Typical lessons are in two parts: performance of previous lessons assignment (with corrections as needed), and the new assignment. In addition, students are introduced to the synthesizer and MIDI software. Instead of listening to the piano sound bank in the synthesizer, students learn to access various keyboard sound files from “Finale” software, for example, a Steinway grand in an empty concert hall.  This is in preparation for their future students in Music Theory and “Electronic Music Synthesis”.

Goals of the Course

The instructor works with each student in determining his/her goals at the beginning of the course.  Since most students take beginning lessons, the goals may be: proper posture, note/rhythm reading, scales, knowledge of basic materials for performing, and an appreciation of various musical styles through performance.  More advanced students may set specific objectives regarding scales, arpeggios, sight reading, keyboard harmony, as in the above description.  The students and instructor work closely to ensure that these goals are realized.

Course Outline

Trimester I: Piano beginners: Introduction to fundamentals, proper techniques and posture for rudiments of playing, begin "Teaching Little Fingers To Play", averaging 3 pieces per lesson, completion of book by end of trimester. If involved in Keyboard Harmony: C-clef reading in two staves, same clef.

Trimester II: End "Teaching Little Fingers To Play"; if applicable, begin "John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano"; beginning hands together playing, dotted rhythms, 6/8 meter, fundamental keyboard harmonization, longer pieces (up to two pages) in three sharps and four flats. If involved in keyboard harmony: C-clef reading with different clefs.

Trimester III: Reach "Dublin Town" in John Thompson's Book I. If students are able, begin "Second Grade Book" (John Thompson students may at this time be prepared for Keyboard Harmony This will vary greatly depending upon each student's ability. In Keyboard Harmony: C-clef reading in multiple clefs, more than two staves.  Students will begin harmonization, improvisation, and open-score reading.

Note: as each student's abilities vary greatly, some students will spend the entire year in the John Thompson series, while other students will begin Tri I with Keyboard Harmony.  This flexibility is necessary, and easily accomplished as lessons are, as stated, one-on-one.


▪   Students will develop as they practice their music during class and at home. Students become critical listeners and thinkers as they identify and solve problems in their studies. They also become creative thinkers as they produce unique solutions or "products" through their thought processes.

▪   Students will demonstrate mastery of the technical terminology associated with the music in class discussions and assignments as it pertains to style.

▪   Students will consistently play with proper postures (torso, levers of the arm and wrist, hand position) in order to play with more ease and to avoid physical problems associated with incorrect approaches to the keyboard.

▪   Students will master techniques associated with: finger names/numbers, rhythm, meter, notation, tempo, dynamics, tone color, tone production, and phrasing

▪   Students will articulate their notes via music indications (staccato, legato, etc.). Students will be able to apply the physical as well as the interpretive elements to articulation.

▪   Students will employ all of the above objectives in the artistic creation, production, and performance of the music.

▪   Students will demonstrate an understanding of terminology used in music for tempo, articulation, phrasing, etc. by using it in class.

▪   Students will identify key and key signatures as well as changes in key.

Methods of Instruction: The typical class has three main elements. First, we review material assigned in the previous class. This may also include performing (in class) small ensemble compositions. Students are then given individual attention and comments based on their performance. Secondly, the class is given individual or group instruction (depending upon the number of students in class or the number of students at a particular level) on new material. The instructor frequently demonstrates concepts and techniques. They are individually checked for understanding and given time to practice the new techniques. Where applicable, the class plays part of the exercises together. The assignment is given for the next class. As the lessons grow more difficult, there may be a flexibility regarding due dates of each assignment.  These criteria will be determined and the student will be assessed, each according his or her level of playing.

Methods of EvaluationPreparation: Come to class with all assignments completed to the best of the student's individual ability. Practice commitment will be determined together with the instructor during his/her first class. Students are also expected to come to class with music and peripherals. Students who do not demonstrate adequate preparedness may receive an "NP" for "not practiced" (i.e., not practiced) for that class.  Instructor will make an evaluation of the students' overall performance and determine a grade appropriate for the individual lesson's and the overall trimester's work.  Letter grades are given for each lesson.

As piano instruction is to some extent subjective, every effort is made to give the student the fairest grade possible under his or her circumstances.  That said, the grade will reflect the student's overall performance for that trimester.  If a student is receiving below an A, he or she will be notified by the instructor early on in the trimester.

As lessons are one-on-one, participation will be the student's preparedness at each lesson.   A letter grade method of evaluation with some specific criteria are listed below

A       93-100 points. 2-3 completed pieces per lesson.

A-     90-92.9 points. Generally prepared, one to two completed pieces per lesson.

B+     87-89.9 points. Some difficulty in areas of preparation and execution (rhythm, tempo, etc.)

B       83-86.9 points. One to two completed works per lesson with some minor problems

B-      B- 80-82.9 points. Less than one completed piece per lesson.

C+     77-79.9 points. Pieces kept more than two weeks

Grades below a C+ will be shown to the student at mid-trimester and an assessment will take place to determine the direction taken.

C       73-76.9 points.

C-     70-72.9 points.

D+     67-69.9 points.

D       63-66.9 points

D-     60-62.9 points

F       0-59.9 points     

Students who are absent are given every opportunity to make up the missed work with no penalty.  Make-up work and time given to practice will be at instructor's discretion with the goal of assisting the student in getting caught up with no penalty.

Instructional Material

Lesson Book (Varies by level of student):

  • John Thompson's "Teaching Little Fingers To Play"
  • John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano: First and Second Grade Books
  • Morris & Ferguson: Preparatory Exercises in Score Reading
  • Ledbetter: Continuo Playing According to Handel
  • Score reading excerpts