Launching the Natural Method

Last year, I put the concept of the ‘Natural Piano Method’ in motion and have had great success with students who expressed the desire to go in a new direction with their music training.  In a couple cases, students studied using the traditional Alfred reading method for a few years and had solid playing skills and were ready to jump right into Jazz standards and light songwriting and improvising structures.  I’ve also begun weaving improvisation into all lessons with my students to see if any students respond to playing by ear.   Below is a basic outline of the method which is continually evolving.

About the Natural Method:

Learning piano more naturally

Using the piano with additional help from drums and our voices, the Natural Method taps into our innate musical ability through listening, improvising, exploring as well as learning the basic of music theory.  Learning the piano by ear is appropriate for people who do not have the desire to read music, but are more inclined to play for fun and develop their musical ear by listening and reproducing melodies.  In some cases, developing the ear and exploring the keyboard in this way can lead quickly to composing your own music.  Learning to read can be fun as well, but I have also observed over the past 15 years of teaching that people take to the instrument differently and that there needs to be a way of cultivating that.

The Natural Method has a framework, but is highly tailored to each person.  Students who are comfortable with a looser, more fluid approach to learning will benefit from the Natural Method.

Traditional music instruction is focused on basic and technical skills, reading music, sightreading and learning music theory from workbooks.  The Natural Method focuses on playing the piano purely from the heart while also combining music theory concepts and basic technical know-how.  Combining drumming with the keyboard lessons reinforces the importance of rhythm and groove, especially when applying drum rhythms directly onto the piano in creative ways. Singing and toning connects our voice to the pitches of the keyboard, helps to develop our connection to melody and builds confidence.

The Natural Method is taught or explored with each student for 8 weeks at a time.  At the last meeting, I will check in with the student to see if they would like to continue with another 8-week block of lessons and dive deeper into their creativity by ear or shift to the more traditional approach with reading.  Some students who are self-motivated may take a few weeks to keep practicing and then come back for another 8-week block.  The timing of each level is flexible.

The Natural Method is designed to find the unique musical voice inside of you without judgement or fear.  Students will find that after learning in this way, they are able to absorb the process of reading and notation with more ease because they hands already know their way around the piano of they wish to do that.


Level 1 Concepts

Improvisational games

Basic Technique Exercises (hanon – Schmidt)

Basic Music Theory (24 scales – chords – arp)

Interplay between melody and harmony

‘Simon Says’ – repeating what you hear and developing musical memory

basic songwriting including simple chord progressions

ear training exercises

**Level 1 can take up to a year depending on the student’s learning style and also how much practice the student is able to do.  We progress in 8 weeks blocks always checking to see what aspects of playing and music theory needs more attention.


Student RequirementCompiling ‘The LIST’

A list of songs the student likes or wants to learn.  Folk, pop or blues works great.  Any song with a singable, clear melody.  Parents of younger children should work with them to compile of list of songs.  For beginners, stay away from complicated classical and jazz tunes.  Any song can be interpreted and played with, even if we explore playing around with a recording and choosing a part or rhythm to play.  Just like the elements of a band or group, each musician has to find the space to fit in their part and also stay with the groove of the song.


Level 2 Concepts


Songwriting and developing arrangements

Adventuring into chord progressions

Free improvisation; finding emotions

Ear training activities (what key is the song?, hearing intervals, hearing chords and scale qualities)

More Rhythm Play – exploring syncopation between the hands and changing meters

Feeding the fire of creativity by recording improvisation and writing sessions to capture ideas.

Add songs to ‘The List’ to explore, dissect and learn

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