How would you work with a kid on playing a lead sheet?


Daniel: So, how would I work with a kid on playing a lead sheet?

To me, this is more about how you would personally handle that. I don’t have a special method for like teaching a half note, or teaching a dotted quarter note rhythm, or teaching this is treble staff, this is bass staff. There aren’t things that I do educationally any differently than I did before when I was teaching one-to-one.

So, in other words, I’m interpreting this question about how would you teach a lead sheet is the same way I’d teach a lead sheet to a kid who’s seeing me one-to-one. I’m not going to teach it from an educational perspective any different. The difference is that, and this is actually odd, but I had a student that we had been going through Faber 3B this month, and I had been skipping over the lead sheets. And at a certain point I skipped past and I was like, “We’re going to skip this for now and we’re going to go to this.” And she said, “You know, you’ve been skipping all these lead sheets, but I really want to do them.” And I was like, “Oh, I’m so glad you told me that.”

And so this is what I did. I said, “Here’s all I want you to do. Learn the right hand for the first two lines and then show me. I just want to make sure that you have the music for this learned. When you have it done, put your card up.” I walked away, worked with other kids. She put her card up. She’s one of those notorious kids that if I didn’t come over and bother her, she probably wouldn’t even say a word to me for an hour. You’re going to have kids like that who just want to be left alone, and then you have the kids who they won’t stop talking your ear off, and you kind of have to manage each of those types of students differently in a group.

But she’s definitely the type that if I didn’t walk over she would probably not ever say anything to me. Anyway, so what I would do with her is just say, “Okay, get this right hand part. I’m going to walk away.” She puts her card up, I come back. Then I show her how to do the left hand pattern. I explain what the chord symbols are for. I’m doing this very, very quickly, and I just have her learn the left hand pattern by itself. I walk away. She probably has that card back up in 90-120 seconds, if I remember correctly. And then I just say, “Now put them together.”

So that is literally how I did it. And again, this is one of those huge principles from session seven, and that is that you cannot leave a concept behind as you’re teaching. You have to see with the student in the lesson that they’ve completely mastered the concept. If you do not check that, if you do not get that child to the place where they’re sight reading by lesson two, if you do not get the child to the place where they’re holding their half notes and doing it correctly every single time, and maybe they’re only getting it 66% of the time, they’re going to go to the next concept that they have to learn and, mentally speaking, part of their brain power is still going to be chunking. Part of their focus and concentration is going to be on still trying to get that last concept.

And so what I’m saying, and how this relates to lead sheets, is that by this point, by the time a student has gotten to 3B, I basically could leave them alone. If you look at some of the observations, especially the ones with the older kids, I think one of the observations in block three, it says group observation of some older kids. It’s five kids who are in 3B or higher. And people have remarked to me just how shocked, how little I’m actually saying or doing anything with those kids. And the point I’m getting at is that all that groundwork was laid in level one, in primer, level one, level two, the sight reading, the ability to self manage, the ability to be independent, the ability to edit themselves. And they get to that higher level, and I basically just gave Brooklyn the lead sheet, walked away and said, “Yeah, get this,” and she basically did.

So, really if there’s any secret to teaching lead sheets or any higher level concept to a kid in the group, let’s say any concept over level three in Faber, the secret is they’ve got to be super good at sight reading by the time they leave primer. That’s the secret.

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