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Rote Teaching and Repertoire

Why teach by rote?

This question often triggers lively debates. Some teachers love it, but others argue that it could hinder the development of a student’s reading skills. I personally believe that rote playing can be of great benefit to beginning students. I find it to be one of the most effective ways for introducing basic piano playing skills without being limited by the student’s music reading ability. However, knowing how to do it is the key.

Beginners deserve and can participate in sophisticated and artistic music making. Raymond Burrows, one of the strong advocates for rote playing, says, “A proper introduction into the joy of participating in musical performance can provide the foundation for developing all the skills needed”.

When done properly, rote playing can instill the love of music at the very start and be very effective in instruction. It is a creative way to introduce students to essential pianistic skills such as techniques, keyboard topography, listening skills, intervallic concepts, and artistic and musicianship skills. The sense of freedom at the keyboard and accomplishment in playing exciting pieces right at the first lesson brings tremendous pride and satisfaction to a student and their family.

However, it’s extremely important to emphasize that rote playing is not a substitute for the foundational work that is essential to building solid skills in a young pianist's learning journey. Rather, it’s a gentle and imaginative invitation to a beginner. A large part of the lessons for a beginner can be taught by rote in the first few weeks, but the time for it should decrease dramatically as the student becomes more proficient in reading.

Rote playing can also inject positive energy and freshness to a child who is in a season of routine, dryness, and lack of interest. It can add excitement to the lesson as a student learns to play a piece in a very short amount of time. Occasionally it can save a child from wanting to quit the piano.

How can one teach a young student by rote in a way that can create great excitement at the beginning piano lessons? How can we teach essential pianistic skills through rote playing?

Come and join the Musicale online live presentation on Feb. 24, 12 pm EST to explore the answers to these two important questions. Isabella will share some of her insights in rote playing from her last 30 years of teaching experience, and demonstrate how it can be a great tool for introducing important pianistic skills right from the first lesson. You will get to know how she uses this teaching technique, and what some of her favorite rote pieces are!


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