Piano Lab-Rocklin High School

Mr. Shawn Spiess





Course Overview

This course is designed to teach the concepts and fundamentals necessary to play the piano. While performing on the piano is the primary goal of this class, the basics of music theory, such as notation, rhythm, melody and harmony, will also be learned. Students will develop the self-discipline needed for good practice habits as they prepare for class performances.


Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • follow classroom procedures regarding practice and instruction.

  • demonstrate basic competencies of piano performance.

  • identify music notation and symbols relative to the level of proficiency.

  • identify basic music forms in piano compositions.

  • demonstrate proper performance and audience technique.

  • independently prepare music for performance.


Course Materials

Always bring a pencil to class. Bring a three-ring binder with lined paper for note-taking and keeping assignments and sheet music. You may bring your own headphones/earbuds, but make sure they have a ¼” jack.  You can purchase a ¼-⅛ inch adapter for a few dollars.  

1/8''' to 1/4'' adapter, also called 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter

Behavioral Expectations

Students will:

  • be seated and practicing at their assigned keyboard when the bell rings.

  • be allowed to use phones and other mobile devices for class purposes only.

  • not bring food, gum or drinks into the classroom. Water bottles are allowed but must be kept away from the keyboards.

  • take good care of their instrument and equipment in the classroom.

  • always have their required materials at the start of class.

  • demonstrate self-discipline, focus and good time management during their practice times.

  • quickly follow directions given by the teacher.

  • show respect to their teacher and fellow classmates


Evaluation Criteria

Grades will be posted on Schoology and NOT EdLine.

30% Practice-Preparation: Be in class, practice hard, follow directions, show improvement each time you are evaluated by the teacher.

30% Performance-Recitals: All students will be graded on solo performances given periodically. Students who are unprepared on recital days will receive a zero. Recitals may be made up within three days only if the absence is excused.

25% Theory: Students’ understanding of music theory will be graded based on their completion of the written assignments and quizzes given in class. Late assignments will receive a zero. Assignments may be made up within three days of an excused absence.

15% Quarterly Project: This project will be selected by the instructor, and could include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Composer Presentation- Research a composer and make a class presentation.

  • Recital Program- Select appropriate pieces and design a piano recital program complete with program notes for each piece.

  • Piano Recitals: Perform quarterly, in class recitals.  One evening recital for parents, friends and staff members may occur in the fourth quarter if time and scheduling allows.

  • Original Work: Create and perform an original musical piece by following specific guidelines outlined by a grading rubric.


A Note from the Teacher

  • Because each student learns at their own pace, you will only be graded upon your own improvement and effort and not compared to other students in the class.

  • The music you must learn as a beginner is not always the most thrilling music in the world, but you must start somewhere. The thrill comes from learning and mastering the music.

  • Mastering the piano is not accomplished overnight, and sometimes not even in one lifetime. Have patience with yourself and others in the class.

  • Remember the more you practice the better you will be at playing the piano or anything else you set your mind to master.  There is not a single person in the world who was born with the skills to play the piano with masterful virtuosic ability.  


Recommended Practice Routines

  • Practice Slowly: Most students of instruments want to play faster than they are capable of playing.  A good general rule is to play at the tempo in which you do not make any mistakes.

  • Mistakes are OK!  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes but when you do STOP!  Play the notes over and over again until you correct the mistake.  Start a few measures (bars) ahead and play through the section again.  If you play through without a mistake continue on.  As your playing skills increase and the music is played correctly you should increase the tempo (speed) in which you play and practice.

  • Metronome: A metronome is a device that keeps tempo by sounding a note, pitch or a click at a set tempo or speed you desire.  Mechanical metronomes are nice but they may be a bit cumbersome and hard to carry throughout the day.  There are many metronome apps that can be downloaded for free to your smart phones, iPads and tablets.  I would suggest searching for one and find the one you like.  NOTE: You may only use your electronic device in class for an approved music app.  

  • Practice at Home: There is not better practice routine that sitting at your instrument daily.  A minimum practice time should be 30 minutes each day.  Advanced Pianist study 5-10 hours a day to perfect the art.  You are not required to practice like a concert pianist in this class.