Flashcards for everything!
Most musicians use flashcards at some point in order to improve their music reading abilities, specifically note names and key signatures. However, there are many more uses for flashcards in private lessons, particularly for beginning piano students. I have used them to review rhythms, finger numbers, and even hand positions. Here, I will tell you how I'm using flashcards with my students and I would love to hear from you if you have more ideas for reinforcing important skills for beginning pianists!
Where to start?
I like to start using flashcards the very first lesson, believe it or not! Like most teachers, I introduce finger numbers with an activity where you trace your hands and label each finger. However, the next step is to reinforce what the student has learned and that means they need to practice it. This is when I pull out the finger number flashcards.
Just have the student find C position (or whatever position you usually teach first) and have them play the finger numbers on the card.
Go through the whole deck (or half the deck for younger students) with one hand and then repeat the process with the other hand.
We've Got Rhythm!
Once you have introduced note values, you can use flashcards to reinforce counting whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes. This is especially helpful for beginners who are eager to "just play." Tell them they can choose any key on the keyboard and any finger to play the rhythm. Increase difficulty appropriately by adding rests and lengthening the rhythms into 2 or 4 bar examples.
Reading Pitches on the Staff
If your student tires of "every good boy deserves fudge," try 3 pitch patterns on flashcards for a while. Have them say the note names out loud as they play. This can also be done sans keyboard, just naming the notes. What a perfect solution for reviewing note names while on vacation!
Reinforce Hand Positions
One common problem for beginning piano students is that they often forget which fingers are on which pitches in the given hand position. These flashcards reinforce hand positions, which helps a great deal when returning to sheet music.
Simply ask the student to put their hands in a particular position (C and G are what I teach first). Then give them simple 4 note patterns to play on each flashcard. This is very similar to the finger number flashcards with a focus on pitches instead of finger numbers.