April 2014 Group Piano Lesson: The Classical Period

Franz Joseph Haydn

The Classical Period


This month’s group lesson was themed around the Classical Period of music history.  The lesson lasted roughly 40 minutes and it was nice to see two parents attend the lesson and get a taste of what their children’s piano lessons are like during the week.

Performances were the first part of the group lesson, so each child played one or two of their pieces. After the performances, I handed out a colorful sheet about the Classical Period: Handout about the Classical Period (see page 3). The students who came to this group lesson hadn’t attended the lesson on the Baroque Era, so I showed them a video clip of a harpsichord, explaining that in the Baroque Period the harpsichord was popular while in the Classical Period the piano was popular.

After talking about some of the aspects of the Classical Period I played parts of the following clips:
Beethoven’s 5th Symphony Musical Clip (Beethoven, 5th symphony)
Mozart String Quartet Musical Clip (Mozart – String Quartet No. 17 in B flat, K. 458)

Next came a worksheet about the composer Haydn, whom I chose to highlight today (Haydn Fill-in-the-Blank Worksheet). I used the following biographies as helps for talking about Haydn’s life: Haydn Short Biography & Haydn Biography 2Haydn is one of my favorite composers and I really enjoy the surprises and happiness in his songs. I played a bit of a Haydn sonata for the students, sometimes telling them, “there’s a surprise coming up soon!” so they could listen for it.

We talked about how the I  and V7 chord were prominent in Classical music and I did a short quiz, asking which chord I’d played. Afterwards I added an extra challenge by playing the chords in a pattern and asking which patten I’d played (for example, I, I, V7, V7, I).

We also briefly listened to a music clip which demonstrates the ABA pattern which was so popular during the Classical Period. A few of the resources I used while preparing to teach the ABA pattern are found by following these two links: Lesson Plan & Listening GuideTo give an example of music with repeating themes I played some of the video of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQuaVy-RAqc). I like that the performers are wearing period clothing. The ABA pattern can be a whole lesson plan in itself, but after listening to the beginning of the piece I asked the students to listen if they heard anything repeat itself. Fortunately the “A” pattern is quite memorable.

We played a game after this, which was a nice change especially for the youngest student. I used the same game from the last lesson which involves finding note flashcards around the room and playing them (see March 2014 Group Lesson Plan: The Baroque Period). Since my students have a range of musical knowledge (varying from a student who is reading pre-staff notation to a student who can read ledger lines) I had the younger students find notes in the scale of C major and the older student find flashcards with ledger line notes so that it was good practice for everyone. Although the youngest student doesn’t know many notes, it was good for him to get more exposure to music notation.

The students had a final taste of a Classical composer when I played some bits of Clementi sonatinas. I noted the left hand patterns which involve a lot of broken chords (I and V7). We concluded the lesson by replaying the note flashcard game once more. I changed up the ledger line notes for the older student to give her an extra challenge and had the older student hide the C scale notes on the other side of the room.

Feel free to use this lesson plan, whether to teach students or just to learn more about the Classical Era for personal study!


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