One thing about playing on and teaching on upright pianos is that we don’t get many opportunities to look inside. Many students have no idea how the instrument they’re playing works – they just see a closed box.
That’s why I decided my students needed a Naked Piano Week.
“Naked Piano Week” is exactly what it sounds like.
I took off my dear piano’s clothing for a whole week of lessons and put them in the corner so that every student could learn about how the piano actually works.
Discovering How the Piano Works
The first thing I did was instruct my students to sit down away from the piano so we could chat.
I explained to them about Naked Piano Week and told them it was going to be super cool but they had to listen to me and follow my directions carefully so that we didn’t hurt poor Annabelle (my piano). She’s a lot more delicate without her protective clothes on. 😉
This went well and they all treated her with the respect she deserves.
Once they were on board we went to the piano and I asked some guiding questions to help them discover:
- How the keys work
- How the sound is created
- How the sound is stopped when we take our finger off
- Why low notes are low and high notes are high
- What each pedal does
As much as possible I got my students to guess what would happen before we watched it. For example, to guess which part will move when we press a key, or what will change when we press the pedal.
Every student was really engaged with this discussion and some were downright astounded by each and every part of the piano.
Exploring Sounds and Patterns
After we covered the basics of how the piano works, we did some experiments.
- I had my students press a finger on a string and then play that key so they could feel the vibration. (Video of this below.)
- We sat on the floor and leaned all the way in, then shouted at the soundboard to try and get an echo. Then we put down the pedal, tried again and heard the dramatic difference as the strings were freed!
- We strummed the bass strings above the bass bridge with a drumstick, with and without the pedal.
- We talked about the difference between white and black keys on the inside of the piano (there isn’t one!) and discussed semitones.
- We played scales & chords, improvised and played memorised pieces while watching the hammers dance.
This was so much fun for me too! Even at the end of the week I was still totally absorbed in each student’s reaction.
Naked Piano Week in Action
Here’s a short clip of one of the many fun moments from our Naked Piano Week. In this video, you’ll see my students learning about the dampers and pressing on the strings to create a different sound, feel the vibration and understand how the string makes a sound.
Keeping the Memories Alive
I can’t actually leave the case off my piano all the time. For one thing, she might get damaged, for another, my ears would suffer for it (Annabelle is crazy loud without her dress on!) and for yet another, we need somewhere to put our music books on.
But I don’t want my students to ever again think of the piano as just a box that creates sounds from thin air.
So the last thing we did was to fill in a chart with the names of all the different parts.
I’m also taking care of our lessons to reference what’s happening on the inside of the piano.
When we’re talking about semitones I remind them about the hammers all being the same. When we’re using the pedals, I ask them what’s moving on the inside to create this effect.
Download the Naked Piano Diagrams
You can download the empty diagram below. The upright version is actually just a modified photo of my Annabelle. 🙂
Subscribe to updates and get the Naked Piano Diagrams printable
Enter your details to subscribe to the newsletter for piano teachers with information, tips and offers.
I hate spam as much as you do! I'll only send you information that's directly relevant to music teachers and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Are you a member of Vibrant Music Teaching? You can access this printable directly in the library here.
Are you going to do a Naked Piano Week?
I’d love to start a movement among piano teachers – especially those of us who teach on upright pianos!
If you do a Naked Piano Week of your own make sure to post a pic on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and use #nakedpianoweek.
Oh and make sure to tag me @colourfulkeys too. 🙂
20 thoughts on “How to Inspire Your Students with a Naked Piano Week”
What a great idea! I think I’ll try it one week in the not-too-distant future.
Let me know if you do! 🙂
I love this idea for the dog days of January, right after the winter break. Great post!
January would be a great time for this. Best of luck!
I do this some time in the first month of lessons but you have some new ideas there thank you.
Glad to help!
Great ideas, Nicole! I put together a Piano Flip Book that my students loved working on while we did an “inside” look at the piano. If you’re interested, you can find it at https://sherylwelles.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-piano-flip-book_19.html.
I think this is so important for students to learn!
Thanks Sheryl, I agree!
Thankyou for that added idea of taking covers off! Since teaching from home I always get every new student to first look inside my piano so that they understand, from the very beginning, the inner workings of the instrument they’re about to begin learning – they then better understand the reasons why there’s so much emphasis on hand shape and how to press down piano keys a certain way in order to produce particular sounds etc….. so that they’re aware it’s not just black and white keys right from the start and everything else makes more sense!
Yup for sure. It’s not just a box with black and white keys that somehow, mystically, makes sounds!
What a fun idea.! I loved opening the doors on the old player piano I grew up with so I could see the action… a lot easier than undressing my piano now. I’m not even sure how to do that. But my daughter loves to hear the echo by shouting at my fully dressed piano!
Haha she would love it when the piano was naked then and the pedal depressed. So much echo! 😀
Hi Nicola, how do I download if I have already signed up to your newsletter?
Just enter your details again Zoe. No such thing as signing up twice. 🙂
I have printed off the naked piano diagram. I don’t know all the official names of the parts. How could I get that?
Google will point you in the right direction. 🙂
Just finishing our “naked piano week” in fifth grade (I use the term deconstructed). We compared what we saw in the Steinway Factory Tour video (grand pianos) to our upright. Luckily after school activities were canceled due to snow and wind-chill, so the choir accompanist didn’t have to deal with it.
Hope you had fun! 😀
I always show my students the insides of my grand , but the touching isn’t that accessible like on upright.
True. Still fun though! 😀