Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The Keys to Success, Part 1

The History and Technique of the Piano

James Doyle, Daniel Schwarz | Published: November 6th, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Performing Arts, music
  • Course Course Music
  • Time Frame Time Frame 105-120 Minutes
  • Duration More 2-3 Periods


Students will participate in a shared piano experience. Following this, they will read about the history of the piano, and learn some basic piano technique. Students will use this knowledge to make a song in BandLab and then share and react to each other's songs on SoundCloud.

Essential Question(s)

What makes the piano so important historically? Why is knowledge of how to play a piano important for all musicians?


Engage - Students will participate in a Shared Piano activity and reflect using the I Notice, I Wonder strategy.

Explore - Students will collaboratively read a history of the piano using the Jigsaw strategy and reflect on the piano’s importance.

Explain - Students will watch instructional videos and summarize their learning using the Triangle-Square-Circle strategy.

Extend - Students will use their piano skills to construct a song in the software BandLab.

Evaluate - Students will upload their music to SoundCloud, listen to their classmates’ music, and use the comment feature to leave feedback.


  • Computers or iPads with Internet access

  • Piano and/or MIDI controller (optional)

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • “History of the Piano” handout (attached; one per student)

  • “Triangle-Square-Circle” handout (attached; one per student)

  • “BandLab Instructions” handout (attached; one per student)

  • Pencils

  • Pens

  • Printer Paper

  • Headphones


15 Minute(s)

Display slides 2-4, and introduce the lesson title, essential questions, and learning objectives. Using a method of your choice, divide students into groups of no more than five, and have them open their devices and web browsers. 

Display slide 5. Have one student from each group scan the QR code or use the link to navigate to the “Shared Piano” page. Once there, instruct students to use the “Copy Link” function in the bottom left-hand corner of the page to generate a link to their room and then share it with the rest of the students in the group. After each of your students has entered into their group's room, allow them a few minutes to experiment with the software.

Display slide 6, and introduce students to the I Notice, I Wonder strategy. Have them write their answers on a sticky note and then place it on a wall. As you read through the answers, look for any common themes and share them with the class.


20 Minute(s)

Divide students into groups of three using your preferred method and show slide 7. Distribute the attached History of the Piano handout or provide the handout digitally to students. Using the Jigsaw strategy, have each student in the group read a different section and take notes on what they learn. When they have all finished reading, have each group member share with the others what they have learned.

Move to slide 8. Using what they have learned, have students answer the following questions:

  1. What makes the piano so important, historically?

  2. Why is knowledge of how to play a piano important for all musicians?


20 Minute(s)

Display slide 9. 

Ask students to navigate to the YouTube video playlist on their own devices and to watch the videos using headphones. Some students might be able to skip the first video based on prior knowledge.

Distribute the attached Triangle-Square-Circle handout to all students. Show slide 10 and introduce students to the Triangle-Square-Circle strategy. Have them complete the worksheet on their own. Once they have finished, select a few students to share their answers with the class.


50 Minute(s)

Display slide 11 that shows the following instructions:

“Make a song of no more than 60 seconds in length. You must include a piano track with the C Major scale, a bassline, a beat, and at least two more loops or instruments.” Distribute the attached BandLab Instructions handout and instruct students to complete the task on their own devices.

Allow students the remainder of class to complete their work.


20 Minute(s)

Walk students through the process of creating a SoundCloud account and uploading their first song to the platform. Move through slides 12-14 which details how to make an account. Afterwards, instruct students to share their track using the URL sharing function and make a list in a shared Google Doc.

Once students have shared their link, they should visit the tracks of their classmates. Display slide 15 and provide directions to students. Using the comment feature, they should leave one positive comment on a track belonging to a classmate that has no other comments. The comment should be something that highlights an aspect of the song, like texture, timbre, tempo, instruments used, or another creative choice.