Preservation Hall Lessons – New Orleans Piano Introduction

Piano Introduction

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
TOPIC: Piano
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be able to describe the role of the Piano in New Orleans music. They will explore notable Pianists, the origins of the instrument, identify and maintain the parts of the instrument.



  • Students will be able to identify the origins of the Piano. 
  • Students will be able to identify notable Pianists from New Orleans.
  • Students will be able to describe the role of the Piano within New Orleans music.
  • Students will be able to identify and describe the parts of the instrument.
  • Students will be able to provide proper maintenance for the Piano.



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Introduce the Piano to students by showing them the instrument. Tell students that the Piano is a vital instrument in New Orleans Music. The Piano has been around since the 1700s, invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori. The Piano is a member of the Percussion family because the strings are STRUCK by a wooden hammer with wool felt. The Piano was introduced into New Orleans music during the late 1800s, in the Early Traditional Jazz Era. Buddy Bolden’s band was one of the most influential bands during that time to introduce the piano. Jelly Roll Morton also played a critical role in introducing the piano. One day, as Morton was swinging on his porch, he self-proclaimed himself as the “Inventor of New Orleans Jazz.”


  1. Display slides 3 and 4 of the presentation, Piano Introduction, to discuss notable Pianists from New Orleans and watch the video, Greats of New Orleans Piano. Tell students that New Orleans Jazz pioneers like Jelly Roll Morton, Antonio Junius  “Tony” Jackson, Professor Longhair, James Booker, Isidore “Tuts” Washington, Fats Domino, Dave “FatMan” Williams, Roosevelt Sykes, Ellis Marsalis, Dr. John, Art Neville, Champion Jack Dupree, each had their own style of playing the Piano. Many New Orleans’ Pianists were soloists or sidemen, then became bandleaders themselves. Analyzing and transcribing the skills of these New Orleans Jazz Pianists will help develop your own Piano skills. 


  1. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Piano Introduction, to share the Role of the Piano with students. Tell students the Piano is known for its vigorous, strong, and powerful ability to carry sound/tones for a long-range. The role of the New Orleans Pianist is to maintain the chordal structure of the song from beginning to end. In addition, the Piano’s harmonic and melodic capabilities make it an essential instrument in New Orleans Traditional Jazz. The Piano is also part of the Rhythm Section, which supports the Frontline. Display slide 6 from the presentation, Piano Introduction, to review the role of The Rhythm Section. A Popular New Orleans song where the Piano plays an instrumental role is “Yearning” on slide 7 of the presentation, Piano Introduction.



  1. Show the students a Piano. Ask: Why is the Piano an essential instrument in New Orleans? Display slide 8 of the presentation, Piano Introduction, to review the anatomy of the Piano. Identify the parts of the instrument with students: Pressure-bar, tuning pin, hammer, pin block, muffler felt, case, hammer rail, key, keyboard, keybed, bass bridge, treble bridge, strings, soundboard, pedal rod, metal frame, hitch gun, soft pedal, muffler pedal, and damper pedal. Allow time for students to analyze and discuss the anatomy of the Piano. 


  1. Display slide 9 of the presentation, Piano Introduction, to review the importance of proper Piano Maintenance. Follow-up with students about the importance of proper Piano maintenance. Maintenance guarantees a longer life and maintains the integrity of the Piano. Introduce maintenance tools: microfiber or feather duster. Using the microfiber or feather duster, dust the keys, hammer, and exterior of the piano. Achieving a dust-free piano produces quality sound. Note: It is recommended to see a Piano distributor for proper polishing care of the instrument. 



  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the Piano. Have students identify 3-5 parts of the piano. Ask: What are the proper techniques for Piano maintenance?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Editor and Content Curator



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