General

Celebrating 4 Years!

Debussy lapbookToday marks the four-year anniversary of Color In My Piano!  HOORAY!  It’s been such an exciting year.  THANK YOU all for your support and for making this blog such a fun place to share resources and ideas with each other.  I can hardly believe Color In My Piano has been online for four years.

The four randomly-chosen winners of last week’s lapbook giveaway are below:

  1. Renee Witte
  2. Jenny Boster
  3. Leia
  4. Erica Picciano

Congrats, winners!  Check your inbox for an email from me.

If you didn’t win the giveaway, now is a great time to purchase what you need from the Color In My Piano shop.  As promised, I am holding a first-ever sale: 20% off everything in the store.  If you plan to hold any summer camps this year, now is a great time to get your music history lapbooks, or the composition camp “So, You Want To Be A Composer?”  To receive 20% off, use the coupon code YAY4YEARS good through Thursday, March 14, 2013.

In case you are interested, below is a run-down of the history of the Color In My Piano blog over the past four years.   Continue reading “Celebrating 4 Years!”

Games, Music Theory, Printables

Easy DIY Music Whiteboard

This has got to be one of the most-used DIY projects I’ve ever made!

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Music whiteboards cost a pretty penny in music catalogues, so I decided to make my own.  I bought this 8.5×11” frame from IKEA for under $3.  I chose one that had plexiglass instead of glass, so that I won’t have to worry about it breaking if it gets dropped.  The frame is a sturdy plastic.

On my computer, I designed the staff and keyboard pictures on a horizontal piece of paper, printed it, and inserted it into the frame.  Easy!  Continue reading “Easy DIY Music Whiteboard”

Giveaways

February 2013 Giveaway!

Beethoven lapbookGuess what!  Next week, Color In My Piano will be 4 years old.  How fun!

In celebration, I would like to host a giveaway.  FOUR lucky winners will have their choice of one of the composer lapbooks from the Color In My Piano shop.  Here are the details:

  • To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below today’s post by Midnight (EST) on Wednesday, February 27, telling me which classical composer’s music is your favorite to teach your students.

P.S.:  After the giveaway is over next week, I will be holding a sale in the Color In My Piano shop!  (This will be a great time to purchase materials for summer camps, if you plan to hold any this year!)

Forum Q&A's

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

— Vince Lombardi

(Special thanks to Donna McLain for sending me this great quote!) 

Every Wednesday brings Words of Wisdom here at the Color in my Piano blog in the form of a musical quote or joke, intended to bring inspiration or humor to the middle of your week. Have suggestions? Send me a message here.

Technique

Teaching 5-Finger Patterns (with a Free Worksheet)

5FP imageEvery teacher approaches technique exercises a little bit differently.  I usually start teaching students 5-finger patterns (aka pentascales) during the first month or two of study.  I start by assigning the C Major 5-finger pattern (5FP) and sometimes G Major along with it.  Every week or every-other-week, I add a new 5FP to their list, following the Circle of 5ths.

Personally, I don’t teach the theory behind the major 5FP’s until a little bit later (i.e., the pattern of whole and half steps: WWHW).  To introduce each 5FP, I let the student figure out what black keys are needed — using their ear.  I say: “Today we are going to add the D 5-finger pattern.  There is a black key in this 5FP.  Do you think you can figure out where the black key needs to be?”  The student first plays the 5FP with all white keys, and we discuss that it doesn’t sound right — it doesn’t match the sound of the C and G 5FPs.  The student then uses his/her ear and trial-and-error to discover that the 3rd note should be a black key.  Now it matches!  Leading the student through this kind of discovery makes the learning moment memorable.

The beauty of this approach also is that the student inherently learns the concept of transposition through this moment!  The concept of being “in a key” and the concept of transposition between keys is such an integral part of the way music works, but is so often it is neglected until students begin playing scales and learning key signatures.  However, after learning just two or three 5FPs, the teacher can easily ask the student to play a few familiar folk tunes by ear in different keys.  (See my printable from a couple years back, “Melodies to Play by Ear and Harmonize.”)  The student will understand that depending on what note the tune begins, they will need certain black keys in order for the tune to sound “right.”   Continue reading “Teaching 5-Finger Patterns (with a Free Worksheet)”

Reading Notation

Missing Steps to Learning to Read Music

xxl_Note_on_a_glassIn the comment section of previous post, a reader asked for suggestions with helping a young student connect notes on the staff with their names and their corresponding piano key.  I gave a response in the comment section, but thought I would share some of those thoughts with you all as a separate blog post!

Sometimes, beginners (or even transfer students) seem to be missing a piece of the puzzle for understanding note-reading on the staff.  Below is a description of how I would systematically try to figure out what is missing with a student who is struggling with note-reading!

I would first make sure the student can say the musical alphabet verbally forwards and backwards. This seems basic, but believe it or not, sometimes beginners miss this step, and then note reading makes little sense to them!

The next step is making sure the student knows the names of all the piano keys. My favorite thing to do is to ask them to find 3 C’s on the piano, and then 3 D’s (etc.). I also like using The Amazing Keyboard Race gameContinue reading “Missing Steps to Learning to Read Music”

Resources

Great Resource: Fun & Learn Music website

Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 8.54.21 AMAfter finding the new Fun & Learn Music website last night, I simply had to share the link with you all.  This website has a large variety of FREE music worksheets, organized by subject.  The worksheets are clear and to-the-point, but also cute and fun for students.  I will definitely be using many of these worksheets with my students in the future!

Fun & Learn Music also has a Shop area, where they sell complete theory books and a couple of rhythm games that look really fun and well-designed.  I can’t wait to see how this site develops in the future!

Check out their website here, and their facebook page here.

Group Classes, Music History

More Details About My Homeschool Music History Class

DSC_20121005_173751I have been receiving TONS of questions about my homeschool Music History Classes lately, so I decided to write a post that explains more about how I started and currently run the class.

You may recall that my husband and I moved from Michigan to Ohio about a year-and-a-half ago.  Starting up a new studio from scratch takes time, and there is a business strategy that says: “Diversify your income.”  I had been wanting to reach out to the home-school community for awhile already (Fun fact: did you know I was home-schooled for 5 years of my education growing up?).  :)  When I saw Sheryl Welles’s idea (see her blog here) about having a Music Appreciation/Music History class for home-schoolers, I decided I wanted to try to start one, too!

After some online research, I discovered that the home-schooling families in my area have a Yahoo group where they chat and stay in touch about upcoming events.  I joined the Yahoo group and posted some information about the classes I want to start.  I received only one reply, from a family with three children.  Those three children were the entire class for quite awhile, and eventually two more joined.

I decided to hold each class for 50 minutes, so that I could have 10 minutes to put everything away afterwards and still have time to start a private lesson at the next hour if I wanted to.

At first, I taught short lessons about a new composer every week, but soon realized that this was not enough time to give the composer justice — and the students were not absorbing the information well enough.  When I would review information from previous weeks, they would get the composers mixed up.  That is when I decided to format my curriculum into lapbooks.   Using the lapbooks, we cover a new composer every three weeks.  (My music history curriculum “Great Composers & Their Music” is currently available for purchase in my Shop at $10 per composer.)

We generally spend about 20-25 minutes each class working on the lapbooks while I read the biography and play musical excerpts by the composer.  The rest of the class time is spent doing a variety of activities.  I plan worksheets or games that cover rhythm, aural, or theory concepts that are appropriate to the students’ current music knowledge.  I write weekly lesson plans, so that I can easily look back and plan ahead.

As you already know, I often create my own games and worksheets and share them here on my blog.  :)  But I do often use materials created by other teachers, too.  The two resources I have been using the most recently are pianimation.com and susanparadis.com.  If you don’t already know about these two websites, you should definitely check them out now!

If you have other questions about my homeschool music class, please leave a comment below this post!

Printables, seasonal / holiday

Piano Valentine Printable #2

Remember the piano valentines I made last year?

I was wasn’t planning to design a new music-themed valentine this year — but when inspiration struck, I just had to design it!

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Is it a heart, or is it a piano?!  Well, it’s both!  :)

This design is simpler and easier to assemble than last year’s design.  Just cut out the heart shapes!  If desired, you can attach a piece of candy to each valentine using a circle of tape.  I made a bunch of these to give to my piano students next week.

The free pdf printable can be downloaded by visiting the Printables > Other Resources page, and scrolling down to the P’s for “Piano Valentine Printable 2.”  Enjoy!

Games, Group Classes

February 2013 Piano Party

Last Saturday, I held another Piano Party for my students!  These group classes are so much fun.  My students really look forward to them!

We started out with what I call the Rhythm Name game — it’s one of my favorites.  Students should be seated in a circle.  Each student must create a short rhythm that will be their rhythm name.  Before beginning, each student should take turns clap their own rhythm name, so that the rest of the group can learn and memorize them.  The teacher can begin by clapping his/her own name, saying “calls,” and then clapping the rhythm name of another student.  Gameplay is then passed to that student, who must recognize their name and call another student.  Gameplay continues until an allotted amount of time.  This game is a great test of the student’s aural skills, rhythm skills, and their musical memory!

Next, I allowed a few students to play pieces that they are currently working on.  We gave them verbal feedback on things like dynamics, but mostly we just enjoyed the music.

Then we learned about Scott Joplin!  I already used this composer study a couple of weeks ago with my homeschool class, and now I wanted to share it with my private students.  Ragtime is an important part of American music history!

Joplin lapbook inside

As students finished their lapbooks, I started two games (spitting the students into two groups).  The first one was the Alphabet Trail game from pianimation.comContinue reading “February 2013 Piano Party”