General

MTNA 2014 (4) — Bruce Berr: Teaching the Emotional Aspects of the Form

Bruce Berr is the author of many well-loved articles featured in the Clavier Companion magazine as well as the American Music Teachers magazine (the magazine for MTNA members). His session described his method of teaching students how to identify form through hearing and studying the emotional elements in musical works. It was fascinating to see how form can be so clearly heard by paying attention to what Mr. Berr referred to as the piece’s “energyscape.”

Mr. Berr showed a diagram of layered slurs representing the micro and macro elements of form we can study: the sub-phrases, phrases, sections, and finally, the entire piece. It is important to get a large overview of the piece first. Attention to detail is crucial, but ought not be at the expense of seeing the big picture.

The energyscape is the found by paying attention to the energy levels (aka “temperature”) throughout a piece.  Sonata Form, for example, tends to have its own unique temperature pattern. Continue reading “MTNA 2014 (4) — Bruce Berr: Teaching the Emotional Aspects of the Form”

General

MTNA 2014 (3) — Randall Faber: Ages and Stages: Adventures At All Levels

Sunday morning, I attended a wonderful exhibiter showcase by Randall Faber, co-author with Nancy Faber of the Piano Adventures method. Mr. Faber’s sessions are always wonderfully pedagogical and inspirational, and this one was no different!

Randall Faber: Ages and Stages: Adventures At All Levels

Mr. Faber began by discussing the “adventure” part of the Piano Adventure method’s title. “Adventure” comes from “adventura” which means “optimism; destined to be great.” Another related word, “advent,” means “anticipation or looking forward to something coming to fruition.”

Where are our students on the adventure? We can take the time to celebrate: “Wow, we finished the purple books and now you get to be in the red books!” Late beginner students can begin with the “Accelerated” version of the Piano Adventures books.

For young beginners, there is the “My First Piano Adventures” books. The focus of these books is play-based or “adventure” learning. Mr. Faber showed a triangle diagram with the corners marked: “fun, foray, and feedback,” which he called the “play” dynamic.

For some students, practicing is probably the least fun part of study — especially scales. We often think of technique as merely scales and finger movement. But technique in the Piano Adventures is about artistry and building larger physical gestures that support finger movement. Continue reading “MTNA 2014 (3) — Randall Faber: Ages and Stages: Adventures At All Levels”

General

MTNA 2014 (2) — Hans Boepple: On Practicing

The next Pedagogy Saturday session was an excellent session by Hans Boepple discussing issues and strategies related to practicing. Below are my notes.

The core of our pursuit in music is based on that solo activity called practicing. At the lesson, the teacher should help the student set attainable goals. When students do their homework, they know exactly what the assignment is and what they have to do in order to finish their work. For piano study — do our students know what exactly they are doing when they practice? An assignment sheet can be a great tool in this regard.

At the lesson, ask: So, tell me about your practice. The student should be able to respond and tell you how far they got with last week’s goals/assignments. The teacher listens and assesses the previous week’s work and then makes the plan for the next week.

It would be silly, of course, for students to come back without following the set assignment goals. It would be like going to the doctor for a follow-up without having followed the directions from the doctor to cure your ailment.

As students become more advanced, they will learn more and more how to solve problems by themselves. Continue reading “MTNA 2014 (2) — Hans Boepple: On Practicing”

General

MTNA 2014 (1) — Ingrid Clarfield: From Hot Cross Buns to Les Adieux

MTNA 2014 has been awesome so far! My friend and I took the MegaBus to Chicago on Friday and we attending the option Pedagogy Saturday. I attend mostly sessions from the Technique and Artistry Track. The first session that day was given by the ever-dynamic Ingrid Clarfield!

Ingrid Clarfield: From Hot Cross Buns to Les Adieux

Ingrid began by playing Hot Cross Buns on the black keys in the most musical way. She joked that she was sure that we all woke up early at 8am hoping to hear Hot Cross Buns. :)

From the first lesson, we want our students playing musically and beautifully:

– Listening to end of slurs.
– Building through repeated notes.
– etc.

Ingrid then demonstrated a variety of repertoire that fit under the following categories:

(1) Slurs and Arm Circles
Ingrid made her signature teaching move: adding entertaining lyrics to the piece/exercise. :) Hanon is wonderful for teaching arm circles. The lyrics: “I can make a big fat circle” for at a slow tempo, and later then later: “I can make a little circle.” It is important to teach the arms to be involved from the beginning.

(2) Motivic Repetitions — the 1-2-3 we so often see in music.
To learn voicing, Ingrid recommended practicing the two voices with two hands at first in order to get the right sound in your ear, and then play it within the same hand.

(3) Thinking in terms of Orchestration (String Quartet or Orchestra).
Be sure to have students listen to good recordings so they know what good musicians and their instruments sound like. Then you can have students orchestrate their pieces by writing the instruments they hear in their piano score. It doesn’t matter much what they pick as much as that they have thought about it.

(4) Timing for Surprising (or “sick”) Harmonies.
Find and mark surprising harmonies. Play the passage to students with the surprising harmony removed and replace by the expected harmony. This will allow students to better hear and enjoy the harmony and perhaps add some rubato to it.

The examples of teaching pieces that Ingrid demonstrated in connection to each category were extremly enlightening. For example, there is a great example of a surprising harmony in Fur Elise that many students play through with little acknowledgment.

Having students think in terms of these categories is extremely helpful in getting students to play musically from the very beginning of their studies.

Rhythm

Now Available: Rhythm Cards Level 3

Over the past few months, I have received many inquiries asking when the Level 3 Rhythm Cards will be available in the Shop.  I am so pleased to announce that they are here

As with the other items in my Shop, the rhythm cards are a PDF download that includes the license to print from the PDF as much as desired for use with your own students.  The Level 3 PDF contains 22 pages of rhythm cards (5 on a page), for a total of 110 cards.  These cards work great for a variety of games (such as Swat-A-Rhythm, the Rhythm Train Game, or the BANG! game) and also work well to send home with students as part of their weekly assignments.

Each card contains a three- or four-measure rhythm example.  The rhythm examples in Level 3 use ties, sixteenth rests, and various combinations of sixteenth notes with eighth notes.  The time signatures used are 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 time.

Rhythm Cards, Levels 1-3

Continue reading “Now Available: Rhythm Cards Level 3”

Reviews, Technology

iPad App Review & Giveaway: MMF Piano Primer

app MFF piano primerMaking Music Fun’s Piano Primer — $1.99 for iPad only.

Many of you are perhaps familiar with the Making Music Fun website, which contains a variety of free worksheets and sheet music.  MMF created Andrew Fling has recently released his first iPad app, which is essentially a digital version of his Piano Primer PDF.

From within the app, students can read from the 19 pieces of sheet music, listen to recordings of each piece, and easily view a “Note Name/Keyboard Chart.”

MFF piano primer screenshots

A note about the pedagogy of this primer:  It uses the Middle C Reading Approach.  It begins with on-staff note reading with the thumb on C.  In all of the pieces, students play in C position.  Keyboard layout, rhythmic elements (rhythm values and time signatures), staff/keyboard correlation, and fingering are briefly taught during the four-page introduction.

Although I would not use this app as a core method book with a beginner student (due to its pedagogical approach), I do think the pieces from the app have practical use as supplemental pieces.  My only complaints about the app itself is that (1) one cannot print the music from the app, and (2) page numbers are missing.  I plan to download the PDF to my GoodNotes app so that I can conveniently print during the lesson.

I love the idea of having music available for students to play within an app, especially with recordings of the music so readily available within the app.

Disclosure: I received a free download of the MFF app but I was under to obligation to write a positive review.  I always write my honest opinions!  

Andy has offered two promo codes for a giveaway.  Leave a comment on this post to enter — tell me about your Spring Recital plans if you have them!  (My Spring Recital is tomorrow!)  The winner will be randomly drawn on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Reviews, Technology

iPad App Review: Piano Carnival

Check out this awesome, recently-released iPad app:

app Piano CarnivalPiano Carnival Interactive E-Book – FREE for iPad only.

This app was created by Sonya (a friend of mine) and her sister Elizabeth Schumann.  Piano Carnival is an interactive eBook that contains delightful illustrations, reads the poetry aloud to the view, and plays videos of the Schumann sisters playing Saint-Saens’ music “Carnival of the Animals.”

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Here is a quick video that demonstrates what this delightful app can do:

This trailer video gives some background into the app’s creation.  Sonya and Elizabeth have also created a companion page on their website that contains lesson plans and more resources related to Carnival of the Animals.  Be sure to take a look at all of the resources offered there!

It is exciting to see more apps released that take advantage of the full capabilities of the iPad!

Group Classes

March 2014 Piano Party: Master Class

My students are currently preparing pieces for a local Ribbon Festival as well as my studio’s annual recital.  (I always hold my Spring recital in March or April — I think May gets too busy!)

In order to help prepare them for these events, I decided to ask my friend, Loretta, to give a master class for my students during our “Piano Party” group class this month.  Loretta and I became friends during grad school while earning our pedagogy degrees.  She currently runs a multi-teacher studio in Lansing, Michigan.

Loretta loved the idea and asked if I would give a master class for her students in return.  It turned out to be a great exchange and a very positive experience for all of our students!

Here is a group photo of me with some of Loretta’s students after our master class:

DSC_20140223_145719_2 Continue reading “March 2014 Piano Party: Master Class”