Composition, Music Theory, Printables, Teaching Piano

Just Added: Music Staff Paper for Stickers of all Sizes

Guess what!  Tomorrow is Color In My Piano’s THREE YEAR anniversary!  Woohoo!  I’ve got a few fun posts and giveaways planned for later this week in honor of our anniversary.  But today, I thought I’d share this new printable:

Continue reading “Just Added: Music Staff Paper for Stickers of all Sizes”

Composition, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Rhythm

Make Me A Rhythm! game

I was recently browsing some forums online and found a description of this game by a music educator.  It sounds like a great game to use with large groups of students — perhaps for group lessons or summer camps.  I asked the music educator if I could post about the game on my blog, and she kindly agreed.  In her own words: “You certainly have my permission to share the game. I made it up, but someone else probably has, too. We all get ideas from one another and put them together in different ways.”  I love her attitude and generosity!  We teachers have so much we can share and learn from each other.

This composing/rhythm game is appropriate for groups of about 8 or more students.  All you need are 4 pieces of paper with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 written on them.  These sheets serve to mark the beats of the measure, spaced out on the floor.  One student is chosen as the Composer, who must select students and make them into quarter notes/half notes/whatever.  Once the measure is complete, everyone claps the rhythm and the teacher records the rhythm onto a whiteboard to save it.  A new Composer is chosen to compose the next measure.  In the end, everyone claps the entire rhythmic composition to see what it sounds like.

I haven’t tried out this game yet, but it sounds fun!  And it’s not always easy to find games that work for large groups of students.  I just might try out this game at my studio Christmas party coming up.  :)

Complete game instructions can be printed by downloading the pdf on the Printables > Games page.  I thought the game needed a more specific title, so I came up with “Make Me A Rhythm!”

Composition, Music Theory, Printables

Staff Paper – Large Staff for Simple Compositions

With my Piano Readiness Class, we’ve been learning about staff notation.  Last week, each student composed a mini-composition on the piano and then we together notated the piece.  We used colorful markers to label the notes (A, B, C, etc) and also wrote in finger numbers, so they can continue playing their compositions at home.  They loved the idea of being composers!

This is the sheet paper we used to notate our compositions.  Young students tend to draw rather large notes :) , so I left plenty of room between the lines of the staff.

To download, visit the Printables > Other Resources page and scroll down to “Staff Paper — Large Staff for Simple Compositions.”

Composition, Technology

Hear my New Piano!

I promised over a month ago that I would post a video so you could hear my new piano!  I wanted to wait until after I got it tuned, of course, and recently I finally got around to recording something.

In this YouTube video, I’m playing a short piece I composed during undergrad called “Contemplation.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R_Ee8OuC_A

This is a piece I composed in 2007 during my senior year at Hope College. It was written for an assignment for a Form & Analysis theory course for which we were supposed to compose a piece using the Schenkarian techniques we were studying in class. The structure of this piece is based on a descending line using scale degrees 3-2-1. This descending line is also used on a more micro level as a motive throughout the piece.

In the next video, I am playing a piece that my six-year-old student back in Central Michigan composed before I moved away.  He composed a melody called “Goodbye,” and wanted me to compose the left hand part for it.  I was so touched by his request!   Continue reading “Hear my New Piano!”

Composition, Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Teaching Piano

Improvisation Activity: Rory’s Story Cubes

Before I begin, allow me to give credit where credit is due for this wonderful idea: I got this idea from Laura on her blog (click here).  I was so thrilled to see her idea of using these “story cubes” for improvisation with piano students!

Meet “Rory’s Story Cubes.”

Rory’s Story Cubes consist of a set of 9 dice with all kinds of pictures on their faces.  I think English teachers use these as a starting point for writing stories.

Piano teachers can use them too.  =)

Let me tell you about how I’ve been using this fun new prop.

During a piano lesson, I gave my student all of the dice and asked her to roll them.  Here’s what they look like:

Continue reading “Improvisation Activity: Rory’s Story Cubes”

Composition, improving as a teacher, Teaching Piano

Improvisation Yields Creativity and Musical Understanding

I haven’t talked about improvisation lately, and in the past I’ve only spoken of the value and benefits of improvisation in the piano lesson in a rather academic-y way — and so today I’d like to discuss some specific benefits I’ve seen develop in a particular student of mine as a direct result of our improvisation activities.

Some background on my student: she (let’s call her K.) is just a beginner, having started lessons in January of this year.  K. is seven years old, and is now nearing the end of the Primer level of the Faber Piano Adventures.

Here’s what I’ve seen in K. so far:

  • The freedom to explore and be creative. She is learning by exploration. She enjoys figuring out how to play tunes by ear, without any assignment or direction from me.  She’ll say, “Look! I figured out how to play Mary Had A Little Lamb!”
  • She is discovering musical concepts on her own. She has already figured out — all on her own — that when she plays tunes in certain keys, she needs to use the black keys for them to sound right.  It’s astonishing when you think about it — she has actually discovered the reason behind key signatures and how transposition works, all by herself!  I expect that when we actually start talking about these concepts together, she will find these ideas easy to absorb because she already “gets it.”
  • Her ear is developing in a way that is far more efficient and practical than me drilling her with intervals (for example) over and over.  She knows what the interval of a 3rd should sound like when she sees it on the page, and her fingers then know what to do.
  • We’re having fun! Improvisation is a great way to end a lesson.  She is always excited to “make Chinese music.

To sum it up, improvising regularly with my student has helped her realize the freedom that comes with the art of music, rather than placing a limit herself to play only “what’s on the page.”  And this is causing her to understand how music works all the better.

Creativity At Work

K. surprised me last week with a little composition she wrote.  And she created her own kind of shorthand for notating her composition onto a sheet of paper.  It looked something like this:  CDECCDEEFGGEDDDDEDC.  She informed me that the long notes were notated by having two of the same letter in a row.   Continue reading “Improvisation Yields Creativity and Musical Understanding”

Composition, Resources

Decorate Your Studio Idea: Bach Invention Manuscripts

I just discovered these manuscript copies of Bach’s 2-part inventions over at the IMSLP’s Petrucci Music Library.  I always find free pdfs of music scores that I need on their site, but I never realized that they also have pdfs of some hand-written manuscript copies to download as well!  Although this is not Bach’s handwriting, but it is still a remarkable part of history — and looks really cool.  According to the site, this manuscript copy dates from around the 1790s.  Can you imagine having to copy music by hand?  What an art!

While I was so captivated by this manuscript copy, it occurred to me that printing some of these sheets off on photo paper and then framing them would be a great way to decorate the walls of a piano studio!  I think students would really enjoy admiring the hand-written manuscripts, especially if they were working on the same piece.

To download:

Click this link to visit the Bach inventions page.  Scroll down until you see the download with the editor listed as “Peter Gronland” and says “Undated manuscript copy, 1790?”.  As always, be sure to carefully follow the site’s copyright restrictions for your country (in the US, basically all works published before 1923 are in the public domain).

Announcements, Composition, Group Classes, Music History, Music Theory, Printables, Worksheets

Just Added! Lesson Plans: Analyzing & Composing Music in the Romantic Style

[This is a re-post of this post — the files have now been added to the Printables portion of this website.  (Thanks, Natalie!) Sorry for any confusion.]

Picture 2

Just added to the Printables > Lesson Plans page:

A few months ago, I used these lesson plans during a piano camp where I taught Theory & Composition classes.  This camp is unusual in that it gives the students a chance to work on ensemble music with their fellow campers.  In addition, all the ensemble music are original compositions — composed just for our campers.

In the lesson plans I made, I tried to incorporate both the emphasis on composition and the topic of the Music History classes (taught by another instructor; this year, focusing on the Romantic Period).  So, this year’s lesson plans are all about learning how to compose music in the Romantic style.  By the end of the week, the class had created a Class Composition for piano which was performed for all to hear at the camp recital!  The pieces were humorous, yet surprisingly sophisticated.  Perhaps later on, I’ll post an example of a composition they created, if that would be helpful to anyone.

The lesson plans are designed for classes of 4 – 6 students ranging in ages about 9 to 15, but I’m sure they could be adapted to suit other ages and groups of students.  Enjoy!  Let me know how they work for you.

[gview file=”http://colorinmypiano.com/wp-content/files/CompRomStyle_LessonPlans.pdf”]

Announcements, Composition, Teaching Piano

Creativity in the Piano Lesson | Part 1 of the series

I’ve been reading a lot about improvisation (non-jazz, particularly) and creativity in the piano lesson lately, as I’ve been working on a paper for my Into to Music Research class for college.  It’s interesting to me how today there seems to be a trend for exact, literal performances of composers’ works.  It was not always this way; in the Romantic Era, pianists would freely change composer’s works when they performed them in concert.  They would often be completely unrecognizable from the original!  But that was what the audience members came to hear: that pianist’s version of Beethoven, Bach, or whatever. Continue reading “Creativity in the Piano Lesson | Part 1 of the series”

Composition, Music Theory, Resources

Best free manuscript paper

Picture 6Just thought I’d share a little tip today about where to find THE best free manuscript paper (in my humble opinion): Antonjazz.com  

There are hundreds of sites out there that offer free manuscript paper (aka staff paper).  But this is my absolute favorite.  

Now, you must know, I do a little composing every now and then.  And I have discovered that I am a very picky manuscript paper person.  It has to be just right. 

I always print the “Blank manuscript paper with 10 staves, no clefs” paper.  It’s very economical and flexible.  It’s professional and clean-looking.  

Does this paper work for young students?  Not so much.  I’d recommend finding something bigger.  With wider spaces.  (Suggestions, anyone?) 

But I love this manuscript paper for myself and my older students to use.  It’s perfect for that. 

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Do you have a favorite manuscript paper, as I do?  Please let us know by commenting below.