Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“I was obliged to be industrious.  Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally as well.”

– Johann Sebastian Bach

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.

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Mozart Lapbook Fun

Mozart lapbookA reader recently sent me the kindest email telling me about how her recent “Mozart party” went with her students.  They used the Mozart Great Composers & Their Music lapbook that is available in my shop.  It was so fun to read about how Mary’s Mozart lesson went!

Hi Joy,

The Mozart Party was a success!  We watched about 15-20 min. of a video Meet the Composers w/ Mozart, I played Rondo ala Turka, Mozart’s Twinkle Variations, (just three of them) and the Overture to Figaro for them…made some posters/listening maps to go along w/ pieces., and then it was “Scrapbook” time.  I used the term “scrapbook” rather than “lapbook”  just for familiarity’s sake.

There were 16 students, from Kindergarten through 7th grade!  They really enjoyed putting together their scrapbooks, and your suggestions were so helpful, especially “Pass out one page at a time.”  The older kids were quite independent, using the model I made as a guide.  Little ones needed more direction, but no one was lost or frustrated…as far as I could tell.  It took anywhere from 45 min. to an hour, just as you suggested, for everyone to finish.

Thank you again for putting this together. The entire package was thoughtfully researched and composed, it used a nice variety of “crafting” techniques (accordian folds and such), and my students enjoyed both the process and the product. Parents were pleased also, and I even received feedback that some grandparents were impressed!

Wishing you the best,

Mary

If anyone has questions about using this lapbooking curriculum for a group class or camp, please feel free to ask.  I’d be happy to answer your questions!
Mozart lapbook inside
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Survey: Interest In A Summer Online Course for Piano Teachers

Greetings!

Summer is going to be here before we know it!  I have been spending time lately planning my summer lessons/camps.

And guess what:  I have also been contemplating the possibility of offering an online summer course for  piano teachers.  You all know how passionate I am about pedagogy and piano teaching.  And I love to share! :)

What do you think?  Would you be willing to give me some feedback about the idea?

If you are willing to help out, please complete the survey.  There are just eight questions, so it won’t require much of your time.  I appreciate it!

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2014 Spring Recital

This year at our Spring Recital, I decided to ask a friend to take photos.  I just received the photos from her and I love how this group photo turned out!

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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. Read More »

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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. Read More »

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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. Read More »

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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.

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Review: ZAGGkeys Folio for iPad Mini

The MTNA 2014 conference begins this weekend and I am very much looking forward to it!  (Will I see you there?)

I plan to take notes from the sessions on my iPad Mini.  With this in mind, I decided to invest in a keyboard case for it.  Here is the one I picked: the ZAGGkeys Folio.

DSC_20140320_105648 web_1 Read More »

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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

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Piano Recital Program Template #4

On Saturday, my students performed at our annual Spring Recital.  (I know it is not technically Spring yet — just wishful thinking!)  We had a great day and I’m so proud of my students and their hard work.

Here is a peek at this year’s recital program:

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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.

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