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”

Early Childhood Music

Finger Number Beanbag Game

Pinterest is wonderful, isn’t it?  :)

While browsing Pinterest, I was inspired by this picture by the blogger Becki Lewis.  Becki’s Finger Number Beanbag Game is a simple but very effective game for young beginner piano students.

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Students stand in front of the mat and drop the beanbag.  Then, they name the finger the beanbag landed closest to, and correctly identify RH or LH.  I tried this game out with my Piano Readiness Class, and they enjoyed it!  It is a quick, easy activity that effectively reviews the hands/fingers.

Becki used a marker and a piece of cardboard to draw the outline of two hands.  I designed a printable on the computer to use with my students, and Becki gave me permission to share the printable with you here: visit the Printables > Games page, and scroll down to the F’s for “Finger Number Beanbag Game.”  I laminated the two pages and taped them together, so that they fold for easy storage.  Enjoy!

Early Childhood Music, Group Classes, Printables

Freebie: Signs for Beginner Piano

Over the last few months, I’ve created a collection of signs to use with my Piano Readiness and Homeschool Music classes:

I use them during class when I am teaching or reviewing concepts.  They can be useful for games too.  For example, I like to have students hold up or point to the correct symbol while I improvise high/low or loud/soft music on the piano.  I printed them on cardstock and laminated them to make them more durable.

There are other ways to use these signs:  They can be printed for beginner private students to keep as a reference.  Or, they can be hung up in on the wall in your studio.

You can download the pdf by visiting the Printables > Other Resources page and scrolling down to the S’s for “Signs for Beginner Piano.”  I hope you can find some way to use these with your students!

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”

Early Childhood Music, repertoire / methods, Reviews

First Thoughts Regarding Faber’s “My First Piano Adventure”

As big of a fan as I am of Nancy & Randall Faber’s materials for piano students, somehow I’ve never had a chance to try out their “My First Piano Adventure” books — until now.  After trying out this book with a new 5-year-old student last week, I am wondering why in the world didn’t I check this out sooner?!

My First Piano Adventure is designed for young beginners, ages 5 and 6.  I suspect that 4-year-olds would also thrive using this book, and maybe even precocious 3-year-olds — but don’t quote me on that until I’ve had more time to test it out.

The Lesson Book comes with a CD full of fun songs and activities that teach the student about basic technique, how to make different sounds on the piano, and much more.  The CD alone is worth the price of the Lesson Book!!   Parents can play the CD at home or in the car so the student is hearing them all week long.  I bought my own copy to play during lessons — but I also plan to use some of the songs on the CD with my Piano Readiness Classes and Homeschool Music class because they are that good.  :)  Many of the songs involve some pretty creative activities for learning basic piano technique — which is great, because I am always on the lookout for finding effective ways to teach young beginners proper technique. Continue reading “First Thoughts Regarding Faber’s “My First Piano Adventure””

Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, seasonal / holiday, Teaching Piano

Just Added: Musical Leaves Matchup game

This is a short music game I created as a way to reinforce the names of the piano keys with young beginners.  It only takes a few minutes to play, but my students seemed to enjoy it.  It gives them a break from the usual drill I do, where I have them find 3 different C’s on the piano, etc.  :)

Here’s how it works:

You’ll need to buy fabric or foam leaves and mark each with a letter from the musical alphabet using a marker or felt tip pen.  The student is instructed to match each leaf to it’s spot on the tree, until the whole tree is filled.  The game only takes a few minutes, so it’s a great game to do on the piano bench at the beginning or end of a piano lesson.

Any leftover fabric leaves can be used to decorate your Thanksgiving day table in a few weeks.  :)

To Download: go to the Printables > Games page and scroll down to “Musical Leaves Matchup game.”

Early Childhood Music, improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Teaching Piano

9 Tips for Teaching Piano To Young Ages

As piano teachers, we wear many hats.  School teachers often teach only one age group, or a few age groups.  Piano teachers are usually expected to be able to teach from age 5 to 95!  But as we all know, teaching a 5-year-old is much different from teaching a 15-year-old, or a 55-year-old.  :)

In recently thinking about this challenge of being able to effectively teach various age levels and maturities, I decided to make a list of some of the things I’ve learned over the past few years about teaching young ages — I’m thinking, ages 6 and under.  I learned some of these things from an Early Childhood Music course I took during grad school and various piano pedagogy courses — but I learned many of these things purely from experience.  Here goes:

  1. Don’t ask questions that you don’t really want answers to.  Examples: “Did you like that?” or “Do you want to try it on your own now?”  Sometimes if given the option to opt out of something, children will say “no” simply because you’ve given them a choice.  :)  It’s better to make statements.
  2. Give them time to think.  When you ask a question, wait for them to process and compose a response.  Sometimes we ask questions and then blow right on without getting an answer.  Young children need this think time.  If you don’t really want to wait for an answer, then don’t ask the question in the first place.  Continue reading “9 Tips for Teaching Piano To Young Ages”
Announcements, Games, Group Classes, Music Theory, Resources, Teaching Piano, Technique

Recent Purchases: Scale Blocks & A Technique Monkey

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for creative and inexpensive items for my teaching.  The dollar store is one of my favorite places to go!

In the craft aisle at Dollar Tree right now, there are packages of foam cubes, as shown in the picture.  I’ve always wanted to make scale blocks like Natalie Wickham’s, but have never got around to buying the wood blocks and paint.  These foam cubes seem like a pretty good alternative, although they may not last as long I suppose.  On the upside, it doesn’t take long to write the alphabet letters on these little cubes with a marker!  I am going to go back to buy a couple more packages, so I can make a nice set of scale blocks using the orange colored cubes.   Continue reading “Recent Purchases: Scale Blocks & A Technique Monkey”

Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Music Theory, Printables, Teaching Piano

Just Added: Musical Alphabet Cards

There are others who have shared alphabet card printables similar to what I’m posting today, but I’m adding mine to the mix anyway.  :)  I wanted some that would work well to print onto colored cardstock paper.  Since I don’t have a color printer, this is an easy way I can still get colorful things to use with my students!

I used these cards with my new weekly Homeschool Music Class (just started last week, thanks to Sheryl’s recent post at her Notable Music Studio blog) and with my Piano Readiness Class.  My students LOVED making “musical alphabet snakes” in order to learn how the musical alphabet is different from the regular alphabet.  Included in the pdf is a card which outlines some other possible activities to do using the cards.  These activities work great in both group settings and private lessons.

Do you have some other activities to share that involve alphabet cards?  Share them in the comments!

To Download: visit the Printables > Other Resources page and scroll down to the M’s for Musical Alphabet Cards.

  Musical Alphabet Cards (275.9 KiB, 11,740 hits)

Conferences, Group Classes, improving as a teacher

2011 OhioMTA Conference (4): Piano Pedagogy 101, by Marvin Blickenstaff

Here’s another session given by the well-loved pedagogue Marvin Blickenstaff from the 2011 OhioMTA Conference:

Piano Pedagogy 101: Reviewing the Basics

Mr. Blickenstaff introduced this session by commenting that at conferences and workshops, we often hear ideas for teaching intermediate and advanced students, but we don’t very often hear ideas for teaching beginners during that first year of piano lessons.  The purpose of this session to give a refresher of sorts and to provide new ideas for teaching beginners, particularly in groups.

Mr. Blickenstaff basically led us through a series of short activities that he uses during group classes with beginners.  He begins the first few classes with some icebreaker activities that all students can succeed doing.  These initial successes set the tone for the entire year!

Here are a few examples of some of the beginner-level icebreaker activities Mr. Blickenstaff likes to use with his students:

Continue reading “2011 OhioMTA Conference (4): Piano Pedagogy 101, by Marvin Blickenstaff”

Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

Just Added: Rainy Rhythm Game

I’ve mentioned before that during grad school, I took an Early Childhood Music course.  One of the things we discussed was using the “sound before sight” philosophy – where the student is exposed to and experiences the concepts before being taught the name or the written notation.  I’ve been doing my best to use this philosophy of teaching music with my Piano Readiness students.

I was reminded of a raindrops & rainbows rhythm game one of my classmates created for an assignment during that course when I saw Anne Crosby’s recent post, which mentioned an activity involving finger-painting raindrops/rainbows.  It immediately occurred to me that the girls in my Piano Readiness Class would LOVE a game involving rainbows, so I put together this printable.  It’s nothing groundbreaking; I’m sure teachers before me have done similar things.  But hopefully this printable might be as useful and convenient for some of you as it was for me!

Continue reading “Just Added: Rainy Rhythm Game”