repertoire / methods

“Un-Method” Books for Piano Students

Un-Methods for Piano StudentsAs a piano teacher, you have probably been in the situation where you felt that using your favorite traditional piano method might not be the best choice for a particular new student’s situation.

For example, perhaps you have a new student who already has experience reading music from school or band.  Or an older beginner with a great ear who is largely self-taught.  Or an adult student who is returning to piano lessons after a number of years.  Or perhaps you have an average-age beginner who isn’t thriving in their method books and would benefit from additional supplement.

For those special situations, it is useful to be familiar with some method book alternatives, which I fondly refer to as “un-methods.”  Un-methods are useful for creating structure in weekly piano assignments while maintaining the flexibility to round out the student’s curriculum with other styles of music they are interested in.  In my mind, an un-method must meet at least two out of these three criteria:

  • Uses on-staff note reading.
  • Little to no illustrations or text on the page.
  • All-in-one book, for the most part.

Below is my list of some un-methods that you might enjoy exploring!


Right From The Start, by Lynn Freeman Olson (Fischer)

3786474_01downloadAs the cover states, this thin volume is a “rapid piano reader.”  Teachers who appreciate a landmark (aka interval) reading approach will appreciate the way this on-staff book begins: by teaching Bass F, Middle C, and Treble G.  The book provides a solid, no-nonsense approach.  I think it is a great book that truly leaves the teaching up to the teacher!

By the end of this 30-page book, students are playing basic rhythms (no eighth notes, unfortunately) within quarter note meters (3/4 and 4/4 time), a variety of articulations (staccato, legato) and notes covering the entire grand staff.

View it on Amazon or SheetMusicPlus.com. Continue reading ““Un-Method” Books for Piano Students”

repertoire / methods, Reviews

Review & Giveaway: Elena Cobb’s “My Piano Trip To London”

A couple of years ago, I reviewed some lovely sheet music by British teacher/composer Elena Cobb (read the review here). She is the author of the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz books, the “Blue River” book of solos, and more.

Elena has recently released a new book: a piano method called “My Piano Trip to London.”

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“My Piano Trip to London” contains 40 pages.  The pieces throughout the book are based on various landmarks and themes from London.

The first piece in the book is a black-key piece to be learned by rote.

Page 5 London Calling Student Continue reading “Review & Giveaway: Elena Cobb’s “My Piano Trip To London””

Reviews, Studio Business, Technology

App Review & Giveaway: Bobclass for Studio Management

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Note: As you can tell, this week I’ve been playing catch-up with a few apps I’ve been wanting to share!  Hope you don’t mind all of the reviews/giveaways this week.  :)

Bobclass ($19.99) — iPad only.

I’m so excited to share my review of this studio management app with you today!  Let me begin by sharing Bobclass’ description:

“Bobclass is an all-in-one productivity app for instructors, tutors, trainers, coaches and other independent professionals. It offers appointment scheduling, client tracking, progress monitoring and payment tracking from your iPad so you can get rid of separate agendas, clipboards and spreadsheets. With a fast & friendly user interface and a fully functional offline database you can do your client administration in the gym, class room, studio or park.”

I think Bobclass it is an outstanding studio management option for independent music teachers.  Here’s how it works:

First, visit the settings to set-up your basic information for you and your teaching.

2014-11-19 15.30.57 (1) Continue reading “App Review & Giveaway: Bobclass for Studio Management”

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!

Giveaways, Technology

NoteWorks app Giveaway and News: Now Available for iPhone as well as iPad

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 9.18.48 AMAbout a year ago, I wrote a review for the NoteWorks app for iPad (read it here).  The developers of NoteWorks have notified me that they have recently released an iPhone version of NoteWorks.  This is great news for any of your students/parents who own iPhones but do not own an iPad!

The iPhone version works very much like the iPad version.  The only possible downside I perceived is that because of the smaller screen, the size of the staff and notes is smaller.  The game still works very well, though.  With young beginners, I would opt to use NoteWorks on the iPad, though, for the sake of the larger staff size.

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The new iPhone version introduces a new way for students to select the range of notes on the staff they would like to practice.

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Here are links to all of the versions available:

GIVEAWAY: NoteWorks has generously offered promo codes for FIVE lucky winners to be able to download this app for free.  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below before midnight EST on Monday, November 11, 2013 with a fun tip for teaching note names to your students.  (Note: the giveaway is for the iPhone version of this app.  However, the developer let me know that it is possible to use the iPhone version of NoteWorks on your iPad.)

Reviews

Book Review: Twelve Magical Musical Masters

7_0240c“Twelve Magical Musical Masters” is a book containing the stories of twelve well-known classical composers.  Each page features an illustration and a short bio that encourages the reader to press a button to hear the accompanying music.

I received a copy of this book for review and am happy to add it to my bookshelf in my living room/waiting room area for students to peruse.

The twelve composers included are:

Reviews, Technology

App Review: NotateMe

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 1.07.21 PMNotateMe (this public beta release is currently half off: $13.99) — for iPad/iPhone (also available for Android).

NotateMe is a music notation app that allows users to enter music by finger or using a stylus.  As the notes are drawn, the app interprets your handwriting and creates printed notation.  This technology is impressive!

Here is a screenshot taken from the app store:

screen480x480 Continue reading “App Review: NotateMe”

Reviews, Rhythm, Technology

Review: Rhythm Lab app

11397_492880264102613_200460320_nRhythm Lab app — $2.99  *for iPad only*

Rhythm Lab is an app created by Jon Ensminger (a piano teacher in Michigan) that is designed to help students improve their sense of rhythm.  The app provides a series of graded rhythm examples for students to tap using the large, on-screen buttons.  The app even evaluates the accuracy of the students’ performances.

I frequently use printed rhythm cards with my students during their lessons, but I have also been using this app recently with a few of my older students who really need help with rhythm and who have their own iPads at home.  During the lesson, we practice a few rhythms and discuss strategies for accurate and musical rhythm performance (e.g., helping the student feel the meter beforehand).  Then I can ask students to practice certain rhythms on their own at home.  For students to use at home, Rhythm Lab is better than printed rhythm cards because the app can provide students with instant feedback.

There are a variety of one- and two-handed rhythms available, divided into 10 levels.  The simplest rhythms feature basic rhythms and time signatures (2/3, 3/4, and 4/4).  The more advanced rhythms feature mixed meter (5/4, 7/8, etc) and various tuplets.  Continue reading “Review: Rhythm Lab app”

Reviews

Sheet Music Review: Madge’s Notebook by Rebekah Maxner

MadgeCoverPromoThis summer, Canadian composer Rebekah Maxner has released a new book, “Madge’s Notebook: A Piano Tribute to The Hunger Games.”  When Rebekah emailed me to ask if I’d be willing to review her book, I told her I wasn’t sure if she would want me to review it since I have not yet read the popular “Hunger Games” books.  (I know, am I out-of-the-loop or what?)  :)  She replied that she nonetheless would like to me to review the books — after all, the music should be able to stand on its own.  I’m glad Rebekah felt that way, because I enjoyed checking out her music!

“Madge’s Notebook” is intended to be a book of music that will appeal to intermediate students — in particular, tweens, teens, and adults.  Rebekah states that the purpose of the book is to meet today’s piano students where they are and to use their interest in book literature to foster interest in piano literature.

This book is one that Rebekah imagines the characters from “The Hunger Games” would have on their piano.  The passage in “The Hunger Games” series that inspired Madge’s Notebook is found in the second book of the series, “Catching Fire.”

“Madge’s Notebook” is 28 pages long and contains 11 pieces.  The Table of Contents divides the pieces into three sections: (1) Folk Music of District 12, (2) Classics from a Time before Panem, and (3) Piano Music by Madge for Katniss.

Many of the pieces are original compositions, but there are also some interesting pieces inspired by famous piano pieces.  Although at first I thought they might be “simplified arrangements,” I think it is more suitable to think of the pieces as “inspired by” famous piano works.  The pieces seem to evoke the original classical work, rather than exist merely as a simplified version.  Very creative!   Continue reading “Sheet Music Review: Madge’s Notebook by Rebekah Maxner”

Reviews

Review: Keys To Imagination’s “Misterioso Manor” Motivational Game

Sebastian Sharp and the Case of the Missing Manuscript is a motivational game created by Michelle Sisler from KeysToImagination.com.  This game is designed to help motivate students to practice throughout an entire school year.

Here is a summary of the storyline for the game:

Aunt Bernice has invited her nephew Sebastian and niece Elise to visit.  When Sebastian began playing a piano piece in the Misterioso Music Room, a ghostly man suddenly appeared on the piano bench next to him, asking for help.  The man said, “I don’t know how you know this song — I JUST wrote it!  My manuscript is missing and I must find that song!  I think someone in this house stole my music.  I must find it!”  The student’s job is to help solve Sebastian Sharp and The Case of the Missing Manuscript.  Each day the student practices the required amount set by the teacher, s/he will earn a step in the Misterioso Manor. As students visit each room of the Misterioso Manor, they will earn 15 clue cards which will lead them to discover WHEN the ghostly composer lived, WHO the musician was, WHAT piece Sebastian was playing, WHO stole the manuscript and WHY, and WHERE s/he hid it.

Below is a preview of the vinyl boardgame, which measures 2′ x 3′ and can be hung on the wall using thumbtacks.  The kit contains 24 game pieces for your students (you can order more if needed).  The game pieces have a sticky bottom so they can stick and re-stick to the vinyl board.  Students can move their game pieces forwards or backwards on the board, but not diagonally.  When students land on or pass a space with a question mark, they earn one of the eight suspect cards.  When students move to a red space with footprints, they earn one of the clue cards.

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Continue reading “Review: Keys To Imagination’s “Misterioso Manor” Motivational Game”