repertoire / methods, Reviews

Review: Daniel McFarlane’s Repertoire for Students

Australian composer Daniel McFarlane has composed a number of student-level repertoire books which are available on his website.  Daniel was kind enough to send me digital copies of his books so I could review them here.

In appearance, all of Daniel’s books have easy-to-read scores with no illustrations.  The titles of each piece are in fun fonts depending on the subject of each piece.

All of Daniel’s books can be purchased in hard copies or as digital copies (be careful that you’ve selected the right one when you check-out! The digital ones clearly say “Digital Edition” in the title, and allow for one print-out of the book).  The prices for the music of Daniel’s website are in Australian dollars.  Daniel assured me that when you check-out, the conversion to your currency would be made properly.  The current rate of AUD compared to USD is about 1:1.

Soundscapes Book 1

The pieces in Sounscapes Book 1 have a pop-ish and almost rock music sound to them, while retaining elements of classical music and good educational writing for students.  The pieces feature repetitive patterns and chord progressions, catchy tunes, lyrical RH melodies, syncopated rhythms, and repeated LH notes.

I would use this book with an early intermediate student (probably no younger than age 9) who has good technique and an excellent sense of rhythm.  It could also be a great option for teenagers or adult students at that level of playing.  The pieces are very appealing in sound and would be a great option for boy students.

As you read this review, open another window and listen to the pieces hereContinue reading “Review: Daniel McFarlane’s Repertoire for Students”

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””

Giveaways, Motivation, repertoire / methods, Teaching Piano

May 2011 Giveaway: “Fearless Fortissimo” Piano Music for Boys

Greetings!  Today I have two important announcements:

  1. I have finished all the requirements for my Master’s degree!  HOORAY!  =D
  2. Today we have a new GIVEAWAY!  Here are the details:

Andrea & Trevor Dow from yesterday’s interview have kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway of Episode 1 of The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo!  This pdf is a $19.95 value and contains Early Elementary, Elementary, and Intermediate Level versions of the pieces, accompanied by a three page comic.  Once you’ve purchased the pdf, you are free to print off as many copies as needed for use with your students!  Read more about The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo piano music for boys by clicking here.

To enter to win, leave a comment on this post!

  • Ask Andrea & Trevor a question you still have after reading yesterday’s interview.
  • Tell us about how you would use The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo in your studio!
  • Or, share any tips you have about keeping boy students motivated in their piano studies.

You may earn one additional entry in the giveaway by sharing the link to this giveaway on your blog or on your facebook page.  Be sure to leave an additional comment on this post to let me know you’ve done this, so that you get your extra entry.

The winner will be chosen via random number generator.  Enter before Thursday, May 19, 2011 @ midnight for your chance to win!

Interviews, repertoire / methods

Interview: Andrea & Trevor Dow and their Piano Music For Boys

Today I have a fabulous interview for you, from a husband & wife team who runs a 350-student music school in Canada!  Meet Andrea & Trevor Dow.

  • Andrea & Trevor run a blog at teachpianotoday.com
  • The website for their music school, Wildflower Music Studio, can be viewed here.
  • Their latest project has been to write a series of piano music intended for boys.  The series of “episodes” is accompanied by comic book illustrations that tell the adventures of Fearless Fortissimo.

And now for the interview!

*  *  *  *  *

Joy: Please tell us about your piano and/or teaching background!

Andrea: I was heavily involved in piano and singing lessons from the age of 4. I started teaching piano lessons when I was 18.  I had a rusty old Toyota Corolla packed with supplies and I drove to my students’ homes in between my university classes and on weekends.  This quickly morphed into a full-time job when I graduated with my B.Mus and within three years I had a studio of 350 students and a teaching staff of 14.  My husband, Trevor, and I created the Piano Pals Early Learning Program (a preschool piano program for students ages 3-5 that teaches both beginning piano skills as well as kindergarten math concepts), which has been extremely successful at our own studio and is currently in development to be available to other teachers online.  Right now I teach upper-level piano and singing lessons while managing our studio, and together with my husband we create online materials for piano teachers with the goal of bringing them the same amount of success we have created with our own studio.  We co-authored the teaching e-book “Piano Hands Shouldn’t Flip Burgers” last year, are active bloggers, and most recently launched our newest venture with www.pianomusicforboys.com.

What is the most unique thing about your studio/music school?  Continue reading “Interview: Andrea & Trevor Dow and their Piano Music For Boys”

Forum Q&A's, repertoire / methods, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A | Obtaining Student Materials & Reimbursement

I forgot to put up the week’s new Forum Q&A post yesterday, so here it is a day late!  Sorry about that…I think the term paper for my music history class is draining all my brain cells.  =D

It was so fun to read the variety of approaches teachers use when it comes to summer lessons for last week’s Forum Q&A!  I hope you had as much fun reading about them as I did.  I just added my own comment which describes a new method I’m going to try next summer (2012), so please check it out and let me know what you think.

This week, though, we are going to discuss methods of obtaining and getting reimbursed for student materials!  I’m curious to know….

First of all:  Do you tell students to go purchase the new books/materials they need, or do you go and get them yourself?

Secondly, if you purchase them yourself, how do you go about getting reimbursement?  Is the cost of books/materials covered in your tuition rate?  Or do you charge a yearly or semesterly fee to cover books and materials?  Or do you add the cost of the books to that month’s invoice for tuition?

I’m trying to decide how to go about dealing with getting books when I start my independent studio in the fall, so I’d love to hear what method works for you!

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks | CC 2.0

repertoire / methods

Faber Piano Adventures 2nd Edition

Have you heard the news about the new 2nd Editions of the Faber Piano Adventures?  They’ve completed a revision of the Primer and Level 1 books, and will be doing Level 2 (and beyond?) at a later date.

At the MTNA conference, I had the opportunity to look at the new books at the Hal Leonard booth in the Exhibit Hall (and even take home a free copy of the Primer Level Performance book!).

You can visit their website to read about all the updates made in the new 2nd Editions, but below are a few highlights:

  • The back of the books shows a chart that shows the books and supplemental materials available.  The front of the books also has “2nd Edition” marked clearly in the upper left hand corner.
  • Inside the front cover, there is a progress chart that clearly shows the progression and introduction of concepts for easy lesson planning.
  • The Theory book more closely follows the concepts and artwork of the Lesson Book.
  • The Theory book contains more creative activities, such as improvisation and composition activities.
  • New repertoire has been added to the Performance and Lesson Books for more variety at your recitals.
  • A new Sightreading Book has been added to the Primer Level and Level 1!  It is a thick, black and white book with short examples to sightread.  Students are instructed, “Don’t Practice This!” and to cross out the page once they’ve sightread the page for that day.
  • A new Teacher Guide is available!

The Piano Adventures method is one of my favorites to use with students (although I deliberately do my best to use a variety of methods with my students), and these updates look great to me!  What do you think?

Forum Q&A's, repertoire / methods, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

Q&A Forum | Rhythmic “Simplification” in Arrangements of Familiar Tunes

For last week’s Forum Q&A, I broached a few questions about memorization and many of you left comments regarding whether or not to require memorization for performances within your studio — but not many of you addressed my initial question about whether you consider the skill of memorization is essential to piano playing (i.e., do you think it is necessary/required for concert pianists to play by memory?  Why or why not?).  I discussed this topic further in yesterday’s post, which you can view here.  As always, it’s never too late to add your thoughts to this ongoing discussion.  =)

Today, however, marks the introduction of a new topic for discussion:

Many popular piano methods today include (as they should) arrangements of familiar tunes for students to learn.  This is great, because many students LOVE learning how to play tunes they are familiar with!  (Side note: click here to view a post regarding some thoughts on what makes a great piano method.)  However, these arrangements sometimes present a problem:

Oftentimes in arrangements, the rhythm of the tune is altered and “simplified” in order to accomodate the rhythmic values that the student has/hasn’t learned yet.  This is all fine and dandy, but as a teacher, what do you do when a student comes back the next week playing the rhythm “wrong”?

To give one example that frequently occurs with beginner students, I’ve heard many students return playing the rhythm of “Ode to Joy” with dotted-quarter-eighth rhythms instead of playing all quarter notes (despite the fact that we sightread it together with the rhythm as written).  How do you handle this situation: do you “fix” the student’s rhythm to match what is on the page even though it goes against their intuition, or do you “let it go?”

I’m sure many of us piano teachers have been in this situation before!  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Rick Harris | CC 2.0

Forum Q&A's, Performances, repertoire / methods

Forum Q&A | Recital Music: Assign Easy, Hard, or Just Right?

Ready for another installment of a Forum Q&A?  Okay!

A couple of weeks ago we discussed what to do when a student performance “bombs.”  This week, we’ll return to the topic of recitals and talk about assigning repertoire:

When assignment recital repertoire to students, do you generally assign something challenging since they have a lot of time to work on it?  Or do you assign something that is a little bit easy for them, so they can easily succeed at polishing and memorizing the piece?  Or do you simply assign a piece that is right at their current level?

Share your thoughts below!

Photo Credit: meddygarnet | CC 2.0

repertoire / methods, Resources, seasonal / holiday

List of Free Christmas Music Arrangements on the Web

Christmas is on the way, whether you are ready or not!  My students are already starting to ask about Christmas music, so I’m doing some digging on the web to find places to print easy Christmas arrangements for free.

I also have a lending library of Christmas books that I’ve built over the years (mostly used books I find at garage sales and thrift shops), but printing music is great because they can keep it if they like.  When students wish to own their own Christmas books, I’m happy to get them for them — but I’m just as happy to give them printed arrangements from online because they only get used a few weeks out of the year.

Here are a few places I’ve found Christmas pdfs of sheet music for piano: Continue reading “List of Free Christmas Music Arrangements on the Web”

repertoire / methods, Reviews

Book Review: “Returning to the Piano” by Wendy Stevens

Summary

  • Title: Returning to the Piano: A Refresher Book for Adults (click to view on Amazon)
  • Composer/Arranger: Wendy Stevens
  • Publisher: Hal Leonard
  • Number of Pages: 96
  • Level: Elementary – Early Intermediate (pieces are in order of difficulty).
  • Other Information: Includes a CD.

Review

As the title suggests, this book is intended for adult piano students who are returning to the piano.  Even in the first few pieces, the students’ hands are not confined to “positions” as in many methods; therefore, this book may be a good solution for students who already are accustomed to moving around the keys, or for the student who would benefit from becoming more comfortable doing so.  (I would not recommend using this book with beginners because it is clearly not intended for that use.) Continue reading “Book Review: “Returning to the Piano” by Wendy Stevens”

Ear Training, Practice, Reading Notation, repertoire / methods, Teaching Piano

Introducing Students to New Pieces

The first look at a new piece is crucial.  As accomplished pianists/teachers, we automatically know to scan the piece to check the time signature, key signature, texture, composer, title, etc. before playing through a piece.  Of course, we were trained to go through those steps before sightreading through a piece.

Before having students sightread, what do you say/do with them to introduce a new piece?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Here’s some things I’ve tried: Continue reading “Introducing Students to New Pieces”

Forum Q&A's, improving as a teacher, repertoire / methods

SUMMARY | July Monthly Forum: Discussing Method Books

Here is the summary post for the July Monthly Forum: Discussing Method Books.  Thanks to those of you who shared your thoughts!

Your Thoughts

Allow me to summarize some of the main points that were made in the comments:

  • Choose a piano method that will give students (especially beginners) a strong foundation for the future and ensure success.
  • Choose a piano method that will suite each student’s interests and taste.
  • Choose a piano method that has “good” and “real” music.  (A couple of you made such references….perhaps this could be a launching point for further discussion: what does “good” or “real” music entail?)
  • Don’t necessarily use the same piano method for every student.
  • Be sure to supplement the method with books outside of the method, so that they are experiencing different types of repertoire.

Read all the comments for yourself here.

Your Favorites

You also shared some of your favorite piano methods in the comments.  Here are the ones that were mentioned:

  • “Play Piano Now!” from Alfred publishing – for adult beginners.
  • “Music Tree” – for creative and bright students; strong in theory.
  • Alfred Premier – for students ages 8-11; strong in theory.
  • Alfred Prep and Alfred Basic – for young beginner students (ages 4-8).
  • “Piano Adventures” by the Fabers – has imaginative pieces; encourages note-reading.

My Thoughts

My personal philosophy when it comes to piano methods is that there is no single piano method that is “the best” or that works for all students.  Every student learns differently and every student has various goals, interests, and tastes in music.  Therefore, the teacher must seek to find and use the piano method that will be best for each individual student.  It is important for teachers to become familiar with the various piano methods available so that they can choose the proper method for each student.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Evaluating Piano Methods: Continue reading “SUMMARY | July Monthly Forum: Discussing Method Books”