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”

Interviews

Teacher Feature | Irina Gorin of Gorin’s Piano Studio

Hello friends,

Now that the NCKP Conference posts are all up, it’s time to return to regular posts!  Today, we have a new Teacher Feature.  Say hello to Irina!

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

I started piano lessons at the age of 5 at the Children Music School in Kiev, Ukraine. For 9 years I had 2 individual piano lessons a week (45 min. long), and once a week 45 min.classes: music theory/solfeggio, music literature, choir, piano duet, and accompaniment (in senior classes).

At the age of 15 -19 I was studying in Kiev’s music college where I got my Bachelor degree, and the next 5 years at Kharkov Conservatory, where I got my Masters Degree in piano performance, piano pedagogy, accompaniment and Chamber Orchestra.

I started teaching piano students at Music College as a part of the pedagogy course at the age of 16. Since then, teaching is my main job, even though I enjoy accompaniment.

What is your favorite thing about teaching piano?

Seeing the results of teaching, and communicating with students and their families.  Continue reading “Teacher Feature | Irina Gorin of Gorin’s Piano Studio”

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks now, and today I’m spilling all!   Sorry about the length. =)

Don’t Make My Mistake!

When I first began teaching, I created a mental list of all the things I felt were essential for a new student should know.  I thought very carefully about what to say in order to cover all these topics with my student during the very first lesson.  “The List” included things like:

  • How to sit properly at the piano.
  • How to hold one’s wrists.
  • How to curve one’s fingers.
  • The finger numbers.
  • How to find the black key groups of 2’s and 3’s.
  • How to find Middle C.
  • How to find A-G on the piano.
  • What a steady beat is and is not like.
  • What a quarter note is.
  • etc.

These are all important things, of course.  But I hadn’t really stopped to consider what the student might be feeling at that very moment on my piano bench.  I jabbered away cheerily through my long, long list, anxious that my student would learn all the right things the right way from the very first day.

Do you remember what it was like at your very first piano lesson as a kid?  Usually, new students are anxious, curious, unsure, maybe nervous — and usually they are very excited to play the piano.  They might tell you they can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for you which their mother taught them by rote.  Or they might show off that they figured out Mary Had a Little Lamb by ear.  Or they might not know how to play anything at all, but they are definitely sitting on your piano bench practically drooling, anxious to get their fingers on those beautiful, shiny keys!

So what do you do?  What do you do about all this crazy excitement, energy, and motivation that is radiating from this student?   Continue reading “Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson”

Forum Q&A's, Technique

The November Forum: Analogies for Finger/Hand Shape

This month’s discussion topic:

Analogies for Finger/Hand Shape at the Piano

How do you teach students how their fingers/hands should look when they play?  Do you use any analogies, such as: “pretend you are holding a bubble”?  What do you find works, and what doesn’t?  Please share your tips!

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Have an idea for a topic you’d love to see discussed for a monthly forum?  Please email it off for consideration to admin[at]colorinmypiano.com!

Photo credit: emilianohorcada | CC 2.0

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”

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”

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 improvise on the black keys.

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”

improving as a teacher, Technique

Bench Height: Try Little Pillows for Little Students

Just thought I’d share my recent find.  One again, I’ll admit, I found another treasure at the dollar store.  (Does anyone else love dollar stores as much as I do?)

It might not seem like much, but I see great potential in these little blue travel sized pillows.  My little student won’t have to sit on a stack of piano books any longer in order to attain the correct height at the piano!

When I first picked up the pillow, I expected the stuffing to be cheap and light stuffing which would do nothing for the student’s height once they’d sit on it, but actually it is stuffed pretty well with some kind of heavier material.  And for a dollar, the price can’t be beat.

If you aren’t convinced on the importance of playing with the proper bench height at the piano, check out the revealing pictures at the Well-Balanced Pianist website.

My hand is awkwardly sticking out in this picture to give you a better idea of the size of the pillow.  It’s just the right size for students under age 8 or so.

If you are interested in getting one of these pillows, check if there is a Dollar Tree store in your area.  I looked for the listing of this pillow on the Dollar Tree website, but was unable to find it (if anyone finds it, please let me know).  The tag on the pillow just said “Decorative Pillow.”  The pillow also comes in green.

I’ve heard of some teachers using those interlocking foam square pieces for getting students to the right height.  The nice thing about using those foam squares is that you can choose how many of them to stack on top of each other in order to reach just the perfect height.

What have you found to work well for attaining proper height at the piano?

Teaching Piano

Fun tip

Today I just thought I’d share a fun little tip I learned from one of my students this week!  Yes, you read that right: she taught me.  =)  She is a young beginner student, just learning how to read music on the staff.  She informed me that she came up with a way for remembering the note “D” (the one just above Middle C): D is the note that Dangles from the staff.  Clever!  I was so proud of her.  That is a little trick that I will definitely be sharing with my other beginner students.