Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Rhythm

“Musical Hopscotch” game

About year ago, Sheryl Welles posted on her blog about a “Twister Hopscotch” game that she modified into a wonderful music game.  Basically, all you have to do is use Avery circle stickers of some kind to make the spinner into a music spinner with rhythmic note values.

Continue reading ““Musical Hopscotch” game”

Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Worksheets

Just Added: Musical Instruments Workbook

With my Piano Readiness Class, we’ve been learning about the instruments and the instrument families.  To do this, I decided to create a workbook for my students to be able to take notes about the instruments and color a picture of each one.

Description: This 29-page workbook contains coloring pages and blank lines for taking notes when learning about the musical instruments and the instrument families. It is ideal for a regularly-meeting group setting, where the teacher can introduce an instrument or two each week.  Continue reading “Just Added: Musical Instruments Workbook”

Composition, Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Teaching Piano

Improvisation Activity: Rory’s Story Cubes

Before I begin, allow me to give credit where credit is due for this wonderful idea: I got this idea from Laura on her blog (click here).  I was so thrilled to see her idea of using these “story cubes” for improvisation with piano students!

Meet “Rory’s Story Cubes.”

Rory’s Story Cubes consist of a set of 9 dice with all kinds of pictures on their faces.  I think English teachers use these as a starting point for writing stories.

Piano teachers can use them too.  =)

Let me tell you about how I’ve been using this fun new prop.

During a piano lesson, I gave my student all of the dice and asked her to roll them.  Here’s what they look like:

Continue reading “Improvisation Activity: Rory’s Story Cubes”

Games, Music Camps, Studio Business, Teacher Feature

Interview: Keri & Carolyn from Piano Stars

Meet Keri and Carolyn.  They are two cousins and piano teachers out of Canada who teamed up to establish their successful piano studio, Piano Stars.  They also sell some unique and original piano teaching materials on their website (click here) and on Etsy.  When I stumbled across their Etsy shop one day, I just had to order a couple of their wonderful music spinners (pictured below)!  Once I contacted Keri and Carolyn, they kindly agreed to be interviewed and featured here at Color In My Piano.  Read on!

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Joy: Please tell us about your piano backgrounds!

Keri & Carolyn: We both started piano lessons when we were 7, but due to our age difference Carolyn was actually my (Keri’s) piano teacher growing up! Carolyn has her ARCT in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music and I am working on my Grade 10 with the Royal Conservatory of Music.

How long have you been running your piano studio together?

We have been working together since 2003 for our summer camps, composing and creating games & teacher resources. However, we both have our own home studios for private lessons and teach about 60 students each.

Even though we teach out of our own homes we plan all of our piano events together. We have the same incentive programs and we combine our students together for recitals, halloween parties, pizza parties, pool parties, etc… Continue reading “Interview: Keri & Carolyn from Piano Stars”

Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Music Theory

Music Theory at our Piano Mini-Camp (1/3)

As promised, here’s more about the Music Theory classes at our Piano Mini-Camp a few weeks ago.  I didn’t create formal lesson plans per-se, but the next three posts will serve as a general outline of the activities we did over each of the three camp days.

Gem Notes on the Keyboard & Staff

Using Susan Paradis’ wonderful resources, I created an activity for teaching 5-finger patterns (5FPs) and scales.  We used colorful glass stones (from the dollar store) to build 5FPS/scales on her table-top keyboard printable and one of her grand staff printables.  After printing everything out on cardstock, I cut out the table-top keyboard so that the students each had one long keyboard and then put each grand staff in a sheet protector.

The students really enjoyed using the colorful “gems.”  One little student kept asking me, “Are they REAL GEMS?!”  =)

With the younger students, we learned just about 5FPs: how to build them (WWHW) in various keys, and how to make them minor (lower the 3rd).  With the more advanced students, we learned about the entire scale (WWHWWWH) in various keys, and how to make them minor (lower the 3rd, 6th, and 7th for natural minor).

We first created the 5FP/scale first on the keyboard (pictured above), and then created it on the staff.  The reason I had the student do both is because I think students sometimes fail to make the connection from the keyboard to the staff and vice versa.  I intended this activity to be a way to build their understanding of the connection between their playing and what they see on the staff when it comes to 5FP/scales.

In order to notate a sharp or flat on the staff, we used different shaped gem stones (which I also found at the dollar store): an oblong shape.  I’m sure you could also just use the different colors to represent the notes with accidentals.

We spent about 10-15 minutes each day on this activity.  Each day, we reviewed what was covered the previous day and then added something new to the process (like learning about minor) or tried out other key signatures.

Make A Keyboard Activity

On the first day of camp, I started each theory class with another Susan Paradis activity: Make A Keyboard.  I strongly recommend printing this printable onto cardstock paper so it will last longer.

I chose this activity mostly as a warmup activity to get their minds working before moving on to more complex activities.  But it’s a good activity to see whether the students remember how the keyboard is laid out without looking.  One student had all her black keys in groups of two at first, and couldn’t figure out why she had extra black keys!

I handed each student a small zipper bag with all the piano key pieces inside and told them to “make a keyboard.”  This activity took less than 5 minutes to complete.  It worked very well as an opening activity!

Stay tuned – more music theory activities from our mini-camp are coming soon!  Meanwhile, check out the recent responses to the July Forum topic about piano method books and be sure to contribute your thoughts!

Games, Group Classes, Motivation, Music Camps, Music Theory, Resources, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

Group Piano Class Ideas

I recently came across this great video/podcast on Mario Ajero’s YouTube channel: an interview with pianist and piano pedagogue Dr. Julie Knerr.  Both Maria Ajero and Julie Knerr are graduates from University of Oklahoma’s widely recognized piano pedagogy program.  In this video, Dr. Knerr shares some of her game ideas for her group piano classes — which she holds weekly in addition to her student’s weekly private lessons — to build a variety of musicianship skills.  Check it out!


Most of these activities could be easily modified for use during a private lesson, music camp, studio party, and other settings.  You can visit Dr. Knerr’s website at julieknerrpiano.com.  She has recently been co-writing a new piano method series called Piano Safari (as mentioned back in this post) available by order via PayPal at pianosafari.com.

Be sure to also check out more great podcasts at Mario Ajero’s website, The Piano Podcast.

Group Classes, Music Camps, Music History, Resources

Teacher Resources @ Clavier’s Piano Explorer site

Picture 2Many piano teachers subscribe to Clavier magazine, and some even subscribe their students to Clavier’s Piano Explorer, the music magazine for kids.  I recently found out that their site contains some great resources for teaching about various composers and concepts in music history.  This month, there have some great resources about Beethoven, including:

  • Links to YouTube recordings, organized by Beethoven’s early, middle, and late compositional periods – click here and scroll down.
  • A pdf worksheet about sonata form, to be filled out while listening to Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata – click here and click “pdf” under Sonata Form.

These resources would be perfect for a summer camp or a group lesson!

Music Camps, repertoire / methods, Resources

A Comparison of 5 different Piano Methods

Picture 5I found a very interesting chart at musicedmarket.com today, comparing what are probably the top 5 most popular piano methods:

  • Alfred’s Basic Library
  • Bastien Piano Basics
  • The Music Tree
  • Piano Adventures
  • Hal Leonard Student Piano Library

Although this chart is probably somewhat outdated (for example, Alfred has recently introducted their new Premier series), there is still valuable information to be found.  The chart compares the reading approach, rhythm/counting approach, Technique sequence, format/layout, and more.  And the chart is available for download in both pdf and Microsoft Word document form. 

Also available at musicedmarket.com:

  • Some great ideas for holding a summer Music History Camp – click here