In this roundup, we will take a look at the music history related resources available on my blog. I’ve also included here some printables for learning the instruments of the orchestra. As you’ll see, these are all useful resources particularly for group classes. Perhaps you’ll see something you want to incorporate into your studio classes or a camp this summer!
I hope you’ll discover — or re-discover — some great freebies or paid resources in the roundup below.
History of Audio Formats – Lesson Plan | When I was gifted a 1929 Victor Victrola gramophone some years ago, I was inspired to create a lesson plan for my students so we could learn more about the various methods used over the decades for recording audio. This free PDF contains a lesson plan, craft activity, and slides for students to learn about wax cylinders, records, 8-tracks, tape cassettes, CDs, and more! It’s perfect for group classes or music camps. I hope your students will enjoy learning about the history of audio recording methods as much as my mine did! Learn more here. >>>
Today, I’d like to share with you a game that has over the past two years become a favorite during my monthly group classes for my piano students (which we fondly call “Piano Parties”). The game is called “Tonic.”
This game is an effective way to encourage students to explore and be playful with sound. It opens doors of possibility for future improvisation and composition activities of a more structured nature. And it’s fascinating and just plain fun to hear what students come up with during the game.
On your turn, you choose a card from the deck and then improvise on your instrument music that is based on the prompt. There are many different kinds of prompts in the deck, as you can see pictured below.
My favorite cards are the “play this” cards that ask you to interpret the graphic shown on the card.
Other cards ask students to create using just one to three tones (rolling the music dice to determine which ones). Some of the cards ask students to choose a partner or two to aid them with their improvisation.
Although I believe the cards were created with advanced players in mind, I have found the game works quite well for young musicians with a few simple modifications. For example, I allow students to choose a different card if they seem stumped or overly challenged by a prompt they’ve randomly drawn. And I ask students to keep their improvisation short and sweet (30 to 60 seconds) instead of the 3 or 4 minutes some of the cards encourage.
I find that some students are naturally comfortable with improvising. Others are more hesitant. I’ve learned those students find it helpful if you begin the game by taking the first turn, providing a model.
I have a video to share of two of my students, improvising in response to the following card:
In this improvisation, I can hear both students drawing upon pieces they have learned in the past. (There’s even some “Heart and Soul” mixed in there…did you catch it??) It’s wonderful to hear students create something new using “ingredients” they’ve learned from other examples of music.
Here is the video:
Interesting in buying the game? Order it HERE. On his website, you’ll find that the game author, Scott Hughes, offers a free PDF version of Tonic that you can print out yourself. After testing out the game, be sure to purchase the real thing as shown in my pictures above. In my opinion, it’s worth every penny!
Thanks for reading my unsolicited review.
GIVEAWAY: Scott has generously offered to give away a bundle consisting of the Tonic game PLUS his more advanced Tonic Theory game! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post before Sunday, March 25, 2018 at midnight EST, sharing either (1) your favorite improv activity for students, or (2) what you like most about the Tonic game. The winner will be randomly selected the following day. Good luck!
On Saturday, my students and I held a masterclass event, as is our annual tradition in preparation for our upcoming studio recital.
This year, I invited Loretta Cetkovic, my friend from grad school who now operates a music school in Lansing, Michigan. She was so wonderful in helping my group of students polish and perfect their pieces!
In exchange, I drove to Lansing the following day and gave a masterclass for a group of Loretta’s students. So fun.
Now here is a blast from the past! This photo is from 2014, which was the first year Loretta and I did a masterclass exchange. Here is the related blog post.
Have you ever considered doing a masterclass exchange?
The game is simple: buy a package of plastic easter eggs and draw music symbols and terms on each half with a paint pen (permanent marker will rub off over time). Students are supposed to mix up and then match together the halves.
I did not have any plastic easter eggs in the house, so I asked my husband to buy some on clearance when he went to the grocery store. He came home with these really interesting ones from Meijer that break into three sections…!
At first, I wasn’t sure if they were going to work well for my game, but then I realized that having three separate parts for each egg could work out to my advantage. On each part of the egg, I wrote a music symbol, the meaning, and the Italian music term.
Having three parts to match into an egg makes the game more challenging. My students enjoyed working together for this game at my Piano Party.
I’m going to leave this game out in my waiting room for awhile. When students arrive, they will enjoy matching a few eggs before their lessons.
My studio recital is coming up, so my students and I have been busy with recital prep. This means we spend a lot of time during the lesson practicing the elements of good stage presence (practicing the bow, etc) and practicing run-throughs by memory. At almost lesson I’ve been teaching this week and last, I’ve been taking video with my iPhone so that we can watch, listen, and discuss afterwards. Having the video running helps the student get a little bit nervous and mentally rehearse what it is like to be at the actual performance.
At the March “Piano Party” (my monthly studio classes) I held on Saturday, we ran a recital rehearsal of sorts.
The day after Halloween, I held a Piano Party (monthly group class) with my students. I took advantage of the holiday to have a Fall/Halloween theme and invited students to wear their Halloween costumes if desired.
By the way, my husband surprised me with a projector as a birthday gift back in June. The projector has been a fun teaching tool for camps and group classes. (And it is essentially serving as our TV because we don’t own a TV.) Before I had the projector, I showed videos at group classes on my laptop or by holding up my iPad Mini.
Rhythm Dictation Activity
At every Piano Party, I make it a priority to do at least one rhythm activity. I found a really cool idea for rhythm dictation activity at the “O For Tuna” blog. Being the do-it-yourself-er that I am, I designed my own rhythm slides and “heartbeat charts.”
Here is how the activity works: Each student is given a heartbeat chart and some game tokens. The teacher claps/chants a prepared rhythm and asks the students to repeat it back together a couple of times. Once they have internalized the rhythm, the teacher asks them to notate the rhythm on their heartbeat charts using game tokens. (A single token placed in a heart represents a quarter note. Two tokens within a heart represents beamed eighth notes. A blank heart represents a quarter rest.) The teacher walks around the room and provides feedback for students as they work. After a certain amount of time, the teacher describes or displays the correct answer and allows students to self-correct their work as necessary.
For game tokens, I like to use glass gems available in the floral section at the craft stores. Anything goes, though — maybe some holiday-themed erasers would be fun!
I can see this activity becoming a new staple in my group classes. I love the way this activity helps students make the ear-eye connection between how a rhythm sounds and how it looks.
In case you’d like to try this activity, I’ve added free PDFs for the rhythm slides and the heartbeat charts to the Printables page. Visit the Printables > Games page and scroll down to the H’s to find the “Heartbeat Charts for Rhythm Dictation.” Here’s the PDF download:
My students are currently preparing pieces for a local Ribbon Festival as well as my studio’s annual recital. (I always hold my Spring recital in March or April — I think May gets too busy!)
In order to help prepare them for these events, I decided to ask my friend, Loretta, to give a master class for my students during our “Piano Party” group class this month. Loretta and I became friends during grad school while earning our pedagogy degrees. She currently runs a multi-teacher studio in Lansing, Michigan.
Loretta loved the idea and asked if I would give a master class for her students in return. It turned out to be a great exchange and a very positive experience for all of our students!
Here is a group photo of me with some of Loretta’s students after our master class:
Last week was a busy week and I didn’t manage to get a single blog post posted! Hope you missed me — I’m back! 😉
On Saturday, I held a kick-off Pizza Piano Party with my students who are under age 14. My goal with this get-together was for students to get to know each other (especially the new beginners) and to generate some excitement for the new year. Before and after eating our pizza, we played a few simple music games.
First, I let students color and cut-out their own paper piano (download the blank printable here from twink.net). This was a good activity for students to work on as everyone arrived. It also allowed students to chat openly and get to know each other as they worked.
Next, we played a game I called, “Find the Music Note.” It is a musical twist of the old “Find The Thimble” game. I read about this game somewhere online over a year ago — let me know if you have any idea whom I should credit for this game idea.
To play this game, you need something musical to be the thimble. I found the plastic red eighth note pictured below at a thrift store a couple of years ago, knowing it would be useful for something one day! I think it was originally a balloon weight. You can any small little object for this game. I have some music note and piano buttons I bought from a craft store — something like that would work well.
Each round of the game, there is a “Hider” and a “Finder.” The Finder must close their eyes as the Hider finds a good place to hide the “thimble.” All of the other students must pay attention and watch where the Hider puts the thimble. Once the Hider has returned to his/her seat, the Finder may open his/her eyes. As the Finder walks around the room, everyone else must help tell the Finder whether they are getting closer to or further from where the thimble is hidden. Instead of saying “hot” and “cold” as the traditional game goes, I asked students to vocalize high sounds and low sounds. (So they wouldn’t wear out their voices too much, I asked them not to make loud sounds — just high/low.)
We played a few rounds of this game until everyone had a turn to be either the Hider or the Finder. My students had such a blast with this simple game! It is a good party game to use with young students of varying levels.
The last game we played was what I call the Rhythm Name Game (read about this game here). I use this game frequently at group events because it works well with a group of students at varying levels. Students of any level can stand to improve their sense of rhythm, ear training, and musical memory! This game works well as the last game because gameplay can continue even when students gradually leave with their parents.
I am looking forward to more monthly Piano Parties this year!
My “piano party” group lesson this month was a lot of fun. We began with the Rhythm Name game — always a favorite. 🙂 The Rhythm Name game is described in this post.
Next, I played a variety of short classical pieces and asked students to aurally identify the piece as AB form or ABA. This was also a good way to expose my students to repertoire by various composers.
We listened to the piece a few times, filling in the information on the first worksheet about the three clocks in the piece. Then, I passed out the worksheet showing the living room wall, and we listened again for the form of the piece and glued the clocks on the paper in the right order. My students loved the music and enjoyed figuring out the order of the clocks!
This was our last Piano Party of the year. Over the summer, my students will have the opportunity to interact at the summer camps, and we will start up our monthly Piano Parties again in the Fall.
Planning monthly group classes does require extra time and planning, but I think it is so worth it! It is valuable for students to make “piano friends,” and I love having the opportunity to reinforce old concepts, or focus on new concepts that don’t always receive the attention they deserve during weekly lessons. I will definitely be continuing group classes again next year!
I always have students go around the room to introduce themselves, just in case they’ve forgotten each other’s names and so they can learn the names of any new students. I like to have them share fun facts about themselves along with their name, so it doesn’t get too serious. 🙂 This time, I had them share their favorite flavor of ice cream.
Our first game was called, “Floor Staff Race.” It is based on this game I read about at pianimation.com, but instead of using “Step/Skip” and “Up/Down” cards, I decided to make dice. Here’s how the game works:
Each student chooses a beanie animal. The goal is to race from the bottom of the staff to the top of the staff. On their turn, they roll the dice and follow the directions to go either up/down by a 2nd/3rd. Whoever reaches to top of the staff first is the winner!