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!

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

Forum Q&A's, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A | Teaching Adults Versus Children/Teens

These week’s Forum Q&A was prompted by a comment by Kaylee on the facebook page.  Kaylee asked for advice about teaching an adult student who is older than she is.  If you have advice to offer, please visit the facebook page and leave a comment!

But for this Forum Q&A, we will focus on the general question about the differences between teaching adults versus children/teens:

What differences are there between teaching adult students and children/teens? What adjustments to your approach must be made when teaching adults?  What method books or repertoire do you like to use with adults students?

Contribute your thoughts in the comments below!

Photo Credit: klipsch_soundman | CC 2.0

Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Teaching Piano

Printable Musical Dice

Just added to the Printables > Other Resources page: Musical Dice!

This is one of the projects I was working on over Christmas break!  I’m happy to now have it finished and posted.  =)

Here’s what the PDF contains:

  1. Basic Accidentals (6-sided dice) | This die allows for three possible rolls: sharp, flat, and natural.
  2. Basic Intervals Unison-3rd (6-sided dice) | This die allows for three possible rolls: unison, second, and third.
  3. Intervals Unison-8va (8-sided dice) | This die allows for eight possible rolls: unison, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8va. Continue reading “Printable Musical Dice”
Forum Q&A's, Performances

Forum Q&A: What To Do When a Student’s Performance “Bombs”

In the entries for last week’s giveaway I received a lot a wonderful feedback regarding Color In My Piano.  Upon request, I’d like to start increasing the number of forum questions.  Hooray!  Rather than having a monthly question, I will try to pose a new question at least every other week (and maybe every week, if I can come up with enough questions!).

If you have suggestions for questions you’d love to see featured, please let me know by sending me an email via the Contact page.  Forum questions should be fairly short in length and should be a general question rather than a request for specific advice about a situation you are current dealing with.  (While I don’t mind being asked for advice and often do feature these questions on my blog, they are not considered “Forum Q&A” questions unless they are stated in a general sort of way.)

So without further ado, here’s our next Forum Q&A:

What do you do when a student’s performance “bombs?” I’m sure we’ve all experienced it: a student has a major memory slip and ends up in tears after the recital.  What words of counsel and advice can you give a student afterwards to console and encourage them?  What specifically would you say to a younger student as opposed to an older student?  What kind of things can you do with the student to help avoid this from happening again?

Please leave your responses in the comments below.  I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts!

Photo Credit: Juanedc | CC 2.0

Games, Music Theory

Musical Jenga!

I did it!  I created my own Musical Jenga game.

I got the inspiration from the Sing A New Song blog, who in turn got the idea from someone on the Faber Piano Adventures forums. (To view a list of other favorite games with musical spins, click here.)

I found an off-brand version of the Jenga game at Target for about $5.  Then using two different colored Sharpie permanant markers, I put various musical terms on the blocks: Continue reading “Musical Jenga!”

improving as a teacher, Motivation

Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind

This week I gave a few first lessons to some new students.  One of the things I always ask during the first lesson/interview is:

What are some of your goals in taking piano lessons?

Here are some examples of answers I’ve received from students:

  • I want to be able to play classical pieces that everyone knows (i.e., Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, Bach’s Minuet in G, etc.)
  • I want to be able to play hymns and hymn arrangements for church services.
  • I want to be able to play from chord charts to play with my church’s worship band.
  • I want to record a Christmas CD for my family.  (This was a fun project! We worked on Christmas pieces over the whole summer.)
  • I like to play by ear but but I want to learn how to read music too.
  • I just want to get better at piano just because I enjoy playing for my own enjoyment.

I’m always surprised at the variety of answers I receive when I ask this question.  Not all students have specific goals in taking lessons, but it’s always worth asking because you may be surprised at what you learn.  Knowing the student’s goals can help the teacher make the piano lessons more relavent to them.   Continue reading “Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind”

Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps

DIY: Ribbon Rings for Music & Movement Activities

I got the idea for this craft from Kara’s Creative Place blog (thanks for the brilliant idea, Kara!).  Ribbon Rings (Kara’s example is pictured at right) are a fun prop for movement activities with young students during group lessons, camps, or early childhood music classes.  Kids love fluttering the ribbons of these props while they do the motions to various songs.  You can buy similar ribbon rings at…..or you can make your own!

These ribbon rings are made using the (non-sticky) plastic tape that is found at most hardware stores near the Caution tape.  I did consider using satin ribbon, however, plastic tape is much, much cheaper.  And actually I was pleasantly surprised at the results of using plastic tape.  I like it much better.  Because it’s so light, it flutters in the air so much better than satin ribbon would.  Definitely give it a try before you invest in satin ribbon!   Continue reading “DIY: Ribbon Rings for Music & Movement Activities”

improving as a teacher, Studio Business

Thoughts on the Teaching Philosophy

Many college education (both music and otherwise) classes require students to write teaching philosophies.  How many of you keep a teaching philosophy posted on your studio website or printed in studio materials?  Have you updated it at all since your college days?  And those of you who didn’t write one for college – have you considered writing one yourself?

Let me give you some reasons why you if you don’t have a written teaching philosophy, you should write one — and if you are using the one you wrote in college, you should consider updating it regularly.   Continue reading “Thoughts on the Teaching Philosophy”

Resources, seasonal / holiday

Link: Sheet Music Christmas Ornament Craft

Someone on the “piano-teachers” Yahoo group forum brought this to my attention – the Better Homes and Gardens magazine’s website has instructions for a craft for making a sheet music Christmas ornament (picture on right).  It looks like a wonderful way to make your Christmas tree a little more musical!

The star pattern allows you to choose from three different sized stars. The instructions for making this ornament suggest photocopying sheet music, which of course is not legal.  I would instead suggest visiting and printing off some sheet music that is in the public domain (or use some Christmas music linked to in this post).  On the pattern, the solid lines indicate “mountain folds” (fold comes out toward you) and the dashed lines indicated “valley folds.”  Once the folding is complete, punch a small hole and tie a small loop using gold thread to complete the ornament.

Click here to view the full instructions on the Better Homes and Gardens website.

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Tip: Engaging the Emotions

I read something this week that mentioned in passing the benefit of engaging the emotions for learning.  This idea really stuck with me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.  It makes perfect sense, but I just never thought about it much before.  I think this idea is worth some consideration.

Neurologically, humans learn best when their emotions are engaged.  Various research has been done that suggests the benefit of learning when the emotions are engaged (see “For Further Reading” below).  An effective speaker will appeal to the listeners’ emotions in order to affect and influence them to agree with the points made, support the viewpoint, and maybe even motivate them to do something about it.  Similarly, an effective teacher will connect with the students’ emotions to make the student interested in the topic and motivated to learn.  When the emotions are engaged, the learning moment becomes both meaningful and memorable.

The art of music is very close to the heart and the emotions.  We music teachers are very fortunate!  And yet, how often do we encounter students who seldom practice?  How about unmotivated students who quit after just a few years?  And how often do we hear completely unemotional performances?  These things do happen, unfortunately.  We can help prevent this from happening.  Perhaps through engaging the emotions we can help students connect with the music and be interested/motivated. Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Engaging the Emotions”