Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Printables, Teaching Piano

The Amazing Keyboard Race

I had a wonderful extended weekend in Michigan, giving my presentations and spending time with my family!  Now I’m busy back at work, playing catch-up.  🙂  However, I do have a little game I’d like to share with you today.

I am not the original inventor of this game, I’m sure — but in case you haven’t seen it before, here’s how to play this keyboard game with your beginner students!

Continue reading “The Amazing Keyboard Race”

improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Teaching Piano

My Assignment Notebook Method

Last Thursday, we started a Forum Q&A discussion about assignment notebooks/pages for students.  Today, I thought I’d share my own method of tracking assignments — and, of course, also announce the winner of the giveaway!

The winner of the sheet music decorative balls is commenter #5… LaDona!  Congrats!!  (By the way, if you haven’t seen LaDona’s wonderful blog before, you can check it out here.)

My method of tracking assignments is very similar to what many of you do: I write in a journal-sized notebook.

I always start with the date and then I outline any warmup/technique exercises (5-finger patterns, arpeggios, scales, etc).  The photos in this post show a made-up but typical assignment page:  Continue reading “My Assignment Notebook Method”

improving as a teacher, Performances, Practice, Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Tip: Achieving Fluency

Have you ever had a student play a piece with frequent hesitations throughout, even though you know they can play much better than that?  This phenomenon can occur with all ages/levels of students.  Why does this happen?  What is going on when this happens?  This article will examine possible causes of and solutions for a lack of fluency.

A lack of fluency could be caused by a number of things:

  1. A lack of the proper technique required for the executing the piece;
  2. A lack of familiarity of the notes of the piece;
  3. A tempo that is too fast for the student’s ability at that moment; or,
  4. A lack of mentally “chunking” the information on the page properly.  The analogy I use to refer to Number 4 is that the students feels like they are wearing horse blinders, or are mentally experiencing tunnel vision.

Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Achieving Fluency”

Studio Business

Humidity and My Piano

Here in Ohio, the winter snow is finally upon us!  We were spoiled with an extraordinarily mild December, and only recently have have had a few inches of snow actually staying on the ground for more than a few days without melting.

The snowy weather outside means, of course, that the air gets very dry indoors.  The old radiators in our home are running almost constantly!  As a recent first-time piano owner, last week I decided I should buy a hygrometer to see just how low the humidity is getting in our home, for the sake of my piano.  I ordered this hygrometer from Amazon and it arrived just a couple of days later (love that).  I was shocked, however, to find that the humidity in my studio was under 20%!  Not good.  Continue reading “Humidity and My Piano”

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””

Announcements, Performances, seasonal / holiday

Studio Christmas Party Update – Food!

My apologies for being MIA from the blog the last few weeks!  At the beginning of the semester, I put up posters around the music building of the university in my town for freelancing as a collaborative pianist.  A few music majors contacted me rather last minute to ask if I’d accompany them for their end-of-the-semester juries as well as a concerto competition.  Learning their music and scheduling rehearsals has kept me very busy the last few weeks!  But I’m grateful for the extra money, especially after finishing all my Christmas shopping.  🙂  Anyway, I’m back now!  Juries are today, and this week will be much less hectic than the previous few weeks.

Now I’m focusing on the last stages of planning for my Studio Christmas Party on Saturday.  A couple of parents have volunteered to bring goodies, so I just need to make a few things.  I found some great food ideas on Pinterest.  (I love Pinterest! Are any of you on Pinterest?  Feel free to follow me, and I’ll be sure to follow you back!)  Continue reading “Studio Christmas Party Update – Food!”

Rhythm, seasonal / holiday, Teaching Piano

Christmas Rhythm Learning Moments

As I’m sure is currently the case with many of you, my students are working on Christmas pieces along with their usual assignments.  As usual, a few of them have encountered rhythmic “simplifications” in their arrangements (Away in a Manger and Go Tell it on the Mountain come to mind).  After pointing it out the difference between what they played and what is on the page, together we made the executive decision to play the rhythm as it is normally heard.  We also took a moment to discover what is the actual rhythmic notation of the tune and then marked it in the score above the staff.  For a more complete discussion of this issue, check out this Forum Q&A post regarding rhythmic simplification in arrangements.

A few of my students in particular are really thriving on these Christmas pieces!  Once again, I am reminded of the value of learning familiar tunes.  I find that it gives students an extra boost in learning their pieces, since they can depend more on their ear for pitches/rhythms rather than their eyes.  This means they will learn the pieces quickly and more accurately.  I also find that playing familiar tunes is a huge motivator for students.  They love to be able to play tunes they know!

Hurrah for Christmas music!  🙂

For a listing of free Christmas music arrangements on the internet, check out this post

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks | CC 2.0

Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, seasonal / holiday, Teaching Piano

Just Added: Musical Leaves Matchup game

This is a short music game I created as a way to reinforce the names of the piano keys with young beginners.  It only takes a few minutes to play, but my students seemed to enjoy it.  It gives them a break from the usual drill I do, where I have them find 3 different C’s on the piano, etc.  🙂

Here’s how it works:

You’ll need to buy fabric or foam leaves and mark each with a letter from the musical alphabet using a marker or felt tip pen.  The student is instructed to match each leaf to it’s spot on the tree, until the whole tree is filled.  The game only takes a few minutes, so it’s a great game to do on the piano bench at the beginning or end of a piano lesson.

Any leftover fabric leaves can be used to decorate your Thanksgiving day table in a few weeks.  🙂

To Download: go to the Printables > Games page and scroll down to “Musical Leaves Matchup game.”

Conferences

2011 OhioMTA Conference (5): The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo!

The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo gave a performance and a masterclass at the 2011 OhioMTA Conference.  Greg and Liz, in addition to being marvelous performers, are such genuine, down-to-earth people.  They had great insight for the students who performed during the masterclass.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear them live, I highly recommend it!

Photo: me with Anderson & Roe!!!

This wraps up my series of posts on the 2011 OhioMTA Conference!  I just wanted to also let you all know too that I am going to be revising some of my conference note posts to make sure that they are indeed just summaries of the sessions.  I want to make sure that I am respecting the presenters’ material and hard work.  While I do feel that my notes are my possession, I do not want to publish too much detail about entire sessions because it might open the possibility for others to take credit for the presenters’ work.  If you ever want more detail about a session I write about, please don’t be afraid to email the presenters and ask them if they’d be willing to share more information or even a copy of their handout with you.

Stay tuned for a new printable tomorrow!  Cheers!