Sunday, December 10, 2017

Music to "Light the World"

This Christmas I revisited this Christmas Canon Chords Improv activity with some of my students. I love seeing the beautiful music they can create when they have a solid understanding of the chord framework behind so much of the familiar music. Canon in D just "speaks" the feelings of Christmas to me, even though it is not a traditional Christmas piece.  This Christmas as I listened to this Light the World video I loved the background music and the meaning of the 25-day challenge as well.  When I went to the piano to pick out the melody and chords by ear, I discovered that it follows the same chords as my favorite soothing "Canon".
Light the World

This video clip for Day 12 featuring Jon Schmidt from the Piano Guys was especially meaningful.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Piano Group Lesson Plans for Beginners

One of my favorite parts of being a piano teacher is having my students come together for group lessons to play games and have the chance to perform regularly for each other.  Rather than reinventing the wheel each month I have found a galore of fun free activities online and usually add a few of my own to the mix.  This month's main focus was on rhythm and note reading with some key signatures for more advanced students.
Intro Activity: Note naming worksheets & rhythmic dictation

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Delight your Piano Students with a Reindeer Rhythm Track Game Mashup

Piano Teaching Game, Reindeer Rhythm Mashup

I decided to do a mashup of 3 fun free games with my piano students this Christmas season to start out their lessons with a multi-concept review game. This game combines notereading, rhythm and intervals into one quick activity. First I printed Susan Paradis' Reindeer Tracks Gameboard and then grabbed a die and the set of her Pot of Gold Game cards that I had on hand.  These include multiple concepts such as note naming, intervals, key signatures and theory terms/signs.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Free Christmas Themed Piano Teaching Resource Roundup

Piano Teaching Christmas Resources Free Piano Games
While rounding up free Christmas themed resources and ideas that I have gathered over the years for my upcoming Christmas Piano Group Lesson and found some gems that I have used in the past but had forgotten about. I hope you enjoy using some of these fun activities with your students this Christmas season! The game links are organized by concept with links to free Christmas music and improv activities listed at the bottom.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Easy Piano Festival Refreshments

Fudge Mint Brownies and Cherry Almond Sheet Cake
Almond Sheet Cake and Fudge Mint Brownies
Today I was in charge of preparing a lunch for all of our music club festival judges at Fall festival.  Since I had a conflicting event, I needed something easy to prepare and transport that could feed a crowd without needing refrigeration.  I chose prepared items from the store for the lunch, but I love the taste of homemade desserts so much more than store-bought treats. I made 2 different desserts to top off the meal. Since they both are a bit denser than traditional cake the cleanup was a snap with minimal crumbs although with a crowd of children that might be a different story. :)
I chose two of my favorite desserts from my sister Kara's cooking blog-  Her pictures definitely look more decadent than mine!
Since both of these recipes are usually made in a larger sheet cake pan that is harder to transport, I picked up some 9x13 cake pans with lids from the Dollar Tree and split the batter between them and it worked just fine.

I think the Almond Sheet Cake is even better with some topping although it tastes great alone too.  I just bought some cherry pie filling for ease but Kara uses homemade raspberry sauce.  The frosting on these is very forgiving and I love how it is perfectly smooth after you pour it on.  Doesn't this look divine?

Unfortunately, I learned this month the hard way (with kidney stones) that having a daily dose of chocolate may not be the best choice for me, but I still crave it! I skipped the chocolate topping on these Best Ever Mint Brownies but they were still delicious.  I love how both of these desserts require much less prep work than cookies and easily feed a crowd.  The "crowd" of 8 in my home can easily devour a pan in just one night!
It is my sister who I can thank for inspiring me to join the blogging world and take up the piano lessons in the first place!  After she decided that piano was not her thing and she begged to quit, I volunteered to go in her place and loved it from the start. She later discovered her niche in cooking and crafting and definitely tops me in the world of successful blogging!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Five Fun Ways to Teach Theme and Variations Form in Music Lessons

In preparation for my group lessons this week I've been rounding up some fun ideas to teach musical form to my students in a memorable way. I also made
  Variation Cards
for a "What Changed" Ear Training Game and am challenging them to change up their own pieces this week using Variation Cards so they can play a variation for me at their next lesson.

Simple Variations on a Circle Artwork -  I thought this would make a great attention-getting activity as students arrived. Students color circles to create various objects.  The circle is the common "Theme" and the fillings are the "Variations". Variations in music will look and sound different but they all keep a common element.

More Complex Twinkle Variations Artwork - One of the most famous Theme and Variations pieces is Mozart's Twelve Variations on "Ah, vous dirai - je maman" aka Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.    I chose creative names to represent the qualities in the music in each variation and will have students listen to the variation and draw their own representation of the variations in stars. This youtube video makes the melodic and harmonic style variations easier to spot. Then we will discuss different ways to create variations in music.

Mozart – Twelve Variations on Twinkle Twinkle
What Changed?
Simple + Ornament
Ornament Ending
Disguise the melody by adding more notes
Busy Bass
Accompaniment style
Raspberry Triplets
Flipped Texture
Texture Flip (Moving Bass, Slow Treble)
Left Right Conversation
Alternate Hands
Racy vs Rests
Articulation (Staccato, Legato, Rests)
Scale Slopes
Scale Steps vs Leaps
Mysterious Minor
Mood or Key
Thin to Thick
Texture or Dynamics
Open Intervals
Adagio Relaxation
Tempo, Accented Notes
¾ Finale
Time Signature

This video has a more traditional performance modeling excellent expression/technique.Mozart, Ah! vous dirai je maman Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star KV 265

Bucket Rhythm Activity - This bucket activity uses the same simple rhythm throughout but changes the timbre (sound quality) or pitch.  Students play the "One Bucket Groove: Theme and Variations".  You can download it free here and/or watch this demo video
Bucket Rhythm Theme and Variations

Rhythm Cups Theme and Variations-  For a more complex variation including fun rhythm movements watch this cups rhythm theme.

Variation Cards Piano Teaching Theme and Variation GameWhat Changed? Game - Create cards that represent different ways you can vary a theme. For example:

Scrambled Eggs= Mix up the Melody
Ornament Ending= Add a trill turn or other embellishment to the end of the piece
Snail Cheetah= Change the tempo
Haunted House= Change the mood or key
Popcorn= Add some staccato notes
Bug to Beetle = Change up the Rhythm
Handstand Man= Flip the Melody to the bass line with accompaniment in the treble
Disguised Melody Man = Add more notes to the melody line but keep the same harmonic structure
LR Conversation = Alternate the melody between the Left and Right hands so it sounds like they are having a conversation.
Round 1: Students first play a matching game to match the pictures to their description cards to become familiar with variation options. Teacher or student plays an example when they find a match. 
Round 2:  Teacher plays short variation samples of a familiar tune and students race to slap the matching card. If you make multiple card sets, students can arrange 9 cards bingo style and cover the card they heard if you prefer a less physically competitive option.
Practice  Challenge: Choose one of your piano pieces as the "theme" and create a variation by picking one or more variation cards to change up the theme song.

Creating Simple Variations is a great way to start building students confidence and give them the tools to become successful with improvisation and composition. A few other fun resources I love to use in my studio to foster creativity and freedom of movement across the keys include:
Teach Piano Today Improv Activities
Pattern Play by Forrest Kinney
Pianimation Mystery Bag Improv
Pianimation Composing and Improv Activities
Fun Piano Studio Improv Tutorials
Tim Topham Beginning Improv
Jingle Bells Improv
Tune Train App

Monday, October 23, 2017

Theory Headbandz Group Music Game

Music Teaching Theory Group Game
If you are looking for a fun interactive way to reinforce music terms and symbols Hedbanz is a great place to start! I used this musical twist on Hedbanz as the opening game for my Spooktacular Halloween Monster Mash group lessons this month and again for the UVMTA workshop I taught on maximizing learning through creative activities in music lessons.  
My kids love the traditional version of Hedbanz where you try and guess the word or picture on your card while others act it out for you... kind of a group twist on charades.   I have also attended several parties where you get a name of a well-known person stuck to your back and then must ask yes or no questions to figure out your identity.  The Hedbanz just make it a lot easier for everyone to see who you are.  So I melded these two games by adding a flashcard (hidden from the student's view) to the top of their hedbanz as they entered. They had to ask questions to other students to try and figure out their identity.  Am I a rhythm? Do I tell you how fast to play?  I love how this activity really engaged all of the students at once because they not only had to think of effective questions to narrow down the possibilities of their term, but they also had to answer questions to help others identify who they were.  Since I just used traditional flashcards, even beginning students who may not have known all of the terms could peek at the answers on backs of others cards if needed to be able to know the name and meaning of their terms.