Saturday, August 1, 2015

T.E.A.M. - Collaborative Piano Fun



Our piano quest for virtues this month focuses on cooperation.  The lab setup of my studio makes the perfect setting for students to work together on duets as students come in pairs to lessons.  Fortunately most are sibling pairs who can extend their duet practice time at home to prepare for their upcoming group lesson duet performances.

I love this creative duet by a sibling pair.



I appreciate the synergy that group piano activities provide and love how teamwork can enhance learning.  I typically start each lesson with a fun game or activity.  Sometimes I have to adapt it to meet the varied levels of students.  For example,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

3 Steps to More Effective Technique Practice


    After reading over Julie Knerr's informative dissertation on teaching beginning technique I've been contemplating ideas to ramp up the success of technical drills in my studio.  I follow the curriculum sequence of Music Progressions and start by introducing 5 finger patterns (by rote with picture scales) to beginners

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Composing with Flour and Salt

Would you rather eat a spoonful of flour or a spoonful of cake?  The answer is obvious, and yet the cake wouldn't be the same without the flour.  Keyboard skills (scales, arpeggios, chords, etc.) are somewhat like flour in piano study and although some students find them quite unpalatable or boring, when you mix several of the building blocks together, you end up with some fun and appealing results. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Teaching Piano Technique Motions Creatively: Caterpillar Crawl

I'm fortunate to have a houseful of children that I can try out my new piano teaching ideas on.  Although that can pose a challenge at times when I'm trying to provide motivation for 5 kids to  practice regularly or keep a quiet professional lesson environment, I love "playing" piano games with my children. I created this musical movement activity to practice wrist movements with my preschooler.
I started by telling a silly story about a caterpillar doing his workout activities at the gym to introduce her to flexible wrist motions necessary for piano playing.  We listened to Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca and simultaneously discovered some elements of the form of the music as each section repeats.
I came up with these lyrics to sing and made a musical map of pictures as a reminder of the motions for each melodic theme.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Finger Trampoline


I recently was inspired by a post  by Andrea and Trevor Dow on "Teach Piano Today" about making this simple "amazing fingercise cup" to help improve finger strength.  I promptly constructed one with the tools I had on hand, and my curious kids were anxious to get there hands on this new "toy."  They love the sound and were intrigued by the different pitch of the sounds of varying sized cups. My mind started spinning with additional uses. At our last group lesson we changed "Don't Clap This One Back" to "Don't Pluck this one Back."

Don't "pluck this one back
My first attempt several years ago with a young beginner trying "Cookie Dough" (a finger # practice song from My First Piano Adventures) began with an awkward finger depressed into a ziplocked ball of cookie dough.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bass Clef Pop and Drop

Bass Clef Pop and Drop - heidispianonotes.blogspot.com
At our recent piano group lesson we had a some new beginners join the studio, so I tried out a variation of this balloon popping game inspired by pinterest to review the concepts we had learned or reviewed in previous games that day. I am fortunate to have my teenage daughter joining the ranks with me as my piano teaching assistant.  We were able to divide into groups so she could run the beginner level games while I did activities with the students who are ready for more challenging concepts. 


·         I inserted a piece of candy inside each balloon before blowing them up and then taped them to the wall in the shape of a bass clef.  Students took turns popping balloons on the Bass Clef by finding the symbol written on the balloon that answers the clue.  Darts might be more fun, but somehow the image of hurling darts in my home full of energetic children seemed a little disconcerting  and I'm not much of a risk taker, so opted for a safe toothpick!
o   “___s” the first letter of the music alphabet
o   “____s” the last letter of the music alphabet
o   It has a head and a stem and its all colored in.
o   It has a head and a stem but its not colored in.
o   Don’t fall in the the ______note
o   F F F Forte
o   P  p  p  piano
o   Fingers in ears (line note)
o   Hand above and under head (space note)  

I had plans to make a treble clef with more advanced signs, but discovered that I had a balloon shortage because some of my children decided to make water balloon babies after the birthday party the day before  :(   so maybe we can do a little "Treble Trouble" version next month.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Teaching Rhythm in the Bed Bug Rhythm Hotel


 Right now my 4 year old daughter's favorite piano game is Trick or Treat, a fun rhythm activity which I found on Layton Music website several years ago.   She wants to play it every day she practices.  I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fruit snacks or goldfish treats that she gets to eat when she picks a treat card:)  I love how the repetition has helped her to even understand the concept of eighth notes at such a young age.
To introduce the concept of counting by measure I had her construct