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.

Monday, October 16, 2017

There once was an Ant Named Andante...

ANdANTe = Walking Speed
There once was an ANT named ANdANTe.  He was a very cautious ANT, he never liked to run because he was afraid he might fall and get hurt.  So ANdANTe WALKED everywhere.  One day when he was out with his friends it started to rain and the other ants ran for cover, but not ANdANTe.

ANdANTe marched down to the ground to get out of the rain. (Tap walking speed on your lap as you sing to the tune of “The Ants Go Marching”)  So if you spy ANdANTe remember to walk and not run!
Check out these tempo posters on Colourful Keys including one to remember Andante!

Friday, October 13, 2017

How to Maximize Learning in Music Lessons

The time at music lessons just seems to fly by each week because time flies when you are having fun!   Following are some ideas and links to resources I shared at the UVMTA Workshop: Spicing up Music Lessons-Using Creative Activities to Maximize Learning  At the end of the post is a youtube video recording of the entire workshop.

Piano teaching tips

Making the Most of Music Lesson Minutes: Lessons I learned from a stick figure spotlight

Several years ago I marveled as I watched my son's exceptional kindergarten teacher spotlight a child in the class while simultaneously power packing the moment with teaching concepts. The wheels started churning in my own mind as I tried to think of how I could apply this same strategy to piano instruction.

Instead of just spouting off random facts about the child such as "Today we are spotlighting Sammy.  He likes___, _____, _____ and _______ and is the 3rd of 4 children...etc," she sandwiched into a simple spotlight some auditory, kinesthetic, visual activities which had all of the children's attention completely focussed on her and engaged in the learning activity.
As she drew a circle (head) on the whiteboard, each child traced an orange circle in the air with their finger and sang round orange circle. As she added each shape they traced, identified sides, sang and at the same time were trying to figure out the mystery child by looking for clues around them. The lessons continued as they used similar activities to sound out and spell his name in the air.
Following are some of the key ingredients that I think really made this moment effective.

Multi-Tasking to the Max- The minutes at weekly music lessons are limited. By packing in multiple concepts in a way that doesn't overwhelm students they will walk away learning and be retaining even more. Efficient use of time involves multi sensory activities ideally done simultaneously.
Use Appropriate Teaching Order (Hear, Feel, See, Name)-

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Teaching Scales with a Story

Would you rather hear "Once upon a time... " or "This is .... This is.... This is....?"
For me, concepts cleverly couched in a story line become much more memorable than a dry lecture.  To introduce the sounds of the scales I created this story activity.
"Once upon a time a happy couple named Mr. and Mrs. Scale were excited to welcome some new scales into their family.  In time their 4 Scale daughters were destined for popularity and were heard throughout Musiclandia.  As their children grew, their true personalities began to show and it wasn't always pleasant sounding around the Scale home.

Teaching Scales Sad Natural Minor Mad Harmonic Minor Bad Melodic Minor Glad Major