Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gold Festival Choice Listening Samples

Bagatelle - Anton Diabelli Op. 125. No. 10


Ecossaise in G by Beethoven

Spinning Song by Albert Ellmenreich

Sicilienne by Johann Sebastian Bach
(version on video differs from adapted version of Sicilienne in Premier Piano

Sonatina in C Movement 2 by Muzio Clementi

Sonatina in C Movement 3 by Muzio Clementi

The Fifers by Jean-Francois Dandrieu

 Alfred Premier Piano Performance 5
Blues Toccata
Climbing the Pyrenees
Downtown Jazz

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thoughtful Preparation in Piano Practice

 This month in my studio "Quest for Virtues" our focus is on thoughtfully preparing before playing pieces or technical exercises.
Its not easy for many students to resist the temptation to just jump into a new piece without first preparing mentally.  So each week during lab or lesson time I am challenging them to some preparation tasks that can hopefully pave the way for them to become more fluent at technical skills, sightreading, efficient practice and portraying their pieces more artistically and accurately.

  •    Before playing scales, identify the sharps or flats in the key, draw the scale and key signature on the staff and identify the correct fingering for each hand.
  •  Analyze a piece by identifying chords (I, IV, V, etc.), phrase endings (wrist float-offs), form, dynamics (color) and the climax of the piece. (See Hand Over the Pencil)
  • Imagine your piece is telling a story.  Divide it into sections and add labels that reflect characteristics of each section of the music. (See Practice Strategies)
  •   Follow the steps for mental preparation before sightreading a piece (See Developing Super Sightreaders)
    o   Identify key and music symbols 
    o    Look for patterns in rhythm and melody 
    o    Audiate (hear it in your head) the melody of the music before playing 
    o    Ghost play challenging spots.
Although thoughtful preparation requires discipline, it saves so much time in the long run as practice becomes more productive and efficient.

Related Post:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Persistence: Kicking off the Piano Quest for Virtues

 I enjoy the reflective process of setting new years resolutions as the new year begins.  My studio theme for the new year is "A Quest for Virtues"

 Each student has a music quest board to chart their progress as they complete tasks related to the monthly virtue.

The four goals for the month that emphasize focused practice on challenging spots in music or a focus on technique include:

  • Advance up a level in the 1 minute club challenge by naming and playing all notes on the grand staff in 1 minute or less.
  •   Practice festival keyboard skills each day you practice.  Pass off in 1 key with accurate tempo, rhythm, fingering technique and notes.   
  •  Achieve 2 goals set by your teacher in Tonic Tutor.
  • Complete practice assignments for 20 days this month.
Related Posts:
 Quest for Virtues

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Rhythm Match and Build" Music Group Game

I invented another group game for our last group lesson utilizing materials I had on hand.  The game gives students practice with visual, auditory and kinesthetic rhythm skills.

Rhythm Beat Boards (from
Mitten Match or other set of matching rhythm cards (I printed mine, but they are no longer available.)
How it Works:
Divide students into teams and give each team one of each rhythm card (so one team has the match to each of the other teams cards)
A member of team 1 claps and counts a rhythm card correctly. (1 point)
Team 2 consults as a team to correctly identify the rhythm card that their opponent clapped. (1 point)
Both teams build the rhythm on the beat board using beans, play dough or silly putty. (1 point)

Teams alternate roles and tally points based on the tasks they complete successfully.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Calling all Scale Builders

Minute to Win It - Scale Building
During our December piano party, I rounded up resources I already had and repurposed them.  I find that when I ask my students to play scales at the piano, they sometimes stumble through trying to pick out the correct notes by ear instead of thinking ahead to remember the notes in that key.  This game forced them to figure out the sharps and flats in the scale and then correlate it to their key signatures.
Scale Key Cards (from Susan Paradis Nine Keys game)
Scale Blocks (tutorial and other uses on Music Matters Blog)
Blank Grand Staff White Board
Dry Erase Markers
Minute Timer
I divided the students into teams then had them draw a key card and race to both build the scale blocks in the correct pattern and then write the key signature on the staff white board using the correct order of sharps or flats.  I love that each round only takes a minute!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Trepak Baseball - A Creative Way to Teach Form and Feeling the Beat

 Today I witnessed something amazing :) My son hopped on the piano bench this morning at 7 am to spontaneously practice.  Usually getting him to practice is more like pulling teeth, or once again reminding him of our rules "Yes you can play with friends, watch football, etc.. as soon as your practice and chores are done." My secret weapon: A Trepak duet.  We've been playing it together this week and he keeps coming back to it because it is so fun to play and it sounds impressive.

I came up with this movement activity to engage my preschoolers in some fun and slipped in a little training on form.  For older students I usually have them create musical maps  to understand and remember form in their pieces, but I think ramping up the movement makes it more memorable for the younger student, as well as allowing them to practice feeling the beat of the music.
As you listen to the music imagine a baseball player taking his turn at bat, running the bases, catching some fly balls and then coming back to bat to win the game.

Sing the words and do the actions indicated in italics.

1st Time at Bat (A) (Do actions on the strong beats)
Swing Swing(Pretend you are swinging a bat to hit the ball 2x in a row)
Run (Tiptoe run around the room or tap hands on lap to the beat like your hands are running)
Swing Swing (Repeat actions)
Swing Swing
Swing Swing

Heading to the Outfield (B) - (Do actions during words in ALL CAPS)
HEADING to the OUTfield  (Point away from body)
REACHING for a FLY Ball(Reach with imaginary mitt for the ball)
HEADING to the OUTfield (Repeat actions)
I Caught One! I Caught One! (Bring hand to palm as if catching the ball)
I Caught One! I Caught One!
We get to go to bat again.(Cheering motions with arms)

2nd Time at Bat (A1)
Swing Swing
Swing Swing
Run, Run, Run (faster and faster)
We Won!

Once the children have mastered the actions you could further expand their listening skills by having them count how many times they "Swing," listen for what new instruments begin to play on the later "swings" during the first time at bat, compare and contrast the 1st time at bat to the 2nd time at bat.