Friday, September 12, 2014

A Quest for Virtues - Theme for the New Piano Year

Earlier this week when I attended a classroom event in my child's school, I was impressed with their classroom focus on 5 character traits.  The week's theme was on Perserverance so they copied the poem Try Try Again to start out the day. I appreciate her teacher's efforts to utilize classic character concepts while teaching the basics of writing, reading, science and history.  Although I was an "A" student, now that I'm approaching my 40s I realize that although I can no longer regurgitate my geometry theorems, fluently conjugate my Spanish verbs, or label all of the county's and county seats of state where I no longer live.  But the process of learning these bits of information instructed me in the more lasting virtues of being conscientious and persistent even when some school subjects weren't interesting to me.

So when I brainstormed my entry for the Most Creative Piano Quest at Teach Piano Today
I chose the theme “A Quest for Virtues.” Next year I want to issue specific challenges each month tied to virtues.  Following are the themes I came up with but plan to fine tune over the next few months.
Creative – Compose and Share an Original Composition at a Recital or Group Performance.
Honest – Accurately report your practice minutes/efforts consistently.
Optimistic – Be positive about your own accomplishments or attitude at lessons.
Precise – Pay attention to the details (dynamics, artistry, fingering, etc.).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monster Bus Fan

 Lately, my little 2 year old has been begging to listen to "Monster Bus Driver" (My First Piano Adventures Book A) and I love hearing his delighted voice exclaim
"It's Comin'"
"Beep Beep"
"Mom It's Honking"
"G'bye Monster Bus!"
A few days ago after seeing me practice duets with his older siblings, he wanted to have a turn too, so I pulled out the CD and book and played through several songs/activities with his hands "riding" on top of mine.  I love that he just keeps begging for more, because of the playful engaging nature of the music and illustrations even though he's a little young to actually execute the echoing of the rhythm correctly.
Wrist Forearm FINGERTIPS!

Knuckles, Elbows, SHOULDERS, too!
 What is interesting is that one of my daughter's absolutely hated this song because she was scared of the creepy sounding monster's voice.   So instead she became a lover of the Pumpkin Trick or Treat Game.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Piano Summer Olympic Events

Piano Olympics  is one of my favorite incentive programs to use with my students over the summer.  I love how it allows students to "shine" in different areas that they excel in while boosting their skills with a little bit of friendly competition.  Each Student has a tracking chart to record their individual progress in the events.  I also post the current "rankings" each week of the top student in each category by adding a (removable) star sticker by the name of the lead student in each event. Another bonus to this incentive program is that students of varying levels can all compete by suiting the level of difficulty of the tasks to their abilities.

Practice Marathon- (Record Results Every Week)
Persistent & steady wins this race.  Color a circle and/or write the date on your practice chart  [from] each day you practice 30 minutes.  The first student to reach 42 days of practice wins the Gold!
Choose at least 2 other events to compete in each week.

Note Name Dash-

For this event, study your flashcards of notes on the staff.  To participate I will time you to see how quickly you can name and play 24 “notes in the fast lane”.  Aim to play and say all the notes on a sheet in less than 1 minute to advance to the next level.
Rhythm Hurdles
To jump the rhythm hurdles you set your metronome at quarter note=72 and play lines from the rhythm drill on one piano key while you count out loud.  I’ll track how many lines you can play while counting aloud in a row without any mistakes.  Once you play a whole page perfectly, you advance to the next division. [Level 1=quarter, half & whole notes], [Level 2 adds dotted half notes,  half & quarter rests]. [Level 3 adds eighth notes and ties], [Level 4 adds dotted quarter notes] [Level 5 adds triplets]

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Edible Pianos

Another favorite activity at our summer music camp was creating edible pianos. This is an especially memorable activity for kinesthetic learners.
1. The music alphabet has 7 Letters - Choose 7 white cookie wafers and draw the first 7 letter of the alphabet on wafers with frosting bags. Sing the Music Alphabet (a minor scale) while pointing to the keys.  Then sing it backwards.

2. The keyboard is arranged in groups of 2 and 3 black key "houses" that can help you learn the white keys.  The "Doghouse" has a smaller "roof" with D in the middle. The GArage is obviously bigger because it takes more space to house 2 cars (G&A) then to house a dog :)

While my daughter helped students finish assembling their pianos, students took turns at the piano finding the D's (Hey Diddle Diddle the D's in the Middle) and playing the "Alphabet Boogie" duet on the piano with me.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mason Jar Melodies

 One of the biggest hits at our piano camp was the Mason Jar Melodies, a fun idea I found on pinterest.  Before camp I "tuned" the jars to match the pitches of the first six notes of a major scale by adding the perfect amount of water.

1.  Discovering Pitch - I set the jars randomly on the counter, removed the lids and had students "test" two jars  with a plastic spoon to determine which was higher or lower.  They gradually sorted all of the jars until they formed a pentascale +1.  The girls thought it was neat that I had colored them in rainbow order.

2.  Next we played a game of Name that Tune" as students took turns playing the beginning measures of familiar pieces I had written using color coded notes.  Since my campers had varying levels of experience, it was nice that even beginners had the chance to make music and apply their understanding of rhythm values we had reviewed earlier.

For some odd reason, one of the jars was dysfunctional on the day of camp, but it worked fine the day before and the day after???  But, things still worked out as some of the more experienced students just sang the tone of the "bad jar" so they could still decipher the melodies.

Friday, August 8, 2014

DIY Piano Pencil Bag Tutorial

My daughter and I are prepping for Music Camp next week.  She helped me make these easy pouches for our campers to store their take home games and activities.

 I love how simple and inexpensive this was to make. It could also be a great addition to students piano binders where they can store flashcards, take home games, or maybe even serve as an erasable white board.
What you need:
Zippered Pencil Pouch
Electrical Tape
3x5 card
Because the actual size of the window of my pouch was about the size of an octave on my piano, I just used the cardboard insert to "make a pattern" for my keys, instead of actually measuring.  I placed the cardstock over my piano keys and made small snips with scissors in between each key. Then I centered the "pattern" in the pouch and lined up the 3x5 card along the "snips" to draw straight lines across the window.   I love how forgiving the electrical tape is, but I thought some of the fun colors and patterns of duct tape could also make a fun variation for the piano keys.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Part 6: Teaching Rhythm Through Song

4 Creative Ways to Improve Rhythm Through Song
1.  Add lyrics to sing to wordless songs or tricky rhythm passages
Caterpillars & Spiders= Rhythmic Success!
Recently my son was learning struggling to accurately play the eighth note rhythms in "Theme and Variation" (Piano Adventures Performance Book 2A).  I sung some impromptu lyrics to help fix the problem.
In contrast to the steady quarter note theme ("A spi-der bit my nose----- off")
the variation changes to eighth notes ("A cat-er-pill-ar bit my nose----- off")
Singing lyrics that matched the rhythm fixed the problem immediately and the quirky lyrics made the rhythm unforgettable. "A caterpillar bit my nose off, than a caterpillar bit my toe.  I think I want to make some caterpillar stew.  Would you like some stew too?"
Although I also teach numeric counting as well (4, 1+,2+,3 4, 1-2), for many students adding lyrics to match the rhythms is much more effective.   Suzuki style "Pepperoni Pizza" scales, Piano Safari "Zechariah Zebra" Technique Songs and the Piano Adventures 2A "Famous People" piece that pair rhythm with familiar words are powerful tools to aid in rhythm development.

2.  Encourage rhythm compositions introducing the sounds of rhythms before they encounter them in their music.
Layton Music Candy Bar Rhythms - Challenge students to compose a Candy Bar Melody using all of the candy bar rhythm cards.  The lyrics for me would be something like this "My favorite candy is not Butterfinger, Nestle Crunch or Reeses Peanut Butter.  Twix and Milky Way both taste great, but I like Snickers best!" I'll have to admit that my less creative compositional mind keeps on reverting to the tune of the "Old Gray Mare."

Or you could try a variation to match the interests of your students
Animals: Bear(quarter), Lion (2 eighths), Alligator (4 sixteenths)
Bugs: Bug(quarter), Bee-tle (2 eighths), Cat-er-pill-ar (4 sixteenths) (Let's Play Music)
Pies: Mince (quarter), Ap-ple (2 eighths), Hu-ckle-ber-ry (4 sixteenths), Rasp-ber-ry
Candy Bars: Twix(quarter), Snick-ers (2 eighths), Butter-finger (4 sixteenths) Layton Candy Bar Rhythm Cards

3.  Teach Rhythm Names through song.
Songs can also serve as a mnemonic device to help students remember the names of notes and rests.
Note Names - Piano Adventures Primer "Quarter Note"  It's got a head and a stem and its all colored in.
Rests - Music Give it a Rest  

4. Spice up (Boring) Scales by Singing and Playing Rhythm Variations
Instead of playing a 1 8va ascending scale with quarter notes, challenge students to play a "Twix, Snickers, Butterfinger, Twix"  or "Caterpillar, Bug, Beetle, Bug"variation.  The possibilities are endless with a little imagination.

Related Posts:
Post 1: Teaching Basic Keyboard Concepts Through Song
Post 2: Teaching Technique Through Song
Post 3: Chord Progressions and Transposition
Post 4:  Ear Training Through Song
Post 5: Theory and Tempo