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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Free Music "Glorious" sung by David Archuleta

 A couple of years ago I discovered a great resource for inspiring music for a great price... FREE!  One of my favorite songs on the LDS Youth Music Site   is "Glorious" by Russ Dixon.  I am not a frequent movie goer, but I do love history, realistic drama and feel good movies, so I was excited to go to "Meet the Mormons" for date night with my husband a few weeks ago.  I enjoyed the diversity of real life stories, but my favorite was the final highlight of the "missionary mom" who experienced loneliness, heartache, peace and love through some interesting and unexpected twists and turns in her life.  (I should have brought some tissues.)  To cap off the feature film, I especially loved hearing the David Aruchuleta version of "Glorious" which is available for free download at Meet the

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spicing Up Piano Lessons

I recently shared some of my favorite creative teaching tools and ideas at a class I taught at my local music store. I compiled the following list of links to fun ideas and resources from this blog and other talented bloggers that I have especially enjoyed using with my students.  You can also access the link to this post at the top of my page for easy reference.
 Fun Lesson Starters
Teaching Theory Through Games
    • Major: We Were Happy When We Were Home
    • Natural minor: When Harry Went West He Wore White
    • Harmonic minor: We Have Watermelon With Harry WhenHe's Home)
Technique and Rhythm the Fun Way
Practice Incentives/Group Piano Parties

Stretching Your Teaching Tools
  •  Chord Progressions with Familiar Folk Songs or Pre-Time Fun Favorites 
  • Use Teacher Duets with 2 siblings/students at different levels
  • Adapt Game Rules for Multiple Purposes.   For example 1 deck of Interval Cards could be used for Don't Eat "Pete", Interval Towers, Over the Edge, War (Slow Paced Naming Intervals), Slapjack, Speed Sorting (Fast Paced Interval Matching), Interval Bingo (Slow Paced Interval Ear Training), Swat the Interval (Fast Paced Ear Training) BANG!, or Minute to Win it Sightreading Challenge (Notereading and Intervals)
Supplementary Book Recommendations:

Pattern Play by Akiko and Forrest Kinney (Link to Free Sampler online) (Listening Room)
Discover Blues Improvisation by Faber/Edwin McLean 

Alfred's Famous & Fun Series (Classic Themes, Familiar, Pop, Fun Favorites) by Carol Matz
Faber Gold Star Performance Books with CDs
Faber Pre-Time to Big-Time (Children's Songs, Favorites, Classics, Popular, Ragtime and Marches)

In Recital with Jazz Rags & Blues or Classical Themes by Helen Marlais
Piano Safari Technical Exercises and Rote Pieces by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr

Other Popular Posts
Piano Teaching Binders -(Notes in the Fast Lane, Sightreading Challenge Sets, Rhythm Drills, Picture Scales etc.)
Piano Online Lab
Piano Teaching 101