Thursday, May 4, 2017

Teaching Piano Technique Motions Creatively: Caterpillar Crawl (updated)

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.


Caterpillar at the Gym
(Pedaling a Bicycle - wrist circles towards center of body)
Caterpillar crawl, caterpillar crawl
Pedal round but do not fall.

(Jumprope  - bouncing staccato wrists)
You can jump around and have some fun
just like a bouncing ball.

(Swim - wrist float off)
Float up gently, glide back down
Float up gently, glide back down

(Lift Weights - Make O's with fingers to the beat)
Press, Press....

(Balance Beam - Balance on fingertips as Thumb tucks under for scale prep)

(Teeter Totter - Rotate wrist back and forth as your Thumb and 5th finger gently tap to the beat)



I think it is helpful to demonstrate the motions slowly away from the piano as students imitate using this super slow version first.
Super Slow
Once they become familiar with the basic motions, we try it at full tempo and they can match the motions as they hear the motives repeat.  Because the song is quite lengthy I just do the first portion.  In just a few minutes, they get to practice motions in a playful rhythmic way away from the piano that  to strengthen fingers and pave the way for later playing arpeggios (wrist circles), staccatos and phrase endings or large leap gestures (float off) without the awkward tension and stiff wrists that some beginners exhibit.
At Tempo

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