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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"We Love You Whether You Can Play the Piano or Not!"

As I listened to Sharon Eubank share her childhood stories of piano performance mishaps

Ear Training Fun with Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad is a fun Christmas song that most kids love because of its energetic rhythms.  But that also makes it beyond the abilities of most beginner piano students to play.  This season I created this chord challenge for my students so

Monday, December 10, 2018

Light the World Music: Teaching Chords, Rhythm and Key Signature

The background theme music of this Light the World video just puts me in the Christmas spirit! I also like the 4 focuses on different ways to serve each the world, community, family and strengthening faith.

After picking out the music by ear on the piano for my own enjoyment,  I transcribed 2 easier duet versions for my piano students to play with me (or along with the video at home) that focus on different musical concepts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tips on How to Begin Arranging Music: Notes from Jason Lyle Black Workshop

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. - Edward de Bono
Inspiring my students with some Jason Lyle Black videos is just one of the many tools I have used to encourage my students to break away from the written page from time to time and try something different.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Teaching Piano with Chord Colors

I've been associating chords with colors since my childhood, but now chord colors are taking on some new off the page creative roles after inspiration from the Creative Keys Conference.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ways to Play with Staff Fish Cards

Fish Flashcards Games  Teaching Piano

I love finding music games that are adaptable for multiple levels!  These Fish Music Flashcards from Susan Paradis have long been in my stash of Piano Games to use at lessons to increase note reading fluency,

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ear Training Group Lesson Piano Games

Do you include ear training exercises in every lesson?  This definitely wasn't a huge part of the traditional lessons I had as a child.  Fortunately ear training has evolved quite a bit from the "Now Hear This" cassette tapes and workbook that my teacher sent me home with years ago. Group lessons are the kick-off event for my monthly themes in our studio, and we kicked off November with some Ear Training Games. There is definitely a lot more excitement and motivation that comes with ear training in a group setting!

Speedy Scale Stops 
I find that sometimes as experienced musicians we assume students already possess some building block skills like audiation that we take for granted as seasoned musicians.  Tim Topham's blog has several great step by step ideas for practicing ear training in private lessons.  I tweaked the Scale Stops game from his blog to create a group lesson version.  This game gives students the initial foundation necessary for interval identification by ear.

Concept: Hearing Scale Degrees (Prep for identifying ascending intervals).
Preparation: Give each student 8 cups
How to Play: Teacher starts on the tonic note and plays up the major scale stopping on a certain degree (note) as students internally count or sing to determine what note they stopped on.  Students race simultaneously to stack their cups one at a time up to the scale degree number and throw their hands in the air when they think they have the correct answer.
Toss Variation: Partners stand across from each other with a bucket of bean bags at their feet and alternate rounds tossing the correct number of bags equaling the scale degree stopped on.
Boost the Learning :  Instead of the teacher playing samples, students take turns drawing a flashcard note within the Middle C Scale and then play the C scale stopping on that note.

Intervals in Motion
Concept: Identify intervals by ear
Preparation: Create interval posters with familiar songs that match each interval
How to Play: Teacher plays an interval on the piano, students make motions that match the associated interval song. See more details on this post.

Candy Listening Bingo
Concept: Interval Ear Training
Students won't complain about being drilled on intervals with this fun game available at  To boost the learning I have the students take turns playing interval cards for the others to identify. These are available free from this Over the Edge game and I just pull out the ascending Major/perfect intervals neede for this game.

Directional Bingo 
Concept: Melodic Direction ear training with steps skips and repeats
Visit 4dPiano Teaching to get the free download of this beginner bingo style game.

Pianimation Listening Bingo - Opposites
Concept: Pitch/Dynamics/Articulation
Visit for a free download of this bingo style game that addresses several ear training concepts.

Technique Pattern Bingo HPN
Concept: Identifying common music patterns like chords, scales and arpeggios by ear.
See this post for details.

Major Minor Dash
Concept: Identifying chords by ear as Major or minor
Students can get a lot of energy out in this game as they run to the poster that matches the quality of the chord played.
see details at

Major Minor Line Up
Concept: Identify a sequence of chords by ear as Major or minor
Prepare cards with a happy face (Major) on one side and sad face (minor) on the other or buy some m&ms.
How to Play:   Play a sequence of 3 or 4 Major and minor chords.  Students flip their cards to match the pattern that you played (M,m,m,M or m,m,m,M, etc.). With m&ms the printed side of the candy represents minor and the blank side Major.  If they get the pattern correct they can eat an m&m (or add it to their cup if you are tallying points).

Rhythm Bug Games
"What's Missing?" and "Rhythm Tag" "Rhythm Telephone Race".
Concept: Rhythmic Dictation
See this post for details on these fun rhythm games that use Let's Play Music Rhythm Bugs.

Related Group Lesson Posts:
Music Theory Carnival Games
Musical Minute to Win It Games
Music Mash-up
Summer Piano Synergy
Halloween Group Activities
Piano Technique Group Lesson
Valentine's/Composing Group Lesson
Practice Themed Group Lesson

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Free "Count Your Blessings" Piano Teaching Resource

With Thanksgiving around the corner I like to include a few seasonal songs in my student's piano assignments.
This year I'm using this free version of  Count Your Blessings (p. 64) and adapting it for multiple levels in my studio.  Following are instructions on how I introduce this piece to varying levels of students.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Intervals in Motion Ear Training Group Game

Identifying intervals by ear can be a tricky skill for some students to master, but this group piano lesson game gets students in action as they sharpen their interval ear training skills as a group!
Ear Training, Teaching Music

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

8 Great Ways to Teach Rhythm with Let's Play Music Bug Rhythm Flashcards

Using rhythm bugs is by far my favorite approach for teaching rhythm. The connection to natural language patterns makes difficult rhythm patterns accessible for even young children and the matching visual images on the bugs that correspond with the standard rhythm notation make a memorable association for visual learners.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop with Leila Viss: On and Off the Bench

This session focussed on using technology during off bench time in your teaching studio and started with a rousing game of Kahoot!  is a free educational game platform where teams race to answer questions correctly using a pc, ipad or mobile device.  This would make a great activity for a group lesson or buddy lesson.  You can choose from a wide selection of games created by other teachers or create your own customized set.  By searching "leilaviss" in the Kahoot search bar I discovered the fun Kahoot games created by Leila about intervals, chord spelling, music styles and composers, etc.  A few other possible search topics include piano keys, key signatures, chord qualities, notes on the staff, rhythm.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop with Leila Viss: Creativity

Creative Piano Teaching

“Creativity is recombining elements that already exist in a new way.” – Wendy Stevens
Piano lessons for me as a child followed the traditional format of playing from the printed page, receiving feedback, and practicing it again until I got it right. Although my teachers gave me a solid foundation of chord knowledge, creativity was not an integral part of weekly lessons, and I developed some fear of just playing around without a written score.  But, bloggers like Leila Viss, Bradley Sowash and Tim Topham and Wendy Stevens have transformed my teaching and playing into a medley of creativity and classics.  I gained so much insight and inspiration after her session on creativity it was hard for me to shut down the creative juices flowing in mind so I could sleep that night!  
Following are my notes and inspiration from the Leila's session on Creativity.

1- Borrow Freely from the Page

Example: Student playing his own version of “Piano Man.”  Great musicians borrow from other great musicians.
Lesson Book Bash (including a youtube video demo)
·         Choose a favorite lesson book piece and have student create a new version.
·         Demonstrate and give suggestions for student to try, then let the student decide if they want to take it or leave it.
·         Think like the eye doctor “Do you like this better or worse?” “1 or 2?”
Example: Teaching Variations on Pumpkin Boogie (Faber 2B) (or any Lesson book piece of your student’s choice)
·         Double octaves of the bass line or stagger
·         Double rhythms – Change some quarters to 2 eighths
·         Break up Harmonic intervals to melodic
·         Add R.H. copycat of L.H. bass line
·         Change to Major – Easter Bunny Boogie!
·         Give students a creativity punch/stamp card (free on  They earn punches every time they make a creative variation on a piece and earn a prize when it is filled.
·         Apply these and other variation ideas to any Lesson book piece of your student’s choice after they have learned to play it confidently as written.  This takes away the fear of just starting to compose from scratch!
·         For some additional ideas for variations see my previous post on Theme and Variation Cards.
Example: Twinkle with a Twist (available for purchase in Leila’s store)
·         C, Bb Ab G Repeating Bass
·         Make the Melody Minor
·         Adams Family Style (weave a familiar song/theme into the piece)
·         Rock Bass  (repeating octaves Low C High C, end with V7 chord walkup)
Example: Sugar Plump Fairy
Students took a solo and added new layers to create a trio for 3 sisters to play

2- Choose a Theme and Teach in Groups
·         Crazy Hair Day and Recycled Rhythm Instruments Themed Group Lesson
·         Glowsticks Cup Dancing in the Dark (Cups wrapped with a glowstick bracelet at the bottom performing Compose Create Rhythm Cups )

·         Blues Jam session with a group including percussionist (Toe Tambourine – Bradley Sowash), piano, keyboard saxophone
·         Birthday Bash Group Lesson (see Harmonize Happy B-day handout) Chord stack on worksheet
o   Start in private lesson then perform and record variations in group lessons
o   Student picks correct root chords by ear to harmonize the melody
o   Choose “chord slides” inversions
o   Add Intro V7 arpeggios + trill (more ideas on Bradley Sowash Easy Introductions)
o   Add Ending – glissando down (more on Bradley Sowash Improvising Outros)
o   Cowboy, Waltz, Tango variations
Additional group themed lessons in my previous posts include:
·         Technique and Artistry
·         Valentine’s Composing
·         Theme and Variations
·         Practice Smarter not Harder
·         Theory Carnival
·         May Mash Up (Note Reading, Chords and Intervals)

3- Plan Creativity into Every Lesson
5 Finger pattern Groove with I Real Pro around the Circle of 5ths
·         Steady Beat
·         Differ Articulation
·         Groove Theory – Mix up the note order like Scaling the Chords by Bradley Sowash
·         Change up the  Rhythms
·         Red cups with a clear solo cup cover to modify (add # or b)
Four Chord Special – The Heart and Soul of Pop Music
·         Back Pocket Patterns I vi IV V (Four Chord song)
·         Rote Teach Heart and Soul playing as many patterns as you can
·         Add Melody just on CDE CDE CDE changeup
When in Doubt Pent-Out (Pentatonic Scale Improv)
·         Nickels worth of Notes 1 2 3 5 6 (Pentatonic scale)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Crazy Chord Challenge

This month our studio theme has focussed on the foundation of music - CHORDS! Although not all pieces have an obvious snowman style root chord backing up the melody from the bottom as in the Axis of Awesome Four Chord Sampler of Songs, a solid understanding of chords is the key to easily read and compose songs.
 When I saw these Major and Minor Root Picture Chords posted by Susan Paradis, the crazy chord challenge began to take shape in my mind.  I gave each student a copy of the major and minor picture chords and invited them to complete as many of these challenges during the month as they could. The prize was adding their name to the leaderboard and picking a prize from the treasure box.

To prep them for the challenge, I demonstrate while chanting the chord categories as I play. "Va-ni-lla (C), "Or-e-o" (Db), "Ham-bur-ger" (D), etc.).  Being able to see the color patterns on the keyboard and feel them under their fingers quickly really boosts the ease of playing chords from written notation later on. 
Can you play all of the Major chords Broken style Hands Separate (Left than Right) Moving Chromatically Up the Keyboard in Less than 1 Minute?

Can you play all of the Major chords, Broken style, Hands Together, Moving Chromatically Up the Keyboard in Less than 1 Minute?

Can you play all of the Major chords Block Style, Hands Separate (Left than Right), Moving Chromatically Up the Keyboard in Less than 1 Minute?

Can you play all of the Major chords Block Style, Hands Together (Left than Right), Moving Chromatically Up the Keyboard in Less than 1 Minute?

Can you play all of the Major chords Block Style, Hands Separate (Left than Right), Moving Chromatically Down the Keyboard in Less than 1 Minute?

Can you play all of the Major chords Block Style Hands Together (Left than Right), Moving Chromatically Down the Keyboard in Less than 1 Minute?

Can you play one of the above challenges but using Minor Chords instead?
Can you play one of the above challenges with Eyes Closed?

For a more difficult challenge, students who have already mastered root chords could play inversions or I-IV-I-V-I chord progressions with a longer time limit!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop Inspiration with Leila Viss: Apps

After attending several music workshops hosted by UVMTA and IMTA this month presented by Leila Viss, author of blog, my mind is humming with new creative ideas to try out with the students in my studio.   I thoroughly enjoyed her engaging style of teaching!

The handouts for each session

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Halloween Group Lesson: Glow Cups, Candy Corn Notes and Paint Chip Chords

In addition to the Halloween Themed Activities  and Crazy Chord Challenge I've been doing at private lessons this month, we had a Halloween Group lesson including some Glow Stick Cup Tapping, inspired by a recent workshop I attended by Leila Viss.
I first introduced the concept of triplets

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Free Simplified Christian Piano Music

Part of my bedtime routine almost every night as a child was listening to a 30-minute cassette tape of music that we sang in church. The soothing music and encouraging words continue to bring a lot of peace to me as I play, sing and listen to varying arrangements.  I love finding sources for free simplified arrangements that allow my students to start playing some of their favorite familiar church songs within the first few months of lessons. I slip them in sheet protectors and arrange them in colored folders based on difficulty level, so students can check out "books" on their level from my music library. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Polishing Pieces for Performance

How is piano practice like a car wash?
After moving beyond the 3 S's of practice (Slowly, Separate, Sections) and learning the basic elements of a song like rhythm and notes, it can be tempting to just move on and check the song off as complete.  And if you are just hoping for just good results then maybe that is enough.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Teaching Jazz Piano Basics

I was excited to find the perfect tool for expanding my students rhythm vocabulary, ear training and improvisation skills in a fun step by step way at every lesson. After attending a workshop by Eric Baumgartner last month, I couldn't resist purchasing his "Jazz Piano Basics" book with its engaging audio features, and I'm loving how I can use it with students of various levels for multiple purposes including improvisation, note reading, ear training, rhythm and group lesson performances and enjoy a little creative outlet myself.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Inspiring Creativity in Piano Lessons with 20 Variation Cards

When motivation for playing piano was waning for one of my students after a busy day, I pulled out these variation cards and it was definitely a game changer! Not only did he have a new excitement about learning his new piece, but I was able to assess his knowledge and teach some theory and technique skills in a lively engaging way that drew him in asking for more.  He wanted to complete the entire set of cards!
Instead of playing the "What Changed" game, that I blogged about on this previous post, I instead used the variation cards as a springboard of ideas for the Variation Practice Challenge.

My variation cards simply include a basic idea for varying the song with an image to represent the change.
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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Music Mapping in Piano Lessons: A Tool to Aid Memorization and Sightreading

Last weekend I attended a workshop sponsored by my local music club. I was really intrigued by the concept of music mapping and how it can help students learn pieces more quickly and securely.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May Music Mash-up Piano Group Lesson

This month's theme in my studio includes a mashup of concepts including ear training, note reading, and rhythm, and at our group lesson, students had fun literally mashing up music concepts :)
 Major/Minor Pinata

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Music Theory Carnival Piano Games

For my most recent piano group lesson, we played carnival themed games with a music theory focus.  I brainstormed so many different ideas that it was hard to pick just a few to squeeze within an hour! 

Lucky Lolly Signs - Identifying Music Symbols
Lucky Lolly Music Carnival Game
Take turns naming music signs attached to the lollipop of your choice.  If you name it correctly and the sucker has a colored dot on the bottom you get to keep it.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Piano Metaphor: Growing from Failure to Failure

"Mistakes are a fact of life. Learning to skillfully play the piano is essentially impossible without making thousands of mistakes or maybe even a million." 
"Success isn't the absence of failure, but going from failure to failure without the absence of enthusiasm" -Winston Churchhill
"Consider failure as a tutor, not as a tragedy."
"Success is GROWING from failure to failure without the absence of enthusiasm" - Lynn G. Robbins

I loved these profound ideas from a recent inspiring message given by Lynn G. Robbins and his example of an inspiring college professor's approach to exams reflects my approach to piano theory exams.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Composition 101: 5 Avenues to Begin Composing

Which is better creativity or conformity?
For a person who likes the comfort zone of predictable instructions, checklists and rubrics to measure progress, conformity is definitely the easier path, so embarking on a new adventure of preparing students for a Composition Festival this year was an intimidating challenge for me. I tapped into a lot of resources and discovered that there are a lot of different paths that lead to the same destination.
As I led my students through the process of creating their own pieces I was amazed at the many layers of learning this project created as they applied rhythm dictation, fingering choices, time signatures, dynamics, form and note naming. The best part was that my students were so motivated to apply these rules of "conformity" because they were passionate about their compositions. Following is a roundup of links that can unleash the creativity and get the juices flowing in a variety of ways.
Make a Motive or Theme/Mood with Sound Effects
Wynn Anne Rossi Creating Creature Sounds
Compose Create Cartoon Motif Contest
Scale Ingredients Composing with Flour and Salt
(Major, minor, Pentatonic, Blues or Whole Tone)

Piano Group Lesson Plans and Ensemble Inspiration

Being a musician can often feel like a solitary skill unless teacher's make an active effort to plan ensemble opportunities for their students.  I love living in a small community that supports the arts!
I was blown away by this amazing performance at my daughter's recent high school choir concert when her friend Haley sang "The Prayer" with George Dyer accompanied by the orchestra, choir and another friend on the piano. I'm sure being a part of this ensemble will be an unforgettable memory for her, and it has made me contemplate how I can involve more ensemble playing in my studio. Group lessons are the perfect stage for ensemble experience and can provide synergy for students who may be lagging at times.

Here's a roundup of Group Lesson blogpost Plans I've had fun using in my studio.
Theory Carnival
Technique and Artistry
Composing and Valentines Day 
Piano Cranium
Effective Practice 
Christmas Themed  and More Christmas Group Activities
Theme and Variations Form and Composing 
May Mash Up -Sightreading, Rhythm, Note Reading and Ear Training
Summer Combo - Technique, Notenaming, Theory, and Ear Training
Ear Training Group Games
Musical Minute to Win It Games
Halloween Group Activities

Other Fun Group Games:
3-2-1 Chord Blastoff
Music Theory Headbandz
Rhythm Telephone Race
Rhythm Tag

Thursday, March 29, 2018

My Favorite Foundation for Rhythm and Chords #LETSPLAYMUSIC

I take a very playful approach to my piano teaching, because not only does play encourage creativity and have powerful cognitive effects  (The cognitive benefits of play: Effects on the learning brain), it is also a lot more fun! So "playing" with my son as he practices his "Let's Play Music" songs is something I look forward to.  This is a video I took in his class this week for #LPMSpiritWeek2018.

I became a Let's Play Music Connections teacher several years ago and posted a few of the things that I found captivating about the program like Kit Kats, bubble hands, paint balls and puppet shows in a previous post, but enrolling my own child has opened up the window to even more learning.
Learning rhythm with bugs (see Blue Bugs Rhythm Reading) allows young children to read more complex rhythm patterns at a young age with a developmentally appropriate sequence with sound before sight.

I love how Let's Play Music encourages singing and a solid chord foundation. Here's a quick clip of my son practicing his chords.

 Let's Play Music has inspired me to improve in several specific ways as a private piano studio teacher.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Musical Roots + Free Music Download

One of the most inspiring moments of my week was hearing the song "Army of Angels" sung by Evie Clair (America's Got Talent Finalist) at the Roots Tech session Music: A Bridge Across Generations.  I was astonished when I found out that the composer (her cousin) McKenna Mae has provided a free mp3 download of it as well as several some mp3 recordings and sheet music of her other songs.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Piano Technique and Artistry: Group Lesson Activities

For the month of March in my studio, since the focus is on playing more artistically with proper technique as students work toward their Technique Wizard Challenges, I've rounded up and created some group activities to introduce and reinforce these concepts in a memorable way.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Using Piano Safari Rote Pieces to Teach Composing in Piano Lessons

Teaching Composing with Piano Safari

My brain has been in the composition vein for a while, so I brainstormed some clever ways to extend their my student's learning beyond the technique of Piano Safari with some creative companion composing teaching applications.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Valentines Composing Piano Group Lessons

Some students are naturally enthralled with composing and can easily dive right in and create beautiful sounding melodies.  But some are much more comfortable with a step by step guided approach.
Using Susan Paradis's Valentine Composing Worksheets at group lessons I taught a mini-lesson on composition tips for younger beginners and then had students perform their creations on the spot.
1 - Start with a Scale "Recipe"
When you make cookies or soup you will end up with better results if you limit the ingredients to things that taste good together.  In music, a scale is like a list of ingredients.  Just as eating cookies with garlic powder doesn't taste very appealing, throwing random music notes together is not likely to sound amazing either.  It is easier to create good melody when you start by limiting your "note ingredients" to notes within a scale you are familiar with. For Valentine composing I had them choose a pentascale that could easily fit under beginner's fingers.
2 - Pick a Motif
Using language as a guide for the rhythm can be easier than "pulling a rhythm out of thin air." The repeating rhythms in "Roses are Red" set the stage for a repeating rhythmic motif.  I asked the students to write 4 of the letter names from their scale in any order for the first line to create a melodic motif.
3 - "Play" with the Motif
Although repetition can be a good thing, too much of the same thing gets old quick.  But a random assortment notes thrown together sometimes doesn't bring the best results either.  For the next 2 lines I taught students 2 easy ways to "play with the motif."
Line 2 - Write the letters of your motif from Line 1 backward (ex: CDGE becomes EGDC).
Line 3 - Repeat the first 2 letters from Line 1 and then change the ending.
4 -  End at "Home" Although this is not a "never break" rule, your song will sound more finished if you end on the tonic (do) which is the letter name of the scale you chose.
This Any Day Composing activity is a similar activity, perfect for beginning composing practice for any season of the year.

This Steal a Heart Staff Notes game elicited a lot of laughter as students reviewed the note names on the staff, a basic skill necessary when they transcribe their alphabet melodies into real music. My students loved this game so much, I decided to use it at my son's kindergarten Valentine Party.  I added some sight words written on post-it notes to several of the cards and the kids got an extra turn if they picked one and could read the word.  This extra twist could also be a fun addition if you add music terms or symbols to some of the cards.  Kids loved the playfulness of stealing and giving hearts!

It was hard for me to narrow down the perfect game with so many fun options from Compose on Wendy's Valentine Music Games post, but I chose an adapted version of Candy Heart Rhythm Dictation using Beat Boards from in sheet protectors with dry erase markers.  I wanted to emphasize counting as part of rhythmic dictation so students could more effectively dictate their own melodic creations using correct rhythms, so I added the "counts" below each heart.
1. Begin with Quarter Notes and Rests in 4/4 (1-2-3-4)- Remove the candy on the rests.
2. Quarter and Half Note Rhythms - Remove and eat the candy where the note "holds" and choose the correct note that can fill up the space.
Split each heart in half for more complex eighth note rhythms and subdivide the counting(1&2&3&4&).  Students point to the heart halves as they count along to the rhythm to determine which notes are held longer than 1/2 a beat.

We ended with some demos of Bradley Sowash's Easy Introductions. His post about improvising outros has some great ideas to help students complete their compositions with a fabulous finish.

Their take-home challenge was to choose an animal for the theme of their next Animal Menagerie composition project that they will be working on during private lessons this month.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Teaching Composing: Interesting Intros with Sowash and Faber

Teaching composing to beginners can seem like an enormous feat with a myriad of approaches.  There are many different pathways to arrive at the end result. This month I began with having students developing their "trash" motives into a short piece using the Trash to Treasure Composing resource on Teach Piano Today.  They loved seeing the printed score of their own creations from MuseScore!  Now we're moving on to the concept of adding an appropriate introduction to their pieces.
Bradley Sowash has some fabulous tips on how to create an interesting intro.  Using some of his concepts as a springboard, I created this listening lab to help my students hear samples of intro styles at work in pieces that are accessible to their playing ability.  Analyzing the composing elements within student's current pieces is a great way to extend their learning and wet their appetite for composing more artistically themselves.

Friday, January 26, 2018

BAPDARP - A Systematic Practice Approach to Expressive Playing

"If you give specific input you get specific results."  This was my favorite quotes from a UVMTA piano teaching seminar I attended last week by Stephen Thomas, a music faculty member at BYU-Idaho.
To start out the seminar  Thomas first gave a brief overview of score preparation and practice tips that he had covered in a previous seminar regarding score preparation and tempo.
Score Preparation -

  • Add fingering
  • Divide into sections and number (or name) them

Tempo Grid Metronome - Set specific metronome goals

  • Slow Tempo
    • Set Specific Standards (Measures 5-8 Slow Hands Separate @ X Tempo, then Hands Together)Medium Tempo

  • Medium Tempo
    • Exaggerate dynamics, articulation, and phrasing
  • Fast Tempo
    • Less repetition of small sections, more focus on larger sections and continuity
Once students can play the piece with reasonable fluency they move on to BAPDARP.   For me, I think of fluency meaning correct fingering rhythm and notes. BAPDARP requires a closer look and listen to the expressive details of the piece.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fun Tools for Teaching Composition: A Resource Roundup

I've been scouring the web for fun activities and tips to help teach basic composition elements to my students and was delighted to see the link for Alfreds' latest blog post pop up in my inbox titled
"Composition Tips with Wynn-Anne Rossi."
The short video clips (about 3 minutes each) give students an opportunity to learn tips and tricks about composing from a well-known composer.  Following are a few of my favorite videos with specific assignments students can complete during lessons, lab time or at home.  If they complete them during home practice they can get an extra "Bull's Eye Target" marked off on their Bull's Eye Challenge Sheet.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Lego Game to get your Piano Students Playing Chords in an Unforgettable Way

"3-2-Won Major Chord Blastoff" is a quick game to teach chords in piano lessons in a memorable way.
321 Chord Blastoff #pianoteaching #musicgames

Recently Inspired by Tim Topham's approach to teaching chords to beginners  I came up with this game to reinforce the pattern of chord building so that even young students can remember it.

Concepts Covered: 

  • Piano key names
  • Major chord building pattern 
  • Playing and spelling triads
  • Broken and blocked chords

Materials needed: Paper Keyboards,  die for each player, legos or colored small objects
Object: Be the first to build a chord pattern with legos on the paper keyboard and play and spell it on the piano.
 In this fast action game players simultaneously race to roll the "Major chord gaps" (a 3 and then 2) which reinforces the pattern in their mind.   It could be played in either a private lesson setting (teacher vs student) or at a group lesson with multiple students playing.
1.  Pick a music letter name card to choose which chord you are trying to build.
2. All players place a colored lego on the first note of the chord.

3. Start the race by saying "3-2-1 Blastoff". Players simultaneously race to roll a 3 on their die.

4. When a player rolls a 3 they place 3 white legos on the next 3 higher keys.

5. Next they place a colored lego on the middle note of the triad and then race to roll a 2.
6. After rolling a 2, place white legos on the next 2 keys and add a colored lego to finish off building the chord.

7. Then take note of the chord spelling (keys with colored legos) and "blastoff" toward the piano to spell and play the chord you just built in broken and block style. For C chord you would sing  "C-E-G, That's a chord " as you play the broken pattern CEG +3 blocked chords.

8. Repeat if desired choosing a new chord each time until a player wins 3 blastoff rounds.

What makes this game a win?

  • Versatile-It could be played in either a private lesson setting (teacher vs student) or at a group lesson with multiple students playing. It's easy to shorten or lengthen the duration by choosing the number of rounds required to win.
  • Adaptable- For an easier version, omit the chord spelling requirement for students who haven't learned sharps or flats yet. For a more challenging game, intermediate students could also build other chord styles (minor, diminished, augmented or 7th chords)
  • Multi-level- Because of the chance element of the die, an experienced teacher vs. a novice student can play without the teacher having an obvious advantage. The teacher may even be at a slight disadvantage because it's harder to blast off a " mature" body off the floor to race to the piano:).
  • Multi-Sensory- This game appeals to multiple learning styles.

    • Visual - See the pattern on the keys
    • Auditory- Hear both the chord spelling and sound of major chords
    • Kinesthetic - Use of block manipulatives and feeling the chord under the fingers as you play it.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Fun Ways to Get Piano Students Practicing Smarter, Not Harder

To kick off the new year in my piano studio our January group lesson will be centered around effective practice. I've planned some fun activities centered around goal-oriented practice including this adaptation of the Sorry Sliders Game that I've also been using for notereading review.