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.



The practice assignments cover small step by step approach to learning songs over a period of multiple weeks and spiral back to familiar content that boosts confidence.
Takeaway: Assign more review songs with a twist. If a student loves a piece they have learned, extend the learning by having them create a variation, transpose to another key or change up the style instead of always moving forward to completely new songs.

When attending a piano adventures workshop with Randall Faber I was amazed at his ability to call out all of the chords (I, IV, iii, etc.) while he played pieces. Although my own traditional music lessons included a lot of chord coloring and analysis, I had little chord ear training exposure.  In the Let's Play Music classes I have been surprised at how early my 5 year old is able to play chord progressions and accompany his own singing and is now beginning to be able to anticipate by ear which primary chord comes next in familiar children's songs.

Takeaway: Teach chords earlier with a practical application to pop music.    It has propelled me to start seeking out the chords by ear in pop songs on my playlist for my own enjoyment and has improved my ability to hear the chord progression changes and feel the chordal framework under my fingers more easily in keys with multiple sharp and flats instead of sticking to the "Vanilla" keys of C, F and G. Tim Topham's blog with "The Power of 4 Chords Composing" and other Pop Piano Resources includes a wealth of resources that really get students loving their chords.

Several years ago I posted a series on the benefits of singing in music lessons and I love how LPM incorporates singing in the lessons and practice. It fosters accompaniment skills and phrasing skills from the start and verbalizing in songs without words can also aid students in the learning and retention process.

Takeaway: Encourage students to sing as they play or verbalize elements of the music.

The frequent teacher-parent communication in Let's Play Music is fabulous and the weekly email's keep up to date on all of the "why's" behind the teaching that there isn't time to address in a class full of play.

Takeaway: Communicate more consistently with piano parents.  This is a bit more challenging in a private studio because students don't have individualized instead of "cookie cutter" lesson plans, but after appreciating the LPM updates as a parent of a music student, I've started texting a quick picture of accomplishments, links to resources or pictures of group lesson activities helps me keep my parents more in the loop of what their child is learning at lessons.

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