Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When is "Best" not "Better?"

Better or Best?

A picture of a refinished "shabby"upright piano captivated my attention this morning when I visited a website that I frequent often, and I was drawn to click on the link that led me to this insightful  article "Come As You Are; Bring What You Have."  The author compared the merits of having a live pianist vs. a piece played with recorded perfection, and her description of pianistic inadequacy captured the emotion most pianists have experienced at some point in their lifetime.  But despite the author's imperfect playing, she was preferred as the "best" accompaniment source.
When is Best not Better, Image of Old Piano Keys

The image of the shabby upright made me think of the old player piano that I learned to play the piano on, and it brought back memories from the past filled with the emotion tied to music that spilled from the keys.  From the perspective of the experts, it wasn't the ideal instrument.  It was usually not in tune, and has gotten worse through the years, and yet when I sit down to play it in my parent's home, it can evoke even more powerful emotions than my nicer, newer Kawaii.  It's melancholy tone reminds me of harder times in my teen years, when my dad was diagnosed with debilitating polymyositis that made it difficult for him to dress, walk, and work for a period of time.  As a result the piano lessons that I loved, ceased for a time until a generous teacher in my area offered to teach me in exchange for some work that I'm sure did not fully equate to her usual typical compensation rate.  

It was at this piano where my mom listened with tears rolling down her cheeks as she looked over my shoulder and read these lyrics from "Memory" (from Cats) and wondered if my dad would ever recover, or if she would be left a widow with 6 children. 


"I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life

And I mustn''t give in.

When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin."

I found solace each Sunday at my piano as I played and sang words like
"I know God lives.  I know he loves me.  I know he hears me and he answers when I pray." (Testimony, by Janice Kapp Perry) and was soothed by one of my favorite arrangements by Marvin Goldstein, "My Heavenly Father Loves Me."   I derived some much joy from mastering measures at a time and having the satisfaction of feeling I was getting better when I eventually began to play some of the melodies from the masters that I had heard on my dad's old vinyl records for years.
So although my piano playing skills are still not perfect and my old piano could barely pass as good from a bystanders view, I'm grateful that the melodies that come from its keys still bring me back to a time in my life with some of the best memories, when the dream of someday becoming a piano teacher started to form and the emotive melodies touched my heart in an unforgettable way.  I love these closing lines from the article that inspired this post and remind me that my best efforts are enough because life is more about being better every day, than just being the best.

 "...even though I would prefer to do everything perfectly, God simply asks me to be there and do my best. He wants me. As I am."







Friday, January 10, 2020

Good Better Best Composing with Chord Harmony

Musical Snow Boots and Tuxedos?!

I introduced these Good Better Best Activities (Good Better Best Rhythmic Dictation Good Better Best Melodic DictationGood Better Best Dice Composing) in our monthly piano group lesson but wanted to explore a bit further with some students in private lessons by teaching them how to choose primary chords that would sound good with the melody they created using this Good Better Best Composing Sheet and Good Better Best Chant.

Dice Composing Game: Good Better Best

What is the first step to composing a melody?

This question has multiple answers depending on which avenue you decide to take. For example you can make a motif, launch with lyrics, start from the ground up, let rhythm set you in motion or borrow from the experts (See 5 Avenues to Begin Composing). 
This Dice Composing Game inspired by Mozart (the expert!) is a blended approach that provides a comfortable framework for beginning composers as they let the die decide their melodic pathway.
In Finale I stumbled on a hidden Mozart's Dice game and decided to put a "Good Better Best" spin on it to use with my beginning piano students.
Good Better Best Piano Teaching Activity and Free Printable to teach composing skills

Dice Composing Game

Materials Needed:
Dice
The first page provides a rhythmic framework of the completed piece with lyrics, but all the notes are Middle C with chords.... pretty boring!

Cut apart the measures from pages 2-3 and stack the measures with the same letters/lyrics into piles.
Roll the die to determine which melody card from each pile you will use as you play your composition one piece at a time.
If you roll a 1,2,3 or 4 play the card with that number.
If you roll a 5- choose a card of your choice.
If you roll a 6- create your own melody to match the rhythm of the measure using notes from the C pentascale.

Related Posts:
Fun Tools for Teaching Composition
Halloween Composing Free Printable
Scale Practice and Composition with BenSound
Do-Re-Mi Ice Cream Improv Free Printable
Valentine's Composing Piano Group Lessons

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Go and Do" Chorus Simplified Piano Sheet Music

Lately I've been starting out my mornings listening to "I Will Go and Do" sung by David Archuleta which I referred to in this earlier post.   

It's available for free (along with a lot of other sacred music) on the Sacred Music app under Youth Theme, and printable sheet music is available on the Youth Theme 2020 website.
This free simplified excerpt of the chorus allows beginning piano students to enjoy learning to play a portion of the chorus (transposed into the key of C with simpler rhythms).

Friday, January 3, 2020

AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 2

AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Level 2

Pentascales, Chords and Hand over Hand Arpeggios

Once students have learned their pentascales and chords around the circle of 5ths (see AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Level 1) , we add hand over hand arpeggios into the mix. 
Sing (Do-Mi-So, Do-Mi-So,   Do,  So-Mi-Do,  So-Mi-Do)
The "float-off" motion for the hand over hand arpeggios and movement of navigating higher on the keys can be tricky for some beginners, so I often have them first practice the motion of leaping left over right and aiming for the tonic note of the scale several times first before actually having them play the broken chord notes.
The 3 step (ALL practice steps) soldify keyboard skills as students focus on the pattern, technical motions and sounds as they practice.  While playing eyes closed during the scales and chords is encouraged so they can focus on tone, I reassure them its ok to open their eyes for the arpeggio leaps.


Related Posts:
AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 3.... Coming Soon!
AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 4.... Coming Soon!
AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 5.... Coming Soon!


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Good, Better, Best Rhythmic Dictation

Good, Better, Best


As the new year rolls in and I visit new year's resolutions once again, the words to this "Good, Better, Best" chant that I heard at 4H camp as a teenager provided the inspiration for my January piano group lesson themed activities for this month.