Saturday, May 2, 2020

Piano Teaching Tips for Beginners - Book of Mormon Stories

Book of Mormon Stories and Beyond with Beginning Piano Students

Playing Familiar Music is Fun

The upbeat rhythmic drumbeat of the bass in this song makes it a requested favorite for young children who often follow along with hand motions representing the words as they sing this song. This is typically a song that my students who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints are eager to learn because they've grown up singing it often.
Early intermediate students can handle the traditional version of this song, but I also make this accessible to my younger students who are more likely to appreciate it by using these simpler versions. Following are a few ideas on how to introduce the simplified version highlighting various concepts in the song with success.
Traditional Music for Book of Mormon Stories

I Spy Intervals

For a student who is still new to the concept of skips on the staff, I like to hand over the pencil and have students spy all of the skips in this song and connect them with colored lines to make them extra salient.

Major vs Minor

Often too many beginning songs center around middle C and can encourage the faulty notion in beginning students that finger numbers correlate to specific keys on the piano (C is 1, D is 2, E is 3 etc.)  This song in the key of d minor shifts students away from the erroneous "C-centric" thinking and can also make a great introduction to recognizing the difference between  the major and minor pentascale patterns and most students love the steady drum beat sounds in the bass.

Buddy Bass Duet

For buddy lessons with beginners, having one student play the split hand melody in the treble clef and another student (or teacher) play the bass "drumming" part an octave lower than notated encourages better listening skills and allows them to enjoy the rich harmony of the song even if they aren't physically coordinated enough to play both parts together yet. 

Borrow with Rhythmic Improvisation

The rhythmic simplicity of this song provides a perfect palette for further exploration.  In addition to learning the song, students could use the structure as a springboard to improvise their own melody that mimics the rhythm of the song as they change up the order of the notes of the d minor scale.  For a little more challenge, students could use the Bass Harmony pattern as their backdrop instead and then just add a d minor pentascale melody with the right hand. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tonic Tutor Melody Game Tips

The studio contest for for May is Melody.  Here are some quick game instructions with a few hints.


Stick People- Choose the picture that matches the shape of the melody you heard. Hint: Steps look like a staircase.
Mystery Note-Click the 2 notes at the top and listen for the note in the pattern that is the same pitch as the single note played.
Mushrooms-As you listen to the melody choose the last note your hear.  Hint: Follow along with by pointing to the first note played and moving your finger in the direction you hear the notes played.
Robot- Challenge! Listen to the melody and play the key that you hear last. The first note is colored on the keyboard.  Hint: Hover your finger or mouse over the first note as you hear the melody and then move in the direction you hear it move (left lower, right higher).

Aural-Melodic Dictation

Eggs - Listen to the melody and choose the egg that is not in the write place on the staff. Hint: It helps to follow along with your cursor or finger as the notes are being played.
Magnets - Move the notes up or down with the magnets above or below the staff to match the melody you hear. Hint: Check to make sure notes on the staff that repeat later sound the same before clicking "Done." Remember to check the direction (up and down) and distance (how far up or down) of the notes that change.

Related Posts:
Tonic Tutor Rhythm Game Tips
Tonic Tutor Review and Discount Code

Unforgettable Tempo Term Songs

Singing is a fabulous mnemonic device.  After discovering these helpful Tempo Term Posters from the Colourful Keys blog that I display on my music bulletin board I added these new lyrics to familiar folk songs to make the tempo terms stick even more.

A Pecking Fun Rote Piece for Teaching Staccato

You've probably heard this famous piece before... but not quite in this way!
1. Watch Beethoven's Wig My Little Chicken as you tap your hand to the beat on a closed piano fallboard with a hen pecking motion.

2. Watch as teacher demonstrates on the keyboard  What are the first 2 repeating intervals played?
(As I demonstrate this song I sing memory cues to help students remember the patterns)
Start play- ing sec-onds then
Step to the thirds then you
Leap peck peck peck, to the C's
Back to the
2nds then
3rds then
Leap  peck peck peck to the C's
Step down down down then
Leap up then Leap up then Leap up, etc.

Free Sheet Music for Chopsticks

Monday, April 27, 2020

An Engaging Way to Start Online Music Lessons for Kids

This week I'm trying something different to start out online piano lessons.  While I typically start out with a game from my piano game resource list or a quick duet improvisation, those activities don't work as well for virtual lessons.  So instead I'm screen sharing some of these music concept videos from Plank Road Publishings Music Theory Concept Video Playlist.
Zoom Instructions
1. Before lessons begin, navigate to Youtube Plank Road Publishing Music Theory Concept Video Playlist.
2. Open Zoom, click share screen and be sure to select share computer audio at the bottom.

Do you have any other favorite music teaching video clips that would make great lesson starters? 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 1 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

Now that I am teaching piano online, I've been streamlining my lesson plans by sending customized lesson assignment instructions via google docs to my students.  I like how this new format allows me to embed links with videos and supplementary activities for flipped learning at home that were previously done during lab time.

This post includes specific instructions for pieces in the Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1 but many of the activities could also be used with other pieces for introducing and reviewing the concept of legato and staccato.

Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1 Plans


Lesson: Red LB 8 Firefly

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 
  • Review what you know by completing p. 4-5 during Lab.
  • Listen to the audio of Firefly as you follow along in your music. Tap the rhythm with the correct hand.
  • Circle the symbols indicated on the top of the page.  Can you also find 2 broken chords?
  • *After playing it as written can you transpose it to the G 5 Finger Scale?
  • Optional: Game VMT Don’t Leaf Me or Flower Power

Lesson: Red LB 10 Little River

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 
  • Make the solfa hand signs as you sight sing (Do, re, mi, fa, so, fa, mi, re, do, re, mi, etc.)
  • Play and listen for a  legato (smooth and connected) sound as you float off at the end of each phrase.
  • *Can you  play it with your eyes closed and/or transpose to another 5 finger scale?
  • Optional: Game PN Ear Training Bingo 

Lesson: Red LB 11 Sailing in the Sun

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 
  • Listen to the audio of Sailing in the Sun as you follow along in  your music.  Slide your hands against each other on the slurred notes and clap on the notes without slurs.
  • As you play,  focus on the legato (smooth and connected) sound as you float off at the end of each slur (phrase).
  • *Can you  play it with your eyes closed and/or transpose to another 5 finger scale?
  • Optional: Game VMT Sssslurs

Lesson: Red LB 12 Ferris Wheel

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 
  • Watch the video of Ferris Wheel as you tap “Down, up, up” to the beat.  When does he lift his wrist?
  • Remember to keep your heel on the floor as you press the damper pedal at the end. *Did you remember to slow down gradually (ritardando) and follow the dynamics at the end?
  • Optional: Watch Create First 1 Leaving the Harbor Solo  and Duet Videos. Can you hear the blended sound created by the damper pedal and the ¾ Time dance like feel? Improvise your own song in ¾ Time on the black keys and add some pedal.
  • Optional: Borrow” the 3/4 Rhythm patterns of Ferris Wheel (LB 12) and create your own melodies stepping up and down the black keys as you chant the  words to the song. For a challenge, add some Dotted quarter Notes in the left hand to create the beat/harmony.  (F# is home, D# and C# are L.H. vacation notes).

Lesson: Red LB 14 Mexican Jumping Beans

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 
  • Watch the video of Mexican Jumping Beans  and sing the pentascales in your song solfa style (Do, re, mi, fa, so, so, so, etc.) with a staccato (short and separated) voice. 
  • Follow the warmup instructions on the page playing the song with only finger 3 and then all 5 fingers. *Did you play staccato?
  • Optional: Watch Create First Hot Sands/Cool Waters Duet and Solo  Videos to hear examples of staccato (hot sand) and legato (cool water). Then create your own song on the black keys that includes both staccato and legato sections.

Lesson: Red LB 15 The Haunted Mouse

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 
  • Identify the ties and slurs in your music and choose 2 different colors to trace over them.  Then play the game Tie Track/Slur Slope or Music Tech Ties and Slurs
  • Can you rub your belly while tapping your head? Listen to the video of The Haunted Mouse  and for each of the measures with tied notes  in the left hand, rub your belly and tap your head to the rhythm as you say “Hold, tap, tap, tap slug, slug.”

Lesson: Red LB 16 Classic Dance

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 
  • Circle the Broken chords in the song. Put an L in each legato measure an S in each staccato measure, and an H(hold) in the measures with dotted quarter notes.
  • Watch the video for Classic Dance  and say the articulation for each line. “Legato, legato, stac - ca- to HOLD.”
  • *Did you play the staccatos short and separated and play slurred phrases legato?
  • Optional: Listen to  Classics for Kids episode the Waltz or VMT Dotty Playground Game

Lesson: Red LB 17 Young Hunter

 Practice Steps/ Goals: 

Many of the optional games are from my Piano Game Resource List, but some of the VMT games require a membership from Vibrant Music

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Creating Customized Piano Lesson Assignments

Adapting to Online Lesson Assignments

One thing I love about teaching private piano lessons vs. group teaching is the way I can customize the experience based on each students individual needs and progress.  For this reason I've hesitated to shift to a set rigid curriculum with preset assignments, even though that might make lesson planning easier. But the temporary social distancing measures have required me to switch from my handwritten, fluid lesson assignments to something a bit more structured.  The notes and ideas I've jotted down through the years in my copy of piano books for planning are now being compiled into Google Docs for each method/technique book including supplementary links to activities.