Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Note Free Software

For some free games you can download on your computer check out the Happy Note link on the right. My 2 favorites games are "Treble Clef and Bass Clef" (teaches letter names of notes on the staff) and Music Notes in space (teaches names of the notes - quarter, half, whole). My students love to play the "Breakout" game because it is fun, but they don't seem to learn as much from it.

Yarn Staff Games

Yarn Staff Game Instructions
I found the idea for this game several years ago on Martha Beth Lewis's piano site. she has so many great ideas for teaching piano to young beginners. To find a very detailed explanation of this game go to Martha Beth Lewis's piano site and read her article on teaching lines and spaces. It also includes many other fun activities to help your child learn to play the piano. Following is a brief version.
“Simon Says”
Concepts – distinguish between line & space notes/ high and low notes
· Make a staff on the floor with your five pieces of yarn (lines). Decide where you want the bottom (low end) of the staff to be. Pretend you are a note and play “Simon Says” using the following ideas. A space note fills the space. A line note has a line going through it.
o Be a line note (Put both feet on any line)
o Be a space note (Put both feet in any space)
o Be a high space note
o Be a low line note
o Be a middle line note
· Using your yarn staff play the same game as above but use other objects such as paper plates, cups, plastic easter eggs, balls etc. as the “notes”

Call out actions for students and see who can keep from falling as in the regular game of Twister. Students can compete against each other to see who can stay up the longest or play solo and see how many commands they can peform correctly before falling.
-Put your right hand on a high line note
-Put your left foot on a low space note
- Put your chin on a middle line note, etc.

M&M's Stepping on the Staff

To help reinforce the concept of stepping up and down the staff try this fun game. 


Wagon Wheels on the Staff

Today at preschool to introduce the grand staff we made art pictures and glued "wagon wheel" pasta on every line and space on the staff. Children often don't visualize the "spaces" on the staff and think of notes moving from one line to the next line. To help them remember to see the spaces we also had "races in the spaces" by imagining the spaces as lanes on a race track. We then scooted our wagon wheels along the spaces in the staff. For more reinforcement of lines and spaces on the staff check out the fun variations of the staff on Susan Paradis's website link on the right. Under her games tab you'll find the following free printables: Candy Corn Staff, Staff for Dimes, Peppermint Notes and Jewel Notes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Nutcracker" Samples for Kids

When children are exposed to a great variety of music, they tend to play the piano more expressivly. To listen to some samples of various dances from "The Nutcracker" click on the Starfall link and Check out Tchaikovsky's jukebox in the "It's fun to read" music section.

Treble/Bass Clef Musical "Spots"

Last week at preschool I introduced the treble & bass clefs with this fun game. The kids loved it and wanted to keep on playing it. First the students each stood on a colored felt "spot" on the floor. Then I set a picture of a bass clef or a treble clef next to each spot. As we listened to the "Queen Treble Clef, King Bass Clef" song the kids walked around from spot to spot. When I stopped the music at random times the students raced to "act out" which clef they were standing by. Bass Clefs crouched down low to the ground to represent the low sounds in the bass clef, while the treble clefs jumped up high to represent high notes. They also named their clefs using the correct voice - High pitched Treble Clef/Low pitched Bass Clef. The students took turns playing the high (treble) and low (bass) notes at the piano to match the words of the song.

Jingle Bells Finger # Review

Playing the piano becomes very motivating when kids learn to play familiar songs. I can still remember when I learned a song by Beethoven that I had listened to on one of my dad's records for years. It made me feel like I was a "real" pianist. For a fun way to review finger #'s, print out a simple of version of Jingle Bells at the Phonics 4 Piano website. This song is written just for the right hand. You can also try playing it on the "computer" piano by clicking on the "online fun" tab on their site.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Teaching with Snacks

To introduce note values to my students I use graham crackers, chocolate chips and marshmallows. The grahams are already conveniently divided into 4 sections. Each rectangle represents one beat. Then we add the chocolate chips and pretzels to make quarter notes on one cracker or marshmallows & pretzels to make half notes on 2 crackers. This helps kids visualize that half notes are bigger and therefore longer. Once they have successfully "clapped" the rhythm on their crackers, then they get to eat them.

Meteor Match 1

Click on the music learning community link to play this quick game to review quarter notes and half notes. It may be a challenge for some young students to control the mouse quickly enough, so you can have them point to the correct answer on the screen or call it out while you click on it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Letter Fly

Check out this fun game on the Music Learning Community link to introduce the white keys CDE to your child. I introduce "D" first by having them find the 2 black key groups and saying this little rhyme - "Hey Diddle Diddle, the D's in the middle." Another fun way is to call the 2 black keys the Doghouse and tell them that the "D" for Dog lives inside, but for young preschoolers who may not associate D with Dog yet, this analogy won't be very effective.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who Took the Cookie From the Cookie Jar

I was surprised at how much my preschoolers loved this familiar song. It helps them improve their sense of rhythm and large motor skills. Check out this video on Youtube for a demo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Once a Year on Halloween

This fun Halloween song from Susan Paradis's website (see link on the right) helps young beginners clearly distinguish between up & down stem notes. Try tapping the correct hand for the notes (down stems left, up stems right)to help. Say the hand as you tap...ex: left, left left, right: left, left left, etc. Once this is mastered they can tap finger #'s off the piano and then try it on the keys.

Monday, October 19, 2009

SanFran Orchestra Fun

I discovered this fun music website for kids. Some of the material is geared towards "readers" several of the activities even young beginners could try.
The "Radio" has many short clips from Classical Music. Try having your child listen to different samples and ask them to draw a picture of what the music makes them think of. When children can associate music with pictures, stories or emotions they end up being more expressive performers.
The "Performalator" in the Music Lab can reinforce concepts of reading from left to right. It also reinforces the idea for children that notes high on the page are high on the keyboard, low on the page are low on the keyboard. Although it doesn't involve true music reading, kids can have fun "playing" familiar tunes on the keys like Twinkle Twinkle & Row Row Your Boat.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wendy the Whale

Click on the Faber Piano Adventures site at the right to watch a demonstration of this song. Often I like to introduce songs to preschoolers by first doing a larger body movement as they listen to it. For this one we pretended to be whales on the ground and swayed our "tails" to the rhythm.

Tap Your Sticks Together

This song comes from a Hap Palmer "Baby Songs-ABCs" video. My daughter loves all of their videos which we frequently check out at the local library. Even though they are a bit dated, they have fun "activity" songs for preschoolers. The songs are well-written with easy "catchy" tunes. For this particular song, kids get two sticks (spoons, pens, wands, shoes etc.) and tap them together "Tap your sticks to the right with a 1,2,3; Tap your sticks to the left with a 1,2,3..." with several variations like tap your sticks on the ground, hammer left with the right...etc. It helps them improve their sense of beat, encourages singing & helps them improve their coordination and listening skills.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Piano Forte Classical Freeze

To help my students learn piano (soft) and forte (loud), I played different excerpts from Classical music while they danced. When the music stopped they had to freeze & hold up a pianomouse sign (mouse picture w/ a piano symbol on it) or a fortelion sign (lion sign w/ a forte symbol on it) to show me what the music sounded like. They loved this activity, especially the "freeze" part!

Tigers at My Door

This song introduces the sound of the major scale, which is used so frequently in Classical Music. For a movement activity we jumped in a circle to the music (1,2,3,4,5) and then bent down to knock the rhythm on books ("Tigers at my door") in the center of the circle. We knocked "forte" loudly with knuckles or tapped a finger "piano" softly to match the words of the song. Click the My First Piano Adventures Link at the Right to "Watch Nancy" demonstrate this song at the piano on the video tour. (Lesson Book p. 28)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sing-a-long Books

I love to reading and music so sing-a-long books are some of my favorites because they help my kids be more musical and better readers at the same time. Singing also helps children improve their sense of rhythm and aural memory. Sometimes I tap the rhythm of the song below the words on the page or bounce them on my lap to the beat or rhythm of the song.
At the Portneuf Library I found "Piggies" by Don & Audrey Wood. The illustrations are adorable and very captivating for young children. I made up my own melody while reading it and changed the words a bit to help review finger #s. Ex: "I've got two fat little piggies" sitting on finger ___. (one). I have the students wiggle the fingers the piggies are sitting on and say the corresponding finger # on each page where they introduce new "piggies." Then at the end of the book they "put them all together, all in a row" & tap thumbs together, then 2nd fingers, 3rd fingers, etc.

A few other sing-a-longs my kids enjoy:
The Boy on the Bus by Penny Dale - This is a fun variation of wheels on the bus.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani - Trapani has a lot of sing-a-long books that have additional verses to the traditional songs. Click on her name to see more. You can find a lot of these at the library too.
I'm a Little Teapot by Iza Trapani
Twinkle, Twinkle, Litte Star by IzaTrapani
Oh where oh where has my little dog gone? by Iza Trapani
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you see? by Eric Carle -the library has a music cd to go along with this favorite book that they use at storytime- but unfortunately it isn't available for checkout.

Do you have any other sing-a-long books that your kids enjoy?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Starfall Left to Right

For prereaders - learning piano involves so many new concepts, including the idea that we read notes on the page from left to right. You can start introducing this idea to toddlers by guiding their hand along the page in the hymn book under the notes or words as you sing each week in church. Sometimes this trick even helps them sit more quietly:) To go further, gently tap their finger to the rhythm of the song under the notes. They will pick up on a lot subconciously.

Before playing songs in the book have your child point to the finger #s starting on the left and moving across the page to the right while they listen to the corresponding CD song. Starfall has a short fun movie that also reviews this concept in the Learn to Read section.

Rainbow Wrist Ribbons

To help the students focus on their wrist motion I have them put a large hair elastic around their wrist (like a bracelet) w/ a rainbow ribbon tied to it. Then we sing Rainbows (Lesson book p. 24) while gracefully "drawing" rainbows in the air with our wrists.

5 Little Pumpkins

This Month we will be singing this song from Susan Paradis' website so that by Halloween the children can try playing it on their own after they become familiar with the melody. It is also a great way to review finger #s as we wiggle the finger # for each pumpkin mentioned. Students need to be able to recognize fingers as first, second, third... as well as by number (one, two, three...).

Mitsy's Cat Back & Kangaroo Show

Click the link on the right to watch a video example of Mitsy's Catback at the Faber My First Piano Adventures Website. Select "Video Lesson Guide." Then click on Mitsy's Catback and Watch Nancy. Have your child watch with you and do the activity together.
This hand motion prepares the child to play the "Boings" on Kangaroo Show. There is also a great video you can watch with your child on this site to go with the Kangaroo Show song.

Monday, September 28, 2009


If your child is just beginning to use the computer, this is a fun educational website to help them improve their fine motor coordination by practicing using the mouse. It is focused on learning to read rather than learning to read music, but I love how there are a lot of classical music clips for my children to listen to while learning their letters. The more they hear a variety of great music, the more likely they are to play with feeling in the future. My younger kids ask me to do it everyday because it is so much fun.


Check out this free game on Music Learning Community. It helps improve aural memory but is easy enough for young children. I think it helps if you sing along or count as the birds sing.

Black Key Compositions

Children are so eager to play on the piano before they can actually "read the notes." One great way for them to make nice musical sounds and practice playing with curved fingers on fingertips is to compose their own "all black key" song.
First have them choose a theme for their song. (Watching the Stars, Playing Ball, A visit to the zoo, Bike Riding, Princesses, etc.)
Encourage them to play around on the black keys using high and low sounds to represent the theme of their song.
You could ask them to use only "2 black keys groups" or only "3 black key groups" to help them learn to identify the black key groups on the piano.
Playing copycat can also be fun. Play a 2 or 3 note melody on the black keys and then ask them to copy you.

Rhythm Ball Roll

I like to do a fun activity to first introduce the rhythm of a song before having them dive in and try to play the song. Too often, students just focus on the "playing the right keys" and forget about playing the correct rhythm. For "Katie Scores" (Lesson Book p. 27) try this:
  • FORTE (loud) VERSION: 2 people sit facing each other with their feet touching and legs spread out to form "the soccer field. "While listening to "Katie Scores"say "Tap, Tap, Tap, Roll------" and tap a small soft ball 3 times and then roll it to your partner. Repeat until the end of the song.
  • piano (soft) version: Instead of tapping the ball with your whole hand, tap with the finger numbers in the song (2,2,2, together------). "Kick"the ball to your partner using fingers 2 and 3 together.
For more practice try repeating this activity with Kangaroo Show p. 26, and the beginning of Wendy the Whale p. 30 & Magic Tree House p.32.

Then follow the directions on each page for playing on the black keys on the piano.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Storytime at the Piano

One of my children's favorite piano activities is "storytime." They especially love it when they are the star of the story. I encourage them to "make sounds" at the piano to go along with story. For example:
One day Dan and his dad were going four wheeling in the mountains.
First they climbed up a steep mountain very slowly so they could look for deer (Play white keys on the piano going up one key at a time slowly).
Then they decided to stop for a while by the lake so they could eat some fruit snacks and look at the fish in the water (Stop on a white key and play it repeatedly).
All of the sudden they heard a funny bird in the tree (Play high keys imitating a bird)
This helps reinforce concepts of high and low sounds and helps children play more artistically in the future as they learn to create sounds that represent emotions and objects in the world. Its also a great way to encourage them to compose from the beginning.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wrist, Forearm, Fingertips

Click the Faber piano teaching link on the right to watch a demo video for this song. It helps your child learn to name body parts used for piano and encourages flexible wrists and fingertip playing from the start. There is also a helpful video you can watch for "Mitsy's CatBack" song.

Easy Hymn Arrangement Giveaway

A website I refer to often as a piano teacher is Wendy's Piano Studio. She posts a lot of great ideas for teaching children to compose. I like her motivational charts that are great for young students to keep track of their practice. This week she is giving away some easy hymn arrangements. Click on the link above to go to her site for a chance to win.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Music Learning Community

Check out the link on the right to music learning community. There are many fun free piano computer games at this site or you can subscribe for about $10 a month to be able to access all of them. At this point stormchasers, smiley and friends and songbirds would all be good games to try with your child.

Cookie Dough

When you practice Cookie Dough (Lesson Book p. 15) with your child, here are a few things to watch for. This activity helps them to learn to move their fingers independently. Remind them to press into the dough with the tip of their finger.
Is their wrist level with their arm (not drooping)?
Are they pressing their thumb on its "side-tip"?
Are their fingers curved (not flat like spaghetti)?
Are the fingers that are not pressing the dough relaxed (not tense)?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Storm Chasers

For some fun practice learning to hear if notes are going up or going down, check out this fun game on Music Learning It might take a while for your preschooler to master this. It is helpful if they try and sing what they just heard and then decide if it went up or down.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Popcorn Popping on the Piano Keys

Playing on fingertips is essential for proper piano playing. Playing the piano with the 3rd finger supported by the thumb helps reinforce this concept for children from the beginning. Both the Donut and Twinkle Twinkle Songs should be played with this hand position. Think of your 3rd finger like a woodpecker's beak tapping the piano keys

To learn about short sounds at the piano I created this version of Popcorn Popping.
"I looked at my piano and what did I see (make donut shape w/ fingers 1 &3 (see p. 15 of Piano Adventures Writing Book) and put both hands to your eyes to make glasses
Popcorn popping on the piano keys (Play Short sounds on a key on the piano w/ your 3rd finger supported by thumb - a 3-1 donut)
Spring has brought me such a big surprise
Popcorn popping right before my eyes...etc." (Play Short sounds)
Finish the song as usual.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Quarter Note Hunt Instructions

Click on this link to read the instructions for the Quarter Note Hunt Game.
We will be using this game to introduce all of the notes. Be sure to save it for future reference.
For further learning, once your child has found all of the quarter notes, have them sort the "up-stems" from the "down-stems". If the stem goes up you play with your right hand. If the stem goes down you play with your left hand. I first have them tap all the up-stem quarter notes w/ right hand, then down-stems with left hand. For a challenge they can then have two cards switch places and tap again.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

This song is excellent for reinforcing the concept of a steady beat because the key words/actions always fall on the beat. If you have a keyboard with a metronome function or a metronome try having your child match the beat of the metronome - start very slow (40 beats per minute) and work up to 200.

Piano Posture Song: At the Piano Sit Straight and Tall...

Teaching concepts with a song makes it a lot more memorable and can also be a clever "less threatening" way provide correction when needed.

Piano Pokey

I made a giant keyboard by drawing piano keys on an old sheet (a vinyl tablecloth would work even better). We do the hokey pokey with a little piano twist. It seems to take little kids a while to figure out the difference between left and right. Each time I have them hold out their hands flat and look for the capital L in the left hand before we start.
"You put your right up high, (pretend to play piano w/ right hand on the right side of the keyboard)
You put your left down low (play piano w/ left hand on left side of keyboard)
You put your right up high, and you play it all around (wiggle fingers like your playing the keys)
You do the piano pokey and you turn yourself around (normal hokey pokey actions)
That's what its all about."
(Repeat using feet)

I Caught a Fish Alive

I adapted this traditional song to meet my piano teaching purposes. There are two variations. With young children it is beneficial to start with large motor (that use big muscles like legs & trunk) activities and then work gradually towards the fine motor (that use small muscles like hand and fingers) skills required for playing the piano when the child masters the skill. Large Motor Skill Make a giant staff (5 parallel lines) on the floor using yarn,masking tape or an old sheet or tablecloth written on with marker. Have the child place circles (notes) starting on the bottom line and going up the staff 5 notes (line, space, line, space, line) and then back down (a five finger scale) so it looks like a mountain. Then sing this song while holding a toy fish marching up and down the mountain. 1,2,3,4,5 (Walk up the notes) I Caught a Fish Alive (Walk down the notes starting w/"a fish alive") 6, 7,8,9,10 ((Walk up the notes) I let him go again (Drop the fish) Why did I let him go? (Tap sway or march in place to the beat for the rest of the song) Because he bit my finger so. Which finger did he bite? My (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) finger on the (right/left). (Wiggle the correct finger on your right or left hand). This introduces in a subtle way the idea of line notes, space notes, steps on the staff, high & low notes finger #s, feeling the beat, and left & right. I might even let the children choose a cute rhythm fish card with basic notes and rests on it from website and name them Mr. Half Note, or Miss Quarter Rest, etc. Small Motor Skill Once this is easy for the child, we'll switch to moving the fish in the air with our arms like it is climbing up and down the stairs. Next we'll go to the piano and play the first part of the song on the C scale using the 3rd finger supported by the thumb like in the My First Piano Adventures Tigers At My Door Song.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fruit by the Foot Half Notes

After observing my son's kindergarten teacher I've seen how you can make any moment a learning moment. So in preschool even snack time will be packed full of learning adventures. Today Dan and I made half notes & numbers out of fruit by the foot. Even after the fruit was gone the paper wrapper was still fun to form into shapes with. Who says you can't play with your food?
Pretzels, mini oreos, cheerios and fruit loops can be great to build notes with too.
I made some snack placemats with a staff on one side and a keyboard on the other. I'm going to have the students line up their "Snack Notes" on their staff placemats and then practice clapping the rhythms once they are more familiar with the note values.

Steady Beat Elephants

One of the fundamental skills for success playing any musical instrument is to "feel the beat". Every day we will start preschool with some "feeling the beat" activities. Hear are just a few ideas to try at home.
Listen to "Friends at the Piano" (on the Faber My First Piano Adventures Lesson Book CD). Tap the beat on your lap or clap. Then vary the motions by tapping lap & clapping. Or for even more fun make animal motions to the beat - clap like a seal, make your arms into a trunk and sway like an elephant, peck your head like a woodpecker, etc.

Sing Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes to the Beat of the Metronome. We started really slow w/ metronome at 40 and worked up to 200 beats per minute. Make sure you listen for the speed of the metronome before you begin. For a challenge try it with your eyes closed.

Piano Adventure Preschool

I am so excited to start teaching piano preschool next week. Once a week for an hour Dan, Emily and 3 of their friends will get together in a preschool setting to learn piano concepts. Today I did a practice run with just Dan & Emily. It was a lot of fun!