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.