Friday, May 14, 2010

Tips on Practicing with a CD

Today I indulged myself and found a babysitter for the little ones so I could attend a 3 hour workshop by Dennis Alexander who was visiting as the adjudicator for the Musician's West Competition.
I love how so many of the new method books coming out include CDs - including Alfred's Premier Piano Course, which Mr. Alexander highlighted for us. I agree with his point that hearing a piece first helps students play more expressively. He emphasized the importance of demonstrating how to practice with the CD rather than just sending the students home with the instruction to listen to it because it will help them learn the song more easily. For example students could:
  • Listen to the cd as they point to the score and follow along in their music
  • Listen and clap the rhythm of the right hand (or left hand)
  • Listen and sightread the right hand part(or left hand) silently on the keys
  • COUNT ALOUD as they listen to the music
I've found the CD's that come along with the Hal Leonard method books and Faber My First Piano Adventures very useful in my studio during lab time. The Faber Gold Star Performance Books also have some excellent CD's. Following are a few "CD activities" for students to do .
  • Allow student to listen to 2 pieces and choose which one they would like to learn the most. Students are more likely to practice a song that they've "chosen."
  • Tap the rhythm of a piece on various instruments as they listen to the CD. I like to have 2 different instruments - one for the L.H. and one for the R.H. (Maraccas, castanets, tambourine, drum, etc.)
  • Fill out a music listening worksheet as they listen to the CD and describe the tempo, dynamics, style, etc. of a new piece.
  • Have the student listen and draw a picture of what the song makes them think of.
I like how both the Alfred Premier Piano Course CD's and the Hal Leonard CD's include both a practice and performance tempo for each song. I especially like how the "performance" versions on the Hal Leonard CD's are more like an orchestral or piano duet part. This provides students with a "duet" experience at home on a consistent basis. For beginners, piano practice becomes much more motivating and enjoyable when they can "invite the orchestra" (or other instruments) into their home to play along with their otherwise simple sounding songs.
I also like to supplement with other books that don't include CD's and do plenty of notereading lab activities so that students don't just learn to play all of their songs by ear.

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