Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Preparing a Child for Piano

I could probably write a hundred pages on this topic:)...... but at my sister's recent request I'll just start with a few pointers. The task of playing the piano involves so many different elements it may seem a daunting task to know where to begin when teaching a young child. Yet there are so many things that a parent can do to prepare their child for success at the piano before beginning to pay for formal lessons.
I enjoyed Natalie Wickham's recent interview about fun music activities for children on Music Matters Blog on this subject. She includes some great ideas for instilling rhythm, music appreciation and understanding basic piano topography.
During the first few sessions of piano preschool I did several activities that could easily be done at home to help parents introduce their little ones to the piano. Following are just a few... but if you go to the oldest posts on my blog and read "backwards" you can find more ideas in the general order that I introduce them.

Feel the beat: Steady Beat Elephants or Head Shoulder's Knees & Toes (you can listen to and print this song here if you aren't familiar with it).
Right & Left Hands & High and Low on Piano: "Piano Pokey"
Finger #s : "Where is One"
Find and play the groups of 2 & 3 black keys on the piano.

If you have some basic piano training yourself including knowledge of proper piano technique, it might be fun to "jumpstart" your child's learning by actually purchasing a beginning method book and teaching your child their first piano lessons.
My FAVORITE piano book for young beginners is "My First Piano Adventures" by Nancy & Randall Faber. It costs about $10 and has a fun CD to go with it. It introduces the concepts very slowly for young beginners. I think I would pay $10 just for the CD because I like it so much :) There are also some really cute "pre-reading" songs you can print off from Susan Paradis's site that my children have enjoyed to help them to learn finger #s, left & right hand.
Try... What the Robin Said to the Worm, It's October & Wiggly Worm -
For the first week I also encourage them to "play around" on the black keys with fingers 2&3 or 23&4 and make up their songs for fun.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Free Resource for Christmas piano/choral music

As I've been going through Christmas music for my students I remembered this excellent site with free printable songs arranged by Sally Deford.
She has a large amount of beautiful arrangements of traditional Christmas (and other sacred) songs as well as a few of her own compositions -including both church choral music and many piano solos. Just click on the "sheet music" tab on her site.
Following are a few of my favorites:
Guard Him Joseph - I think part of why I love this original Christmas composition of hers so much is that it is based on the harmonic progressions in Pachebel's Canon in D . I loved playing Canon in D in the middle school orchestra! This Christmas composition is so soothing that I like playing & singing it throughout the year. I also like how the lyrics focus on the role of the Savior's earthly father in his life.

Silent Night/Still Still Still - This piano solo combines 2 of my favorite soothing Christmas songs into one & I love how it makes me feel contemplative.

How Can I Keep From Singing I appreciate how Sally Deford has kept the accompaniment on this arrangement simple so it doesn't detract from the beautiful message in the words. I absolutely LOVE the moving lyrics to this song (attributed to Pauline T.)

"No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?"

Don't miss out on the recording of this song by James Loynes on her site. Just hearing it makes me think of Thanksgiving and how much I have to be grateful for in my life.
I'd love to highlight more of my favorites like:
My Heavenly Father Loves Me
I Stand All Amazed
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I Need Thee Every Hour............... and so much more...............
but Iguess this will have to do because my sweet little one is letting me know she's ready for her dinner :0) !