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Monday, May 30, 2011

Piano Teaching 101- Thirteen Tips on How to Begin

Piano Teaching 101 - Thirteen Tips on how to begin teaching piano lessons

In response to a recent query from a friend of mine who is interested in becoming a piano teacher, I compiled this quick "to do" list of elements that have proven valuable in my own piano teaching adventures.

1. Purchase some beginning method books and become familiar with them. My favorite "teacher friendly" beginner level piano books are Piano Adventures by Nancy & Randall Faber. The wealth of online support ideas make this a great book to start with for teachers who are just starting out, and their songs are appealing to students as well. I have my students purchase the Lesson and Technique books. I teach them theory with online activities and games during lesson and lab time and supplement with other books from my music library instead of using the Performance book.
Another favorite method of mine is the Hal Leonard Series. The accompaniment CD's are especially motivating and engaging for the beginning levels and provide a fun support system for home practice to spice up the "simple sounding songs" at the start of music lessons. The presentation of concepts in both of these methods follows a similar order so I often interchange them to suit the tastes and needs of my students.

(Disclosure: I don't receive any monetary compensation for promoting any of the resources on this post-- they just happen to be some of my personal favorites:)! )

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hearing Half Steps Lab Assignment




1. Watch this video listening for the entrance of the "spooky sounding" character.
2. Create your own story composition that includes a "spooky" character and use half steps on the piano when he enters the story.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Composition as a Reinforcement Tool

"Can I compose a Sonatina???"
That was the question posed to me by one of my students today after I introduced her to this simplified version of Clementi's Sonatina . She has demonstrated amazing composing/improv ability and "WOW's" my other students with the compositions that she performs at group lessons.

Last week I decided to capitalize on this interest of hers - She'd much rather compose her own songs than play the ones in the lesson book. She hadn't quite mastered the a harmonic minor scale from the week before, so I asked her to compose a song including an a harmonic scale rather than giving her the same assignment again. This ended up being the perfect solution and I was pleased to hear plenty of broken primary chords in her song as well.

So in my efforts to apply the ideas I've gleaned from recently reading "Play it Again, Sam - What Why and When to Repeat" (by Marienne Uszler), I decided to let her give it a try. Uszler mentions that effective teachers can present the same concept in a myriad of different ways and thus appeal to the various senses and learning styles of each student and aid in reinforcement of concepts.

Sometimes it takes a little courage for me to think outside the box of tools that my teachers passed on to me... composition was definitely not one of them. But based on last weeks lesson assignment results, I discarded my previous lesson plan ideas. My student seemed pretty intrigued with the Sonatina which I introduced to her go along with our focus this month on the Classical Era, so I taught a mini lesson on Sonatina form and briefly reviewed identifying relative keys. I asked her to come back next week with the beginnings of her composition including the following components:

Exposition (major),
Development (relative minor)
Recapitulation (reintroduce the major theme)
Contrasting Legato & Staccato elements
at least 1 scale

After she listened to Clementi's original composition on CD, I let her loose on the Doodle Pad for lab time. After hearing her "beginning stage of composition" on the Music Ace Doodle Pad that I had her create during lab time, I'm excited for next weeks lesson!

For more ideas about encouraging Composition check out Wendy's blog at Compose Create. Her posts have given me the inspiration and motivation to utilize composition as a tool in my studio more often.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Piano Pencil Storage Solution




Inspired by this cute gift can tutorial on "Our Best Bites" blog, I decided to create my own unique decorative piano pencil storage can. Now that my little one has figured out how to open my piano cabinets drawer and doors.... I've had to become a little more clever at hiding my piano tools from her inquisitive fingers (and mouth).
I bought several small pop top fruit cans to fill with mother's day treats... but someone opened up one can the wrong way before I could transform it, so I enjoyed the chocolate that was supposed to fill it and came up with this new use for it instead. I use colored pencils a lot in my teaching when I "Hand over the Pencil", so now I can store them all beautifully within my reach....
and out of hers.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Piano Mom





By the time I was 10 years old I was pretty certain about what I wanted to be when I grew up....
a piano teacher and a mom. I feel fortunate to now be "living my dream" although I never realized what a challenge it would be to balance the 2 roles. Thankfully I have an amazing husband who is totally supportive of my "piano dreams" and puts his Saturday morning chores aside to watch our children so I can have fun teaching my students.


"As we age, we begin to realize the value of a mother's love and the enormous depth of her commitment to us." (Anonymous)

I think the older I get, the more this truth is confirmed to me. As I try to balance my role as a mother of 5 and a piano teaching enthusiast, I reflect on the many sacrifices my mom made for me - driving across town to take me to piano lessons, putting off her own educational interests to help encourage me in mine. She continues to be mentor and an inspiration to me.


So sometimes when I think of my long list of "potential piano blog posts" and my motherly duties that I struggle to squeeze into my schedule, I think of the cross stitched quote that my mom had hanging on our wall growing up.

"Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow
For babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep
I'm rocking my babies and babies don't keep"

Only for me I replace the "cleaning and scrubbing" part with "blogging and browsing"---- because that's way more tempting for me than housework! :)

So when my posts are bit sparse, its because my "other job" has taken precedence. But my favorite thing is doing both of my "jobs" at the same time!






So this mother's day I reflect on the great blessing it is for me to have an "angel mother" and to have learned so much from her. Last Mother's day she gave me a beautiful book full of quotes and artwork about Mothers entitled "Errand of Angels - In Honor and Praise of Mothers." Following is one of my favorite quotes from it that I find applicable to both piano teaching and motherhood.

"As I come to understand the many talents and characteristics of women, I realize how needed their strengths are in this dispensation. We must remember that we are daughters of God here to provide nurturing care for one another, family and friends- loving care to soften the changes of life felt by all.

What a great opportunity we have to fill our God-given role. He has given us the privilege to shape the lives of those entrusted to our care. Even those of us who have not been blessed to have children of our own can still be influential as trainers and nurturers. It does not matter where we live, whether we are rich or poor, whether our family is large or small. Each of us can share that Christ-like love in our "motherly ministry."
Barbara Winder, former General Relief Society President

I feel so thankful to have 2 fun jobs where I can hopefully influence others lives for good just as my life has been blessed by my mother and countless other teachers.

Happy Mothers Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sweet Variation on an Edible Piano Theme



After seeing this fun edible sandwich piano on For Love of Piano my creative juices started to flow and I came up with this simpler, sweeter version made of snack size Kit Kat's (cut in half) and wafer cookies for treats at my Baroque group lesson today. We'll be taking a little "field trip" to explore the organ at the church
And just for fun... I made this pink version for my little "think pink" preschooler.

How about a lesson on skips on the keys?
Maybe next time I'll add in a healthier version with celery sticks for the white keys and baby carrots or red pepper strips for black keys.