Sunday, November 10, 2013

Music of Thanksgiving and Gratitude

 It seems like the stores skip straight from Halloween to Christmas and don't place a lot of emphasis on Thanksgiving, yet I love the yearly reminder of giving thanks and want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude within my children, as it is so easy for us to forget our many blessings.  Following are a few songs that I have used in my piano studio and home approaching the Thanksgiving Season.
For Health and Strength  - a short one line round perfect for siblings to practice in duet or round form
I remember singing this song often at church as a young child.  It was probably my first exposure to singing in a round.  One evening as I was gathered in the bathroom with several of my siblings to brush our teeth, someone broke into song.  We had a memorable and jovial impromptu choir practice in front of the bathroom mirror as we practiced conducting with exaggerated motions to cue each new part and sing this song with multiple rounds.  Now when I hear this song it makes me think of the blessing it was to grow up in a home full of siblings (there were 6 of us) surrounded by love.  I am thankful for parents who took me to church regularly and filled my life with music that helps me remember the Lord.  Following are a few of my favorites.
My Heavenly Father Loves Me I love the soothing melody line in this song!
Thanks to Our Father - Haydn + Robert Louis Stevenson
Family Prayer     Sometimes we use this as an attention getter to gather our own 6 squirmy children for prayer.
 Children All Over the World  As a child I was intrigued by the challenge of learning to say thank you in many different languages when I was taught to sing this song.
Hymn of Grateful Praise and  various arrangements by Sally Deford
This year I accompanied my daughter this year as she sang her first solo in church - "Come Thou Fount".  One of my piano students who was in the congregation called me afterward and asked what the name of the song was because she loved it so much.  The level of difficulty was beyond her reach, but since she was so enthused about learning it, after she mastered the melody line, I had her identify the chords in the harmony and showed her some tricks for improvising it to her level.
All Things Bright and Beautiful - simple arrangement by Susan Paradis
This week I was asked to give a short talk (sermon) on the topic of gratitude.  It was the perfect topic for me because its something that I need to work on.  It is easy for me to be honest, to be obedient, but being grateful and optimistic is a continual challenge.  I want to be more like Job who after having most of his temporal blessings stripped from him was still able to say

·       " Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."
I I love the reminder in this short video of a simple daily exercise that can help me live in thanksgiving daily... not just as I approach Thanksgiving.

As I watch "My New Life," the story of Stephanie Nielsen, a young mother who survived a plane crash, it chokes me up almost everytime.  Maybe its because I'm still in the phase of life with precious little children at home to care for who have many needs and yet who are the joy and delight of my life.  The background music is beautiful and it reminds me of the amazing husband I am privileged to share this life together with.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pianoanne Tutorials Lab Assignments

Watch Piano Anne YouTube Tutorial Videos to help you answer the 10 questions below.

Level 4
Piano Anne YouTube Video: Ledger Lines

Define ledger lines.

Level 5

Piano Anne You Tube Video: Major and Perfect Intervals

1. Which intervals #s are major?

2. Which intervals #s are perfect?

Circle of Fifths

3. Name the order of flats and name the order of sharps.

Relative Minors

4. What is the easiest way to find the relative minor of a major key?
5. What is the relative minor to D Major?
6. What is the relative minor to A Major?
7. What is another memory aid to remember the order of sharps that you could use instead of Fluffy Cat Goes Down And Eats Breakfast?

Minor Scales

8. What are the 3 types of minor scales?
9. Which degree (or note) of the scale is raised in a harmonic minor scale?

Degree Names of the Scale (Tonic, Supertonic...)

10. Name the technical degree names of the scale in order including roman numerals

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Why Teach by Rote?

I recently read a thought provoking mini essay by Dr. Julie Knerr and Katherine Fisher at  Previously I had viewed teaching by rote as something I should beware of so that students don't use their ears as a crutch to avoid learning how to actually read music.  But their logic regarding learning to speak a foreign language resonated with me.  Perhaps that's because after 2 years of college courses in Spanish, I can (sort of) read the language,  but my actual conversational abilities in Spanish are seriously lacking.  As a piano teacher I want my students to be musically fluent, not just good music readers. 
I've started intentionally incorporating more rote teaching in my piano lessons lately and have been very encouraged by the enthusiasm and progress it is fostering in my students technical, aural and memory skills.  Although I've been teaching basic technical skills like pentascales and arpeggios by rote for many years.  I've steered away from teaching songs by rote for fear that my students would play by ear rather than learning to read the music fluently.

The Pedagogical Resources Link on Piano Safari include several other interesting essays.  I like the suggestion in "Assigning Pieces" to mark some review pieces for students to include as part of their weekly practice.  The "Teaching Strategies" essay includes some great concrete ideas applicable to a variety of teaching situations.  I also love the insurance and osmosis analogies.  This is a website definitely worth checking into!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trick or Treat Rhythm Parade

I think the cute graphics on these Rhythm Trick or Treat worksheets recently posted at "Ear Training and Improv.".are adorable, and my preschooler does too.  So after identifying the quarter and half notes on each page, I decided to extend the activity by cutting out all of the trick-or-treaters to form a rhythm parade.   We arranged the characters in different patterns and practiced clapping and counting the rhythms.
To start out I thought it would be fun to chant
"Treat" for the quarter notes
and "Boooo!" for the half.
Then we switched it up to regular counting.
Another fun variation might be to form 2 lines of characters.  The teacher claps one of the rhythm parades and the student has to guess which one they clapped.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bach Halloween Music Listening Lab

Bach Toccata and Fugue in d minor for piano

Listen to the first part of this performance. 
1. A Toccata is a piece including fast-moving lightly fingered passages.  When does this song start to sound like a toccata?
2. Do you think the performer is using the pedal? Why or why not?

Bach Tocatta and Fugue in d minor for organ

3.  Bach was a Baroque composer.  The piano was not invented during his life, so his keyboard pieces were actually composed for organ or harpsichord.  How does the organ sound different than the piano?
4.  Different sets of keyboards on an organ are called manuals.  How many manuals do you see on this organ?
5.  A fugue is a piece that usually has 2 or more voices (melodies) that often imitate each other.

The lower "giant keys" played by the feet are called the pedalboard. How many black pedals can you count on the pedalboard?

Does this song sound
A.  Major Throughout
B.  Minor Throughout
C.  Some Major and Some Minor passages

Follow this link to Classics for Kids to hear more Spooky Halloween music!

You can find a simplified piano version at

Adapting Music Games

I started a new adventure this fall one of my children, so my piano blogging has been pretty sparse the last few months.  I have a new respect for homeschooling moms!  Because of the time crunch its created for me, I've fallen back on many piano games and resources already in my collection to make last minute lesson fun.  I tweaked the rules of some games a bit to make it more novel and challenging for my students.

For example I used the Tic Tac Toe Notenaming  cards from Susan Paradis to start lessons out with a quick game of "Don't eat the Poison Pumpkin" (aka Don't eat Pete).  I chose a "poison" music alphabet letter.  Students had to correctly name the notes on the cards before removing m&ms from each space on the card. 

My Mitten Match Rhythm Cards from Sing a New Song were used to play BANG.  I just added a few contrasting "Rhythm Addition" cards of the same size to the piles, tossed them in a paper lunch sack and had 2 students take turns grabbing and clapping rhythm cards from their own bag to see who could collect 4 cards first.  I used different leveled rhythm cards to match the skills of my students.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Timothy Brown Piano Workshop Notes

I look forward to attending local piano workshops every summer because I always pick up some new ideas and great reminders to help refresh my teaching skills.  Following is a mixture of both the content of Mr. Brown's presentation with a few of my own inspirations added in.
Tips for Teaching Composition
  • Set Parameters. Some examples that came to my mind include 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Extraordinary Gift of Music

I love this inspiring video about a gifted pianist!
One of my favorite parts is the quote at the beginning by Elder Henry B. Eyring
"Every person is different and has a different contribution to make.  No one is destined to fail."

For some reason the video loads fine on my PC but not on my tablet., but this link to youtube should work on both.

Link to Mormon Messages Extraordinary Gift Video site

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hearing and Seeing Piano Patterns from the Start

Imagination makes piano teaching come to life, especially when you're having fun with a curious 3 year old.  My little girl is lately really liking to be BIG like her siblings, which fortunately for me means she's big enough to "practice piano" just like them.
I loved the reminder from Joy's NCKP notes about the natural teaching sequence of sound, feel, sign, name. Although this wasn't a new concept for me, sometimes its not my first instinct to introduce sounds first..
1-  To start with SOUND I played all of the black keys going up the piano while singing "dog house" (2 black keys) "my gar- age" (3 black keys).  For a fun game

Friday, July 19, 2013

Climbing Piano Mountains

There are great challenges ahead of us, giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say… ‘Give me this mountain,’ give me these challenges.”  Spencer W. Kimball
Do you ever have students that avoid the technical skills assigned week after week, or are not so enthused about sight reading or rhythm drills?  Instead of doing my typical Ice Cream Piano Party checklist or Piano Olympics during the summer months, I was inspired to try something new this summer that could be flexible enough to use for all of my students at various levels and add some variety and challenge.  I was thrilled this week when one of my students walked in the door super excited to pass off some rhythm drills to get to the top of his "Rocky Ridge Rhythm Mountains"  while his brother was able to stay on task better than ever beating his Music Ace game scores during piano lab  for "Mount Killamanjaro."
I made this simple Mountains to Climb tracking sheet and slipped it into a sheet protector at the front of each students binder.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Consecutive Super Sightreaders - Part 2

Thanks to Piano Geek Week, I just discovered another great resource for a more gradual approach to sightreading practice - Diane Hidy's Sightreading Flashcards.

I plan to add these to my teaching binders along with my Pianimation sightreading sets & use them with my Consecutive Sightreading Contest that I posted about here. She has 14 free sets (4 pages each) that begin with

Monday, April 29, 2013

Piano Game Resource List by Concept & Level

It's not all black and white...a colorful approach to teaching!
I love playing games with my students and have accumulated quite a few over the years.  I love using them as quick lesson starters, group lesson fun or as a "treat" at the end of the lesson if we have a few minutes to spare.  Unfortunately some of them get "lost in the cabinet."   In an effort to better utilize all of my games, I've created this leveled game resource list with links to the sources so I can refresh on how to play them if needed.   I like how it makes it easier for me to browse my games by concept (notereading, rhythm, intervals, terms, etc.) and select the perfect match for my student's private lesson or group lessons.

Chord Construction Relay

I came up with this fun game for our group lesson to review Major Root Chords on the Staff.  I've found that kids typically love playing action games like this even more than sit down board game style activities.
What you need:
Giant Staff (or masking tape to make a temporary one)
Flat or Sharp Signs (made from felt or posterboard)
"Baton" like object

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lego Rhythm Construction Game

I started using legos in my studio a few years ago help solidify rhythmic concepts with my students after reading this Lego Rhythms post by Jen at  Some of the boys really thrived with this manipulative.  So after a quick activity at private lessons to review how to build rhythms using legos, we played a fun game at group lessons.  With all of the excitement I forgot to snap some photos... but here is a snapshot of 2 measures in 4/4 time "constructed" with legos so you can visualize what a lego measure looks like.
Lego Rhythm Construction Game

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Developing Super Sightreaders : Consecutive SR Contest

 Sightreading is one of the most practical skills for a pianist that is often neglected.... at least it was for me.  Over the past few years, I have searched for useful ways to incorporate sightreading practice more consistently in my studio.  One of my favorite tools to help improve sightreading skills for my elementary students is Diane Hidy's Sightreading Flashcards

The short sightreading samples are perfect for lesson starters (or enders) and have a very gradual increase in difficulty. The first few pages include different patterns of landmark notes and gradually add in skips and steps. 

I put the pages in sheet protectors in my teaching binder and then challenge students to see how many measures in a row they can play without a pitch or rhythm mistake as I play the same pattern in a lower octave on the keys.  This helps them hear rhythm and note errors immediately.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Funny Tip for Remembering the Meaning of Sharps and Flats

My little girl was curious about the Chord Construction Relay game I was setting up for the group lesson and as she started playing with the sharps and flats this idea popped into my head.

Which is higher?
A SHARP mind 
 or a FLAT stomach?

Her curiosity doesn't stop with music though.   Just in case someone you know gets curious like she did and shampoos their hair with petroleum jelly and it looks like this....

you can wash it out with cornstarch :0)  It took me a few days and a lot of shampoo & dish soap before I figured this out so my sweet little girl had stringy wet looking hair for a few days :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Mountains to Climb" Practice Incentive

"Give me Mountains to Climb...
Give me something that's gonna make me better than I was."
As I listened to these lyrics in the inspiring song entitled "Mountains to Climb" by Erin Thomas (available for free download on youth  site) it sparked the idea for a practice incentive.  A few ideas that come to mind are
Scale Mountain (Scales)
Rocky Rhythm Mountain (Rhythm Drills)
Sightseeing Mountain (Sightreading)
Echo Mountain (Ear Training)
??????????????? MountainTheory

Saturday, February 16, 2013

When Baby Steps are Bad - A Practical Practice Analogy

Can I start at the beginning again?  Have you ever heard this from any of your students?  Sometimes getting a fresh start can be a good thing, but too often we fall into the trap of wanting to repeat what's familiar and comfortable instead of really working on the parts that are new or challenging and it wastes so much time.  So when my son was practicing today and just wanted to keep going back to the beginning part of the song which he knows really well instead of working on new material I posed the question,

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hearing Intervals Game

Inspired by the Rhythm Magnet Game by Joy on Color in my piano I planned a fun game at our last group lesson to review identifying intervals by ear.  This is a skill that seems to come quite naturally to some students, but is a real challenge for others.

Game Prep

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Natural Minor Scale Pattern Memory Aid + Game

My students have loved playing the "Whole Step Half Step Game" posted on Susan Paradis's blog to review the major scale pattern. Her suggestion to have them say "We Were Happy When We Were Home" has been super effective in helping them remember the pattern.  So I came up with this sentence to help them remember the natural minor scale pattern as they play the game " When Harry Went West He Wore White."  To begin the game I name the tonic note (1st note of the scale) and we place our 1st markers 2 octaves apart.  

Where is One? Teaching Finger Numbers

Sing this and use the actions for "Where is Thumbkin" to help your child learn finger #s. Finger 1 is the thumb, Finger 2 is pointer, etc. Rather than making a fist and trying to hold up just one finger, have the student tap the finger named on their lap or a tabletop like they would if playing a piano key.

"Where is One, Where is One, (Hide hands behind back)
Here I am ( pull out right hand, set hands on lap in a rounded position and tap your thumb on its side tip)
Here I am (pull out left hand, ...)
How are you today sir? (Tap right thumb)
Very well I thank you (Tap left thumb)
Run away ( Hide right hand behind back)
Run away( Hide left hand behind back)

Repeat with all fingers only play on the fingertip (not the side tip).

Adding a finger puppet or this finger toy I recently found at "Dollar Tree" just adds to the fun.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fun with Hey Diddle Diddle, the D's in the Middle

Who's looking back at you?

 My little 2 yr old found this fun keyboard gameboard (from in my stash of music games and wanted me to "play piano" with her.  After finding the groups of 2 & 3 black keys, we looked for the D's.
It looks like the 2 black keys are looking back at me :)
She had fun adding "noses" on the keys as we chanted "Hey diddle diddle (play 2 black keys), the D's in the middle (play D).

This one is wearing blue eye shadow!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Adagio Teaching Tip

Have your students ever confused tempo terms like Adagio, Allegro, Andante etc.?  I decided that I needed to change my teaching approach when introducing terms to help make them more memorable from the start & this music makes the perfect memory aid.  The haunting melody of this "Ghost Waltz" by Edwin McLean (In FJH Federation Favorites Book 2) kept running through my mind after I played it so I added some repetitious lyrics to review "Adagio".

1.  Play the song as student tiptoes around the studio on beat downbeat of each measure.
2.  Sing some repetitious lyrics  with some extra expression on the long notes
"A daaaaaaaaaaaa  gi oooooooooooo  Play Slooooooooooooow,"
Adagio play slow
Adagio, Adagio, Adagio Play slow.( Repeat)
3.  Divide up the lyrics having the student sing "Adagio" and teacher sing "Play Slow"

For a contrast then play "Ramblin'Rails" by Melody Bober (FJH Federation Favorites Book 1) adding the lyrics "In a race your LEGs run quickly aLEGro means fast" to the first few lines.
Can you say that tongue twister 3 times fast?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hal Leonard Lesson Book 5 Piano Lab Videos

The Bear by Vladimir Rebikoff
  1. Color all of the tenuto marks red in your music.
  2. Circle the clefs in your music.  What is the first note your right hand should play?
  3. Watch the performer's right hand as you listen to this piece.  How does his hand position change as he plays the loud tenuto notes? 
  4. What is the form of this piece?
  5. What does pesante mean?

Arabesque by Fredrich Burgmuller
  1. Pay attention to the performer's wrists as he ends the phrases in this piece.  What technique does he use?
  2. When does it sound like he plays with more arm weight in the left hand?
  3. How does he draw attention to the sfzorzando at the end of the piece?
  4. Label the left hand chords and the right hand pentascales in your music.
  5. Label the form in your music using letters (A, B, A1, etc.).
  6. Identify the sections in your music that sound major.

Innocence by Fredrich Burgmuller
  1. What measures contain sequences in this piece?
  2. Write what key this piece is in next to the key signature in your music.
  3. Define grazioso.
  4. As you watch the performer, notice the "round-off" gesture he uses at the end of the long phrases.  Why do you think he uses a different motion at the end of the final long phrase?

The Clown by Vladimir Rebikov
  1. What motions does the performer use to emphasize the articulation in this piece?
  2. What tempo is this piece?
  3. Imagine 2 things the "clown" may be doing during the music.

The Kind Cuckoo by Francois Couperin

  1. Couperin calls the cuckoo (a European bird) kind or benevolent because it lays its eggs in other birds nests and leaves them for the other bird to hatch and care for.  Do you think this is  kind?
  2.  Write the beats in the first 2 lines of your music.
  3. Follow along in your music as you listen to this performance.  In what measure does the performer add some notes to the melody that differ from what is written in your music? This is an example of ornamentation which was frequently used during the Baroque period.
  4. Label 2 lines are the same in the left hand part of your music.
  5. Write what key this piece is in next to the key signature in your music.

Bethena by Scott Joplin
  1. Listen to the original version of Bethena on the video below and read the story.  How did the story end?
  2. Write beats in the 2nd line and tap the rhythm as you hear it repeated in the video.
  3. Label the chords in the left hand in measures 5-18.
  4. The piece in your book has been arranged. Arrangements often include the important theme of a song but may be written in a different key or have parts of the original song left out to make it easier to play.Listen to the arranged version of Bethena on CD (53) and label each line as major or minor.
  5. Listen to the Classics for Kids podcast about Scott Joplin's life & answer the  multiple choice questions .
Menuet in G Minor from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach
  1. This piece composed in the Baroque era has a clear and precise sound.  Listen to the articulation of the quarter notes in the left hand.  Do they sound staccato (short & separated), legato (smooth and connected) or portato (moderately detached)?  What other articulation do you hear in this piece?
  2. Baroque music often includes terraced dynamics (not gradual, but more abrupt changes from soft to loud).  Color the dynamics in your music (p-yellow, mp - yellow orange, mf- orange, f-red).  Can you hear terraced dynamics in this performance?
  3. Baroque music should be played with a steady tempo, sometimes with a small ritardando at the end of the piece.  Did this performer do this?
  4. Click the link to listen to a Classics for Kids show about Minuets and take the quiz at the end. C

Inspector Hound Returns
  1. A chromatic scale moves by____________
  2. Watch the 5 Browns play "Flight of the Bumblebee"
 The Gypsy Song by Hugo Reinhold
  1. What era do you think this piece was composed in and why?  Baroque, Classical, Romantic or Modern
  2. In what measures does this song modulate to major?
  3. Define morendo & allegretto.
  4. Think of another name for this song.  What images does it bring to your mind?

Everybody's Blues

PBS Kids Videoclip about the Blues

What is an Appoggiatura?
Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel
Just for Fun!  The Piano Guys "Rockelbel's Canon"

Saturday, January 5, 2013

NFMC Festival Music Samples Lab Assignment

Listen to each of the pieces in your festival level.
For each piece write the name of the piece and then answer the following questions:
1. Write 2 or more words to describe the mood of this piece.
2. What is the tempo (speed) of this piece (Adagio, Andante, Allegro, Presto, etc.)?
3. What articulation do you hear in this piece (staccato, legato, accents, pedaling etc.)?
4. Choose your personal rating for this piece from the following:
1- I have no interest in learning to play this.
2 - This piece is okay
3 - Nice, but not my favorite
4 - I would like to play this piece.
5. I would love to learn to play this.