Monday, October 19, 2015

Meet the Minor Scale Family

I've found that sometimes the minor scale patterns can be a bit overwhelming for students to remember.  I created this visual to help students see and hear the distinctions between the three types of minor scales. 
I always think of a natural minor scale as a bit sad or melancholy and was surprised to hear one of students announce that he loves playing songs in minor keys.
 The #'d 7th tone adds a creepy sounding appeal and of course makes the V7-i progressions sound so much more resolved, which is probably why the majority of minor pieces use the harmonic scale form.
I think of the melodic minor as kind of a "wanna be" major.  As the scale ascends, it starts with that distinctive minor flatted 3rd, but then the #6th and #7th tones almost trick you into thinking its a major scale.... until it returns to the natural minor form as it descends.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ted-ED - Intriguing Videos on Music Topics

Thanks to google and a recent homeschool science experiment on solutions, I rediscovered the fascinating world of Ted-ED videos once again as my girls were intrigued by a funny analogy comparing oil molecules to women with large ball gowns who just don't fit in well with the water square dancers, so they clump together in their own corner.   The benefits of music on the brain hopefully will provide them a little more incentive to practice and the "Brain on Improv" video inspires me to be sure to include more creative assignments studio.

The Ted-ED questions led us to explore a variety of subjects including some of these other music related ideas.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Halloween Themed Free Piano Resources

Piano Teaching Halloween Resource Roundup Free Piano Games and Music

It's a treat to pull the seasonal games and music and rediscover a few I've forgotten.  I organized this list of free Halloween-themed music and activities posted by creative bloggers that I've enjoyed using in my studio for the past several years and added a few of my own as well. 

My new tradition is to invite my students to do the "Don't Scare Me, Surprise Me! Challenge" every October for our monthly piano challenge.  I introduce some of the activity options below at group lessons and then let them choose their favorites to complete from the challenge page.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ponderizing with Music

To help my family better "ponderize"this scripture in 1 Timothy, I tried to pair the words to the tune of a familiar hymn.  The theme of our church President, Thomas S. Monson's message this week was "Be an Example and a Light." Music definitely expedites memorization, and I love how scriptures that are put to song come back into my mind during mundane activities like driving, washing dishes or folding laundry to uplift my thoughts and spirit.
Finding a matching meter that emphasized the important words was challenging but I chose the opening verse of "Did You Think to Pray."
So instead of singing...                                         We sing this...
Ere you left your room this morning                    Let no man despise thy youth, but
Did you think to pray?                                          Be thou an example of the believers (quickly)
In the name of Christ our Saviour                         In word, in conversation
Did you sue for loving favour?                             In charity in spirit
As a shield today.                                                  In faith, in purity
As a shield today.                                                  4:12        First Timothy
(lyrics by Mary A. Pepper Kidder)
I designed the pocket size image above so they can refer to their cards at school and "ponderize" throughout the day.,

Another fun piano resource that uses this similar method of adding lyrics to familiar tunes is "A Night at the Symphony" by Carol Matz.  If you take a peek inside on, you can read the clever lyrics paired with familiar classical pieces that introduce students to different elements of music history.  Some of the selections are appealing melodies that I first learned while playing in middle school orchestra including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Surprise Symphony, Spring and the theme from 1812 Overture.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Will Pay for Practice

This is one of the newest additions to my studio that I found at the local thrift store.  Students earn quarters at their lessons by coming prepared to  pass off 3 songs or keyboard skill levels .  It has been a great motivation for all but the one "jellybean hater" in my studio.  The biggest challenge is keeping the machine stocked!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Piano Cranium Group Games

The piano quest theme for the next few months in my studio is knowledge.  We celebrated with a "Piano Cranium" group lesson party!

 To open up our recent piano cranium themed group lesson, students were given a headband with a flashcard of a music theory term or sign inserted.  They also asked yes or no questions to try and figure out the term or sign on their headband.  I loved using the headbands rather than just a nametag on their back, because they could easily see each other's cards, and even beginner students who weren't familiar with all of the meanings of the terms could peek at the answers on the back of their opponents card so they could still fully participate.
Next we played a round of musical jenga.  I recently found this mini set at the Dollar Tree and thought it might make a perfect Christmas gift for my students, although writing on all of those blocks might take a while!

 Then we played a lively game of piano cranium.  I used two sets of cards specific to the beginner and intermediate students. The sculpting and acting cards were definitely the favorites.
 Next we broke out into groups so beginners could review steps and skips while more experienced students played a few games of D'net Layton's composer old maid.  We ended with our typical "mini-recital" where students each performed a piece they learned during the past month.  I love how those "boring" theory concepts become so much more engaging when coupled with a competitive group game.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Piano Game Card Organization

Can you tell I love to play games with my piano students?

You've probably seen my Game Resource List that lists links to most of my favorite piano games organized by concept and level, but unfortunately my piano cabinet is not compartmentalized so nice and neat. My old method of organizing games  (pictured below) worked for a while, but as my collection grew, the space was insufficient and I didn't use them as often as I would like because they were tucked away out of sight.
So I was excited to recycled this vinyl pocket organize that my mom used when I was a child to post our daily chores on 3x5 cards.  She cut strips of tablecloth vinyl and sewed then onto a large piece of vinyl to form pockets. I've been coveting  hoping she'd want to give it up for a while.  When she took it down last month to redecorate her utility room where it has hung for years, I was pretty thrilled to inherit it.

After shuffling the cards around a few times I added labels on the side grouping the games in related rows with the easiest games on the left.  Concepts include Rhythm Values, Rhythm Patterns, Misc Rhythm Concepts (Time Sig/Tapping), Music ABCs + Piano Keys, Staff Notes, Terms & Signs, Intervals & Scale Patterns, Multi-Concept & Intermediate.
Group Lesson Game Cards/Rhythm Strips
Garage Sale Find That Housed My Game Cards Until the Hanger Broke :(
Now my plastic tub holds the group oriented games that are used at monthly group lessons and larger rhythm cards.  I love having the game cards I use most often easy to see and find at glance.
Piano Game Boards
These handy file folders hold the larger game boards with similar tab labels as the vinyl pocket card holder. 

Related Posts:
Organizing Piano Books
Clever Music Book Storage Idea 
Piano Lab Structure
Organizing My Teaching Tools: Piano Teaching Binders

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Technique Pattern Bingo

To top off our quest for creative composition last month we ended the month with a some fun group lesson games.  After completing the opening scale pattern coloring page and playing a fun game of Mystery Food Improv,  I came up with a technique pattern bingo game to solidify students recognition of the names and patterns in their keyboard skills exercises.  It is a quick game that could also be used as a fun lesson starter during private lessons.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

T.E.A.M. - Collaborative Piano Fun

Our piano quest for virtues this month focuses on cooperation.  The lab setup of my studio makes the perfect setting for students to work together on duets as students come in pairs to lessons.  Fortunately most are sibling pairs who can extend their duet practice time at home to prepare for their upcoming group lesson duet performances.

I love this creative duet by a sibling pair.

I appreciate the synergy that group piano activities provide and love how teamwork can enhance learning.  I typically start each lesson with a fun game or activity.  Sometimes I have to adapt it to meet the varied levels of students.  For example,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

3 Steps to More Effective Technique Practice

    After reading over Julie Knerr's informative dissertation on teaching beginning technique I've been contemplating ideas to ramp up the success of technical drills in my studio.  I follow the curriculum sequence of Music Progressions and start by introducing 5 finger patterns (by rote with picture scales) to beginners

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Composing with Flour and Salt

Would you rather eat a spoonful of flour or a spoonful of cake?  The answer is obvious, and yet the cake wouldn't be the same without the flour.  Keyboard skills (scales, arpeggios, chords, etc.) are somewhat like flour in piano study and although some students find them quite unpalatable or boring, when you mix several of the building blocks together, you end up with some fun and appealing results. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Finger Trampoline

I recently was inspired by a post  by Andrea and Trevor Dow on "Teach Piano Today" about making this simple "amazing fingercise cup" to help improve finger strength.  I promptly constructed one with the tools I had on hand, and my curious kids were anxious to get there hands on this new "toy."  They love the sound and were intrigued by the different pitch of the sounds of varying sized cups. My mind started spinning with additional uses. At our last group lesson we changed "Don't Clap This One Back" to "Don't Pluck this one Back."

Don't "pluck this one back
My first attempt several years ago with a young beginner trying "Cookie Dough" (a finger # practice song from My First Piano Adventures) began with an awkward finger depressed into a ziplocked ball of cookie dough.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bass Clef Pop and Drop

Bass Clef Pop and Drop -
At our recent piano group lesson we had a some new beginners join the studio, so I tried out a variation of this balloon popping game inspired by pinterest to review the concepts we had learned or reviewed in previous games that day. I am fortunate to have my teenage daughter joining the ranks with me as my piano teaching assistant.  We were able to divide into groups so she could run the beginner level games while I did activities with the students who are ready for more challenging concepts. 

·         I inserted a piece of candy inside each balloon before blowing them up and then taped them to the wall in the shape of a bass clef.  Students took turns popping balloons on the Bass Clef by finding the symbol written on the balloon that answers the clue.  Darts might be more fun, but somehow the image of hurling darts in my home full of energetic children seemed a little disconcerting  and I'm not much of a risk taker, so opted for a safe toothpick!
o   “___s” the first letter of the music alphabet
o   “____s” the last letter of the music alphabet
o   It has a head and a stem and its all colored in.
o   It has a head and a stem but its not colored in.
o   Don’t fall in the the ______note
o   F F F Forte
o   P  p  p  piano
o   Fingers in ears (line note)
o   Hand above and under head (space note)  

I had plans to make a treble clef with more advanced signs, but discovered that I had a balloon shortage because some of my children decided to make water balloon babies after the birthday party the day before  :(   so maybe we can do a little "Treble Trouble" version next month.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Teaching Rhythm in the Bed Bug Rhythm Hotel

 Right now my 4 year old daughter's favorite piano game is Trick or Treat, a fun rhythm activity which I found on Layton Music website several years ago.   She wants to play it every day she practices.  I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fruit snacks or goldfish treats that she gets to eat when she picks a treat card:)  I love how the repetition has helped her to even understand the concept of eighth notes at such a young age.
To introduce the concept of counting by measure I had her construct

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Piano Quest Candy Jar Challenge

To kick off summer piano lessons, I am having a summer candy jar challenge in my studio.  As students master skills and pieces they earn the opportunity to enter guesses for the candy jar of their choice filled with different candies.  In addition, everyone who completes the game within a month gets to pick a prize from the prize box.  The skills to advance one square on the game board for each piano challenge they complete are listed below.  Students choose a small sticker and write their accomplishments in the blanks as they work their way through the musical periods.  I chose to keep the tasks quite general so they are adaptable for my preschooler up to my teenage students.
·         Master 1 page repertoire (Notes, Expression, Rhythm, Fingering)
·         Complete Notes in the Fast Lane in 1 minute or less
·         100% Terms & Signs Quiz
·         Clap & Count Rhythm Challenge Sheet Accurately
·         Pass off keyboard skills in a new key
·         Master a Music Ace game during piano lab
·         Sightread 20 consecutive measures without errors