Thursday, May 4, 2017

Teaching Piano Technique Motions Creatively: Caterpillar Crawl

Teaching Piano Technique Motions with the Caterpillar Crawl Video

Teaching Piano Technique with Caterpillar Crawl Music Listening and Movement Activity
I'm fortunate to have a houseful of children that I can try out my new piano teaching ideas on.  Although that can pose a challenge at times when I'm trying to provide motivation for 5 kids to  practice regularly or keep a quiet professional lesson environment, I love "playing" piano games with my children. I created this musical movement activity to practice wrist movements with my preschooler.  The video is a shortened version of Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca.

Piano Technique Motions Wrist Circles, Staccato Bounce, Float offs, Firm Fingers, Thumb Tucks, Rotation

The Caterpillar Crawl Piano Technique Story

I started by telling a silly story about a caterpillar doing his workout activities at the gym to introduce her to flexible wrist motions necessary for piano playing.  We listened to Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca and simultaneously discovered some elements of the form of the music as each section repeats.
I came up with these lyrics to sing and made a musical map of pictures as a reminder of the motions for each melodic theme.

Caterpillar at the Gym
(Pedaling a Bicycle - wrist circles towards center of body)
Caterpillar crawl, caterpillar crawl
Pedal round but do not fall.
Piano Technique Motions, image of a bicycle labeled Bicycle Pedal Wrists

(Jumprope  - bouncing staccato wrists)
You can jump around and have some fun
just like a bouncing ball.

 Teaching Piano Technique Motions Staccato Bounce, Jump Rope

 (Swim - wrist float off)
Float up gently, glide back down
Float up gently, glide back down
Teaching Piano Technique Motions Wrist Float Off with Swimming Pool image

(Lift Weights - Make O's with fingers to the beat)
Make some O's, making O's will help your fingers to get stronger.
Make some O's, making O's will help you strengthen every day.
Teaching Piano Technique Motions Firm Fingers with image of lifting weights
(Balance Beam - Balance on fingertips as Thumb tucks under for scale prep)
Chant tuck on the first beat of each measure:
Can you tuck tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck(7x)
while you balance on the beam.
Teaching Piano Technique Motions Thumb Tuck with image of shoes on balance beam

(Teeter Totter  or shake drink)- Rotate wrist back and forth (to the right for high pitch and left for low on scale passages as your Thumb and 5th finger gently tap to the beat)

Teaching Piano Technique Rotation with image of cup rotating

I think it is helpful to demonstrate the motions slowly away from the piano as students imitate using this super slow version first.

More Background Music Videos for the Caterpillar Crawl

Super Slow
Once they become familiar with the basic motions, we try it at full tempo and they can match the motions as they hear the motives repeat.  Because the song is quite lengthy I just do the first portion.  In just a few minutes, they get to practice motions in a playful rhythmic way away from the piano that  to strengthen fingers and pave the way for later playing arpeggios (wrist circles), staccatos and phrase endings or large leap gestures (float off) without the awkward tension and stiff wrists that some beginners exhibit.
At Tempo

This condensed animated adaptation from Melody Street is great for younger students.


  1. Hi Heidi! I love this lesson you have developed! I'm having trouble following the form for some reason. Would you be able to share a video? Thanks!

    1. I just added the explanation and demo video at the top of the post. Hope that helps!