Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fidget Spinner "I Spy": A Piano Piece Prep Game

Training piano students to look before they leap can be a challenge. If you are going cliff jumping into the ocean its a good idea to survey your surroundings before taking a plunge.  Are there sharks, sharp rocks, other swimmers or shallow water? Despite these dangers, some unfortunate jumpers find the blue water just too appealing to take the time to scan their surroundings before jumping in sometimes with disastrous results.

Some students find a new piece so irresistible they just can help themselves from diving straight into a piece from start to finish with a lot of errors before checking it out to see what they are up against.  But just like with cliff jumping, this usually isn't the best approach.
Taking an off the bench approach when introducing new pieces can help them to see the patterns, challenge spots and details in their music that they may overlook if they just do the dive in approach. This fun "I Spy" game can help cure this tendency.

How to turn a piece into an "I Spy" Challenge:

1. Before the lesson, make a list of the recurring patterns or challenge spots in the piece.
For example:
 Is their a repeating rhythmic motive?
Scales, arpeggios, triads or chord progressions to "chunk"?
How are the dynamics structured? Terraced with a sudden changes p to f? Gradual changes, repeated
A tricky fingering cross or substitution?
Recognizable form or repeating phrases in the melody line?
Hand cross overs or large interval leaps?
A time signature change?
New music terminology?
Spots where balance between left and right may be tricky?

2.Come up with creative labels specific to the elements they will spy in their music to make their search more memorable. I like to write these on a post-it note to keep in my copy of the method books so I can pull it out to use whenever a student reaches that piece in their book.
6 Scattered Snowmen=Circle 6 broken inversions in your piece.
Rhythm Misfits= Add a star above the 2 phrases that don't match "X"[rhythm that repeats often in the piece].
Dynamic Explosion=Shade 2 dynamic sections that quickly change from p to f.
Accent Pop Power= Trace 4 accents with a bright color so they pop out even more.
Float-offs= Find 4 phrase endings and add a "float-off" mark to the end of each.
3,4,5 Intervals= Add a 3,4,5 below the 3rd, 4th, 5th pattern intervals.
Direction Please= Add post it arrows in 3 spots where your hand must leap to a new spot.
Home Sweet Home= Draw a I under all of the tonic chords in your music.

Game Play:
3.  Let the student give the fidget spinner a spin and have them race to see how many elements they can spy and mark that are hiding in their music before the spinner stops.   You can have them spin it on a flat surface or perhaps do a bonus challenge round holding the spinner in one of their hands if they don't finish in the first round. My kids were rejoicing when they found that glow in the dark fidget spinners are now being sold at the dollar store for just a buck so I think the investment is worth the fun! Having them analyze their piece before they begin will end up saving them time in the long run as they learn to chunk and the details become more salient.
For more ideas on how to get students actively engaged in analyzing their music check out this post:
Hand Over the Pencil

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