Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"We Love You Whether You Can Play the Piano or Not!"

As I listened to Sharon Eubank share her childhood stories of piano performance mishaps

Ear Training Fun with Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad is a fun Christmas song that most kids love because of its energetic rhythms.  But that also makes it beyond the abilities of most beginner piano students to play.  This season I created this chord challenge for my students so

Monday, December 10, 2018

Light the World Music: Teaching Chords, Rhythm and Key Signature

The background theme music of this Light the World video just puts me in the Christmas spirit! I also like the 4 focuses on different ways to serve each week...in the world, community, family and strengthening faith.

After picking out the music by ear on the piano for my own enjoyment,  I transcribed 2 easier duet versions for my piano students to play with me (or along with the video at home) that focus on different musical concepts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tips on How to Begin Arranging Music: Notes from Jason Lyle Black Workshop

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. - Edward de Bono
Inspiring my students with some Jason Lyle Black videos is just one of the many tools I have used to encourage my students to break away from the written page from time to time and try something different.
Tips from Jason Lyle Black on how to begin arranging music for piano students and teachers

Friday, November 16, 2018

Teaching Piano with Chord Colors

I've been associating chords with colors since my childhood, but now chord colors are taking on some new off the page creative roles after inspiration from the Creative Keys Conference.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ways to Play with Staff Fish Cards

Fish Flashcards Games  Teaching Piano

I love finding music games that are adaptable for multiple levels!  These Fish Music Flashcards from Susan Paradis have long been in my stash of Piano Games to use at lessons to increase note reading fluency,

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ear Training Group Lesson Piano Games

Do you include ear training exercises in every lesson?  This definitely wasn't a huge part of the traditional lessons I had as a child.  Fortunately ear training has evolved quite a bit from the "Now Hear This" cassette tapes and workbook that my teacher sent me home with years ago. Group lessons are the kick-off event for my monthly themes in our studio, and we kicked off November with some Ear Training Games. There is definitely a lot more excitement and motivation that comes with ear training in a group setting!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Free "Count Your Blessings" Piano Teaching Resource

With Thanksgiving around the corner I like to include a few seasonal songs in my student's piano assignments.
This year I'm using this free version of  Count Your Blessings (p. 64) and adapting it for multiple levels in my studio.  Following are instructions on how I introduce this piece to varying levels of students.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Intervals in Motion Ear Training Group Game

Identifying intervals by ear can be a tricky skill for some students to master, but this group piano lesson game gets students in action as they sharpen their interval ear training skills as a group!
Ear Training, Teaching Music

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

8 Great Ways to Teach Rhythm with Let's Play Music Bug Rhythm Flashcards

Using rhythm bugs is by far my favorite approach for teaching rhythm. The connection to natural language patterns makes difficult rhythm patterns accessible for even young children and the matching visual images on the bugs that correspond with the standard rhythm notation make a memorable association for visual learners.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop with Leila Viss: On and Off the Bench

This session focussed on using technology during off bench time in your teaching studio and started with a rousing game of Kahoot!  Kahoot.com  is a free educational game platform where teams race to answer questions correctly using a pc, ipad or mobile device.  This would make a great activity for a group lesson or buddy lesson.  You can choose from a wide selection of games created by other teachers or create your own customized set.  By searching "leilaviss" in the Kahoot search bar I discovered the fun Kahoot games created by Leila about intervals, chord spelling, music styles and composers, etc.  A few other possible search topics include piano keys, key signatures, chord qualities, notes on the staff, rhythm.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop with Leila Viss: Creativity

Creative Piano Teaching

“Creativity is recombining elements that already exist in a new way.” – Wendy Stevens
Piano lessons for me as a child followed the traditional format of playing from the printed page, receiving feedback, and practicing it again until I got it right.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Crazy Chord Challenge

This month our studio theme has focussed on the foundation of music - CHORDS! Although not all pieces have an obvious snowman style root chord backing up the melody from the bottom as in the Axis of Awesome Four Chord Sampler of Songs, a solid understanding of chords is the key to easily read and compose songs.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop Inspiration with Leila Viss: Apps

After attending several music workshops hosted by UVMTA and IMTA this month presented by Leila Viss, author of 88pianokeys.me blog, my mind is humming with new creative ideas to try out with the students in my studio.   I thoroughly enjoyed her engaging style of teaching!

The handouts for each session

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Halloween Group Lesson: Glow Cups, Candy Corn Notes and Paint Chip Chords

In addition to the Halloween Themed Activities  and Crazy Chord Challenge I've been doing at private lessons this month, we had a Halloween Group lesson including some Glow Stick Cup Tapping, inspired by a recent workshop I attended by Leila Viss.
I first introduced the concept of triplets

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Free Simplified Christian Piano Music

Simplified Free Christian Piano Music from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints organized by level of difficulty

Part of my bedtime routine almost every night as a child was listening to a 30-minute cassette tape of music that we sang in church. The soothing music and encouraging words continue to bring a lot of peace to me as I play, sing and listen to varying arrangements.  I love finding sources for free simplified arrangements that allow my students to start playing some of their favorite familiar church songs within the first few months of lessons.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Polishing Pieces for Performance

How is piano practice like a car wash?
After moving beyond the 3 S's of practice (Slowly, Separate, Sections) and learning the basic elements of a song like rhythm and notes, it can be tempting to just move on and check the song off as complete.  And if you are just hoping for just good results then maybe that is enough.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Teaching Jazz Piano Basics

I was excited to find the perfect tool for expanding my students rhythm vocabulary, ear training and improvisation skills in a fun step by step way at every lesson. After attending a workshop by Eric Baumgartner last month, I couldn't resist purchasing his "Jazz Piano Basics" book with its engaging audio features, and I'm loving how I can use it with students of various levels for multiple purposes including improvisation, note reading, ear training, rhythm and group lesson performances and enjoy a little creative outlet myself.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Inspiring Creativity in Piano Lessons with 20 Variation Cards

When motivation for playing piano was waning for one of my students after a busy day, I pulled out these variation cards and it was definitely a game changer! Not only did he have a new excitement about learning his new piece, but I was able to assess his knowledge and teach some theory and technique skills in a lively engaging way that drew him in asking for more.  He wanted to complete the entire set of cards!
Instead of playing the "What Changed" game, that I blogged about on this previous post, I instead used the variation cards as a springboard of ideas for the Variation Practice Challenge.

Piano Variation Cards

My variation cards simply include a basic idea for varying the song with an image to represent the change.

Melody Variations

Scrambled Eggs- Mix up the Melody
drawkcaB - Play part of the melody backward

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Music Mapping in Piano Lessons: A Tool to Aid Memorization and Sightreading

Last weekend I attended a workshop sponsored by my local music club. I was really intrigued by the concept of music mapping and how it can help students learn pieces more quickly and securely.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May Music Mash-up Piano Group Lesson

This month's theme in my studio includes a mashup of concepts including ear training, note reading, and rhythm, and at our group lesson, students had fun literally mashing up music concepts :)
 Major/Minor Pinata

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Music Theory Carnival Piano Games

Music Carnival Games for Piano Group Lessons including Fishing For Music Terms, Lucky Lolly
For my most recent piano group lesson, we played carnival themed games with a music theory focus.  I brainstormed so many different ideas that it was hard to pick just a few to squeeze within an hour! 

Lucky Lolly Signs - Identifying Music Symbols
Lucky Lolly Terms and Signs Music Carnival Game
Take turns naming music signs attached to the lollipop of your choice.  If you name it correctly and the sucker has a colored dot on the bottom you get to keep it.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Piano Metaphor: Growing from Failure to Failure

"Mistakes are a fact of life. Learning to skillfully play the piano is essentially impossible without making thousands of mistakes or maybe even a million." 
"Success isn't the absence of failure, but going from failure to failure without the absence of enthusiasm" -Winston Churchhill
"Consider failure as a tutor, not as a tragedy."
"Success is GROWING from failure to failure without the absence of enthusiasm" - Lynn G. Robbins

I loved these profound ideas from a recent inspiring message given by Lynn G. Robbins and his example of an inspiring college professor's approach to exams reflects my approach to piano theory exams.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Composition 101: 5 Avenues to Begin Composing

Which is better creativity or conformity?

For a person who likes the comfort zone of predictable instructions, checklists and rubrics to measure progress, conformity is definitely the easier path, so embarking on a new adventure of preparing students for a Composition Festival this year was an intimidating challenge for me. I tapped into a lot of resources and discovered that there are a lot of different paths that lead to the same destination.

As I led my students through the process of creating their own pieces I was amazed at the many layers of learning this project created as they applied rhythm dictation, fingering choices, time signatures, dynamics, form and note naming. The best part was that my students were so motivated to apply these rules of "conformity" because they were passionate about their compositions. Following is a roundup of links that can unleash the creativity and get the juices flowing in a variety of ways.

Piano Group Lesson Plans and Ensemble Inspiration

Being a musician can often feel like a solitary skill unless teacher's make an active effort to plan ensemble opportunities for their students.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

My Favorite Foundation for Rhythm and Chords #LETSPLAYMUSIC

I take a very playful approach to my piano teaching, because not only does play encourage creativity and have powerful cognitive effects  (The cognitive benefits of play: Effects on the learning brain), it is also a lot more fun! So "playing" with my son as he practices his "Let's Play Music" songs is something I look forward to. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Musical Roots + Free Music Download

One of the most inspiring moments of my week was hearing the song "Army of Angels" sung by Evie Clair (America's Got Talent Finalist) at the Roots Tech session Music: A Bridge Across Generations.  I was astonished when I found out that the composer (her cousin) McKenna Mae has provided a free mp3 download of it as well as several some mp3 recordings and sheet music of her other songs.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Piano Technique and Artistry: Group Lesson Activities

For the month of March in my studio, since the focus is on playing more artistically with proper technique as students work toward their Technique Wizard Challenges, I've rounded up and created some group activities to introduce and reinforce these concepts in a memorable way.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Using Piano Safari Rote Pieces to Teach Composing in Piano Lessons

Teaching Composing with Piano Safari

My brain has been in the composition vein for a while, so I brainstormed some clever ways to extend their my student's learning beyond the technique of Piano Safari with some creative companion composing teaching applications. (affiliate link)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Valentines Composing Piano Group Lessons

Valentine's Piano Games and Composing Activities  Steps to Composing for Beginners Valentine's Piano Group Lesson Plan

Some students are naturally enthralled with composing and can easily dive right in and create beautiful sounding melodies.  But some are much more comfortable with a step by step guided approach.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Teaching Composing: Interesting Intros with Sowash and Faber

Teaching composing to beginners can seem like an enormous feat with a myriad of approaches.  There are many different pathways to arrive at the end result. This month I began with having students developing their "trash" motives into a short piece using the Trash to Treasure Composing resource on Teach Piano Today.  They loved seeing the printed score of their own creations from MuseScore!  Now we're moving on to the concept of adding an appropriate introduction to their pieces.
Bradley Sowash has some fabulous tips on how to create an interesting intro.  Using some of his concepts as a springboard, I created this listening lab to help my students hear samples of intro styles at work in pieces that are accessible to their playing ability.  Analyzing the composing elements within student's current pieces is a great way to extend their learning and wet their appetite for composing more artistically themselves.

Friday, January 26, 2018

BAPDARP - A Systematic Practice Approach to Expressive Playing

"If you give specific input you get specific results."  This was my favorite quotes from a UVMTA piano teaching seminar I attended last week by Stephen Thomas, a music faculty member at BYU-Idaho.
To start out the seminar  Thomas first gave a brief overview of score preparation and practice tips that he had covered in a previous seminar regarding score preparation and tempo.
Score Preparation -

  • Add fingering
  • Divide into sections and number (or name) them

Tempo Grid Metronome - Set specific metronome goals

  • Slow Tempo
    • Set Specific Standards (Measures 5-8 Slow Hands Separate @ X Tempo, then Hands Together)Medium Tempo

  • Medium Tempo
    • Exaggerate dynamics, articulation, and phrasing
  • Fast Tempo
    • Less repetition of small sections, more focus on larger sections and continuity
Once students can play the piece with reasonable fluency they move on to BAPDARP.   For me, I think of fluency meaning correct fingering rhythm and notes. BAPDARP requires a closer look and listen to the expressive details of the piece.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fun Tools for Teaching Music Composing: A Resource Roundup

Composing Tips with Wynn-Ann Rossi

I've been scouring the web for fun activities and tips to help teach basic composition elements to my students and was delighted to see the link for Alfreds' latest blog post pop up in my inbox titled
"Composition Tips with Wynn-Anne Rossi."
The short video clips (about 3 minutes each) give students an opportunity to learn tips and tricks about composing from a well-known composer.  Following are a few of my favorite videos with specific assignments students can complete during lessons, piano lab or home practice.  If they complete them during home practice they can get an extra "Bull's Eye Target" marked off on their Bull's Eye Challenge Sheet.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Lego Game to get your Piano Students Playing Chords in an Unforgettable Way

"3-2-Won Major Chord Blastoff" is a quick game to teach chords in piano lessons in a memorable way.
321 Chord Blastoff #pianoteaching #musicgames

Recently Inspired by Tim Topham's approach to teaching chords to beginners  I came up with this game to reinforce the pattern of chord building so that even young students can remember it.

Concepts Covered: 

  • Piano key names
  • Major chord building pattern 
  • Playing and spelling triads
  • Broken and blocked chords

Materials needed: Paper Keyboards,  die for each player, legos or colored small objects
Object: Be the first to build a chord pattern with legos on the paper keyboard and play and spell it on the piano.
 In this fast action game players simultaneously race to roll the "Major chord gaps" (a 3 and then 2) which reinforces the pattern in their mind.   It could be played in either a private lesson setting (teacher vs student) or at a group lesson with multiple students playing.
1.  Pick a music letter name card to choose which chord you are trying to build.
2. All players place a colored lego on the first note of the chord.

3. Start the race by saying "3-2-1 Blastoff". Players simultaneously race to roll a 3 on their die.

4. When a player rolls a 3 they place 3 white legos on the next 3 higher keys.

5. Next they place a colored lego on the middle note of the triad and then race to roll a 2.
6. After rolling a 2, place white legos on the next 2 keys and add a colored lego to finish off building the chord.

7. Then take note of the chord spelling (keys with colored legos) and "blastoff" toward the piano to spell and play the chord you just built in broken and block style. For C chord you would sing  "C-E-G, That's a chord " as you play the broken pattern CEG +3 blocked chords.

8. Repeat if desired choosing a new chord each time until a player wins 3 blastoff rounds.

What makes this game a win?

  • Versatile-It could be played in either a private lesson setting (teacher vs student) or at a group lesson with multiple students playing. It's easy to shorten or lengthen the duration by choosing the number of rounds required to win.
  • Adaptable- For an easier version, omit the chord spelling requirement for students who haven't learned sharps or flats yet. For a more challenging game, intermediate students could also build other chord styles (minor, diminished, augmented or 7th chords)
  • Multi-level- Because of the chance element of the die, an experienced teacher vs. a novice student can play without the teacher having an obvious advantage. The teacher may even be at a slight disadvantage because it's harder to blast off a " mature" body off the floor to race to the piano:).
  • Multi-Sensory- This game appeals to multiple learning styles.

    • Visual - See the pattern on the keys
    • Auditory- Hear both the chord spelling and sound of major chords
    • Kinesthetic - Use of block manipulatives and feeling the chord under the fingers as you play it.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Fun Ways to Get Piano Students Practicing Smarter, Not Harder

To kick off the new year in my piano studio our January group lesson will be centered around effective practice. I've planned some fun activities centered around goal-oriented practice including this adaptation of the Sorry Sliders Game that I've also been using for notereading review.