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.
After our crazy chord challenge last month even my beginners have a basic understanding of how to build major chords and this activity reinforces and extends the learning as I introduce inversions, lead sheets and transposition based on the student's ability.
Concepts: Playing from a lead sheet, Primary Chords Progressions in C Major Root or inversions.
1- First circle the letters written above the music in chord colors. I use red for I, blue for IV and Yellow for V since I have several Let's Play Music Connections students who are already associate the chord degrees with these colors.
2. Draw 3 snowmen (root)chords on your music and write the letter of the C (CEG), F (FAC) and G (GBD) chords inside. Note: I students begin with G chord even though it indicates G7.
2. Using the music as a lead sheet Play Blocked Root Chords at the beginning of each measure by following the Chord letters written above the music as you sing the lyrics (or accompany the music player after transposing to C Major).
3. Can you play with your eyes closed? It's pretty difficult to make the big leaps! Next try an easier way.
4. Instead of playing the G Root chord (GBD) rearrange the notes (Invert to BDG) so that your fingers can easily slide from home (I) left hand fingers 531 on CEG to vacation (V) left hand fingers 531 on BDG. Can you play the first 2 lines with your eyes closed? Much easier!
5. Invert the F Root chord FAC to CFA so you can you can easily slide up from the C Root Chord (CEG) to F Inversion (CFA) playing with left hand fingers 521 on the F inverted chord.
Concepts: Playing from a lead sheet, Eighth Notes and Dotted Rhythms, Fingering Expansion and Crosses, Passing Tones
1. After quickly moving through the steps in Stage 1 to master the left hand, play "I Spy" as you sightread or ghost play the right hand melody and identify 3 places requiring fingering expansion and 2 finger crosses. Practice these fingering spots in isolation a few times.
2. Circle the notes within each measure that don't belong in the chord. For example, measures 1 & 2 has all notes from the C chord (CEG) except for the F in measure 1 that is a passing tone.
3. Divide the piece up into smaller sections into 4 bar phrases and practice playing hands together with the right hand melody and left hand chords.
Concepts: Transposition, Primary Chords in Multiple Keys, Circle of 5ths
1. After completing stage 1 and stage 2 transpose and play just the left hand chords in the key of G.
2. Transpose the right hand melody into the key of G focussing on the intervals in the melody.
3. Continue around the Circle of 5ths playing chords in as many keys as possible as you accompany the music player in different keys.
Stage 4: Intermediate players skip stages 1-3 and just start here.
Concepts: Playing moving parts in both hands, Balance, Phrasing and Expression
1. Divide the piece into 4 bar phrases. Play right hand melody alone carefully following fingering and floating off slightly at the end of each phrase.
2. Read the lyrics and choose appropriate dynamics.
3. Play left hand alone softly as you listen to the music player.
4. Play hands together, first working in sections focusing on balance between hands. Right hand melody should be louder than the left hand accompaniment.
Music of Thanksgiving and Gratitude