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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Motivating Beginning Piano Technique Mastery with Wizard Challenges

Beginning Piano Technique Wizard Challenges heidispianonotes.blogspot.com, a organized piano teaching technique curriculum

In order to earn the "Technique Wizard Challenge" on my piano student leaderboard, students complete the following technique challenges that correspond with their current level.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Free 4th of July Music and Activities: A Piano Teaching Resource Roundup

Piano students love to play familiar songs and over the years I've collected several free patriotic themed songs and activities to celebrate the 4th of July in addition to pulling out some of the patriotic/march music in my library.  I have listed them below in general order of difficulty including some of the teaching concepts included in the music/games.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Composition Tips from Jordan Roper

Following are a few of my favorite points given at a UVMTA workshop that I attended by composer Jordan Roper.
Memorable Melodies begin with an interesting kernel or motif that often repeats throughout the song or is manipulated in different ways intermixed with new material.
For example
Beethoven's Fifth  (melodic motif) "- - - __"
                     
Star Wars - rhythmic motif  "short short short -Long"

3 Simple Steps to creating a Memorable Melodic Motif
1- Stepwise motion (run)
2 - Occasional leaps (m3 or bigger)
3 - Repeated Notes (least important)

Bradley Sowashes "Scaling the Chords" method is a greater starting point to help students experiment with creating motifs within a scale.

Often beginning composers tend to use too much repetition wearing out their audience with the same theme.  Look to other good compositions and compare the amount of repetition in their pieces for a rule of thumb.

Feedback on student compositions:
  • For a piece mainly centered around middle C: Increase the range higher than an octave.
  • For a repeated bass accompaniment: Invert the bass accompaniment interval for more variety. Analogy "apple pie tastes good but it can be even better when you throw in a bite of ice cream (change) every once and a while."
  • For a song containing only Primary chords: Add more chord flavors, sub out majors with minors.
  • For a song in ABA form: Change the 2nd A a little so it is ABA'

Explore Chord Functions:
I= Home
ii iv V or vii - "Get to " chords that lead to another chord
IV or ii - possible endings but never end on V or vi

Use a Thesaurus to help with naming pieces.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Two Dozen Piano Teaching Blogs That Have Transformed my Teaching

Fifteen years ago I was drawn into the online world of piano teaching tips as I was searching for ideas on how to best introduce musical concepts to my first piano student... a 4 year old.  I was fortunate to land on the piano teaching home page of Martha Beth Lewis and I eagerly read page after page of "How To's" ranging from topics like technique for beginners (with m&ms and hot fudge) to how to teach feminine endings ("grannies").  The creativity and playfulness of her approach had me hooked and I eagerly perused all of the articles on her site.

Friday, June 14, 2019

What Happened at Prospective Student Piano Camp? Plus More Fun and Games


This week at piano camp the activities that students sampled were based on the 4 Arts of Music: Improvising, Reading, Arranging and Composing (see Forrest Kinney article)  This pedagogical framework in piano instruction enables students to become more expressive and creative at the piano as well as entrenching a solid understanding of the reasons behind the organization of the music they read on the page.

Improvisation
We started out with a simple improvisation duet on the black keys (key of F#) using the MusicClock app as a backtrack.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Piano Improvisation: Scale Practice and Composition with BenSound

Teaching Piano Improvisation with BenSound, piano student improvising with right hand

Recently I received  a tip from one of my piano students about a fun site with "backing tracks" in a variety of styles that provides the perfect backdrop for beginning pianists to improvise with.  Although BenSound isn't specifically designed for this purpose, the repetitive themes provide a nice background for the budding composer to "play around" on scales in a variety of keys while choosing a variety of themes and moods.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Teaching Piano Chord Progressions with Pop Songs

Teaching Piano Chord Progressions with Pop Songs as Backing Tracks from youtube

Chord Progressions are the ingredients to music, but sometimes practicing them in drill like fashion can be a bit boring.  But accompanying familiar songs can get students asking to play them for fun!  I compiled a list of familiar melodies that include the primary chords.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Is Your Piano Teaching Curriculum Comprehensive?

Planning a well balanced piano teaching curriculum can be difficult because there are so many elements to consider as students began learning to play the piano. When organizing my curriculum as a new piano teacher, I started making leveled checklists with the basic foundation ingredients that I received in my own piano lessons as a child such as Notereading, Rhythm, Theory, Technique, Ear Training and eventually organized preparatory materials in Piano Teaching Binders
Piano Teaching Organization with Piano Binders: heidispianonotes.blogspot.com Note Reading Ear Training Rhythm Theory Technique

Friday, April 19, 2019

Colors of the Wind Piano Improvisation for Beginners

One of the easiest ways to get piano students improvising from the very first lesson is to have them focus on playing the notes from the pentatonic scale (only black keys). Improvisation has become some of my student's favorite activities because it allows them to freely express musical ideas all across the keyboard without the restraints and complexities of reading music that can take a while to solidify. Using it as a lesson starter is kind of like eating dessert first before eating your vegetables😋!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Free Printable Piano Improvisation for Beginners: Do-Re-Mi Ice Cream Improv

Beginning piano students can gain experience and confidence with this free printable introducing a simple improvisation activity with an ice cream theme and Do Re Mi Solfa patterns. More experienced students can explore rhythmic dictation, ear training and add more complexity to their composition by extending the range of notes or adding harmony.
Piano Improvisation for Beginners Ice Cream Improv Piano Lesson Activity and Teaching Solfa

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Gethsemane Simplified Piano Music Free Printable


As part of Holy Week leading up to Easter with our family we've been reading scriptures and singing songs about the week leading up to the resurrection resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ (see Easter Come Follow Me and Mercy River Holy Week for Teens). One of my favorite Easter songs is Gethsemane by Melanie Hoffman.
Free Printable Simplified Christian Piano Music Gethsemane Melody or Duet
  There are many vocal and choral arrangements available for purchase on her site, and while this simplified version from The Friend is suitable for some intermediate level students I wanted something accessible for my beginning piano students to play as well.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Piano Lessons: Would you rather exam or excite?

Using a Piano Lesson Game with an egg hunt to assess note reading, rhythm, ear training and other keyboard skills.
I prefer to assess student's progress regularly through games rather than to have formal tests for my music students. Although a "test" is a useful means of gauging the progress, and I use a pre and post theory test for them to earn their spot on the theory leader board, more often I prefer to use games to assess the various skills of my students in a more playful relaxing environment and achieve the same goal of discovering what they know and celebrating their accomplishments in a fun way.  Games take off some of the pressure, and in a gaming environment students are more likely to"consider failure as a tutor, not as a tragedy, and to not fear failure but to learn from it" (Lynn G, Robins, Until Seventy Times Seven)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Primary Chord Progression Songs with I and V chords

One of the teaching goals I have for my piano students is for them to eventually be able to easily play hymns. The steps in my hymn playing curriculum begins in the early stages of lessons before students can even play hands together. Playing left hand chords early on as they sing familiar melodies allows them to hear the harmonic framework in songs, and it is also motivating as they aren't limited to just thin single note melodies like "Hot Cross Buns" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
Teaching Piano Chords I and V Tonic and Dominant Chord Songs Primary Songs


Friday, March 22, 2019

Teaching Familiar Rote Pieces in Piano Lessons + a Free Printable

What do Pete the Cat and Baby Shark Have in Common?
Fast Repeated Notes, Repetition, Familiarity, Just 4 Notes and Kid Appeal!

Monday, March 18, 2019

One Minute Piano Lesson Challenges

For the month of March, I'm kickstarting each piano lesson with a one minute challenge for my students each week when they arrive at lessons and ending with some creative improvisations as they tour the world!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Motivation in the Music Studio by Del Parkinson

Motivation in Music Lessons
It was a privilege to be able to attend a UVMTA music workshop recently presented by Dr. Del Parkinson, professor of Piano Pedagogy at Boise State. His combination of humor, genuineness and helpful tips was refreshing. It is easy to see why his student's mention these elements in his rate the professor remarks! Following are my notes from his presentation

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Music Is Fun Elementary Lesson Plan

I volunteered to teach a music lesson in my son's elementary school classroom for Fun Friday.  With so many games to choose from in my piano game resource list, it was hard to decide which to use but I finally picked Susan Paradis's Music is Fun Bingo game as the basis of the activity and planned the following interactive activities to go along with each of the calling cards after doing a quick introduction of the music alphabet and white keys on the piano.  The activities highlighted in yellow are free activities for children to try out at home if they like.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Strategies for Fostering Musicality by Paula Clark

Teaching Musicality, Piano Practice Tips

Does preparing students for festival cause you stress? At this recent workshop, Paula Clark gave some great tips about helping student prepare for festival performances as well as reviewing some effective practice drills and strategies to remedy common challenge spots in a variety of music samples.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Feeling Musical Pitch through Movement

Music and movement make great pairs!  To prepare students for the complexities of the staff I like to first incorporate some movement to music activities.  This not only matches the natural learning developmental process, but it also provides a meaningful energy outlet for young students who get fidgety being stuck on the bench for an entire lesson.

Friday, February 1, 2019

12+ Months of Free Music Group Lesson Plans

teaching piano free piano group lesson plans heidispianonotes piano group activities

Choosing a monthly focus topic for piano lesson not only simplifies lesson planning, but it also helps me ensure that students are getting a well-rounded exposure to musical concepts that can easily be overlooked like composition and ear training.

Festival Music Samples & Listening Assignment :Jazz Rags and Blues

For each piece write the name of the piece and then click it to hear it and answer the following questions:

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Teaching Basic Accompaniment Skills

What skills are needed to become a proficient accompanist?  While the majority of accompanists are pianists, not all pianists have the ability to jump easily into an accompanist role.