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.

We started out with a simple improvisation duet on the black keys (key of F#) using the MusicClock app as a backtrack.
To start simple, students took turns matching the steady beat of the backing track with repeated notes of their choice on the black keys while the other students tapped the beat with chopstick rhythm sticks they had colored.  Next they "borrowed the rhythm" of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and expanded the melody by adding black key notes of their choices stepping around the keys as I played "World Piece" Duet from Forrest Kinney's Pattern Play book. The "Create First" and "Pattern Play" Series are the main tools I use to teach improvisation to students, but I also regularly encourage them to use the pieces from their method books as a springboard of ideas as they create using ideas from my variation cards.
To extend the learning at home students can improvise with Ben Sound. The pieces I have listed in the key of C and a minor use only white keys and are an easy way to begin.
Teaching Piano Improvisation with BenSound, piano student improvising with right hand

My favorite method books that provide an organized approach to reading music with engaging pieces include Piano Pronto, Piano Adventures and Hal Leonard.  Students usually are assigned 2-3 pieces a week in their purchased method books, but I also have a large supplementary library of pieces for students to regularly explore music in their favorite genres from familiar folk songs, classics, pop, hymns and primary songs, ragtime, jazz etc. I welcome suggestions from my students and their parents about pieces they would love to play. Playing music you enjoy is one of the keys to success and motivation in piano lessons!  
At camp students sampled piano lab time games including Music Ace and the Rhythm Swing and Flashnote Derby apps.  I also use and the  Piano Maestro app regularly during labtime to help students solidify their sightreading, notereading, rhythm, ear training and theory skills.
To extend the learning at home explore some of the links to free activities on my Piano Online Activities Page or try some of the activities from my previous beginner piano camp.
Free Online Piano Lab Activities Organized by Concept and Level for the Piano Teaching Lab or Piano Lesson Assignment

Arranging music is more easily taught during private instruction time, but at piano camp I demonstrated various moods of baby shark by applying simple arranging ideas to create  country shark, classic shark, lyric shark, and rock song shark versions while students played ear training bingo, listening for different sounds in the samples (staccato vs legato, forte vs piano etc.). I use the Puzzle Play books to introduce students to arranging music in a step by step fashion.  I encourage students to gain a solid knowledge of chords so they can also pick out some of their favorite pop songs by ear and create chord accompaniments as they identify the chord colors.
To extend the learning have students try to sing along as they try out different chord patterns (broken, blocked, root notes in alternating octaves, etc) by reading the chord symbols at the top of the page from primary songs with only 2 chords.
Teaching Piano Chords I and V Tonic and Dominant Chord Songs Primary Songs

We ended with this "Do Re Mi ice cream composition" activity where students paired the rhythms of their favorite ice cream and toppings as a springboard for composing a short song.  Using the natural rhythm patterns in spoken words and then adding a melody is just one avenue for composing. Check out "Composition 101: 5 Ways to Begin Composing" to explore other pathways I use to encourage students to create their own music. 
To extend the learning check out some quick composing tip videos or free composing printables on my previous post "Fun Tools for Teaching Composing."

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