Wednesday, March 9, 2022
Friday, February 11, 2022
Practicing chords doesn't have to be boring. I love to pair chord practice with pop songs since the majority of pop songs are limited to just 3 or 4 chords.
Although pop songs can have some pretty complicated rhythms for beginning piano students, they can enjoy accompanying YouTube videos with an understanding of chord symbols. Or they can sing along as they play the accompaniment. Choosing songs that they are familiar with really ups their ambition to practice and helps with audiation.
I've compiled a list of familiar primary songs from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints with just 2 or 3 chords for my younger students, but having some fun pop songs in the makes chord practice more appealing for my older students.
Playing Chord Progressions in Every Key
I adapted the catchy opening theme of "Try Everything" to create a "Try Every Key" Challenge to help my students enjoy learning the I-IV-I-V7-I chord progressions in a more fun way.
Click here to view the Free Printable Try Every Key Challenge.
Then listen to the song to get the rhythms rolling in your head. Although the rhythm isn't precisely dictated, singing the chord lyrics can really help student to get the sound of chords embedded in their brain.
Audiation, Piano Chords and Guitar Tabs
Years ago I attended a piano teaching workshop and marveled at how Randall Faber could just rattle off the chord names so quickly as he played songs. This definitely wasn't something I learned in my piano training, but attending my son's Let's Play Music classes boosted my ability to identify chord progressions more easily in everyday music.
I love how with just a little practice, I can now pick out the melody of my favorite pop songs and usually anticipate the chords to play along!
If the chords go beyond the basic primary chord progressions with I, IV and V chords, a quick google search with the name of the song usually brings up an Ultimate Guitar Tabs version.
For a list of pop songs in various keys that use only primary chords check out my previous post,
Pop Songs Duets
Friday, January 14, 2022
With so many different elements to teach in music lessons, it can be challenging to fit it all in. This year I've invited my piano students to complete a challenge each month that goes along with our monthly group lesson focus.
Although these concepts are woven into lessons throughout the year, having a focus theme and deadline makes it more likely for them to boost their skills. And it makes lesson planning simpler as the teacher!
If they successfully complete at least 10 challenges a year from this Piano Challenge Chart they are eligible for an invite to our Spring Piano Challenge Party.
Monthly Piano Challenge Focus Topics
- Pass off a new level for the One Minute Club Challenge by naming and playing notes quickly.
- Bronze: Bass F-Treble G
- Silver: Bass C- Treble C
- Gold: Bass G- Treble F
- Master: Grand Staff + Ledger Lines
- Susan Paradis Notes in the Fast Lane Sheets are gradually leveled and easier than flipping flashcards for this activity.
- Complete a challenge from the Halloween Surprise Me Sheet.
- Can you play arpeggios in 12 keys?
Ear Training - Choose 1 challenge to complete
- Earn 90% or Higher on Listening Test
- Complete 30 levels on the bubble tones app
- Finish 10 Aural Games on TonicTutor.com free play mode.
The Expert Ears Challenge Free Printable includes links to activities students can try at home or during piano lab to prepare for their listening tests.
- Earn 90% or Higher on Theory Test
Earn 90% or Higher on Theory Test: Theory Skills by Level
Terms and Signs
- Earn 90% or Higher on Terms and Signs Test
This Free Printable Terms and Signs Study Sheets includes terms and signs definitions and symbols for various levels.
Scales/Chords and Chord Progressions
- Complete the next level of Rhythm Boss on the Rhythm Swing app or
- Count aloud and clap a Music Progressions Rhythm Sheet correctly at your lesson.
Thursday, January 13, 2022
When I discovered this energetic new music video from the Truman Brothers this morning I had the itch to play along on the piano. While I don't have the music, I found it perfect as a "backing track" for a little A-flat improvisation. It could even be used for scale practice although I find improvising much more exciting!
Steps for Pop Song Style Piano Improvisation
Identify the Key.
This often can be done by matching the first or last pitch of the song on the piano. "Higher"is in A-flat. To improvise, start simply by creating melodies using the notes from the Aflat pentascale (A flat, Bflat, C, Dflat, Eflat). Later expand to include any note from the 1 octave scale.
Listen for repetitive elements in the song that you can incorporate in your own music.
I love the frequent bass IV-I Pattern from this song played in the intro. The simplicity of primary chords (I, IV, and V) with an occasional vi chord is common for pop style songs. You could simply play a Db followed by Ab in the bass or play octaves for a richer sound. Add in a few V chords or octaves for variety. To create a pop or rock feel, play repetitive measure quarter notes in the left hand.
For example. Ab-Ab-Ab-Ab then Db Db Db Db or Eb Eb Eb Eb.
Match the mood.
This pop style song has a steady drumming pulse that can be imitated by repetitive I, IV or V notes in the bass line with syncopated rhythms in the melody line. Choose a few of your favorite rhythm patterns in the song and imitate them as you improvise.
In the key of A flat the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of scale are all you need in the bass line.
- V= Eflat
Here's my brief unrehearsed piano improv in A flat Major... still in my pjs! Improvisation doesn't have to be perfect, but it can definitely be fun!
Monday, January 10, 2022