Friday, January 3, 2014


My student Danny hit a wall on the Shepard's Song. He just didn't like it and consequently he refused to practice. Weeks went by with my encouraging him to try it one more week. Finally, I felt inspired to challenge him to try an experiment. I promised him, out on a limb there, that if he would play this piece 50 times that he would learn to love it. The next week he had 4 tally marks on his page. We played it through three times during the lesson and added those tally masks to the total. Then, the following week he had a surprise for me.

He was so excited to play. He reached his goal and my promise was true. He loved it. I don't always push through with every song, but I felt the newly arranged version of this piece in "Piano Adventures Level One" was worth the work.

The more you practice the better you play. The better you play the more you enjoy making music. The more you enjoy making music the more you practice. The more you practice the better you play……..

Friday, November 8, 2013

Homemade Scale Foldable

This month's group lessons consisted of rehearsing and videoing the duets, (October was duet month) and making homemade scale foldables. I had two to four students at a time, for one hour. 

  Buying scale books is possible but allowing each child to use the patterns to make their own scale book is child centered-learning. I used colored folders, inexpensively purchased at Amazon, as the shell and the inside varied depending on age. Keyboards can be copied for free from Susan Paradis. (Thank-you, Susan) Scroll down the teaching resources page to Keyboard labels. My students glued the labels on, making dots on the keyboard to illustrate a 5-finger or octave scale, and then with post-it notes made covers for each scale. We will use them at their lessons.

    A even more inexpensive version is to fold two pieces of paper hot dog style, vertical, and then staple them into the folder. After the scales are written in we cut the top fold just under each scale and make a cover. The best part of this process, for me, was listening to them discuss half-steps and whole-steps. It was  keyboard analysis from which each student benefitted.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Busy B Word Bubble and Duet Month

   October is duet month. I have tried this before. In the past I ended up playing some of the second parts because getting children together to practice is a scheduling challenge. However, it is working and I purchased some fun pieces to delight my students. One important element this time is that I have determined to get the partners together twice. Once to practice and have a group lesson experience, and once to perform for my video camera. I intend to show my movie during cookie time after my January recital. Duets provide the perfect setting to bring home the concept of the steady beat. Without lecture or nagging, the impotence of feeling the beat moves to the forefront. I have tried to shy away from pairing up siblings. They can annoy each other quickly. Next week I will get together the first batch of duets. I look forward to the process and the outcome.

I found a fun site that will generate a "most often used" word bubble from your blog. The idea it drives home in my mind is that my posts have been dedicated to sharing ideas for learning piano music.
I love the word "beat" right in the middle. I do many things to enhance a steady beat. Make your own word bubble here. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Music Magicians

   Dear Parents  
      Do you remember at the last recital I professed to be a magician by having students pick letters out of a hat and then composing a song starting with those letters, on the the spot? It really was music magic and I want to encourage more progress in musical endeavors that teach those magic skills.

    As a studio, we are working on many aspects of music at the same time. I have devised some short term and long term goals for your children. As they reach a goal they can put their picture on our goals board.

  As always there is a nudge to extend practice time, but new goals will be rewarded. Here is a sample of our goals. 

      October is duet month and we will all try a duet with a partner. Hopefully we can find some partners who can attend each other's lessons at least once towards the end of October. I will video their duet and make a little movie for all to watch at the next recital.

                              Tell me, I forget; Show me, I remember; Involve me, I understand.” – Carl Orff    

Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting In Sync With The Steady Beat

  The internet is a buzz with the You Tube Video from Japan showing the science of the transfer of sound and thermal conductivity using metronomes.

  One of my most common challenges in teaching piano is helping students feel the beat and become synchronized with it. I wonder if 32 students playing the piano on a moving stage, playing the same song, will eventually yield to one ready beat.
  Hmm… probably not. There will always be a rebel in the group.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lead Sheets

   This summer I wanted to introduce each student to a lead sheet. I have used them over the years and they appear in the strangest places. For example, I was hired by a very passionate third grade teacher to come into her classroom to do music. This school had a music teacher and each classroom went once a week. She wanted more, so she paid me, out of her pocket for eight years. I went in on Mondays and stayed 45 minutes. I started out just accompanying, but over time she gave me more license and freedom to bring in music of my choice. The music she gave me to play was mostly lead sheets. Sometimes I had to make my own because she would hum the melody and I would jot down the tune on music paper I had with me. It was a learning adventure for me for sure.

    The Fabers have included lead sheets in their new edition lesson books. I have scoured the internet for free music to add to my collection. I start with just one note in the left hand, the root note. Then I add fifths, the first and the fifth note of the chord, and finally the whole chord.
     Here is an example of a great song to use that plan. "Walk Don't Run" sounds good with just one bass note, the fifths, and the chord. With my intermediate students who understand intervals, I show them the inverted chords, close together for fluency.
     Reasons to work with lead sheets-

  1. It opens the door to understanding chord theory
  2. Improvisation happens naturally
  3. Traditional songs come back into use, like Happy Birthday.
Wikifonia is a great internet site for finding lead sheets and even uploading your own.
                                                  Find some free lead sheets here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Talking About Music

      Talking about music with my students is sometimes quite magic. I handed A. a pencil and told her she was sitting in the teacher seat today. We were editing her music called "Dance With the Stars". In an effort to help bring her note reading skills on par with her composing skills, I was playing what I had transcribed and she was correcting. Finally words like crescendo, dynamics, and tempo had a real meaning. She is very particular about her own music. Being a natural musician, my task is to encourage her to become well rounded in all musical skills.

 When my next student arrived I handed her "Dance With The Stars" to sight read. M. reads music but the key of G flat means adjusting to black keys. Quickly she found the pattern and was delighted with the ease but also the sound. I told her who wrote it and we talked about the musical hook that captured our attention. In the middle of this animated conversation M. exclaimed, "There is some music I have to learn!" Why does some music vibrate our heart strings? We didn't find all the answers but I teach for moments like these when music is alive.
   Here is the music. I have permission to share.