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.

Friday, July 5, 2013

I Am A Pianist

       As a teacher I am on the lookout for opportunities my students might have to learn to play with others. Accompanying singing groups is such an opportunity that comes along too infrequently. I would love them all to learn this skill once they are intermediate pianists. This past year one of my students accompanied his early morning religion class when they sang together. He struggled to keep on beat but his peers gave him encouragement and over the year he learned many pieces. 

    One song, in particular, was very difficult and the object of learning it was to accompany a larger group at the closure of the school year. Observing him at the first rehearsal I noticed that he was steady but slower than the conductor. Thanks to patient adults, who want to see our youth grow, I observed his skill taking off as the pressure during rehearsal pushed him beyond his comfort zone. As his piano teacher, one on one, I would never be able to apply this positive pressure on him. At the final performance he soared and the conductor felt he was tuned into him completely. I listened as many people thanked him for his ability and commitment. There was a new confidence and an almost visual mantle fell across his shoulders. "I am a pianist."