Melodic Dictation Game

At the beginning of each lesson, I’ve started having my students draw a popsicle stick from a container on the piano. Each popsicle stick has one of the following written on it:

1. Chords

2. Rhythmic Dictation

3. Rhythm and Pulse

4. Vocabulary

5. Melodic Dictation

6. Sight-read

7. Play A Game

8. Written Theory

9. Description

10. Scales/Intervals By Ear

11. Scale Patterns

12. Intervals

13. Note ID

These are all areas that I want to work on with each student, but of course can’t fit into their regular lesson time each week. So at the beginning of the lesson, they draw a stick and we spend 5 or so minutes focusing on that area. Last week one of my young students drew the “Melodic Dictation” stick. I knew he couldn’t handle the wonderful Melodic Dictation worksheets that I use for my older students, so I had to come up with something else for him to do. This is what I came up with:

I grabbed some of my circle magnets and told him that I would play five notes and he had to arrange the magnets on the magnetic board according to the direction that he heard me play the notes – either up, down or repeating. I started out with only those three options. He caught on very quickly, so I told him I would try a couple more advanced patterns. I would mix the notes so that sometimes they might go up and sometimes they might go down. He had to listen carefully and again arrange the notes in the direction that he heard them move.

Not only did he do a great job with this, he also had a ton of fun doing it! I’ve continued to use this with other students that have drawn the “Melodic Dictation” stick and so far they’ve all caught on quickly and enjoyed this fun activity. It seems like a great introduction to help students become successful with melodic dictation exercises!

Here are a couple of resources I’ve found for good deals on magnetic boards and magnets:

Magnetic Boards with Magnets – 1 board, 2 magnets, 1 marker

Magnetic Boards-6/pk

Magnetic Board with marker and 2 round magnets

Color Dots Magnets – 15/pk

Ceramic Disc Magnets – 51/pk

Easy Grip Mighty Mini Magnets – 24/pk

Storing Music

As I mentioned in my Get Organized! post, one key to staying organized is developing a system that is easy to maintain. After trying in vain to keep my piano books and sheet music organized on shelves, I acquired this 4-drawer lateral file and it has worked wonderfully!


Here’s an outline of how I have each drawer organized (I would post a picture of the inside of the drawers, but someone inadvertently locked my file cabinet and I’m waiting for a replacement key to arrive…since I got it used, I didn’t get the key with it. :-)):

Drawer One (Top): Method Books arranged by level – Primer Off-Staff, Primer On-Staff, Level One, Level Two, etc.; Supplemental Technique Books; Supplemental Theory Books; Sight-reading resources.

Drawer Two: Repertoire arranged according to Time Period – Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Late Romantic/Impressionistic, 20th Century. Within each of the categories, the books and sheets are placed alphabetically according to the last name of the composer. Following the chronologically arranged files are anthologies according to level – elementary, intermediate, advanced.

Drawer Three: Supplemental books and sheets arranged according to level – beginner, elementary, late elementary, early intermediate, intermediate, late intermediate, advanced. Each category contains file folders with sheet music first followed by file folders with books.

Drawer Four: Duet and ensemble literature, arranged by type – 1P/4H, 2P/4H, 2P/8H, 1P/6H, etc.; Miscellaneous categories – movie music, wedding music, songs; I also have a section for my Duds – books or sheets I don’t want anymore and want to send on the next time I receive the Duds Box.

I have a separate file cabinet (a regular sized 5-drawer one) where I use a drawer for Christmas music, arranged by level and with a section for duet and ensemble arranged the same as the above duet literature; a drawer for sacred music, arranged by level and with a section for duet and ensemble arrangements; and a drawer for choral music, arranged by type – SA, SSA, SATB, etc.

Anytime I receive new music from a new-release club or pick something up at the store to add to my collection, I file it away. If it’s for a particular student, I stick it in their file to give to them at their lesson. (I’ll share about my lesson files in another post.) I have one student who likes to be my new music reviewer, so I’ll often set aside new music to send with her for evaluation before I file it away. This system allows me to quickly pull a new sheet or book for a student, look for something they request at their lesson or let them go through the files themselves and see if there is something they want to check out. If they do check something out, they make note of it on the Piano Music Check-Out Sheet on the front of the file cabinet.

So, in case you can’t tell…I love file cabinets and highly recommend them! 🙂 (You can check out Office Max for file cabinet options and free shipping on orders over $50.)

Get Organized!

Anyone ever struggle to keep their studio organized? I just came across this great list of excellent and practical organizing tips! Here are the five main points given in the article, but go check out the website for more detail:

1. Organize with organizers.

2. Give everything a home.

3. Don’t procrastinate.

4. Make a decision.

5. Get in the organizer’s mindset.

I’ve just spent part of my two week break decluttering and reorganizing my studio. I think half the battle is coming up with a good system. If you set up an organizational system that does the job and is easy to maintain, there is much less chance that a mess will pile up than if items are randomly or carelessly placed. Here are a couple of systems that I’ve come up with in my own studio that have helped immensely!

Keeping track of business expenses. After I record my expenses in my spreadsheet, I drop the receipts into this binder system.

Student Worksheets. This system makes it easy to find appropriate worksheets for students who need to work on specific areas.

I’ve also got a system for organizing all my piano books and sheet music that works wonderfully. I’ll try to post about that tomorrow. And I’ve got a system for setting out books and materials for specific students each week. I’m working on a better system for handling billing and record-keeping (thanks to Music Teacher’s Helper. I’m hoping to give an update on that soon.) Now if only I could come up with a system for turning all my students into well-rounded musicians who can easily sight-read, play by ear, transpose on the spot, etc., etc. 😀