Check Out the 24-Hour Kids Classical Internet Radio Channel

Classical New England has launched a 24-hour Kids Classical Channel with classical music programs specially designed for kids. I was listening to it for a while the other day and caught a broadcast of “The Instruminute” – a short clip of music and information about a musical instrument. This was followed by a rousing performance of The William Tell Overture. What a great resource for parents and kids – and all of us who enjoy listening to and learning about classical music! 🙂

Free 66-Page Guide to Music Recording

One of the things I’d really like to learn more about is audio recording and mixing. I definitely need some better equipment in my studio, but I’m hesitant to make any purchases in my present state of ignorance. 🙂 So…my curiosity was piqued when I saw this link for a free 66-page Musician’s Guide to Recording. You have to add your contact info to the mailing list at Disc Makers, but I went ahead and gave it a try and the guide looks like it is chock-full of helpful tips and information!

And while I was there, I ended up also downloading the Building a Professional Home Studio guide and The Home Studio Microphone Guide. Looks like there’s a whole page full of additional free downloadable resources for musicians, too! Maybe I’ll be able to figure out this tech side of music after all… 🙂

Review and Giveaway of RoadTrip USA!

Buckle your seat belts and get ready for an adventure with this fun set of piano camp lesson plans developed by Sheryl Welles: RoadTrip USA!

The camp is organized into a 5-day/15-hour set of plans with a different theme for each day: Patriotic Day, Wild West Day, Carnival Day, I Love New York Day, and Luau Day. The students participate in themed games and activities all week long to help them improve their skills in note identification, rhythm, musical terms, ear-training, and movement.

Lesson plans for each day include ideas for set-up, listening suggestions, game and activity instructions, supply lists, and photos from when Sheryl held the camp with her students. The last two-thirds of the packet is a collection of resource cards to go with the road trip theme and printable cards for the various games and activities. Sheryl has laid out everything to make running the camp a breeze, but there’s also lots of room for flexibility and creativity! Her game ideas and supplies could easily be used with students throughout the year at group classes, too.

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for…Sheryl is giving away one copy of the RoadTrip USA! piano camp packet (regularly $39!) to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing to win this packet for your studio. The winner will be drawn using a random number generator on Thursday, October 4, at noon (CST).

Monday Mailbag – How to Teach Hand Coordination to Beginners

How do you help your students with hand coordination, especially for beginners?

This is often one of the most exciting moments in teaching – watching a student learn to play with both hands together! In fact, it was kind of cool to see that when I asked my students our question for the year: “What do you want to be able to do by next May that you can’t do right now?” several of them said they wanted to be able to play pieces with both hands together. For young students, this seems to be the pinnacle of what it takes to be a good pianist! So, here are some ideas for how to help students achieve this ability to play hands together:

  • Improvise! Usually at our very first interview I play simple black key improvisations with the student to assess their musical aptitude. I play an accompaniment pattern and then tell them they can play whatever they want to on the black keys. Especially encourage them to try using both hands to create sounds. It’s actually pretty easy to play hands together when you don’t have to give any consideration to hitting the “right” notes!
  • As soon as the student can play simple one-handed tunes from a lesson book, challenge them to see if they can play the same pattern in both hands simultaneously. I use the Faber Piano Adventures Primer Level Lesson book for most of my beginning students and one song that they love to do this with is the theme from Ode to Joy.
  • Teach the student to play pentascales, then show them how they can play the pentascale in one hand while playing just the tonic and dominant in the left hand when they play those keys in the right hand. So, when they play the “C” of the right hand pentascale, they play the ” bass C” in the left hand, and when they get to the “G” in the right hand pentascale, they play the “bass G” in the left hand, then back to the C’s together. I had a student working on this last week. When I assigned it to her at her lesson, it took her 14.3 seconds to play it. I told her we would time again the following week to see if she could improve her fluency. When she came for her next lesson she nailed it in 3.4 seconds! And not only that, but she was thrilled to show me how she had transposed the exercise to the D, E, F, and G pentascales as well!
  • Have the student pick out a simple melody by ear and play it in the right hand. Assign them to try playing different keys in the left hand whenever they think it would sound good to add some harmony to the song. It’s kind of cool to see what students come up with when given an assignment like this!
  • Teach a cool-sounding piece by rote! Sometimes what the student really needs in order to learn better coordination is just the inspiration of being able to play a piece of music that sounds really cool. Check out this compilation of 24 Piano Pieces Perfect for Rote Teaching for specific suggestions.

These are a few things I’ve tried with my students to help them build the coordination to play hands together. I’d love to hear other suggestions, though! What have you done with your students to help them develop coordination between the hands?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

What do you want to be able to do by next May that you can’t do right now?

One of the quotes from The Creative Life conference that gave me lots of food for thought was one by Michael Card, “You can’t say everything all the time.” The more I pondered this, the more I realized how much I try to do this as a teacher. I want so much to equip my students with a well-rounded music education that I try to make sure that they do everything all the time. Isn’t that the oft-face and frequently discussed dilemma in music education circles – how do you fit everything into every piano lesson? Well, I finally have an answer. You don’t. 🙂

Instead of presenting students with a list of options or repertoire I’ve selected for them, our entire practice incentive theme (Project 28) this year is built around one question: “What do you want to be able to do by next May that you can’t do right now?” Actually, I’ve used that same approach for myself to focus on an area I’ve always wanted to improve: playing by ear. In light of that, I’ve written a guest post for outlining how I’m hoping to accomplish that goal. Here’s an excerpt:

Several years ago I enrolled in a pottery class at our local rec center. I was thrilled about the prospect of learning a new art, and had visions of creating an entire set of dishes that I could use for years to come. I was less thrilled when I completed the class eight weeks later with only a misshapen dish and an unstable vase to show for my efforts. I haven’t touched a pottery wheel since.My problem was the same as the one I encounter with most adult students who begin taking piano lessons from me. And it’s the same reason I’m not any good at playing by ear.The official diagnosis? Unrealistic expectations for the amount of time and effort spent to achieve the desired end.

Playing by ear does not come naturally to me. I’m not good at it. And I don’t particularly enjoy working on it because I usually end up stuck in a rut playing the same thing over and over. For years I’ve tolerated this musical deficiency while wistfully imagining that someday, somehow, I’ll wake up in the morning and find that I’ve magically acquired the gift of playing by ear. Well, Christopher’s fabulous post on learning to play by ear put all such fantastic notions to rest for good 🙂

It’s time to get serious about learning to play by ear, and I’ve decided to drag my students along for the ride! Across the studio, no more of this wishful, generic longing to magically improve as pianists. If you’ve been living off of your imaginary dreams of pianistic prowess like me and are looking for a way to exchange cloud nine for reality, hold on to your piano benches because it’s time to kick it in high gear and move forward!

>>Click here to read the rest of the article.>>

Spotify – The Best New Online Teaching Resource Since YouTube!

What do you get when you merge the instant accessibility of YouTube with the interface of iTunes with the music library of the whole internet? Spotify!

I had heard rumblings about Spotify for a while, but recently decided to check it out. I kid you not when I say this has now become my personal and teaching go-to resource for music listening. You can instantly search through millions of tracks; listen to specific albums, artists, or pieces; create custom playlists; and even check out what your friends are listening to! And you get all this for free – and without having to download the music to your own hard drive. Plus, the mobile app lets you listen to streaming radio on the go, and a Premium account gives you full access to the complete library.

If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out this incredible new resource! And for a fun, new recommendation, try checking out the Nostalgias Argentinas album by pianist Mirian Conti, featuring “works that are undeniably rich but rarely heard outside Argentina. Interweaving the influences of folk traditions, classical music, popular songs and, of course, the tango, these deeply evocative, often bittersweet pieces…”

Review and Giveaway of Beethoven Who – Family Fun with Music!

From the colorful, eye-catching artwork on the cover to the extensive index at the back, Marcia Washburn has put together a fun and practical resource that is great for parents and teachers alike – Beethoven Who?! This 334 page ebook covers everything from why children should learn music, to an overview of different styles of music, to handy hyperlinks that take you directly to the corresponding terms in the glossary, and lots more.

Coming from a Christian perspective, Marcia includes a multitude of Scripture verses, inspirational quotes, listening suggestions, and full-color pictures. The book would be a great resource for music teachers wanting to plan a music camp, gather ideas for group classes, or just build their own knowledge of the history and elements of music to incorporate it more into their teaching. It is also ideal for a homeschool family looking for a fun, easy-to-use music appreciation curriculum.

Now, for the best part…Marcia has graciously offered to giveaway one copy of the Beethoven Who? curriculum (a $29.99 value) to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing to win. A winner will be chosen using a random number generator on Thursday, September 20 at noon (CST). [Also, if you want to go ahead and purchase a copy, Marcia said that she would be happy to refund the winner for the purchase price if they’ve already ordered it.]

174 Pages of Free Printable Music Theory Pages!

Looking for a quick pentascale sheet you can print off for a student? Or perhaps a handy reference of 7th chords with all their inversions? Or maybe some chord progressions to help a student visualize the chord voicing better? Well, guess what? You will get all that and more in the hot-off-the-press Music Motivation Checklist created by Jerald Simon. The best part? He’s offering the entire book for free!

I can’t even imagine the number of hours it took to put all this together, so I’m grateful to Jerald for creating it and making it available to all of us. Visit his Music Motivation website to download your own copy today!