Teaching Students to Practice Their Instrument More Effectively

In his always-informative newsletter, Gerald Klickstein, author of The Musician’s Way, linked back to his post on Beautiful Repetition. I love his four points:

  1. Insist on Excellence
  2. Reject Mindless Repetition
  3. Aim for Growth Rather than Sameness
  4. Evaluate Continuously

 

Visit his post for an elaboration and specific ideas for each point!

Appreciating the Old Welcoming the New – A Guest Post by the University of Florida

Those that were born before the iPod may remember the decline of cassette and record players, the latter of which is currently experiencing a resurgence as more people turn to vinyl for a revival of sound quality. This infographic illustrates the evolution of music technology and how it has allowed us to enjoy and create music socially as well as individually.

Items like the 4-track tape machine were used to record and play tracks reel-to-reel. Now people can share audio and video on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, and other streaming platforms. They can even record their own music on affordable programs like GarageBand.

In a rapidly-changing musical world, it can be helpful to treasure the inventions of the past while looking forward to future developments. Check out the infographic below for some inspiration, or use it as a visual when teaching your students about the history of music innovation.


Interested in learning more about applying new methods to music education? Discover the online master’s degree in music education from the University of Florida.

A Great Tool for Helping Piano Students Improve Sight Reading and Rhythm Skills

One of my favorite resources to help students develop their rhythm and sight reading skills is the Rhythm and Sight Reading cards from Piano Safari. These are great to use as a supplement even if you don’t use the method books. Levi agreed to demonstrate how we utilize these cards:

After tapping the rhythm pattern, they move to the piano keyboard and select one key for each hand, then for the final run-through they improvise using the rhythm pattern for each hand.

Levi has struggled for quite a while with his sight reading skills, so we tried something a few weeks ago that has worked wonders for him! Before playing through the line of music on the piano, he audiates (hums or vocalizes) the pattern while “ghost” playing the fingers on his lap that he will use to play the line on the piano.

He demonstrates the same approach for the bass clef pattern. It has been amazing to watch his skill (and even his enjoyment!) of sight reading develop just from this simple exercise!

A Favorite Composition Project for Piano Students

Every spring (for 12 years now!) we launch The Psalms Project in our piano studio. This has proved to be an anticipated and approachable opportunity for students to learn valuable skills related to composition. After selecting a verse (or several) from the book of Psalms in the Bible, we work through a series of steps to consider what they want the overall mood to be, what key it should be in, and what melodic and rhythmic motives to use. I encourage them to work away from the piano at first to focus on the natural rhythmic flow of the text, then to experiment with melodic and/or harmonic ideas. You can click the image below to download a free composition worksheet if you or any of your piano students want to try doing The Psalms Project.

 

Claire exclaimed, “This is actually fun!” while learning to notate her composition after taking some time to tap and write out on a white board just the rhythms for her melody. Once the composition is entirely notated by hand (a great way to reinforce theory concepts in a meaningful way!), the students get to learn how to use the Finale notation software to input their work.

Now that we have our new Nessie mic, we might try making vocal and piano recordings of our songs this year to go along with our published music book!

Deciding on a Musical Instrument – What to Choose? – A Guest Post by The Tutor Pages

Most parents will consider these questions at some point: Is my child musical? Can we afford music lessons? Which instrument should we choose?

Many parents are eager for their child to begin music lessons at a young age. However, some instruments are a better choice than others for young beginners. For example, the piano or a string instrument can be learned very young – even 3 year olds can experience success. On the other hand, vocal teachers will often recommend that a child start later, perhaps after puberty. Woodwind and brass teachers normally recommend that a child wait until their adult teeth have come in before learning their instruments.

Every instrument has advantages and disadvantages. Piano lessons are an obvious choice: the child can immediately make a reasonable sound on this instrument and there is a huge repertoire – truly a lifetime of discovery. On the other hand, pianos can be an expensive investment and you may have to worry about disturbing the neighbours. Digital pianos are worth considering for both of these reasons.

Some instruments provide more social interaction. Guitar lessons, for example, give students a great opportunity to play in groups. Beginner guitars are reasonably priced, portable, and are great for singing along and playing with friends in many genres.

Other string instruments like the cello and violin also provide social opportunities – you can join orchestras and other ensembles. They have a vast body of repertoire available, especially in the chamber music realm. The same is true for woodwind instruments like the clarinet and brass instruments like the trumpet. It is worth remembering that some instruments have better crossover for other genres such as jazz: for example, the trumpet or double bass.

Whatever instrument you choose, you can find advice on choosing the right musical instrument, tips on how to learn, and help finding a music teacher on the UK’s premier website for private tuition: The Tutor Pages.


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