Pictures and Easy Step-by-Step Instructions for Making Dozens of Musical Instruments

In conjunction with our rhythm-themed practice incentive, Beat the Pirates!, this year, I was thinking it would be cool to spend time at one of our group classes to make our own rhythm instruments. So I was thrilled to come across this wonderful page at DariaMusic.com that has dozens of musical instruments you can make using easy-to-find materials from your home!

Whether it’s a pair of bilmas to help you keep the beat, or a handy pie pan bodhran drum, Daria has pictures and instructions to guide you as you construct your own versions of each instrument. (Now if only I could find some real turtle shells, we could make authentic turtle shell rattles!) I’m excited to explore the possibilities, and would love to know if you have a favorite homemade rhythm instrument that students can make!

Sneak Peek at Our New Studio Practice Incentive Theme

There are always a number of factors and considerations that go into developing a new practice incentive theme for our studio. This year, there were two primary inspirations. The first was a fervent request from one of my students (who also happens to be my daughter!) that we do a pirate theme of some sort. The second was a response by composer Wnne-Anne Rossi in the February/March 2017 issue of American Music Teacher. The question posed was, “How can you best assist a student who struggles with timing?” This paragraph from her response grabbed my attention:

“And yes, feeling rhythm is more important than thinking rhythm! The piano is a percussion instrument, and young pianists must act like drummers. Keep a drum on hand, and switch places at the piano. Assign sounds or words, like ‘boom-ditty-boom-yeah.’ Walk the beats. Enjoy rhythm as the ‘cool,’ playful part of the lesson.”

That last sentence, in particular, sparked an epiphany for me. “Enjoy rhythm as the ‘cool,’ playful part of the lesson.” This got my imagination spinning as I pondered the prospect of approaching rhythm in such a way as to make it the most fun part of the lesson. Rhythm has the potential to be so engaging and fun, and yet is so often relegated to the status of “necessary evil” in our effort to get our students to play a piece of music accurately. So…some of the details are still in development, but I’m super excited about how these inspirations are making their way into this year’s theme…

I’m planning to look into Wynn-Anne Rossi’s series, Latina Musica, and will be looking for lots of other resources and ideas to transform our studio into one where rhythm truly becomes the coolest part of every lesson!

Get 25% Off All Products at Moo.com

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that it’s no secret that I love moo.com. I first became aware of them when I won a business card redesign contest seven years ago. I immediately fell in love with the quality of their paper products and have used them over and over for various studio projects. Right now they are running a special 25% Off all MOO Print Products through July 25, so I’m putting together my wish list and piano studio practice incentive theme needs for next year so I can get my order in. If you’ve downloaded the free Composer Trading Game, now would be a great time to order your mini cards, too!


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Practice Habits Launches Member Community

Chris Owenby, founder of PracticeHabits.co, has been cranking out oodles of resources for piano teachers – from sheet music to technical exercises to helpful practice guides. He has put together a membership site that contains all of these and more. He’s offering a 30% discount for anyone who joins between now and midnight on July 21, so if you’re interested in checking out some of his creative works now is the time to do it!

An Inspiring Calling

Kristin Jensen, of the wonderful My Fun Piano Studio website, asked me to write a guest post for her blog. Here’s an excerpt of my post, An Inspiring Calling:

What if you could do one thing that would motivate students, energize your teaching, elicit gratitude from parents, and increase the value of your studio offerings? I know it sounds too good to be true, but after seventeen years…

>>>Read the rest of the post here>>>

Giveaway of Piano: The Book

Do you remember the beautiful eBook, Piano, that we reviewed here on Music Matters Blog a few weeks ago? Well, author David Crombie is generously offering one free copy to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing for this gorgeous book! One winner will be chosen using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Friday, July 14, 2017. Enter now for your chance to win!

Review of Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing

17th century Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher purportedly wrote the following in a letter,

“I said I knew a very wise man so much of Sir Christopher’s sentiment, that he believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads he need not care who should make the laws of a nation, and we find that most of the ancient legislators thought that they could not well reform the manners of any city without the help of a lyric, and sometimes of a dramatic poet.”

American song-writer and singer, Pete Seeger (1919-2014) would undoubtedly agree with him. I’m going to chock up not knowing of this famous musician to my age, since he was in his prime well before I was born (and because it makes me feel better about my ignorance 😉 ).

This new children’s book, Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing, written by Leda Schubert and beautifully illustrated by Raúl Colón, tells the story of the man who wrote or popularized such familiar American classics as, “This Land is Your Land,” “Shenandoah,” “Skip to My Lou,” and dozens of others.

More than an entertainer, Pete Seeger saw his role as a singer as one who could also effect social change. Throughout his career he used his music to advance numerous causes, even joining the Communist Party USA for several years, eventually being subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He took his first amendment rights seriously, though, and continued sharing his musical message at schools, colleges, and summer camps. He had a way of connecting with common people and getting them singing right along with him. This is a great reminder of the power of music to touch and influence people. What a great privilege and responsibility we have as music teachers who are training the next generation of musicians!

AMT Inspiration – The Magic of William Gillock

After taking a break for a few years, this spring I had the privilege to adjudicate at several student events and thoroughly enjoyed the experience! I love having the opportunity to listen to students, encourage them in their musical studies, and give them positive feedback to help them improve as pianists. The article “The Magic of William Gillock, Part Two: Preparing Students for Adjudication” by Richard Rejino in the April/May 2017 issue of the American Music Teacher was particularly inspiring and helpful! The insights Mr. Rejino shares are helpful both for adjudicating and regular studio teaching. Here are a few excerpts I found particularly inspiring:

“When he [William Gillock] judged me [Toni Ausin-Allen] there was a consistency, a friendliness about him, and I felt he understood my playing. He showed this by the way he spoke to me. He didn’t speak to me like a judge, but rather as musician-to-musician. The words he chose were always very eloquent, and he wasn’t standoffish like many judges. He wanted to engage with students as peers, not as student/teacher.”

What a great reminder to approach and work with students as a fellow learner!

“As an adjudicator, Gillock began assessing the student from the moment she walked into the room. He urged teachers to always treat the student as if she were a guest in their home. He watched to see if she exhibited thoughtful preparation before playing. Was the student concerned about bench placement, posture? Was she poised, alert, the body relaxed? Was there unnecessary tension in the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders? He noted that both rhythm and tone are dependent on a relaxed upper body.”

How important it is that we remain conscientious of the physiological side of playing the piano and help students achieve technical freedom in their playing so that they can also attain musical excellence.

“Because of him, I listen first for musicality: dynamics, phrasing, tone quality, and attention to detail. I think kids these days are too busy and teachers struggle to show students how to find time to work on these things. But every average student has the right to play musically; every busy student has the right to play musically. So, if you have to, you give them less to work on.”

This is so true! I am amazed at the way students, even average students, respond when they hear themselves making beautiful music at the piano. We do our students a great disservice when we focus on the notes and rhythms to the exclusion of the dynamics and artistry of the music. Far better to give them less to work on in order to enable them to truly experience the beauty of the music!