Alyssa and I have been focusing a lot the last several months on her note identification speed. We’ve been doing a modified version of our NoteStars Challenge and she has made great progress, so when I came across this NoteRush app recently I immediately thought of Alyssa.
The app is simple and intuitive, so in no time at all we set it up with the same “levels” as NoteStars and gave it a try. She loved it! The app calibrates to middle C on your instrument and then listens as you play in response to the notes shown on the staff. If you get it correct a new note quickly appears. If you are incorrect, the note remains and you can opt in the settings to have it offer you a prompt. A student could easily manage NoteRush on their own in a technology lab setting, or it’s a quick, hassle-free game to reinforce and evaluate a student’s note identification skills in a couple of minutes at the beginning of a piano lesson.
It’s working! You might remember that the big objective with this year’s practice incentive theme, Beat the Pirates!, is to make rhythm “the cool part of the lesson.” I was thrilled when after today’s rhythm activity at the beginning of the lesson my daughter Claire exclaimed, “This is fun!” (This is especially encouraging since she was ready to quit taking piano lessons because of how much she hated rhythm. In fact, she wanted to switch over to violin lessons because she thought then she wouldn’t have to count. :-))
Here’s how it worked…Using the fabulous free downloadable rhythm flashcards from D’Net Layton, we laid eight of them out on the floor.
For the first round I gave the student a whacker while I assumed the drummer role. Setting a steady pulse, I counted in four beats, then played a pattern from one of the rhythm flashcards. At the completion of the pattern I gave four beats of rest during which the student had to see if they could whack the corresponding flashcard. If they got it correct, they kept the card. If they didn’t whack anything or whacked the incorrect one, it stayed there and I continued on to a new pattern while maintaining the beat. Once all the flashcards were claimed, we laid out a new set of rhythms. It was cool to see how even in a short time the students went from struggling to spot the rhythm patterns and keep up with the beat to being able to process and react more quickly!
For the second round, after having seen the process modeled, the student took on the drummer role. They found that it was difficult to maintain the pulse during the four beats of rest, but they loved watching me try to find the pattern they had played! This quick game only took a few minutes, but it was a great way for them to practice both listening to and identifying rhythm patterns and also playing various rhythm patterns themselves.
After one week back to teaching in the studio, I am reminded of the value of trying new ideas and approaches to connect with each student and engage them in the learning process in a meaningful and enjoyable way. The end result is that I love teaching more and they love their piano lessons more. A win-win! Here are a couple of new ideas we’re trying in the studio this year:
In keeping with our rhythm theme for this year’s practice incentive theme, I downloaded The Most Addicting Sheep Game app and it has been a huge hit! What a fun way to practice finding and keeping the pulse in music. We spent about 5 minutes making rhythm the coolest part of the lesson and then moved on to other assignments (perhaps with a bit better beat in our music!).
Have you ever wondered what to do with those high school students who love music, but struggle to make the time to devote consistent practice to their instrument? Well, this year two such students happen to be my boys. So, after a bit of brainstorming I decided to try something new to keep them engaged in learning and playing, but without the pressure of daily practice and progress. I printed each of them a For the Love of Music workbook and we spend about an hour each week going through it together. They are enjoying watching the video clips featuring a couple of my former students and deepening their own understanding of music. The only stipulation in addition to attending our weekly session is that they have to have something prepared to play for the monthly group class. It can be something learned by ear or from printed music, as long as it’s on the piano and ready to perform. Less pressure on them and less expectation from me and we’re all loving piano lessons more than before!
After months of anticipation, Musical U has finally launched their brand new podcast: The Musicality Podcast! Here’s a quick link to the audio file and shownotes for the interview I did for one of their episodes titled, A Mindset for Musicality. I already subscribed via my podcast app and am so looking forward to tuning in regularly to gain inspiration and ideas for my own musical development and for helping my students become more musical!
And, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a prize package worth over $500!
To celebrate the launch of the brand new Musicality podcast (1st episode is going live on Monday!), MusicalU is offering a giveaway of over $500 worth of music-related prizes (including my For the Love of Music course!). I only listen to a couple of podcasts regularly, but I’m really excited to see what Christopher Sutton has in store for each episode. He is tapping into a variety of musicians and music educators all across the globe, and I’m excited that I was able to be a part of this first episode, sharing about some of my own experiences toward becoming a more musical musician. Be sure to enter the giveaway and then tune in for the first podcast on Monday!
Years ago, I subscribed to the Piano Explorer magazine for my studio, letting students take home a copy if they were interested and archiving the rest in a notebook for future reference. Eventually, I let my subscription expire and its existence faded from my memory. Something recently reminded me of the Piano Explorer and I decided to re-subscribe and give each of my students a copy this year to see if they enjoy it. (If you purchase a group subscription of 5 or more copies, it is only $6/subscription!) I’m also planning to incorporate some of the activities into our practice incentive theme for the year, so that might provide some extra motivation to check them out!
As I’ve been perusing the latest issues that arrived in the mail this month, I am reminded of what a great little gem this magazine is! Written especially for piano students, each 15 page issue has interesting articles, fun facts, engaging activities, and more. And now, there is even a companion Piano Explorer website that students can visit to watch pre-selected video clips of music from the composer of the month or listen to clips of the featured instrument. There’s also an online Teacher’s Guide with additional notes, a schedule of composers to be highlighted for the year, and answers to the kids’ activities.
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!
Have you seen Kristin’s Piano Teacher’s Playground?
This is one of my favorite stops for fun, colorful, yet clean-looking free worksheets to use with my piano students. In fact, since our Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme incorporated doing a theory worksheet every three weeks to earn Mental Miles, I used her Scale Detective, Identifying Half and Whole Steps, and Spot the Note worksheets with multiple students throughout the year. I am always so grateful for the creativity and generosity of the music education community and the devoted teachers who make resources like this available for everyone!
It’s hard to believe that Musical U is already celebrating 2 years! What Christopher Sutton began as EasyEarTraining.com in 2009 is now an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to improve their knowledge and skills as a musician. To celebrate their 2-year anniversary as Musical U, they are giving away several free memberships to aspiring musicians. This would be a great resource for older students who want to go beyond the scope of what a traditional piano lesson will cover, friends, or parents of kids in your studio who have always dreamed of becoming better musicians.
The ear training section of the website still has a plethora of information and resources for those who want to develop a better ear and more musical playing.
Chris Owenby, of PracticeHabits.co, has not only written a wonderful review of our Mini Music Manual, but has also made a special offer that anyone who purchases one by the end of today, April 22, will receive a free piece of sheet music from his shop! Wow, what a kind and generous offer!
The Mini Music Manual has been a great way for my students to take ownership of their learning, memorize new musical terms, keep track of scale fingerings, and take notes on anything else of interest to them.