Fun Times in the Studio!

The New Year is off to a great start, and we’re having fun playing a variety of quick 5-minute games in the studio! Here are a couple of recent pictures:

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Ellie has a blast playing this simple note direction game by moving her magnetic “note” up or down depending on what she rolls on the up and down die. As she moves, she says “up a step to D”, “down a step to C”, etc. Once setting a designated “finish line”, she and I take turns rolling and moving our notes to see who can get there first!

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After learning about the difference between Major and minor chords, Kaily draws a scale block to determine the chord root, then rolls the Major-minor die to see what type of chord she is supposed to build and play on the piano keys.

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Shaylah is one of several students who loved playing this musical memory game where each player takes a turn flipping two cards to try to form matches between specified keys in a pictured piano keyboard and notes on a staff. This is a perfect game for siblings or back-to-back students to play together as well!

There are lots more game ideas in our studio favorite 5 For Fun! book! My students love flipping through it and selecting their own game when they’ve earned that privilege in this year’s practice incentive!

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A Fabulous List of Piano Game Resources!

In doing some blog browsing recently, I came across this fabulous list of piano game resources on Heidi’s Blog! Heidi has organized links to game ideas and materials around the blogosphere according to specific categories: Music Alphabet/Piano Key Names, Note Reading, Musical Terms/Symbols, Rhythm, Whole/Half Step, Accidentals, Enharmonics, Intervals, Ear Training, Stem Placement, Chords, Scales, Key Signatures, Music History, Composition/Improv, and Multi-Concept. I love having resources like this at my fingertips so I can find just the right activity when a student needs to be introduced to a concept or have it reinforced through a fun music game.

There’s also a wealth of resources organized by categories in the Community section of Music Matters Blog, too!

Theta Music Winter Competition 2013 Starts Today

Theta Music, one of the best sites for on-line music theory games is commencing their 3rd Annual Ear Training and Music Theory Competition today! This is a great way for teachers and students to have some fun while building their skills. It’s a one-day competition, so sign up and start playing now for your chance to win up to a $30 Amazon gift certificate!

Monday Mailbag – Using Games to Teach Piano Technique

I am a student teacher and would like some tips on teaching technique via games. I have a 7-year-old student who is struggling with “keeping fingertips tall” and “keeping a rounded hand shape”. I find technique drills are not working and I hate to make technique seem like the enemy. Do you have any games that you have used to re-enforce the concept in a fun way?

As much as I love to use games as a teaching tool, I confess that I’ve hardly ever used them for technique purposes. Instead, I use more of an understanding-based approach when working with students on technique principles. From early on, I explain scientific principles of gravity, strength, and conduction to students to help them understand why they should keep their wrists up, fingers rounded, shoulders relaxed, etc. You can read a post I wrote on Finger Strengthening here.

I also still use my goofy thumb position image poster to show students how to play with their thumb in the “slide position.” The Beyond Scales and Hanon sessions I’ve attended by Beth Grace have also been invaluable in helping me understand proper and injury-preventative piano technique so that I can model it for my students and direct them accordingly no matter what repertoire they are playing.

Most of my  5 for Fun! games and activities for the private piano lesson are theory-based rather than technique-based, so I would love to hear from other teachers on this topic. Do you use any games that have proven particularly effective in helping students learn and implement good piano technique?

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!

A Simple But Fun Note Identification Game for Students

Collin Wade, of the PianoTeacherNOLA blog recently posted a simple, but fun note identification game that could easily be used with students either in a private lesson or group class setting. It’s called Learning Space Notes, but the idea could be adapted for use with specific notes and both treble and bass clefs. You can download the game files for free on the For Teachers page of the website.

Monday Mailbag – Free Scale and Key Signature Worksheets

Can you create worksheets for bass clef like the ones for treble clef (Major-Minor Scale Matchup and Key Signature-Scale Matchup)?

Your wish is my command. Haha! Maybe not quite, but I figured it was a logical next step to have bass clef scale and key signature worksheets that correlated with the treble clef ones, so here you go:

Major-Minor Scale Matchup Worksheet (2 pages)

Key Signature-Scale Matchup Worksheet (4 pages)

I hope you and your students are able to get lots of use out of these worksheets!

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!

Mixed Messages

In last Friday’s post, I mentioned that we played a game at our group class called Mixed Messages. Students had to translate Italian music terms and then write the definitions to complete English sentences. All the students were split into two teams and whichever team finished all their sentences first won a Free Travel Pass. One of my older students who has attended lots of group classes and played lots of games remarked that this was one of her favorite games! Here’s a list of the Mixed Messages we used (with an obvious Italian travel theme):

  1. The Mediterranean Sea is so bella and pacifico this time of year.
  2. If you ritardando in the streets of Naples you might get run over!
  3. The street performers in Rome are allegro and full of giocoso.
  4. Gelato is a dolce way to fine a meal.
  5. If that luggage is troppo pesante, just fermata and we will have someone else carry it for you.
  6. We are dolente that our trip will presto be over.
  7. I would like a poco piu cheese on my pizza.
  8. Please accelerando so that we get to da capo of the bus line in time to catch a ride.
  9. The sound of the train is crescendo.
  10. The people of Italy are assai friendly.
  11. It’s sempre exciting to travel to new places.
  12. See if you can find loco to stay for meno than €100 a night.
  13. Let’s sit by the fuoco and sip a mezzo cup of coffee largo.
  14. The dancers in the ballet moved around so leggiero and grazioso.

And for your convenience, here’s a handy list of the same messages with the Italian terms translated into English. Of course, these are not necessarily the Italian words you would actually use in that context; I just tried to stick with ones that my students would be somewhat familiar with from their music studies.

  1. The Mediterranean Sea is so beautiful and peaceful this time of year.
  2. If you gradually get slower in the streets of Naples you might get run over!
  3. The street performers in Rome are fast and lively and full of humor.
  4. Gelato is a sweet way to end a meal.
  5. If that luggage is too heavy, just stop and we will have someone else carry it for you.
  6. We are sorrowful that our trip will quickly be over.
  7. I would like a little morecheese on my pizza.
  8. Please gradually get faster so that we get to the beginning of the bus line in time to catch a ride.
  9. The sound of the train is gradually getting louder.
  10. The people of Italy are very friendly.
  11. It’s always exciting to travel to new places.
  12. See if you can find a place to stay for less than €100 a night.
  13. Let’s sit by the fireand sip a medium cup of coffee slowly.
  14. The dancers in the ballet moved around so lightlyand gracefully.