Get $5 Off Through the Month of May!

Summer is just around the corner, and most teachers are starting to plan ahead for summer piano camps and theme ideas for next fall (except for the over-achieving ones who already have it all figured out… :-))! In light of this, I’ve decided to offer a special $5 off discount for anything in the Music Matters Blog store.

Whether you’re looking for piano camp plans, fun music games to change things up a bit, or a fully developed practice incentive theme to launch in your studio, you’ll find a variety of tried-and-true possibilities in our store. And if you have a website or blog with ideas or materials for summer, feel free to share a link in the comments section!

Just enter this discount code when you checkout to receive your $5 off: 101W2RP0

Free Piano Interval Worksheet

The final e.p.i.c. Encounter (a.k.a. group class) of our e.p.i.c. practice incentive theme was last week, and our topic for the evening was intervals.

We started the class with an overview of what an interval is, then each of the students received a set of these interval worksheets to fill out and keep for their reference.

This was a helpful visual tool that launched us into an evening of fun interval activities and challenges. The hit game of the night was the “Flashcard Drop.” This ingenious idea (compliments of my creative husband!) involved us dropping note flashcards (we used this wonderful set from TCW Resources) through the slats in our deck to the patio below where the students were gathered in teams of two. As they collected cards, the objective was to identify the interval between any two notes, then run the pair of flashcards up to us on the deck and correctly identify the interval. Every correct answer earned the team a point. Whichever team accumulated 10 points first was the winner! This proved to be a bit of a challenge for the students, but a ton of fun!

We also enjoyed playing The Mystery Note game and the Spelling Challenge from the 5 for Fun! book of music games and activities. I just modified them so that the students could continue working in pairs as we played each game. These Wipe Off: Keyboards and Staffs by Bastien are a wonderful resource for group class games and activities!

Announcing…For the Love of Music!

After many, many hours of work, I am thrilled to announce that our latest project is finished and ready for the world! :-) I could write all about it, but instead I’ll let you watch the trailer that Joey and Jed put together for it:

For the Love of Music is a 5-day course to help pianists develop a love for skillfully reading music. Joey and Jed were my inspiration for this course because they are both fabulous musicians, but both struggle to sight-read fluently. We spent an intense week working together to produce a course that they have gone through and that we hope will be a great help to pianists around the world who face a similar challenge.


You can visit the Music Matters Blog Store to read more about what’s included in the package (including a special bonus offer worth $15!). For the Love of Music can be used by any individual who has experience playing the piano and a basic foundation in music theory. The boys especially enjoyed going through it together, and competing against each other between each class to see who could sight-read the most measures of music (they both played 8,000+ measures of music over the course of five days!).

It was lots of fun and very stretching for us and we hope it proves to be the same for everyone who goes through For the Love of Music!

Review and Giveaway of Jumpin Jazz Kids

If the vivid colors of the website aren’t enough to draw you in, then surely the energetic music by renowned Jazz musicians will do the trick! This fun, high quality CD could easily be considered the modern day Jazz equivalent of Saint-Saens’ imaginative Carnival of the Animals.

Grammy Nominee for Best Children’s Album of the Year, Jumpin Jazz Kids: A Swinging Jungle Tale is a fun collection of narration and music as seven-year old Claire and her animal friends search for her Grandpa’s “lost” story. Kids of all ages will enjoy listening to the story unfold, and I could even see using it as a basis for a fun music camp curriculum!

Now, for the best part, the producers of Jumpin Jazz Kids: A Swinging Jungle Tale, have offered to giveaway five copies of the CD to Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winners will be chosen at noon (CST) Thursday, July 11, using a random number generator.

A Super Fun Silent Movie Project

In the November/December 2012 issue of Clavier Companion magazine, Penny Lazarus wrote a fascinating article called, “Silent Movie Music in the Piano Studio.” This was fresh on my mind when our family was invited to participate in a special talent-sharing night at a local church, so we decided to give the silent movie idea a try. Instead of just finding a silent movie, though, we opted to create our own. We wrote our script/storyboard (not sure you can call it a script if it’s for a silent movie!), gathered our costumes and props, filmed each scene over a weekend, and then showed the movie on an overhead screen while providing the music live at the event. It turned out to be a ton of fun and was a huge hit with the audience!

Here’s the original silent movie (I recommend turning the sound on this video all the way off and using the sound from the following video so you can hear the music selections from the live performance):

Also, anyone want to take a guess as to what part I play in the film? :-)…

Here’s the video from the live performance (I recommend playing this simultaneously with the above video so you can listen to the music selections while watching the silent movie):

References and Resources:

 

Music:

 

The entire November/December 2012 issue of Clavier Companion is one of the most interesting magazines I’ve read! I highly recommend subscribing to and reading it. Here’s one other practical, imaginative idea from an article by Donald Sosin called, “Sound and Silents” that I want to try with my students at our next group class:

“…ask for two volunteers from the audience and have them walk in a neutral way towards each other onstage a few times, exchanging a letter as they pass. The pianists take turns creating different moods. I caution the actors never to alter what they are doing. The only thing that changes is the music, which informs the audience as to what is going on. Depending upon what is played, the scene might look like a teenage romance, a spy film, a horror flick, or an announcement of a tragic death. I often have to keep reminding the actors to ignore the music, so strong is their impulse to react to what they’re hearing.”

Bring the Sounds of Africa to Your Music Lessons: Guest Post by Alan Grainger

As a music teacher, you’re always looking for ways to brighten up the music room and bring something new to your lessons.

We think we’ve found the perfect instrument.

African drums much like the djembe are the perfect way to spice up your music lessons, and really engage with your students. Not only are they highly unusual and alternative, but they can teach pupils more than just the basic notes.

Here, we take a look at just how you can bring the sounds of Africa to your music lessons:

The benefits of African drums

African instruments can bring a whole host of benefits to education.

Djembe drums are unique instruments that are sure to brighten up your lessons. The goblet-shaped drum – constructed from Mahogany with a goatskin head – is available in a variety of shapes for players of all ages.

The handheld drum is played in a seated position, so is perfect for all children. You don’t need any additional sticks as the drum is played by hand. This all adds to the ease of playing, and increases their appeal to distraction-prone children.

As well as learning a brand new instrument, you can help educate kids in areas other than music.

The djembe is steeped in cultural history; it has been played in religious ceremonies for years. As you teach the instrument, you can also spark pupils’ interest in history, geography, and culture by discussing the origin of the drum, the culturally representative carvings on the body, and the times it would be played.

How to teach them

Before you can teach this drum, you need to be able to play it yourself.

The djembe has five basic notes:

  • Bass
  • Tone
  • Slap
  • Ping
  • Muffled tone

Each of these notes is played by striking the head of the drum in a different way, but each is easy to grasp. To see exactly how to play these notes, check out this great YouTube tutorial.

To teach your students the djembe, start by teaching them these basic tones. As they grasp the notes, encourage them to play more notes in quicker succession. You should then continue to encourage pupils to start playing their own rhythms as well as teaching well known ones.

The beauty of the djembe is that it is playing in a drumming circle. The leader starts off playing one beat, with everyone else joining in and playing their own tunes. If you have a number of students, this is a great way to teach the drum the way it should be played.

Top ways to include the djembe in your lessons

With such an exciting instrument to play with, there are a whole host of ways you can include djembe’s in your music lessons.

As previously mentioned, getting a group of students together to play in a drum circle is a great idea for getting a real feel of the drum. Using djembes, as well as additional hand-held percussion instruments, get pupils to sit in a circle.

Nominate one person to start by tapping out their own rhythm on the djembe. Then, when students feel ready, they can join in. The idea is not to play the same rhythm. Pupils play a complimentary polyrhythm that really enhances the drum circle.

You can also include African drums as part of a generic drum or percussion lesson.

If you’re teaching about different kinds of percussion or drums, including the djembe drum is a great way to spice things up. Include them by teaching children about the different kinds of drums and percussion instrument available. Bring in this new and exciting drum, and encourage students to try out as many as possible.

Bringing the sounds of Africa to your music lessons is one of the best ways to really engage with students. Not only do they learn to love music, they can get a real insight into exactly what makes the djembe so magical.

Djembe Drum Shop is an online retailer that sells a great range of musical instruments for children, including djembe drums, percussion instruments, and school percussion packs. Visit their website to find out more.

Wee Sing Resources

Did anyone else grow up with the Wee Sing series of songbooks? I still have a collection of these childhood favorites sitting on my shelves (I think I need to pull them off and start using them in my teaching!). I just recently discovered that there is actually a Wee Sing Website with more info, resources, and activity sheets to go along with the Wee Sing books. And even though these have been around for 30+ years, the authors are keeping up with the times and have created a new Wee Sing and Learn ABC app to help children learn the alphabet. The Wee Sing series would be a fabulous teaching resource for planning themed preschool or elementary music education classes!

Performance Enhancing Tips for the Learning Student

In keeping with our studio practice incentive theme this year, Project 28, our group classes this year are called Project Symposiums. We held Project Symposium #1 last night and had a ton of fun!

Another new dimension to the group classes this year is that for each one I’m having one of the Pursuit of Music students help brainstorm, plan, and conduct the class. I suggested a topic to each of the students based on an area of strength for them and then they can develop it however they’d like for the group class. Last night’s theme, planned and conducted by Joey, was “Performance Enhancing Tips for the Learning Student.”

After beginning with a couple of performance demonstrations (by Joey and me) in which students were asked to note on white boards “The Good”, “The Bad”, and “The Ugly”, we discussed the 3 Parts of Performance. Each student was then assigned a partner and the two of them worked together to produce a segment for our evening news broadcast on the topic of performance. It’s always fun to see the creative juices come alive with these sorts of projects, and also watch the students develop a deeper understanding of some aspect of music. Here’s the report they put together using the Splice Video Editor App (for some reason the sound at the beginning is almost completely mute, but it gets better!):

We concluded the class with each student sharing how they decided upon their performance pieces and then having each of them take a turn performing for the rest of us. A delightful evening of musical fun!

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.]