3 Tips to Turn Students into Music Theory Rockstars – Guest Series by Kristin Jensen

Now that you know the three steps, let’s dive a little deeper into each one and learn some specific action steps you can take to implement these practices in your studio.

  1. Make it fun

When I was a student, learning theory meant doing written assignments out of a workbook at home. I always completed my assignments, but I usually put it off and had to race to quickly fill in my answers right before my lesson started. Theory was boring and I didn’t put a lot of thought into it.

I’ve learned that theory doesn’t have to be boring. And when we make it fun, kids eat it up!

My students who are working on key signatures have a blast with this Paper Airplane Review Game that is super simple to pull off in a group lesson. We first do a worksheet to review the key signatures, and then I give each student a blank grand staff and a plain white sheet of paper. Students write the name of a key signature on their plain paper and then fold it into a paper airplane. On the count of three everyone throws their airplane into the air and then races to catch another plane. Students then go to their grand staff and draw the sharps or flats needed to complete their key signature.

Here’s a game that my little students enjoy when they are first being introduced to the names of the piano keys. I call it Twist and Play. The student stands with her back to the piano. I call out the name of a piano key and she quickly turns around and plays the key. We’ll repeat the fun, silly twisting until we’ve reviewed all the keys, and it’s so fun to see these little ones giggling during a “drill.”

I love to issue challenges and tie those challenges in to our unit’s theme. For example, if we’re doing a cowboy theme and I have a bunch of students working on interval recognition, I might issue the “Bucking Bronco” challenge: everyone who can identify 5 intervals from our flashcards in 30 seconds *without counting lines and spaces* at next week’s lesson gets a prize.

I also like to use fun worksheets with my students. The key word there is “fun.” Kids decide whether or not they’re going to like something within milliseconds after first seeing it. So if a worksheet looks boring, kids immediately decide they won’t like the exercise.

But if a worksheet looks fun, kids will be excited to complete it. I’ve created tons and tons of fun, colorful, kid-friendly music theory worksheets and you are more than welcome to use them with your students.

Don’t forget to capitalize on kids’ excitement for the holidays! Reviewing the same old concept again can suddenly become interesting if it’s tied into a holiday theme. I have lots of printables and game ideas for Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day that you are welcome to incorporate into your lessons.

As you can see, it really isn’t all that hard to make learning music theory fun. Five minutes away from the bench during a lesson for a game or a kid-friendly worksheet can work wonders, making your students much more excited for their lessons and setting them on their way to becoming music theory rockstars.

Come back tomorrow for Part Three in the series 3 Tips to Turn Students into Music Theory Rockstars by Kristin Jensen. Kristin Jensen is a piano teacher who specializes in teaching children to create their own music. Kristin is supported by a wonderful husband and two darling boys (ages 3 and 1) who keep her on her toes, but make life lots of fun. Check out her website at EarTrainingAndImprov.com for lots of free resources and downloadable worksheets.

3 Tips to Turn Students into Music Theory Rockstars – Guest Series by Kristin Jensen

It was a special day when my first two 4 year old students aced the first grade level theory exam. Kids have proven to me time and again that they are capable of doing so much more than we realize.

Those two four year-olds really stretched my creativity as a teacher as I realized that they could go far, but needed to be taught with an approach that capitalized on their fun-loving nature. Now all my students are benefiting from this new approach and learning at an accelerated rate. I’d like to share three tips I’ve learned along the way that help kids become music theory rockstars.

  1. Make it fun

Theory really can be fun, and kids learn so much more when they’re enjoying the experience. Continue reading for ideas and games you can easily fit into your lessons.

  1. Make it social

Consider teaching theory in a group setting. Kids love learning alongside friends and a group of peers can motivate each other to excel.

  1. Apply it

Help kids understand why theory is important. The best and most fun way to accomplish this is to teach them how to create their own songs.

Now that you know the three steps, let’s dive a little deeper into each one and learn some specific action steps you can take to implement these practices in your studio…

Come back tomorrow for Part Two in the series 3 Tips to Turn Students into Music Theory Rockstars by Kristin Jensen. Kristin Jensen is a piano teacher who specializes in teaching children to create their own music. Kristin is supported by a wonderful husband and two darling boys (ages 3 and 1) who keep her on her toes, but make life lots of fun. Check out her website at EarTrainingAndImprov.com for lots of free resources and downloadable worksheets.

Resources that Private Music Teachers Love

Music Teacher’s Helper (one of my favorite resources!) recently conducted a survey asking private music teachers what their favorite resources are. They compiled the results into this handy, hyperlinked infographic (including yours truly :-) ):

View the infographic here as well: http://www.musicteachershelper.com/blog/resources-music-teachers-love/

A Collection of Free Composer eBooks by Thomas Tapper

In doing some research for next semester, I came across this section on gutenberg.org that contains a set of 13 composer books by Thomas Tapper that are available as free downloads. You can download them for Kindle, iPad/iPhone/iPod, or as an HTML file. The files contain easy-to-read text along with photographs and portraits relevant to the story – a great resource for music teachers, students, and parents!

Loads of Free Piano Flashcards!

In planning for our studio group class next week I was doing some online searching for flashcards. It’s been a while since I visited Jen Fink’s fabulous Pianimation website, so I was thrilled to re-discover this page chock-full of free piano flashcards that you can print and use in your studio! I’m going to be printing off a handful of these to use for various games and activities.

One of the biggest challenges I face repeatedly with my students is a lack of instantaneous note recognition on the staff and correlation with the right key on the piano. Does anyone else struggle with this? I’m going to try to hone in on this deficiency at the next group class to see if we can make some substantial progress in this area. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or resources that you’ve found helpful to build this skill in your students, please do let me know! :-)

The 4 Stages of Memorization

With content straight from his book, The Musician’s Way (reviewed by Natalie back in 2010), Mr. Gerald Klickstein shares 4 well-thought-out and practical stages for memorization on his blog. Each stage has some really helpful strategies for becoming a more proficient memorizer, and whether you’re a student or teacher, you’d be doing yourself a favor by learning about them and then choosing at least one to try implementing. :)  Enjoy!
ht: Facebook; http://musiciansway.com/blog/2010/05/the-four-stages-of-memorization/

Have you ever been blindsided by a memory lapse? Maybe you felt secure in practice, but, during a performance, you blanked on a passage.

I suspect that every musician has felt the jolt of memory slips.

I also believe that memory glitches could be far less common because secure memorization involves concepts and skills that any musician can learn.

This post summarizes a 4-part framework that helps both singers and instrumentalists become masterful memorizers. 

All of these ideas are fleshed out in Chapter 4 of The Musician’s Way.

Stage 1: Perception
Deep perception makes for solid memory. When we grasp the inner workings of a composition as well as how we want to shape each phrase, those rich connections lead to steadfast recall.

In contrast, shallow perception – especially that rooted solely in muscle or tactile memory – readily falls apart under pressure. Here are strategies that deepen our perceptions of a piece.

a. Clarify the compositional structure. Identify where sections and phrases begin and end; look for rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic patterns.
b. Fashion a vivid interpretive map. Explore the emotional feel of every phrase; pinpoint where phrases peak and repose; write in dynamic and articulation signs.
c. Form a robust technical map. Before you begin to memorize, verify that fingerings, bowings, tonguings, diction, and so forth are unmistakable; ensure that you can easily execute from score. If you feel flooded, choose easier music.

Stage 2: Ingraining
Ingraining is the means whereby we lay down enduring memory tracks. But beware: ingraining necessarily involves repetition, yet only mindful repetitions will do.

a. Plan your practice. Schedule frequent memorization sessions in which you restrict the amount of music that you memorize – if you exceed your limit, much of what you absorb could become scrambled. Also get ample sleep to allow your brain to consolidate what you’ve learned.
b. Combine imaging with executing. Mentally image a portion of music from memory before you attempt to play or sing it; if anything seems fuzzy, review with the score. In general, execute a portion securely from memory three times in a row, then steadily link portions.
c. Employ diverse memory types. Memory types include conceptual, aural, kinesthetic, and visual. To highlight different types, you might play hands alone, re-examine chord progressions, sing bass lines, recite song text without singing, or write out tricky passages. Most of all, savor every phrase that you play or sing so that the music vibrates with meaning.

Stage 3: Maintenance
Even if we ingrain deeply, unless we maintain our memory, the mental connections we form will gradually disintegrate. Here are strategies that keep memories strong…KEEP READING!!!

 

Musaic – A New Treasure Trove of Advice from Music Professionals!

As I’ve attended music teacher workshops and conferences over the years, one of the highlights has always been attending master classes. I love watching other teachers interact with students and gleaning insights that I can utilize in my own teaching. Musaic – an initiative of New World Symphony – seeks to bring masterclasses and dozens of other videos from professional musicians right to your fingertips! In addition to masterclasses, you can view a growing collection of performances, tips, and how-to videos that will prove beneficial to music teachers and students alike. What a great project!

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HT: The Musician’s Way Newsletter (November-December 2014)

New Music Matters Blog Store – 50% Off Everything for 1 Week!

Even though things are a bit quieter on the blog these days, I’ve been doing some updates behind-the-scenes to make things run more efficiently. One of those updates is the integration of a brand new Music Matters Blog store! I’m super excited to get this up and running, but I need some help to make sure that it’s working correctly. So, for anyone willing to help me iron out any glitches I’m offering an unprecedented 50% off EVERYTHING in the store for 1 week! All you have to do is select any item(s) and enter the following coupon code when you checkout: 6SYWB4GOH36M. (The code will expire on Tuesday, November 18.)

You have to use the links in this post to go to the new (beta) Music Matters Blog store so that the coupon code will work properly. I’m planning to add some sample pages for all of the products so that you will be able to sneak a peek at the Practice Incentive Themes, Piano Camp Programs, and Games. You’ll also notice that I’ve included my published books (physical books that will be shipped to you if you order them!) and a category for Piano Books and Sheet Music. In the course of downsizing my studio, I have hundreds of brand new piano books and pieces of sheet music that I’m going to be listing and making available at 50% off the retail price. Stay tuned as I get these uploaded to the site – there are lots of goodies!

I really appreciate your help and support in getting all of this up and running and making Music Matters Blog as helpful of a resource as it can be for music teachers and enthusiasts. If you have any comments, suggestions, or things you’d like to see included in the store or on the site, please feel free to send me an e-mail and let me know! Happy shopping!

Two Great New Resources!

Many moons ago I, like most music teachers, dreaded the “b” word. We love to teach, to play, to create. But, by and large, we do not like to do bookkeeping. I don’t mind finances at all, but I had such a difficult time collecting money from families or reminding them when they had overdue lesson fees, etc. Then in 2006 that all changed. Music Teacher’s Helper came on the scene and that has forever changed! This is probably the best money I spend every month because once I have everything set up for the year, I create automatic invoicing and the whole process is seamless. Families receive their invoice on the first of each month with their lesson fee amount plus any additional materials, book, or event fees. They can pay on-line or check their account at any time for details.

My posts about MTH always seem to turn into sales pitches, but the main reason I’m posting is because they have finally revamped their IOS app, and I am super thrilled! I do a lot of business from my iPhone, so it’s been a pain not having a working MTH app to record student payments, update info, etc. The new interface looks great, and I can highly recommend the whole MTH package to any teacher looking to make the business side of their studio operations a headache-less venture! (When you click on the links in this post for Music Teacher’s Helper, you’ll receive 20% off your first month and Music Matters Blog will receive a small commission that helps keep this site running.)

I am still pretty much in love with Piano Safari – the latest and greatest (in my humble opinion :-) ) piano method on the market! The students who started and are still working through it have done so well and truly enjoy making music at the piano. Even though they are learning more musically rich music via rote teaching right from the start, the approach to reading rhythms and notation is thorough and effective.

So I was excited to see that the Sight Reading and Rhythm Cards for Level 3 are now available! What’s even better is that if you order the package of all three sets of Sight Reading and Rhythm Cards (and believe me, you want these no matter what method you are using with your students!) are available for 20% off for a limited time. There are so many great ways to use these cards in the lessons (this week we’ve been having fun using rhythm instruments to play the rhythm patterns while selected rhythms from my keyboard provide a steady – but fun – beat in the background!) and the students enjoy having easy-to-manage exercises that they can work on and achieve success in their sight reading endeavors. I have a few students working through the Level 2 books and cards right now, so I’m excited to check out this new set of cards for Level 3!