Loving Piano Lessons

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!

Finding the Best Seats in the House

Having just gone through the process of trying to determine the best seats for the money at an upcoming Broadway show, I was delighted to discover this authoritative advice from a design engineer on how to select the best seat in the concert hall based on the shape of the room. I will definitely be referring back to this handy guide the next time I have to make such a nerve-wracking decision!

HT: The Musician’s Way Fall 2017 Newsletter

It’s Live!

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!

And We’re Off…with the September Surprise!

As has been our tradition for many years, we launched our new year of piano lessons last weekend with the September Surprise!

Each returning student had a piece ready to perform for the rest of us we played a fun rhythm get-to-know-you game (in keeping with our rhythm theme for the year!), and we had the much-anticipated revealing of this year’s practice incentive theme: Beat the Pirates!

In between each of the student performances I played select folk tunes from the fun collection Old MacDonald Had the Blues by Rebekah Maxner and had everyone see if they could guess what song it was. Especially the younger siblings got into this game and were eager to call out the tunes they recognized!

We concluded the evening with a tasty ice cream bar! Thankfully, the evening wasn’t quite as surprising as last year, and we had a wonderful time with all the studio families catching up after summer break and anticipating a great year ahead!

Win a Music Giveaway 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!

Treble Maker – a Fun 5-Minute Piano Lesson Game!

Matt, of Music For Little Learners, recently shared a link to their Treble Maker game with me and it looks fabulous! They have several sets of colorful cards you can download and print, depending on what you want to review with your student – note names, key signatures, symbols, tempi. The directions are simple to understand, and the play is quick and perfect for a few minutes of fun review at the beginning or end of a piano lesson – or any instrument! I can’t wait to try this out with my students and see how it goes!

Piano Explorer – A Rediscovered Gem!

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.

The Math Behind an Octave

There are so many things that are easy to take for granted as musicians. We are standing on the shoulders, as it were, of many who have gone before us, making observations and discoveries that have been instrumental (:-)) in the progress and development of music as we understand it today. Even this tidbit that Paulo Goncalves, of Do Re Mi Studios in Jannali, Australia, recently wrote regarding the relationship of math and music is fascinating!

Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician, discovered that notes that sound good together (i.e. are in harmony) are mathematically related. He also found that the sound of a note plucked on a string depends on its length and tension. In his experiments, he discovered that by halving the length of a string and plucking it again, you produce a sound that it is almost the same. However, this sound is higher in pitch. The interval between the original note and the note produced by halving the string is referred to as an octave. Mathematically, an octave is the distance between any given note with a set frequency, and another note with double that frequency. In music, both these notes have the same name but are written an octave apart on the staff.

Next semester, as part of our Classical Conversations homeschool program, we’re planning to go through a book called, Math in Motion: First Steps in Music Theory, so I’m excited to see what other interesting things we discover that go even beyond basic theory to a deeper understanding of the science and math of sound!

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!