White Board Messages

Every music teacher needs a white board. My students love writing messages on my white board. Here’s one that showed up today:

“I want stay in your lessons till a’m 35 years old”

This particular white board is one I picked up at a local teacher supply store. It’s magnetic, 24×36″ and has a grid with 1″ squares on it. An on-line search turned up a Magic Wall Reversible Magnetic Poster. It’s not quite as big (18×24″), but looks the same otherwise.

What an incredibly handy studio “prop” this has been – for uses other than just writing messages! It’s a step away from the piano and is perfect for having students write out clefs, scales, key signatures and more. I’ve also used it for rhythmic dictation. I play a rhythm at the piano and the student arranges the magnetic notes on the board to accurately reflect the rhythm I played.

And of course, it’s just fun! Kids love white boards and magnets…and so do I!

Instant Digital Downloads

They sucked me in! I was looking for the sheet music for a song called “In Christ Alone.” A google search landed me at MusicNotes.com. They have an incredible collection of sheet music available for download. They also have a viewer and a player available for download – great tools so you can look at and listen to the music before deciding if you want to purchase it.

The instant digital download was $4.95. I can’t stand spending that kind of money on a single sheet of music! But I couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere else on-line. So, I took the plunge. At the checkout, there was a window for a coupon code. That required another quick run over to Google to conduct a search for a coupon code. Success! This site had exactly what I was looking for!
Coupon Code: LSNOV
Expires: 11/30/05

Back to MusicNotes.com. At least it only cost me $4.45 now… 🙂

Upon completion of the sale, I was immediately given a link for the sheet music and was able to print it out. The quality is superb – very professional-looking.

I am a huge supporter of my local music store for all my other music purchases, but for these hard-to-find, want-it-right-away, single song sheets, I’m sure I’ll be back.

Tip for all on-line buying: If there’s an option for a coupon code or discount code, do a quick search on google for the code. You’d be surprised at how much you can save sometimes doing this!

Students Go Fishing and Have A Turkey Shoot!

Ten students gathered at the studio last Thursday night for our second group class of the semester. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, it seemed like the perfect theme for this event. We began by discussing how Thanksgiving (defined as “giving thanks”) and music are linked. I read Psalm 137 as a perfect example of how the psalmist exemplifies giving thanks to God through song. This easily segued into a history of the first Thanksgiving Feast where the Pilgrims were giving thanks to God for enabling their survival, due very much to the Indians and their willingness to teach them how to provide food for themselves.

I told the students that I had a feast prepared for them, but just like the Pilgrims, it would require some hard work. They would have to do some fishing and some shooting and would have to learn how to work together and help each other. One of my objectives was for the students to play an ensemble together. I selected the We Three Kings ensemble from A Christmas Gathering by Lynn Freeman Olson. (Please note, after conducting an on-line search, I found that this book is no longer in print. The website linked here is the only one I found that carries this great ensemble book.) I copied the pages and then cut it into two measure segments. The students would have to collect all the segments and piece them together before being able to play it!

The students were split into two groups. One group started out at the shooting range. Turkeys were strung up all along the wall (click here to download the file with these turkeys):
line of turkeys

The students had to stand behind a designated line and shoot these nerf darts at the turkeys:
shooting at turkeys
shooting at turkeys

If they shot a turkey, they could take it off the line and see if it had a folded paper paper-clipped to the back side. If so, they had to open the paper (one of the two-measure segments from the ensemble) and follow the directions written on the front of the turkey – either “play the notes,” “say the notes,” or “say the intervals.” Here, one student plays the notes from his paper:
playing the notes

Meanwhile, the other group had baited their hook and was trying to catch a “big one”! I used a thick dowel rod, some twine and a small magnet to make the fishing rod and line.
fishing for a big one
The students were trying to “catch” these segments of the ensemble that could be hooked when the magnet attached itself to the paper clip on each segment.
getting closer...
There were, of course, blank pieces of paper included in the mix so that not every “fish” was a keeper!
About half way through, the groups switched places and tried their hand at the other challenge. The students found it surprisingly difficult to catch the fish and shoot the turkeys (considering their teacher wowed them by hitting a turkey dead-on when I demonstrated for them how to do it…okay, I confess…so I had been practicing before they arrived… :-D), but they had a blast doing it!

Once all the ensemble segments had been collected, it was time to start assembling them in the correct order:
assembling the ensemble
This, too, proved to be quite the challenge, but working together they were eventually able to complete it:
playing the notes

The parts were quickly divied out and the students were ready…let the music begin!
playing the notes
I conducted, all the students counted, and they all followed their parts amazingly well (or at least faked it well!) and stayed on beat through the entire piece. I would have loved to spend more time doing this, but the promised feast was awaiting!

A scrumptious feast of popcorn, pretzels, corn tortilla chips, grapes and lemonade turned out to be a hit!

As we feasted, each student took their turn sharing one performance tip that has helped them and then performing a prepared piece for the rest of the group:
performing for the group

At the end of the class, I sent home a paper with the Thanksgiving story and a corresponding quiz that I adapted from this website that could be brought back to their next lesson to earn an extra dollar.

This Thanksgiving group class turned out to be lots of fun and a jam-packed hour and a half!

A Different Approach to Sight-Reading

One of my objectives this summer in my piano camp for elementary students was to build better reading skills. In addition to other activities, I decided to try this different approach to note identification and intervallic playing. I emphasized using Cs as landmark notes and then playing intervals from those landmarks. (This is not geared toward developing fluent sight-reading skills as much as it is just to note identification and interval application.)

We covered one interval at a time. The student would open up to the appropriate page in their Piano Camp workbook and would begin by writing in the names of each note. Once completed, the students were paired and sent to the piano or keyboard to play the patterns for each other. One played while the other observed and checked for accuracy. Since doing this, several of the students have a much more solid understanding of notation and can much more readily identify and play the correct notes.

Here are the different worksheets that I developed for this purpose:

Across the C's
Click here to download Across the C’s.

Just a 2nd
Click here to download Just a 2nd.

3rd Time's the Charm
Click here to download 3rd Time’s the Charm.

Go 4th and Play!
Click here to download Go 4th and Play!

The 5th Has It!
Click here to download The 5th Has It!

6th Sense
Click here to download 6th Sense.

7th Inning Stretch
Click here to download 7th Inning Stretch.

Crazy 8ths!
Click here to download Crazy 8ths!

Group Class Ice Breaker Game

Here’s a fun “get-to-know-you” game I’ve used at numerous group classes. I just change the statements in the boxes based on the makeup of the group.

In each box is a statement with a line below it. When the signal is given, the students must find others who can sign their name in a box, indicating that the statement is true of them. The number of times any one person can sign another’s sheet is limited by the number of total players there are. The first person to turn in a completed paper wins!

Click here to download a pdf file of the above pictured game sheet.

Click here to download a MS Word document that you can adapt to include statements of your choice in each box.

Let Your Students Watch World-Class Pianists

International Piano E-Competition Banner

How often do your students get to observe concert pianists? Here is the perfect way for them to do so right in your studio! Check out the Flash recordings of the 2004 International Piano E-Competition participants.

There are 119 files from which you can choose, with works from Bach to Beethoven to Debussy to Ravel. If you’re still on dial-up (like me!), it does take a while for each file to stream, but once it’s finished you can view the whole performance without any interruptions in the flow.

What a great way to inspire our students with top-notch performers right in our own studios!