Blast Off!

It’s official! The year has begun in my studio! We had our September Surprise kickoff last night and it was a ton of fun! Almost every one of the students in attendance played something, and I was quite impressed that most of them worked up new pieces and did a very nice job with them.

One of my goals for the year is for all of us to improve our communication skills – in both musical and non-musical areas.  Here are explanations for two super fun games that we played related to this theme:

Tappers and Listeners Game

[Phase One] – group the students in pairs and assign each one in the pair as either the “tapper” or the “listener.” Give each of the tappers a slip of paper with the title of a familiar tune. Have each pair come to the front one at a time. The tapper taps the rhythm of the tune and the listener tries to guess what the tune is. Once all the pairs have finished, discussed why it was so difficult to guess the correct tune.

[Phase Two] – played the same as Phase One, except that prior to tapping the rhythm, the tapper may give information to the Listener that he thinks will help him correctly identify the tune. [This Tappers and Listeners idea was drawn from the book, Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – an awesome book, by the way, that I highly recommend!]

Analysis: The tapper had the melody in his head, thus was privy to information that was not being communicated to the listener. In our mind, we perceive that we are communicating effectively, but there is a breakdown in the transmission. We have to try to place ourselves in the position of the listener and figure out how to actually communicate effectively. In the same way, when we play a piece of music, we have in our mind how we want it to sound, but unless we can “sit” in the seat of the listener, we won’t know if we have effectively communicated what we desired in our playing.

Part of our emphasis in learning to play the piano this year will be listening to our own playing more acutely, and taking advantage of opportunities to be our own listeners (audio and video recordings). We should always be thinking of and working on ways to improve our communication skills – both in music and otherwise. There will be lots of opportunities to do this this year! [e.g. Written Communication via The SPLOG, Verbal Communication via the Briefing Sessions, Musical Communication via recordings for The SPLOG, Briefing Sessions, and other recitals and festivals.]

Emotional Quotations

One student comes to the front of the group and draws a word from the “Emotions Box” and a quote from the “Quotes Box.” The rest of the students are given slips containing a list of all the possible emotions. The student at the front reads/quotes the quote in a manner that attempts to convey the designated emotion. The rest of the students have to guess what the emotion was. Continue until each student has a turn. [This is a game that I used when I taught drama and public speaking classes, but it served this purpose quite well, especially with the use of composer quotes.]

We shot some video during these games, so I’ll try to get some clips posted so you can see these games in action. They were both perfect for a large group of age-integrated students. All of the students stayed very engaged trying to figure out the “answers”! Let me know if you’re interested in having downloadable files for these games and I’ll post them next week.

Share and enjoy!

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