Here’s another quick and fun piano exercise piano students can learn on their own! This activity shows how octaves in the left hand can be used to make their songs sound better. Try it out! Print a copy of it here. Come back next Monday for another Summer Piano Short!
After a Google search for a rug for my group music classroom only turned up results over $150, I decided to make my own. Actually it is a giant mat made out of foam tiles that I purchased from Wal Mart at $5.97 per set of 9. I bought 5 sets. The picture above shows a smaller version of my Giant Music Mat.
To make your own here is what you need:
5 or more sets of foam tiles (depends on the size you want)
a black marker
Choose tiles of the same color and arrange them in a square shape
Create a border for the square you’ve made using tiles of different colors. Alternate colors.
Use a black marker to draw a different music symbol on each of the border tiles.
If you plan to use your giant mat to designate where each child should sit during group class, it is important to draw a DIFFERENT music symbol on each tile. Do not repeat symbols.
There are so many ways you can use this mat besides just sitting! As I already stated, it can be used to assign seats. This shortens the time it takes to get kids situated and ready for class to begin. At the beginning of the year or session, assign a unique symbol to each child. This will be their spot. Make sure they know the name of their symbol and what it means. You could even have kids act out the meaning. At a parent presentation, kids could “show and tell” using their symbol. Have them hold up their tile while presenting it.
What other ways can you think of for using the Giant Music Mat?
I just finished reading Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story by Lang Lang with David Ritz. This book literally drew me in from the first to the very last page. I did not want to put it down. When I had to put it down, because life was calling, I wondered what would happen next in this great classical pianist’s story. There was not a moment of disappointment.
As I read of his struggles and the extreme sacrifices his parents made to help him master the piano and the passion he himself has for music I was inspired. Honestly, it made me want to rush to the piano and practice – sincerely practice. And that’s exactly what I did several times in between chapters.
“Hearing” Lang Lang tell his story of being a piano student in China was mind-boggling at times because it is so different from the way we do it in America. There is a different depth to the process of musical learning and commitment to the craft than what I have experienced. It makes me wonder what kind of musician I would be if I had grown up in China. Would I be happy? I’m not sure. Would I be exceptionally skillful? Maybe. Lang Lang points out some wonderful differences that Americans have culturally as well. The freedom to be yourself, to express yourself in unique ways is one thing that Lang Lang speaks of discovering once he came to America. I enjoyed reading between these two worlds through Lang Lang’s eyes.
One of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Remember, it is easy to be a pianist, all you have to do is move your fingers. But to be a great pianist you have to use your mind.”
I think this is a great read for every piano student, piano teacher, and piano parent.
One of the misconceptions about piano lessons is that they are only for girls. This amazes me since most of the very famous composers were men – hello Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, etc. Also, most of your top concert pianists and jazz pianists are what? Men. Don’t get me wrong – I know that women can hold their own at the piano. I’m a living breathing example of that! However, this myth that piano lessons are a girl thing to do is far from the truth and it has to be stopped. Listen to what one of my rising 6th grade male students has to say about piano lessons. When I heard this, it made me so proud to be a piano teacher.
Here’s a quick and fun piano exercise piano students can learn on their own! This activity shows how the diminished chord can be used to make scary background music for a movie or TV scene. Try it out! Print a copy of it here. Come back next Monday for another Summer Piano Short!
This is a picture of my Dad and me on my wedding day 17 years ago today! As I think about him on this Father’s Day a very happy memory of how he supported my music learning when I was a child comes to my mind. Although I did not live with him as a child, my Dad made sure that I had a piano at his house so I could practice when I came to visit. I was so happy when he bought that piano and I played it all the time when I was there. Today, it occurs to me just how special that was for him to buy a brand new piano just for me to use one weekend out of a month. When I consider that many of today’s parents hesitate to even buy their child a $100 keyboard when taking lessons – let alone a piano, I am deeply humbled. My Dad must have seen something musical in me even then. I am so thankful for this gift he gave me and I hope he feels good knowing that because he supported my music learning each and every one of the families that I work with is benefitting from it.
If you have parents in your studio or prospective parents who question whether or not to make the investment in a good quality piano because they are not sure if they will stick with it, share my story with them or a similar story of your own and hopefully they will want to be a hero just like my Dad is.
Thanks to one of the teachers in the Music Teacher’s Group on Facebook, I learned about this great music game! Wonderful for working on rhythm without even realizing it! Available on iTunes. I used it with my rising 6th graders in Music Camp this week (all boys) and they loved it!!!
Recently my family and I went down to Savannah, GA for my daughter’s dance performance and while we were there we were able to sneak in some music (YAY). As we strolled along the riverfront we heard the jazzy sounds of a saxophone. So, of course we went to talk to the guy who was playing. He graciously played some Duke Ellington for us and then asked what else we wanted to hear. My kids hesitated because they didn’t want to ask him to play something that he didn’t know. Of course I was pretty sure this man could play any song, so I asked him to play Blue Bossa , a jazz standard my son is learning to play. He smiled and began to play it beautifully. My kids were amazed that he could just play it on the spur of the moment like that. The lesson – continue to study music patterns and learn as many songs as you can so you will be ready to take requests some day as well!