When it comes to learning songs, sometimes words can help and sometimes words just hurt. Kids don’t always easily hear repeated musical patterns when the words change and that’s when words begin to slow down the learning process. Yesterday one of my students was struggling with a mental block while playing “Tucker’s Secret Life” from My First Piano Adventures Book B by Faber. She enjoys singing this fun song and knows how to read the music, but she just kept forgetting where the song was headed. Frustration began to set in. We sang through the song without using the words. I tried to point out the places where we hear the same sounds. We drew shape symbols for the different sections on her music. Nothing seemed to work until…I remembered the can of colorful Jenga blocks! (Actually they are called Rainbow Jumbling Towers – the game is played just like Jenga)
The song basically only has 2 parts and an ending that is a variation of one of these. So, I assigned a color to each section then laid the blocks out to reflect the sound pattern. Now my student was able to see that the she should play the first pattern 2 times, then the 2nd pattern 2 times, back to the first pattern 2 times, the second pattern 1 time and end with the variation. Suddenly she was able to play the whole song from memory with no problem! After playing through a few times, I removed the blocks to see if she could still play the song. She and I both were so proud when she was able to play the song without using her book or the blocks.
Moments like this make me know that I will never let go of my music toys!