Make Practice Fun: Piano Play Dates

Do you have students or kids of your own who HATE piano practice? There are so many reasons why kids hate practicing piano, but one of the main reasons is that it can be LONELY. With a little imagination and planning, though, piano practice can be a social event! Watch the short video below to see how…

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Keeping Piano Students Excited: Piano World Records

World

After the excitement of Holiday concerts what can a piano teacher do to keep up the enthusiasm? Well, for the last two weeks I have been presenting the idea of setting world records in piano to my students! Kids LOVE seeing who is the fastest at something or who can do something the longest. And who wouldn’t want the title of World’s Greatest?! Piano offers endless possibilities for this type of goal from scales (ascending and descending) to age (youngest, only 8 year old to ever, etc).

One thing you want to be intentional about is helping students set goals. I explained to students that we have to train like an athlete to break a world record. For younger kids it is also helpful to set a short time frame. For example – the most songs learned in 1 week. You can even expand the contest to have Studio Records. These will be easier for students to conquer and just might spur them on to beating one of the world records like this one:

Fastest descending chromatic world record.

I will confess that when I tried to do the fastest descending chromatic scale it took me twice as long as the world record! So, I will be training right alongside my students this semester. We will be sure to post our results and pics of all the fun we had!

In the meantime, I’d like to extend the invitation for YOU to join us in trying to set or break a piano world record. You can get all the information by visiting Recordsetter.com

Stay tuned tomorrow for more inspiration on how to use Piano World Records to boost learning in your studio.

 

10 Helps For The Non-Piano-Playing Parent

Help For Non Piano Parent

Parents who have never learned to play a musical instrument often feel lost when it comes to helping their child practice at home. This is a real concern, but doesn’t have to be! Even if they can’t carry a tune in a bucket, couldn’t play their way out of a paper bag, or don’t even know what a treble clef looks like, PARENTS have the tools necessary to help their children learn how to play music. If you’re a parent reading this right now, you might be thinking “There is no way.” Let me assure you though THERE IS A WAY. Neither of my parents nor my grandparents ever played an instrument and nobody in my family ever played the piano before I did. In fact, for many years we could not even afford a piano. In spite of this (or maybe even because of it) I not only learned how to play but have taught many other people to play as well. Here are 10 things the Non-Piano-Playing Parent can do to speed up their child’s piano learning:

1. Listen To Music Out Loud! – Connect your iPod, cell phone, tablet or mp3 player to a speaker and play music that you enjoy so that EVERYBODY in your house or car hears it. Listen to music in the car, during dinner, while cleaning the house, while getting ready for school. LISTEN TO MUSIC ALL THE TIME!!! Make sure the music you are listening to is music that your child is learning to play AND music that you would like to hear them play. Be sure to include music that highlights piano if your child is studying piano.

2.  Make Practicing Like Brushing Teeth – My friend, Derwyn Brown of Childbloom Guitar always says that parents must insist on practice just like they insist on brushing teeth. You wouldn’t let your child go a day without brushing his/her teeth would you? Of course not! Brushing teeth is an EVERY DAY thing and so is PRACTICING! Insist on Practice!

3. Learn to say the word, “AGAIN” – Listen to your child when he/she is practicing and when they finish tell them to play it AGAIN! If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right – IT’S PROBABLY NOT RIGHT! You might not be a musician, but you are a music listener and your ears know when something is not right. Tell them to keep working on it until they fix the problem or you can simply say “AGAIN”

4. Use The Teacher’s Words– Take time to read any instructions the teacher has written in your child’s book or notebook and repeat this to your child.

5. Be Nosy – This one will come naturally to some! (I couldn’t resist). Ask your child questions about what he/she is playing. If you see things circled on the book or sheet music, ask your child what it means or why that is circled. It is OK if YOU don’t know the answer! You are trying to get THEM to think about the answer.

6. Brag Out Loud– Let your child hear you bragging about how well they are playing or how diligently they are practicing.

7. Be An On Time Taxi – Take your child to the piano lesson ON TIME. ALWAYS. This lets your child know once again that piano is important. It also gives your child the much needed time with the teacher. If you are 10 minutes late for a 30 minute lesson, your child has just missed 1/3 of the entire lesson! That translates to: slower progress, possible chaos in lesson due to rushing. It creates a frustrated student and a frustrated teacher who both just want to make you proud.

8. Be Consistent – Continuous learning is the difference between students who progress quickly and students who are stagnant or are always playing below expectation. Children who continue lessons throughout the summer when school is out do better. If your child takes off lessons in the summer and does not return to lessons until September your child is losing about 6 months of learning due to the time taken off and the skills lost during the time off.

9. Make Them Pay For Lessons– No, I do not mean that you should have your children pay the teacher for lessons. That is your job, but their job is to provide you with FREE ENTERTAINMENT. Once they have completed several days of practice – AND BEFORE THEIR NEXT LESSON – have your child give you an at home concert. My kids often made “programs” entitled “The 1 Song Concert” or “The 3 Song Concert” depending on the number of songs they knew how to play. Repeat this when visiting friends and relatives. My grandparents (non-musicians) did this EVERY time I went to visit them. It became such a routine that I knew once dinner was over I had to play for them. Eventually I learned to prepare for these impromptu performances!

10. Act Crazy – Yes, I said CRAZY! Crazy is making your kids practice when other kids are playing games. Crazy is insisting on practice even if they are crying. Crazy is not letting them get away with saying they don’t have anything to practice. Crazy is EXPECTING them to do better. Crazy is driving them to a place that has a piano if you don’t have one of your own. Crazy is signing them up for every performance opportunity your teacher offers – even if they say they don’t want to do it. Crazy is signing them up for summer music camps and scheduling your vacations around those camps. Crazy is asking hotel staff if your child can play the hotel piano during your stay there. Crazy is letting your kids know that quitting is not an option and that they must “Play To Stay” (in your house). If they want to quit, they can quit once they move out. Crazy is what works.

I know it because

I. Am. Crazy. But. My. Kids. Know. How. To. Play. The. Piano. 

Don’t Let School Holidays Sabotage Piano Lessons

Yesterday was Labor Day here in the United States and that means we did not have piano lessons. Knowing that the holiday was coming I gave my students more than enough material to work on for two weeks. Experience has taught me, though, that they probably won’t work diligently for the whole two weeks. In fact, they may even come back with a list of reasons why they did not have time to do it. I’m hoping that this won’t be the case this year because within the next day or so these students will be receiving a special piano challenge from me in the mail!

The most important aspect of this challenge is that it is coming through the postal service. Kids LOVE getting mail! Why? Because they never get any! Unlike the piano notebook, they WILL read mail that is delivered to their home. Their parents will probably read it too!

Now to the challenge – Using free printable Major Minor match cards from Anne Crosby Gaudet at http://pianoanne.blogspot.com/p/free-printables.html, I created an assignment and attached it to the back of one of the cards.

Scale Patternchallenge

 

Next, I wrote a short note to my student explaining the challenge and stating how much I’m looking forward to the next lesson:

challenge letter

This final step is important – Address the envelope to the student, not the parent!

Now, I get to wait and see what happens…

If you are interested in an idea to get students to look inside their piano notebook every night, check out my previous post on Mystery Assignments.

 

Musicians, Athletes and Practice

“Musicians are small-muscle athletes, so the same principles of physical conditioning which apply to athletes also apply to musicians.”   – Barry Green in The Mastery Of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry

The Talking Piano Bench That Teaches Sight-Reading

Piano Bench Student

Piano Bench Student

Sadly, the piano bench is an often overlooked treasure chest in the piano room. On the day my first piano was delivered when I was just a little girl, I can remember being as enamored with the piano bench as I was with the piano itself. The piano had 88 keys for me to tickle, but the bench held books full of songs that could be played on those 88 keys. Looking into that piano bench was like being in a gold mine full of sheet music! The piano bench was where I could find even more songs besides the ones that my teacher had given me to learn. I could actually look in there and discover new sounds that my fingers could produce. I have found though that my kids don’t think to look in the piano bench for music books. (This fact baffles me). I have also found in my years of working with piano students that a lot of them don’t seek out new music on their own.  (Again, this baffles me).

Thinking about my piano bench and all the musical treasure it holds gave me an idea! As piano teachers and musicians, we know the importance of being able to sight-read. We also know that the best way for a student to improve at sight-reading is to SIGHT READ. So, why not use the piano bench’s treasure chest quality to get kids excited about sight-reading?

To transform the piano bench into The Talking Piano Bench That Teaches Sight Reading, I used 3 sticky notes, the panic button, a prize, and a carefully selected piece of music for sight-reading practice according to the student’s skill level. Then the student was told to lift the bench and follow the instructions on the sticky notes.

Open Piano Bench

 

Piano Bench Panic Button

Click to see post about Panic Button

Piano Bench Sight Reader

Piano Bench Prize

The instant gratification associated with this activity made it very successful with the students. Now, they look forward to the chance to see what’s in the bench. They enjoy that and I enjoy seeing their sight-reading skills grow!

 

Summer Celebrations : Finding The Perfect Piano Accessory On Vacation

Awesome Takes Practice

I found this mug at Fresh Market in Hilton Head, SC while on vacation last week. The piano teacher in me couldn’t resist!