Never Give Up!

Yesterday we celebrated Mother’s Day. With that comes reflection on how becoming a mother has changed your life and how your kids have grown. My son is the kid playing in the video above, and I have to tell you in the beginning it was very challenging to teach him how to play the piano. Like any kid he didn’t like the idea of practicing and he got easily frustrated with all that playing the piano involves. Our lessons often ended with both of us upset and ready to throw the piano out the window, but it was too heavy for either of us to pick up! This continued for several years and then one day after about 7 years something changed.

Today we are both so glad that we did not give up. It’s pretty often these days that my husband and I wake up to the sound of live jazz piano being played in the morning. We can hardly believe that we even have to ask him to take a break from practicing sometimes to do important things like eating and sleeping. I’m talking about a teenage boy choosing piano over eating! That alone is enough for me to know that when it comes to piano lessons and frustrated kids and parents giving up cannot be an option. If you hang in there – especially on the most difficult days, the day will come when your child too will be glad you didn’t allow them or yourself to give up!

Happy Mother’s Day – everyday!

Quick Way To Learn A New Song

Quick Way To Learn A Song

What You Will Need:

2 or more piano students (upper elementary and older)

A song that these students like to listen to a lot

1 Die (small is fine, but GIANT is more exciting)

2 Pianos

What You Do:

Teach each student individually how to play the song by rote. (Most likely you will just teach the chorus or a popular riff in the song). You can even have the 1st student help you show the 2nd student how the song goes

Have each student go to a piano

Have each student pick a number from 1-6 and whisper it in your ear

Roll the die until one of the numbers comes up. That is the student who will play first.

The first student plays. As soon as he makes a mistake he must immediately stop playing. Now it is the other student’s turn.

They continue to take turns until someone plays it through with no mistakes. That person receives a point. If they both play it correctly, they both get a point.

 The first person to get 3 points is the winner

Why This Works for the Students:

This formula works because of 2 key ingredients: A song the students like and the friendly competition. Being the first to correctly play a song that you and your friends love significantly raises a  student’s level of cool!

Why This Works for the Teacher:

Students will be practicing without even realizing it!

Visual Motivation For Learning Scales

Scales Links

Do you remember learning scales as a piano student? Well I do, and there was nothing exciting about it. As a student I couldn’t see how learning scales would improve my playing or what in the world they had to do with playing songs. Of course that way of thinking is exactly why it is so important to have a piano teacher! Piano teachers know that learning scales improves technical facility at the keyboard and understanding of how music works, how songs are built, and provides us with a wealth of tools for improvisation.

What piano teachers sometimes don’t know is how to make the process fun and interesting for students. So today I’m sharing a tool from my piano teacher bag of magic – Scale Links. Each time a student masters a particular scale, he or she gets to write out the notes of that scale on a colored strip of paper. Then the student glues the ends of the paper together to form a loop. As more scales are learned more loops are added and linked together. The scale links are hung up in the studio so that students get a visual picture of their progress. They also get to see how quickly other students are progressing which of course leads to more practice!

 

A Child’s Ideas On How To Prepare For A Piano Performance

A Child's IdeasThis is a guest post from a 4th grader  who wishes to remain anonymous. Parents, students, and teachers will enjoy getting involved with performance prep using this piano student’s ideas! Some of my most successful teaching strategies have come from the students themselves. I love their creativity!

Play American Idol:

Have the people in the room give critiques to help the student play better.

Play Elmo Says:

Tickle Me Elmo loves to say, “Again, Again!” You should too!

Have the student play again and again and when you think they have it ask for them to play the song with their eyes closed. Any other songs the person will play that special night go through the same process. Tell them how much time is left until the night of the concert. Motivate them to try harder if they say they can’t do it. It is all in the purpose of learning that they  can do this. Play games with them to remember the song. Show the kid how they can make their playing more interesting.

 

Play Open & Close ‘Em:

Try to go through the whole song with your eyes closed and if you hear the wrong note open your eyes.Then put your hand in the right place to continue the song and try not to mess up on the same part.

Play Tic Tac Toe:

Instructions for tic-tac-toe – You try to play the song one time and if everything is right you make an X or O. Keep playing the song until the student wins.

What If I Make A Mistake?

Mistakes Are GuaranteedWith concerts, recitals, and holiday performances just around the corner both students and teachers are starting to feel a case of the butterflies. I know I am! Teachers wonder if they will have all the students prepared in time. We wonder if the programs will get printed in time, if the sound system at the venue will be working properly, if there will be enough food for the reception. Students wonder if they will mess up on stage. They worry that they might trip on the way to or from the piano bench. They are tortured by a multitude of what ifs – one of the worst ones being what if I forget my song?

It’s been said that there are no guarantees in life, but actually there is one! As I was re-reading the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Making Music magazine, the words of Glenn DaGrossa- a music teacher in New York – jumped off the page at me:

“As human beings, mistakes are guaranteed”

Well doesn’t that just go against everything we are working towards in rehearsals and practice?

Actually, this fact – and it is a fact – must be at the center of our rehearsals and practice. We must prepare not only to play to the best of our ability, but also prepare to handle the inevitable mistakes we will make. Our goal must  not  be a flawless performance, but a fantastic performance! Flawless performances can be flat and sterile, whereas fantastic performances are those that may or may not have noticeable mistakes but definitely connect the audience and performer to each other.

So, let’s all do ourselves a favor and recognize that mistakes are guaranteed. With this thought in mind, let’s proceed to practice with a greater purpose than perfection in mind.

Let’s practice with the goal of communicating and connecting through the music. That’s the kind of music that brings people together!

Mystery Practice Assignments Pt 2

Since last week’s post about Mystery Practice Assignments got so much attention on Pinterest and since my students seem to be enjoying the suspense involved in having to wait to find out what their practice assignment for each day is, I’ve decided to do a follow-up. Here are some of the mystery assignments I will be using this week. These are some of the tried and true favorites that I have used over the years in students’ notebooks as well as one idea that came from a comment on a post about How To Get Kids To Sing. Also, this week there will only be 4 mystery assignments – one for every other day. (Hmmm…could this be another way to reinforce the concept of skips?)

1.Place a small ball in the palm of your right hand. Wrap tape around the ball and your hand. Play the Treble clef notes of your practice piece without letting the ball slip out!

2. Using a kazoo, sing the first line of your practice piece whenever your brother or sister says your name tonight. (Thanks to Leila of 88pianokeys for this one!) Teachers/parents – for this one you may have to supply your student with a kazoo. This will actually add to the mystery since you will not tell him/her what the kazoo is for! You will only tell them that it is explained  in one of their envelopes!

3. Put on some dark sunglasses and play your piece with your eyes closed like Stevie Wonder. Were you able to play it without a mistake? If not, keep trying until you can!

4. Watch one of your favorite 30 minute TV shows and play your piece during the commercials. How many times were you able to play your piece?

For a printable copy of the assignments click here. There are enough for up to 4 students each. Simply cut strips and place in a sealed envelope for each day.

What To Do After The Lesson: A Checklist For Parents

Parents want to HELP their kids do well in piano but often don’t know how and are pressed for time. As a piano parent myself, I totally get it. So in the spirit of multitasking, here are 4 simple things parents can do in the car on the way home (or headed to the next destination) after lessons.

Just remember the word

H.E.L.P.

Highlights – Ask your child questions about the lesson

Encouragement – Make a positive statement about their piano learning

Let it go – Laugh about something. Anything.

Play – for the first 5 minutes at home have your child play something they started learning at the lesson.

You can print a copy of the checklist here to keep in your car!