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.

 

Black History Month in the Piano Studio!

Charlie Parker Book

I LOVE February because of Valentine’s Day and Black History Month! There are so many great activities for music learning that can be used with these themes as a backdrop. So, with Valentine’s Day behind us today’s focus is a simple and fun music lesson with a nod to Black History Month.

In this lesson, the student will learn how to play a jazz tune about legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker using the 5-finger scale. It is designed for 3-6 year olds.

You will need a copy of the board book Charlie Parker Played BeBop and a recording of the song by Louise Rogers.

Away from the piano, play the recording of the song while reading the book with the student. Feel free to dance around, snap fingers and tap toes. Encourage your student to sing along with the call and response in the song.

Now, announce to your student that they are ready to play this song on the piano! If the student already knows some or all of the 5-finger scales have him/her play one for you. (The recording uses the Bb scale). Even if the student has not learned any scales, you can still use this activity to teach them the scale.

Your student will play the chant “Charlie Parker played BeBop” which occurs again and again in the song.

Here are the notes: C D E F G E

Once you have done this a couple of times, you are ready to play along with the book. Allow the student to turn the page and play at the appropriate time. You can even do this as a duet since it is in call and response style. Be sure they sing along!

Afterwards you can ask a couple of review questions –

“Who was Charlie Parker?” Ans. Charlie Parker played bebop.

“What instrument did Charlie Parker play?” Ans. Charlie Parker played alto saxophone.

How To Rescue Your Piano Lesson When Students and Parents Arrive Upset

Oh No!

Has this ever happened to you? It’s 3pm and you’re ready to wow your student with the fantastic piano lesson you have carefully planned. You can just imagine the joy on her face when you announce the special song that she will be learning today. You hear a knock on the door, open it and your student walks in with a frown on her face. She won’t speak to you, and when you look at her mom walk in she has a frown on her face too! The mom informs you that the child got in trouble at school and it is clear that the child is guilty as charged.

 At times like this it may seem that there is no hope for redirecting this family so that you can have a great lesson, but the piano teaching genius in you knows better! Now is the time to abandon whatever plans you had prior to the student’s arrival and pay attention to this emergency situation. (Yes, it is an emergency! ) It is up to YOU to turn this situation around for everybody involved.

The guiding principle you will use in this situation is one that was shared recently on the South Florida Orff Blog about how to be a 21st century teacher:

Make it (your lesson) REAL LIFE relevant!

With that said, here are 6 steps you can take to rescue your lesson:

1. Make them laugh!  Your number one goal is to first make everybody in the room laugh as quickly as possible. This will break down any barriers and help them refocus. You could say in a horrified voice something like, “What you just told me makes me hear this music…” (That’s when you go to the piano and play the famous notes of Beethoven’s 5th)

2. Offer a Solution – Your new goal is to get the student to stop worrying about the problem and focus on what she can do to have a successful lesson. You can suggest that the two of you write a song about the situation.

3. Invite The Student To The Piano – You will need to help everybody remember why they came – it’s a piano lesson!

4. Ask questions – Should the song have a happy sound or a sad sound? What kind of scale can we use to make that sound? What words do we need to say in the song?

5. Write It Down – Help your student write out the new song complete with a title. You can take the time to explain some theory concepts like treble clef, bass clef, how to notate melodic and harmonic sounds. Keep it simple and easy though. Even allow the student to just write out the note names.

I Am Sorry Song

6. Take A Picture  – Empower your student to have a better day at school the following day by taking a picture of her holding the “sheet music” for the new song. Tell her that she can print the picture and give it to her teacher the next day. Employ humor once again by allowing her to use fun facial expressions to show how sorry she is about what happened.  Let her choose which picture really shows how she feels.

Can you remember a time when your student and parent showed up to the lesson upset about school? Tell us about it in a comment below!

Adding Some Social To Private Piano Lessons

Who says private lessons have to be lonely lessons? With YouTube and a little creativity, the private lesson can become a great social experience for young students. When students are working on a common goal like learning scales or a certain number of songs each month, etc., they can record quick update/challenge videos to their piano friends. I’ve been doing this with my younger students the past few weeks, and they are getting a kick out of it! They look forward to watching the messages they received from other students and then recording a new message at the end of their lesson. As you can see from the video, the students have really picked up speed in learning their scales for the scales challenge.

How do you use video in your studio? Share your ideas in a comment below!

Scary Scales – An Unfortunate Musical Analogy

Scary Scales

The frenetic scales loop race is heating up in my piano studio! Several weeks ago we began a quest to learn as many scales as we can before the end of the school year. As students have begun to complete the major scales we’ve started learning how to change them into minor scales. To help the kids hear the difference between the two I describe the minor scales as the sad sounding ones or scary ones and the major ones as the happy ones. Well, yesterday after showing a student how to figure out the minor scales on his own

I heard myself say,

“Let’s play some more scary scales”.

I immediately realized that this analogy went against everything I’ve done to try to help kids NOT see scales as scary, evil things!

Oh well, my bad!

Picture Pentascales!

picture pentascales

Helping kids learn and remember what notes go with each pentascale is easy with stickers and a printed piano keyboard! This is one that one of my boys made.

He is a big Spider Man fan!

Update on Scale Links Project

This spring my students are concentrating on learning and perfecting the major scales and pentascales. The younger students are working to learn all 12 pentascales and the older students are tackling the major scales. Their goal is to not only be able to play them fluently but to know the note names for each scale. Each time a student successfully learns a scale they add a link to their scale chain as shown above. So far, two students are tied for first place with 5 scales!

The biggest challenge so far has been helping students understand that they cannot earn a link on the same day they are introduced to the scale. They have a hard time understanding that just because they can play through the scale does not mean they know it! So, each week at the beginning of the lesson they have to play the scales they already earned links for in addition to any new scale they practiced during the week. This is helping them to realize that they have to stay on top of those scales!

What do you do to encourage students to become fluent in playing scales? Tell us in a comment below!