When the October rolls around, it means that Halloween is just around the corner. If you’re working with kids this time of the year one thing is certain – even if you’re not into Halloween many of your students (and their parents) are! This is an opportunity for you to create connections between the holiday and the lessons you are teaching. Here are a couple of ideas to use with younger students and teens whose minds are preoccupied with Halloween.
Building on the Trick or Treat theme, I created a special incentive that works well with both younger students and teens. Each week in October the student has the chance to earn a treat by learning a piano trick. The piano trick can be technique related – like using “thumb under” when playing scales or it can be something more advanced like playing contrasting rhythms in each hand (left hand slow, right hand fast or vice versa). Another piano trick could be playing repeated notes with different fingers. The possibilities are endless!
The idea is to choose a skill that the student has been struggling with or one that you wish to introduce that will be used in a piece they will learn next. Your student will work hard and focus to earn the candy treat and you will have accomplished teaching them a new skill.
In addition to teaching students new piano tricks, you can also use this time to introduce them to pianists who do fascinating piano tricks when they perform. Here are a few YouTube links to these types of performances. Both you and your student will surely enjoy watching these. You may even be inspired to try some of them yourself!
Brian Culbertson plays piano backwards:
Tom Hanks plays piano with his feet:
Hazel Scott Plays 2 Grand Pianos At The Same Time:
Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys Plays Piano Upside Down:
What piano tricks can you come up with?
Share them in a comment so I can have my students try it too!
One thing every singer needs to be careful of is forgetting the lyrics! I’ve forgotten lyrics a time or two and I know for a fact it’s NOT what you as a singer want to do!
“The lyrics hold the message you’re trying to communicate in the song so it’s crucial to get them right.”
Taking specific steps to learn the lyrics – apart from the melody is very helpful. Most people say they don’t really pay attention to the lyrics, but as a singer this is NOT one of your choices.
Write those lyrics out – don’t just print the lyric sheet and read from there. The physical act of writing the lyrics out is so much more effective – especially if you write them as you hear them on the recording rather than copying them from a googled lyrics sheet.
You may also be interested in Singer Tip: Auditioning
Singing is a big part of life for many piano students. Either the student likes to play and sing OR the student accompanies singers from time to time. The student may even have a group or band where they have the responsibility for helping choose songs to perform. Because choosing the right song for vocalists is often quite tricky, I’m offering some general suggestions in this post on the most important things to consider when choosing a song.
- Make sure the song is age appropriate. Even if the singer sounds AMAZING, if the lyrics are a mismatch for the singer in terms of age then the performance will not have the desired affect. Nothing is more distracting than listening to a young child sing about topics they are too young to have any experience with. For example, no one wants to hear a child singing about having been cheated on by a lover!
- BE HONEST about the singer’s current vocal capabilities! In order for the singer to make a great presentation, ALL the notes in the song must be singable by that particular singer! Resist the urge to select songs where only half of the song is within range and where the ending of the song is far too advanced for the singer’s stage of development. This deserves repeating: Song selection is a time to BE HONEST about the singer’s current capabilities! Keep in mind that any song can be transposed into a lower or higher key. Sometimes a simple change in key can make all the difference, however, it is important to recognize that even with a key change some songs still won’t work for every singer.
- Think about where the singer will be singing. Is this a performance for a talent show, a church service, school setting, funeral, musical theatre audition, etc? Who is the audience? Be mindful that a public performance is for the benefit of the audience! Do NOT choose material that will be offensive, uninteresting or unrelatable to the audience.
- Take tempo into consideration. Sometimes tempo is not a deciding factor in song selection, but there are times when it certainly is! If you are singing 2 songs, it may be advisable to start with a slower tempo and end with an uptempo song. Also the same considerations from number 3 above are important here. Think about what the audience needs/wants in the situation.
- About those original songs– Unless the performance is specifically about original songs (as in that’s what the audience expects), you want to steer clear of originals in one song performances. If however, the performance is at a talent show and the singer wants to display their songwriting abilities, it is extremely important to inform the audience that this is an original song. Otherwise they may not be impressed by hearing a song they don’t know. That brings me to the next point – audiences usually want to hear songs they know and love so it’s to the singer’s advantage to choose a popular song that he/she can sing and perform well. In that same line of thinking, be careful about choosing obscure songs from well known artists. Remember, the audience wants to hear songs they know and love!
A good vocal coach will help you with song selection whether you’re preparing for an audition or performance. If you’re interesting in improving your singing and performance, consider studying with a vocal coach. Contact me for vocal coaching via Skype or FaceTime OR if you are in the metro Atlanta area make an appointment for an in person session.
As part of the inaugural Fun Sized Concert Series of Dana Rice Music Studio, Vocal Student Mary Rene Quarles sings the original song “Save Me Again” by Dana Rice and gives the first LIVE ACOUSTIC performance of Dana Rice’s new single “Monday Is Coming” which was written by Dana Rice, Mary Rene Quarles, and Jayne Olderman. Be sure to watch till the end for Mary Rene’s BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!
We’d love to get your feedback on the songs too so please leave a comment if the songs move you!
One more thing… You can download your own copy of “Monday Is Coming” here!
Piano Teachers!! It’s time to think outside the piano box! Summer is fast approaching and as we all know LOTS of students and parents consider summer time vacation time from lessons. Instead of writing about how to avoid that here, I am going to write about what you as a piano teacher can do to keep yourself working over the summer AND get yourself refreshed for your fall piano lessons.
For the past 6 years I have had the honor of teaching at the Northeast Georgia Summer Guitar Camp. No, I do not play the guitar! I can, however, produced some nice melodies on the guitar – not because I have ever had a guitar lesson – I haven’t, but because I am a musician! Musical instruments are just like pens and pencils. If you know how to write, you can use any pencil or pen. If you haven’t ever tried to play an instrument other than piano, you should try it. You might surprise yourself and your students. It is an excellent opportunity to reinforce the need for understanding music theory and knowing how to apply it.
So how can you, as a piano teacher, keep yourself working over the summer outside of piano lessons? Partner with a teacher who teaches an instrument other than piano and offer to teach at their summer camp or even do some master classes with their students. Of course you won’t be teaching their instrument (unless you happen to be proficient at it), but you CAN teach theory concepts and musiciality. At the guitar camp I have taught Rhythm, Performance, and Music Appreciation – The Art Of Listening. The possibilities are really endless!
I have found that the fact that the students are “experts” at guitar and I am not, actually increases their interest in what I am bringing to the table. I allow them to teach me some things they know about guitar – which has the added benefit of reinforcing their knowledge and understanding of their instrument. Furthermore, because we are not directly working on learning the technical aspects of playing their instrument they are able to deepen their understanding of how music works. They are then able to apply these concepts immediately in their guitar centered classes at the camp.
You might also be pleasantly surprised to meet students who also play the piano! Many kids play multiple instruments and of course piano is often the first instrument they ever learned. Each year we have several students from different piano studios in the guitar camp. While we maintain focus on their guitar learning, I also give them an opportunity to share the piano skills as well. Helping the students make connections between their piano knowledge and their guitar knowledge is an extra bonus for me.
I am pleased to once again be a faculty member for the premier guitar camp in the state of Georgia along with Guitarist Russell Ferrara from Pennsylvania and founder Derwyn Brown of Childbloom Guitar Northeast Georgia. Registration is now open for the sixth annual Summer Guitar Camp to be held at Lanier Islands Community Church in Buford Ga. The camp will run from June 6th through-10th. The camp is open to young guitarists at all levels ages 7 – 13. For camp registration visit our website: www.childbloomgne.com.
Click here or on the video above to view highlights from our 2015 Summer Camp!
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.