10 Things Parents Can Do To Help Kids Learn Piano

Have you tried any of these things to help your kids learn to play piano? Tell me how it went in a comment below!

You might also be interested in 6 Ways Piano Teachers and Parents Can Encourage Piano Teens

Speed Up Music Learning By Getting Your Students To Do This!

In a recent post I shared one of my secrets to keeping students motivated AFTER the performance season. Today I’ll give you another way to get students excited about piano learning by making learning faster!

If you haven’t watched the YouTube video above, click on it NOW to be inspired! Daniel Menendez’s unique talent as a piano juggler can help you motivate your piano learners who might be having trouble settling down to do the most necessary task of learning to play music: LISTENING!!!

Too often students just want to get to the playing part and leave out the listening to music part of music learning. Many piano students struggle to learn new tunes simply because they don’t KNOW the tunes. By this I mean they can’t hum or sing the melody and they can’t feel the rhythm. This is because they are attempting to learn to play a song you’ve never heard is like trying to learn how to play the piano in the dark. Why do that when we’ve got lights?!

YouTube is a gold mine of fun listening visuals! The video linked above is a great example of this. If you’re teaching beginning piano, The Can Can is probably one of the songs on your list. Use this video to capture the young student’s attention. Point out things like the differences in tempo, the direction the melody is moving AND get your student to listen to the song over and over again without it being boring! I’m sure you will find that the learning will happen much faster and “funner”!

 

 

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.

 

2 New App Finds!

staffwars

 

We are quickly approaching the time of year where students are under a LOT of pressure. From recitals, concerts, local performances, school activities, midterms and finals students have a ton of things that need their attention. A great way to lighten things up in piano lessons is to use fun apps that keep the learning going but without the pressure.

With this in mind, I did a search for music theory apps and found some very cool ones that were new to me. The first one is Staff Wars. This is a game that was originally available only on desktop. I used to use it all the time before we migrated to using the iPad. I was thrilled to learn that it is now available as an app in the iTunes store for both iPhone and iPad!

Cool Things About Staff Wars:

It is an arcade style game. Kids drill music notation on either treble, alto, or bass clef without even realizing they are learning!

It has awesome sound effects

A student played it yesterday at the end of his lesson and scored very high on treble clef, so I challenged him to beat that score at his next lesson. As I wrote the challenge in his notebook he played the game again…AND BEAT MY CHALLENGE! Then it was time for his sister’s lesson. He usually leaves during her lesson, but this time he stayed and continued to play the game until he even beat the challenge I gave him to replace the previous challenge that he beat!!!

If you want a game that motivates students – especially boys – hurry over to the iTunes app store and pay just $0.99 for Staff Wars!

Another promising app I found is –

qastronotesThis app is also presented in arcade style. The learning here is all about note values and their relation to each other. Whole notes appear huge and must be destroyed. The catch is that the whole notes break up into half notes and the half notes break up into quarter notes. You can get QAstronotes here.

Tried these apps already? Let me know in a comment how your students liked them.

Other posts you might want to read:

Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music

Great Apps

End The Practice Wars by Applying These 2 Laws

“It’s not what you do, but the way you do it that matters!”

Music theory. Keyboard topography. Rhythm. Ear training. Technique. All these are essentials of learning to play the piano, however, success in teaching these skills is determined by the WAY these skills are taught.

One of the biggest complaints of piano teachers and parents of piano students is that the child will not or does not want to practice. If you can relate to this, then allow me to give you a life changing piece of information:

Law of Love

Parents are busy. Sometimes they feel that they are too busy to sit and listen to their child practice piano. These same parents listen to music all the time while they are working and doing important things. So, what is the problem with listening to their child play music? It just might be that the music their child is playing is unappealing or uninteresting to the parent. Eliminate this problem by getting to know the musical tastes of the parents in your studio. A simple question in passing can get you this information. “Who’s your favorite artist / style of music / song?

Similarly, when dealing with older students (tweens and teens) there is another law you must know as a piano teacher who wants their student to practice:

Law of Friends

To sum it all up, music lessons should equip students to play music that they, their friends, and family enjoy hearing. The successful piano teacher knows this and abides by the law at all times!

Here are some additional FREE resources to help get you started on the road to ending the practice wars in your studio:

Teen Toolkit by Tim Topham: A FREE downloadable toolkit for teaching teens. A must read!

http://colorinmypiano.com/2013/04/09/free-printable-12-bar-blues-in-c/: Introduce the blues – no note reading, just cool sounds

8notes.com: Free riff lessons of popular music

http://www.teachpianotoday.com/2012/03/01/piano-recitals-are-like-totally-like-lame/ : Keep kids practicing with cool performance opportunities

Jazz for Kids : Use 5 finger scales to teach jazz to preschoolers

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.

Presenting Songs As “Gifts”

Joy Gift

What are most piano teachers thinking about in October? Christmas! Yes, we have to think about Christmas now so that our students have a chance at sounding great when they play Christmas Carols for friends and family during the holidays. Of course it is never to early to help children understand that nothing just happens and that getting good at something takes time. That is why this week in my studio, students are receiving their “Christmas Presents” from me. These are not your ordinary Christmas Presents! They are literally the gift of music. Each child has a wrapped present with their name on it and inside is a label (available on Susan Paradis’ website) with the title of their Christmas piece. At first  the children are a little bit confused because they are used to getting toys and other items when they unwrap gifts – never just song titles! That’s when I begin to explain to them that this is their very own solo that no one else in the studio will be allowed to play!

Happy song gift

The next thing is that they get to keep the box with their song title and put it on their piano at home. I tell them that they should practice this song every day at home and then check inside their box afterwards to see if mom or dad has left anything special inside for them. Of course I give the parents a warning beforehand. Parents can choose whatever incentive they want to give their child. It can even be something as simple as an “I’m so proud of your playing” note.

One more thing makes this activity so fun – they get to see the unopened presents of other students and begin to wonder out loud what’s inside and why their box is bigger or smaller than the others! Sometimes they even want to know what they can do to get a bigger box next time!

Song Gifts