“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
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!
When my students and I were invited to play at a local retail store that was featuring a day of continuous piano music from area piano teachers and their students, I got the idea to have everybody wear something that showed they were part of The FAME School. I decided to try CustomInk, a company which allows you to design your t-shirt online. The process was EASY and quick! They sent me digital proofs before filling my order and shipping was FREE. Here’s how they looked at the performance:
Everyone was proud to wear their shirt to the event, and I honestly think it pumped them up a little bit! So, if you’re looking for ways to add some social to the piano lesson, I suggest getting some studio t-shirts that everyone can wear to performances or maybe even to group piano class or a group outing to see a concert!
Before I started teaching privately on a full-time basis it never occurred to me that teaching would interfere with me performing. Fast forward a few years and I can say without a doubt that teaching leaves me very little time for practicing and performing. Somehow the hours spent planning activities for students and trying to think of ways to help them “get it” add up so quickly. A lot of times I’m just plain worn out after a day of teaching. How can something so life-giving be so draining at the same time? I thoroughly enjoy teaching young musicians, but it is very tiring. So, the performer in me has to fight for my attention. The above video is what happens when I do make time for practicing and performing and creating. I hope you enjoy the music, and if you do you can download it free on SoundCloud.com/danaricemusic.
Now for the million dollar question, teachers. How do YOU make time for performing while teaching?
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)
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!
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!