Food For The Music Teacher’s Soul: Performing Live

As music teachers we spend hours preparing lessons, music learning games, and performances for our students. After doing an adequate amount of scouring music teaching blogs and piano teaching blogs, and attending student concerts and recitals there is little time left to devote to our own musical development. The interesting thing is that the missing ingredient in most music teachers’ studio marketing plans is consistent performance by the teacher!  I will speak specifically as a piano teacher, but what I am saying is true no matter what instrument the teacher teaches. The same thing we tell our students applies to us – in order to get better at playing your instrument, you have to PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT!

I know from my own personal experience how difficult it can be to carve out time to flex your performance muscles when you are a music teacher. I also know that carving this time out is absolutely essential. It is also life-giving! The video about is proof of that.

Last weekend I was blessed with the opportunity and challenge to play in the faculty concert for the music camp where I taught. Getting to this point took a couple of years of trying to find time to collaborate with the other teachers because our schedules are so varied. Thankfully one of the faculty members, Russell Ferrara (fabulous guitarist who is fluid in numerous genres) never gave up and simply insisted that we make it happen. Oddly enough it took his persistence to get me and fellow teacher Derwyn Browne playing together for the first time although we work together often and live near each other. Russell lives a thousand miles away!

I can definitely say that it was well worth the wait and that we should have done this sooner. If you haven’t played in a while, please let me suggest that you get out there and go for it! Why should our students be the only ones who get to play? Why should they be the only ones who experience the rush that comes from an audience erupting with applause? Why should they be the only ones who get that undeniable sense of satisfaction from having done their best onstage?

If you haven’t done so already, watch the video. I hope it will inspire you to go out and play!

Hanon Plus App Review and Giveaway!

Hanon

Hanon. Pianists hear the word and immediately visualize pages and pages of exercises that have fingers running up and down the piano keys. As a young student I looked at people who already “knew how to play” and wondered how in the world they got their fingers to move so quickly and so freely. Then one day I was introduced to the Hanon Exercises. From Hanon I learned to control my fingers and to will each one to move on command. Hanon set me free from finger positions and taught me how to look (and sound) like I “knew how to play” as well!

Your students should meet Hanon.

Today’s students are lucky. They can get the benefits of Hanon exercises without having to guess whether or not they are doing them right only to get to their next lesson and discover that their fingering was all off. Today’s students have the Hanon Plus app by mTA.

The first thing that makes the Hanon Plus app so appealing for learning to play the piano is that it works with an acoustic piano or keyboard. While there are many apps that require students to interact with an on-screen keyboard they cannot compare to apps that allow the student to practice on the instrument which they are trying to learn. This single capability makes Hanon Plus worth a try for any serious student.

With the Hanon Plus app students can develop their technical ability and dramatically improve their sense of where notes are on the piano keyboard. This is a major plus for those students who can’t seem to take their eyes off the keyboard while playing (one of my biggest pet peeves).

The app comes with 20 built in exercises from Hanon Book 1 which students can practice in ANY major or minor key! Each one is listed by the fingers that will be strengthened.Hanon Plus1

The exercises are also customizable! You or the student can select 1 of 3 rhythm levels from beginner to advanced when playing the exercises and there is an option for 1 octave or 2 octaves. The tempo is adjustable as well. If you look at the bottom of the screenshot below

you will see these features.HanonPlus Screen

And…wait for it… THERE ARE NO IN-APP PURCHASES. I am especially happy about this fact because I always find it disappointing to purchase an app only to find out that the features I thought I was purchasing are not included in the price. With this app you get it all.

Some of my other favorite features of Hanon Plus are the green tracking bar that moves along as the student plays. I find this to be extremely helpful for students who have difficulty tracking while playing from a score. This app also allows the student to practice playing and reading both treble and bass notes at the same time. Of course this helps improve coordination between the hands. If you like the Fingerpower Series, you will LOVE Hanon Plus.

Besides all the benefits for students, Hanon Plus is helpful for piano teachers because it is self-evaluating. In other words the student can use it independently and get feedback directly from the app. I have used the app at the start of lessons and I have also had students who are early or waiting on a sibling to use it while they wait. (If you choose to use the app with a waiting student while you are teaching another student you will need to have a separate room they can use due to the fact that the app is using your iPad’s mic to hear the student play.) You can also have students purchase the app to work with at home in between lessons. The app only costs $7.99 which is about the cost of a book but with all the added benefits of interactivity.

This app is so helpful that YOU as the teacher mApp Store Iconight want to use it to warm up your own fingers while your students aren’t looking. Go ahead…I won’t tell!

Now that you are sold out on this fabulous app and you know that you have to have it, one super fantastic teacher will win a FREE download of the Hanon Plus App. To enter, leave a comment below about how Hanon Exercises were introduced to you as a piano student.

The deadline to enter the contest is Sunday, October 5th at midnight EST. 

My Piano Teacher Introduced Me To A Legend: Joe Sample 1939-2014

We were introduced when I was a teen. My piano teacher at the time gave me a tape of his music. Yes, it was on a tape because I met Joe Sample before the CD was born. At that time I knew little about any music other than Gospel. My teacher often gave me tapes of various artists to listen to, but I usually didn’t listen to them because, well I was a teen. Before he gave me the Joe Sample tape, he played it for me in my lesson. I was hooked. The only problem was that the CD had not been born and with tapes you had to guess where the song you liked was. This usually meant rewinding and fast forwarding for what seemed an eternity until you gave up and decided to listen from beginning to end – which could be up to 120 minutes depending on the length of your tape. Unfortunately my new friend Joe Sample and I lost touch due to the limitations of the tape.

tape

I never forgot how I felt when I heard that first Joe Sample song. It was a feeling of awe and wonder. I wondered who this person was and how his fingers could make music sound like that. Thankfully the CD came on the scene a few years later. One of my first CDs was of course a Joe Sample CD. By this time my piano teacher had passed away but I was so glad that he got the chance to introduce me to Joe Sample. Now, I never met Joe Sample in person, but music is powerful like that. It allows you to feel like you know the artist on a level that is different, deeper even, than how you could know someone in person.

Yesterday when I learned of Joe Sample’s passing, I was saddened. My “friend” was gone and I needed to grieve. I had long forgotten about that CD that I purchased so many years ago until last night when  I was looking through my CD collection in search of music for this year’s Big Dreams concert. Guess what I found? Yep, that Joe Sample CD.

Joe Sample CD

 

I smiled and said a quick thank you to my piano teacher and Joe Sample.

Now, don’t you want to know more about Joe Sample? Watch this interview with him by Zach Tate.

The Piano Bench Mag Review and Giveaway

The Piano Bench Magazine

Love reading piano blogs or thinking about starting your own? Well the April issue of Piano Bench Mag is just for YOU! Simply entitled “The Bloggers Issue”, it introduces the artful piano teacher to 22 fun-filled piano teaching blogs available.  While some may be familiar, reading Karen Gibson’s take on the themes of these blogs will inspire you to look at them once again and discover hidden piano teaching treasures you hadn’t noticed before.

But wait, there’s more!

This issue will allow you to become even more “webwise” with an in-depth article on building a studio website and a thorough review of one of the latest music theory app games. There are so many resources in this one little magazine to help you continue to be the coolest piano teacher in town!

The Piano Bench Mag is available digitally on iTunes and Google Play as follows:

A single issue for $2.99 (non-subscription)
1-month subscription for $1.99 (automatically renewed until canceled)
6-month subscription for $7.99
12-month subscription for $11.99

You can get The Piano Bench Mag on Apple’s Newsstand here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-piano-bench-mag/id712098279?ls=1&mt=8

You can also get it on Google Play here:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bdhjefeedd.gfcbdhjefeedd

Good news for Kids & Keys readers! Karen Gibson, the editor of The Piano Bench Mag has agreed to give away 2 complimentary 3 month subscriptions to 2 lucky readers! For a chance to win a FREE subscription, leave a comment below and / or on the Kids & Keys Facebook page. The first 10 comments on the blog and the first 10 comments on the Facebook page will be entered into a drawing for the FREE subscriptions. Comment now! The winners will be announced on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

What’s The Unique Ingredient In Your Teaching?

Deja and Dana

 In a world where the words “piano teacher” often conjure up negative images in the minds of potential students and potential piano parents, your special skills and interests can help you stand out.  They inform your way of teaching and are the unique ingredient that draws students and parents to your studio!

I unexpectedly became aware of how I apply my special skills to my piano teaching a few days ago while teaching a student how to play the hit song “Say Something” by A Great Big World. This song is definitely a singer/songwriter’s song which lends itself to the piano’s rich ability to communicate deep emotion – especially when combined with heartfelt lyrics. In the process of teaching this song I discovered something unique and potentially marketable about the way I teach. I teach piano lessons from a singer/songwriter’s point of view!

I found myself using the lyrical idea to help my student understand the chord progression in “Say Something”. Where the lyric is hopeful or anticipating, the chord shape is open. Where the lyric is tentative or afraid, the chord shape is closed. When I reflect a little more, I see that I often use examples like this to help my students focus on delivering the message in the song. I believe that this is natural for me because I am a songwriter. Songwriters carefully craft their lyrics and chords to match each other so that they have a specific effect on the listenerFor me, this is the unique ingredient in my teaching. Students who study with me can expect to develop exceptional performance skills in addition to the basic piano skills that most piano teachers teach.

So, my challenge for you is to observe your teaching style during your lessons TODAY and take note of how you explain things.

  • What analogies do you use?
  • What examples do you offer your students for correcting technical issues?
  • What suggestions do you give them for memorizing phrases and music concepts?
  • Who are you as a musician?
  • What is your favorite part of making music?

The answers to these questions can help you pinpoint the unique ingredient in your teaching that makes YOU stand out in the world of piano teaching!

 

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Teaching Tweens and Teens

Supply and Demand 101: Music Teacher’s Edition

Teaching, Performing, Or Both?

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