Thursday, October 23, 2014

Come get your composing game for this next week

I ran across this fun music composition game a few weeks ago and bought it to have my students work on while I'm gone.  No slouching just because there won't be a lesson for a week guys!

I'm going to set a wooden box out on my front porch with a packet for each of my piano families inside (your names will be on them.)  Please stop by and take yours and have your student(s) compose a Halloween song during the next week.  This will be a new experience for almost all of them, it will make them really think about how music works when they have to write out their own song.  For students who have had 1-2 years of lessons, this might be very challenging - if they need help and if you as a parent don't feel up to it, why don't you look at the "Swap List" I gave you of my students and invite one of my older ones to come and help teach your student how to do this.  (This will make my older students get in there and figure it out as well!!!)  You know the old saying about the teacher learns the most, you will be doing them a favor :)

I tried this myself and it's possible to end up with a very odd sounding song :)  But Halloween songs can sound weird!  I think the experience of doing this is well worth the effort to put into practice the  application of some music theory. 

I also need you to check your Christmas music.  We are going to begin using those early in November.  Post a comment here or send me an email if I need to order music for your student(s).  Christmas music is so great to have actual books available to pull out year after year to enjoy.

   Witches' Brew: A Halloween Composition Game

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Group Lessons and Practice Abacus

Everyone made their own Practice Abacus today at group lessons.  This is to help them get in the habit of practicing a song productively.  Just playing straight through a song 3-5 times a day is not a good way to make improvements.  More often than not the song comes back to the next lesson with the same errors they were making the week before.  I tell students over and over how to practice, but don't think it really is happening at home often, if at all.  This is how to use the abacus:  First string - play through the song once and watch for 3 areas that need extra attention.  2nd,3rd & 4th strings - play each of those "needy" areas 5 times each, working to improve it.  5th sting - play through the entire song 2 times trying to get the 3 areas you worked on to smoothly work into the rest of the song.  Do this with every song, every day.  If your student ever gets to where they automatically are practicing this way, then the abacus doesn't need to be used, a habit has been formed - until then, though, make sure they are using it!

The 4 sections of group lesson this time:
Part 1:  Recital

 Part 2:  Making their Practice Abacus

Part 3:  Playing Rhythm Cups
(They've been told to take their sheet home and teach it to their family!  It's fun :)  

Part 4:  Refreshments 
always the most popular part!

There is one more group lesson this school year, on Feb. 18th.  Just FYI, get it on your calendar :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Practice Chains & Student Performance (Reid)

Available make-up dates for Sept 29 - Oct 3:  Mon 4:30 & Wed 5:30


Practice chains are up and running.  Students get to add a bead to their chain for everything they accomplish:  pass off songs, Piano Maestro (3 stars), games passed off in Music Learning Community, memorized songs, etc.

Took me awhile to figure out where and how to hang these, our dog already ate one (horrors!)  So now the door to my piano room is kept shut when he is in the house.  He was in so much trouble!  

Each student painted their own star at the group lesson in Sept.  


This is Reid, he kindly agreed to be my first performer for this year.  Song:  Buzzing Bee.   Everyone will get opportunities :)  We had limited time at his lesson to get this recorded and I've seen him play this really well.  When someone is recording you it suddenly becomes a performance - stress sets in and it feels different while playing it.  That's why I'm going to be doing this, it just gives the students more experience with dealing with those nerves.   Thanks Reid for being such a good sport!

I'm curious to see if anyone is looking at these blog posts.  If you are now reading this please leave a comment at the end of this blog post (just a "hi" will do if you aren't feeling wordy!)  Students who had a parent respond here will get a treat at next week's lesson :)  thanks so much!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Piano Lessons 101, still getting organized!

Swap list:  Please save the swap list that I provided you in the email.  I will mention in a blog post or email any available lesson spot openings that can be used for make-up opportunities the following week if I know a student will be out of town, or I've temporarily moved someone to an evening time because of sports or something.  So if you need to move a lesson or do a make-up, check for available openings first, then use the swap list.  Always let me know what you are doing, don't just assume that someone didn't beat you to that spot and scheduled it with me!!!

Available openings for Sept 15 - 19:  Mon 4:30, Wed 5:30, Th 4:30  (Fri 7:00 a.m. is being used the rest of Sept.)

Piano Maestro: This is being a huge success with students!  I watched a webinar on it the other day and learned some things that I didn't know it did....I'm still learning about it too.  Make sure your student plays along with the songs on their real piano, not the keyboard on the ipad (that would just be for use in a car or something.)  I'm using this approach to work on sight reading and timing, if they are having fun at the same time that's just the price we'll have to pay :)  For those who don't have an ipad at home I try to squeeze it into their lesson, but many times there just isn't time - so remember the option of coming early or staying after for 15 minutes.

Music Learning Community:  This is how I'm going to cover music theory this year.  It is done on the computer through games (not the ipad - so everyone should be able to do this).  It costs me $20 a month and if you enter the site with the user name and password I will give each student they are covered under my studio.  I finally got all of my students entered into the program yesterday.  I will write their username and password on the front cover of their binders, and will also email them individually to each of you.  This can be done either at home or at piano lessons if they come early or stay late...there is not time for it to be done during lessons.  The down side to doing it here is that they are in the same room as I will be teaching in... I do have headphones but not sound blocking ones (those are really expensive, maybe some time in the future!)

I made each password an animal(ish) that started with the same letter as their name.  It's very easy to change it if they would prefer something different!

Once you log in click on "Lifetime Musician" on the left side of the screen, that's the area I'm going to be using.  For now have your student enter levels lower than the method books they are currently playing out of.  Each level has 20 lessons and around 4-6 games per lesson.  Each game has "learn", "play", "quiz", & "challenge" options (don't worry about the challenge one).  When they pass the quiz portion they will be rewarded with a green check mark.   It would be nice if everyone could pass off each game for all the lower levels up to the one they are currently in.  Some of the games will be extremely elementary for students more advanced, if they want to skip some of those just have them move on up.  But I want to make sure they know all the elements along the way.  I will assign games in their own level as new concepts are introduced in their method books or I think they need more practice on something. 

Opening: I have one lesson slot open on Monday at 4:30.  If you know someone who might be interested please pass along my name.  Thank you :)


Thursday, August 28, 2014

And The New School Year Begins!!

Look at these great kids!  About 2/3 of my students were able to attend the Group Lesson today.  I learned  3 things:  make sure the air conditioner is on (Holy cow, I thought my hot flashes had gone into overdrive!!!)  Don't have a cable repair guy come and turn off the internet the same day that I need it for one of the activities (that's what plan B is for, right?), and next time either have a helper or divide this into two groups :)

I did not get the kind of pictures I planned to get (refer back to - get a helper!), I almost didn't get these.  Here they are playing a 'Get-To-Know-You' game.

The remnants of painting the stars for their practice chains (I'll explain those in an upcoming blog post.)  I meant to get the kids in this picture, sigh.  If your student didn't make it to the Group Lesson, have them come a little early or stay a little late at their next lesson so they can paint their star. 

We spent some time getting their binders kind of up and going.  If you have a moment to look at them you will see that on the front and back covers are charts that I will be keeping track of things.  Rather than overwhelm everyone I will slowly explain all of these a little at a time in weekly blog posts until I've covered everything.  If you have the little paper inserts that go into the inside divider tabs either send them to lessons next week or do it at home.  The different dividers need to be labeled: 1)  Scales, 2) Words / Tempo, 3) Composition, 4) Music / Lead Sheets, 5) Misc / UTube.

Piano Maestro:  (One of the charts on the front cover of the binders).  This is an ipad program that is lots of fun and really works students on sight-reading and counting correctly.  Two weeks ago it was announced that it will be FREE to verified teachers and their students!  I've gotten myself "verified" and signed up each of my students, you should have gotten an invitation via email (if not, let me know).  If you have an ipad you need to download the program, if you go through the email link it automatically connects you to my account, easy peasy. This is only an ipad program.  Do not feel like you need to buy an ipad if you don't have one.  It's just really cool and I'm making it available to those who can use it.  You will be able to use it at your home and it will be linked to me so I can monitor progress. Each student has a profile under my studio and it keeps a record of their progress in the program.  If you take advantage of the LAB TIME I mentioned in a previous email, where students are welcome to come before and/or stay after their lesson for 15 minutes, they can use my ipad during those times.

Above is a link from Utube of a young girl doing one of the very elementary songs....just kind of gives you an idea of what the app is like.  There are different levels and genres of music (there's a pop section with lots of current popular songs that the teenagers have gone nuts over). 

***Cool, this morning about 1/3 of you had already signed onto Piano Maestro!  Let your students have fun with it and get to know how it works.

Here's to a fun year of piano together!  Miriam