Friday, July 30, 2010

Metronome -Finale -Giveaway!

To celebrate the end of my series of posts on your new best friend---the metronome, Gettin' the Jump on Music is giving away one free metronome!

Contest Entry Rules:
1. Become a follower of the Gettin' the Jump on Music blog (if you're not already)
2. Check out the 4 other posts on metronomes
3. Comment on this post which idea was your favorite-(just comment one time, we'll keep it simple)
4. Comment before midnight on August 3, 2010---that's central time zone :)

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Metronome - Across the Curriculum

As promised, here are some metronome uses - across the curriculum: 

*flashcards - esp. multiplication facts or subtraction/addition facts

Language Arts:
* spelling lists - Just like in the movie "Akeelah and the Bee", try spelling the words to a rhythm.  First nice and slow and then speed it up!
* long lists of words --when I was in school we had to learn lists of helping verbs, linking verbs, prepositions, etc.

Social Studies:
*Memorizing the 50 States and capitals --

Christian studies or Bible:
*Memorizing the books of the Bible
*scripture memorization

These are just some that I've used a metronome with.  What creative way can you think to use a metronome? Comment and share with me!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Metronome - Listen Up!!

The metronome is a fantastic tool to use when conducting listening exercises.  When your musician begins learning terms such as Andante, Moderato and Allegro, try this exercise.

Play some recorded music, any style will work, but I would try to get a variety of styles and genres. As the music is playing, find the steady beat of the piece and pat it along with the music. Keep the beat going as you stop the recording and find a matching tempo on the metronome.  Ask questions like these:
Did the song feel like it had a slow, medium or quick tempo?
Which musical term could we use to describe the speed? 
Did the piece stay steady the whole time?
Was it difficult to find the steady beat?

Then move on to a different genre.  Since metronomes are so mobile, you could even take it along with you in the car and analyze the songs on the radio. We do this quite a bit and have fun....especially to some of the music on Radio Disney!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Metronome - Flashcards

Musical flashcards have been around forever, and are still very helpful...especially for the visual learner.
For my students, at their first lesson we begin their flashcard set.  Each time a new term or symbol is introduced, the students and I write or draw the term/symbol on the front of a 3x5 card and define it on the back.  Then we punch a hole in the top and add it to a D ring.  Its fun for the students and the parents to see how much they are learning in just a few lessons, let alone how much they have learned at the end of the year of lessons.
On to the metronome part.  Take the student's set of flashcards (whether made, or bought). Shuffle them and then set metronome at a slow tempo (slow enough for the student to have some success).  Flip the flashcards to the beat of the metronome and if the student gets the card correct, place it into one pile and if the student is incorrect, place it into a second pile.  When you run out of cards, pick up the second pile and review them again, this time w/o the metronome and giving hints if needed.  If the flashcard set is small enough, and if time allows, shuffle the set and go through it again w/ the metronome to see if the student can remember those once incorrect cards.
Once there is success, raise the tempo of the metronome. Teachers can do this at the lesson or parents can do this at home.  Older students can even go through the flashcards on their own (perfect for those long waits at dr. offices or long car rides).
Why does this work?  It helps the students make decisions more quickly and not "have to think about it".  This comes handy especially when they need to know a symbol or staved note in the middle of a piece of music and don't have the time to sit and figure it out the long way.
So go start flashing!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Metronome ~ Your new best friend!

The metronome. Buy it. Love it. Use it. Its amazing.

The next series of posts will be on some intriguing ways of using a metronome. Most will be for musical purposes, yet a couple will shockingly be out of the realm of music.

The first question is, do you know what a metronome is?  It is a gadget (most of the time electronic) that keeps a steady beat at a myriad of speed possiblities. Some are fancier thn others, with choices of time signature, emphasized downbeat and mute and earbud options.  Amazingly, I have one of these fancy shmancy ones and it was under $25.

Now onto a very basic musical way of using the metronome.
When learning a new piece of music, it is important to encourage confidence in your young musician.  This is achieved by delaying the use of the metronome until a level of comfort is reached with the piece.  Have your musician play through the piece without huge emphasis on beat...yet. After a decent level of comfort is reached (meaning they know the basics of the song and the general idea of fingering and note order). THEN introduce the metronome. 
Set it at a slower speed (maybe as low as 60bpm--beats per minute).  Encourage your child to pat the rhythm to the song on his lap. See post "The Five Senses--Touch" for further explanation of patting. After successfully patting out the song without huge mistakes, you can do one of two things. 1. step up the bpm and have him pat the song on his lap again. Repeat until the tempo--speed, is up to performance tempo.  2. have him now play the piece on the keyboard at the slower speed. Raise the tempo and follow the steps-pat, play; repeat until playing at performance tempo.
If you and your musician are struggling to find the appropriate tempo/bpm for both practice and performance, ask your musician's teacher or look for a recording of it online and time it.
 *Remember, 60 bpm is equal to 60 seconds, so when you're figuring it out, just watch the second hand of your watch.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Five Senses - Seeing

Studies have shown that the more of the five senses (see, hear, touch, taste, smell) used during learning, the more likely the knowledge will be retained. As a music teacher, it is my goal to use as many of these senses as possible in a weekly lesson.

So for this post and the next 4 posts, I'll go through the senses and give some ideas on how to incorporate them into your musician's practice time or lesson time. (Make sure you check back each day and especially on the taste and smell posts---they're very interesting!)

Sense #1-Seeing

Next time you have a minute, pull out a piano lesson book (or other instrument), open it up and look at the songs. Start at the top of the page and point out and read every word written on the page--from the title of the song or unit at the top, to the last little word at the bottom of the page. Each one of these words are printed there to help your musician. Words at the top, usually describe what is going to be played in the song, the mood of the song, speed or tempo, as well as review the main point of the lesson which is sure to be used often in the song. The words written in the music itself describe what is going on at that time and give instruction on what to do or what to change immediately. The words at the end of the song or at the bottom of the page refer back to the lesson "meat" itself, and many times issue a challenge based on the lesson, the song and the upcoming application of that lesson.

Highlighters are great tools to use to make important instructions stand out!

The Five Senses - Hearing

Sense #2--Hearing

A musician with a loss of hearing---no wonder Beethoven went mad! Hearing/listening and music go hand in hand.
Listening to music though, really listening is very important to the budding musician. Encourage your child to listen to not only what he is playing, but how it sounds! If you have some kind of recording device, record his practice and then have him listen to it and describe what he hears. Does he think his beat is steady? Can he tell what song he is playing? If he sings while he plays, ask him if he thinks his pitch matches what he is playing. If you are really bold, record yourself singing along with his playing and ask him if your pitch matches his playing.

A listening challenge to the parents would be for you to truly listen to your child's playing. Close your eyes, and enjoy listening to their progress!

The Five Senses -Touch

Sense #3--Touch

Pianists touch the keyboard, touch the music to turn the page, touch the pedals, etc. So the sense of touch isn't surprising. But I have a couple ideas on making it more helpful.

When your young musician gets frustrated on a new song, concentrate on the sense of touch. Move away from the piano to the kitchen table or counter. Have the student pat the song, using left hand to pat the left hand rhythm and the right hand to pat the right hand rhythm; separately and then together. Focus the attention on what the hands will do (not individual fingers yet) and how they work together. Once the student feels confident in working the hands correctly then move back to the piano and begin playing at a slower tempo to integrate the individual fingers.

Sometimes this approach gives the confidence to move forward!

The Five Senses--Taste

Sense #4 Taste

Stop licking the piano keys!
No, order to use the sense "taste" in music, it does not mean literally tasting the piano keys or the music on the stand.
The sense of taste uses mainly the tongue, but the lips, hard and soft palates, teeth and gums are all part of the big picture. We use these same parts every time we talk and sing. I strongly encourage young pianists to sing or speak while they are playing. Some options would be to sing the words to the song, speak the words to the song (especially if they are self-conscious about their singing voice), speak the counts "1-2-3-4", speak the rhythm "quarter note, half note, whole note", or the letter names of the notes (if its a simple melody).
This also aids in matching pitch and reinforcing the melody of the song. So sing away!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Five Senses --Smell, (seriously?)

Let's do a quick review of the last 4 posts:

You see the music on the page & see the notes on the piano-
You hear the notes being played and how they blend together -
You touch the keys and hands memorize shape for reaching different intervals-
You taste- you sing or speak the rhythms, words, counts, etc. -

You smell? This is a good one.

The other day at the commissary I smelled a mixture of cigarette smoke, Aqua net hair spray and Avon perfume. Now, to the average passerby that may not have been the most pleasant smelling experience, but to me it was heaven. My eyes started tearing up and memories of my grandmother "Granny" came flooding back to me even though she passed away 23 years prior.

Technically the musician does not "smell" music. But ask anyone who has taken lessons from someone w/ smelly breath or a smelly studio and I can guarantee you they remember that!
If there is a consistently pleasant smell around the piano or practice area, that smell will become part of the pleasant music/piano experience for the learner.

Voila--all 5 senses. So the biggest challenge is, next practice or lesson time, add a wonderful scent, take a breath mint, and make the musical experience as well-rounded as possible.

Hand Jive

My sister and I spent countless hours playing hand clapping games in the car during long road trips. One of our favorites began, "See, see my playmate, come out and play with me...." Another one was, "Count down, when Billy was one, he learned to suck his thumb...". Over and over we would play those games, until one of our parents would finally lose it and tell us to knock it off! Every time we played one of the games, we were practicing keeping a steady beat, clapping on the beat, sub-dividing the beats on multiple syllable words, crossing the mid-line of the body, and matching our partner in movement too.

So many educational foundations wrapped up in a little hand game....gotta love it!

Click here to find a huge list of popular hand games!
Hand Clapping Games

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Police Siren

Can you picture the screech and whirr of a police car siren?

One vocalise (warm-up exercise) that I use with my voice students is called a portamento. (It is defined as: a smooth or uninterrupted glide from one tone to another.)

I use it in a pitch circle which means we don't just "slide" down or just up, we make the whole circle. It sounds very much like a siren. This relaxed sliding is a great way to warm up the vocal chords, but it also can be used in other ways. Vocal range can be widened and muscle control can be strengthened, especially at vulnerable register switchover spots!

So next time the kids are playing cops and robbers, join in w/ them and see how high or how low the sirens can go!!

Drop a Bomb on Me!

If you were asked to make a sound similar to a bomb dropping and then exploding, what would it sound like?

Would it be a descending slide of notes followed by a KABOOM!

This descending chromatic scale is a great way to wake up the voice. It is also alot of fun to do and most likely will bring a smile to you or your child's face.

Start the "bomb drop" at different pitches and have your child try to match you, then....BOMBS AWAY! The explosions at the end are sometimes the best part!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh My!!

When was the last time you and your children watched The Wizard of Oz? In the movie, there is a famous line when Dorothy, the Tinman, and the Scarecrow take a fearful walk through the forest whispering, "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!" Then they repeat it, a little louder, then repeat it yet again even louder!

Being silly with your child and imitating this part of the movie, is a wonderful way of introducing piano (soft), crescendo (growing louder), and forte (loud). Most kids have some level of understanding of loud and soft, but it is the crescendo--the growing louder-- that can be a challenge. It requires control and the grasping of this concept makes crescendo and decrescendo in music lessons much easier to understanding and perform.

Enjoy the movie and entertainment!

*Let me know if you try this tip and how it worked for you!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eenie, Meenie, Minee, Mo...

...catch a tiger by his toe. If he hollers, let him go! Eenie, meenie, minee, mo.

This rhyme came about in the 1800's and has had many different variations. It is a great way for kids to resolve conflict, take turns, etc. It is even better at sneaking in rhythm work! It uses a 4/4 beat, sub-divided beats, patterened rhythms and emphasizes down beats. Sing-say it with your kids at normal speed, then to be silly try it at a slower pace or faster pace.

Have fun!