Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Knock, Knock!

Who's there?
A great rhythm idea that doubles as a family dinner game!

Next time you are with your kids at a restaurant and find yourselves in the longest 10-15 minutes ever, (which as we all know is the 10-15 minutes between ordering the food and finally having it served) try this idea.  Knock on the table in simple patterns back and forth. The younger the kids, the simpler the patterns.  Likewise, the older the kids, the more difficult patterns. Perfection is not the goal, having fun is!

Noise alert: if the knocking is too loud, try just patting on the table top, or taking the rolled up napkin and use as a drumstick to tap the rhythm on the table.

Hopefully this helps your family survive the next "longest 10-15 minutes ever"! Happy Knocking!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Playing ahead in lesson books: When is it ok?

There have been so many times when my students (including my own children) have asked if they can play ahead in the lesson books. "I can play them, mom, I know I can" or, "they're so easy, can I play through the end of the book".  In fact, I heard that so much that I had to develop some "rules" about playing ahead. 

> If you look ahead in the book, you may only play through a song once or twice.  This is so they don't form a habit of playing it their way. 

> When we get to a song/lesson that you have played through once or twice, you have to be willing to listen to my explanation of the song/lesson AND understand that you might have played it incorrectly on your own.  I will help you play it correctly.

If a student keeps asking to look ahead, it might be a sign that the practice load is not enough to challenge them during the week.  This is a great time to bring in supplemental music.  Some of my favorite supplements are Dozen A Day--which is a great finger exercise book, and also the Piano Adventures Popular and Performance books that match the level the student is at.

Keeping students challenged but not overwhelmed is a delicate balance, but one that brings about great accomplishments!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Start Preparing Your Young Pianist For Christmas

I know you must be thinking...Christmas???  Its way too early for Christmas music!  But trust me, now is the time to begin purchasing, learning and practicing the Christmas music so that your musician can have the pieces mastered and possibly memorized before the Christmas season.
Here are just a few venues that your young musician can share their Christmas piano pieces:
Grandparent's Visits
School Concert
Piano Recital
Community Concert

If your teacher uses Faber's Piano Adventure series, then there are Christmas books in each level. While there is endless amounts of other Christmas piano music, these books are designed for your student's current level of performance.  This helps encourage more success! Can you think of a better Christmas gift than success?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Home Schooling....kind of

I'm often asked if I homeschool or not...the answer to that is two-fold. First, no because I send my kids to public school.  Second, yes because I homeschool them in piano.

When I started teaching my oldest piano, he was in first grade. Since he was the only one I was teaching at that moment, I taught him in the classic style...meaning a 30 minute lesson with us both sitting at the piano.  That went ok, but not spectacular.  But at that time, I was still a fairly new teacher, new mother and idealistic in my plans for teaching my child piano....not realistic.  Sadly there were many lessons that ended up w/ crying, screaming and gnashing of teeth!  So I actually took a hiatus from teaching him (its sad to think that  I actually thought it was my son that was the problem---nope--It was me!)  When I started teaching him again, I also began teaching my daughter so at this time, Nathan was in 3rd grade and Mandy was in 1st. Once again, I tried the classic method, and it went better.  (Probably because he was older, she was a gem to teach and I had some more piano teaching under my belt!)
By the time I was teaching 3 kids piano, I realized I didn't have an hour and a half slot of time available to sit and teach the kids---especially because I was teaching 25 other kids every week! So I came up with this method that has worked very well for us over the last year and I think it will continue to be successful now that I'm teaching all 4.

Here's the method. I teach for no more than 5 minutes at a time.   Each time the kids go to the piano, mostly on their own accord, I go to them and go over one page or one small concept at a time.  I never give more than 2 songs to work on at a time. I also treat each of their practices as a mini-lesson--meaning that I listen extra carefully while they practice and correct their form, hand position, incorrect notes, rhythm mistakes, etc while they are practicing.  (I will say that this is a time when it really helps that I know the songs as well as I do, I can be in the kitchen listening and still be able to tell them what they need to fix! :) 
I have noticed that since adopting this method, the kids are moving through the books very quickly and are very encouraged to go further! That is a wonderful thing to experience. :)

Now, will this method work for you and your gaggle of kids? Maybe, maybe not.  But I hope it encourages you to think outside the "box" of the 30 minute lesson.  If you have an idea, share it with me!  If you have a question, please ask!