I’m excited to announce today that my studio has taken on some additional instructors and we are now able to offer instruction in the following instruments: guitar, banjo, tuba, trombone, and trumpet. We also offer accompanying services for vocalists or instrumentalists.
Here’s some summer-themed practice charts to keep your students interested in keeping track of their practice time. Accountability in lessons is a must for me, so my students have an assigned practice goal, a practice chart to track their practice, and, in my studio, they get a sticker by their name on a big chart if they’ve met their goal (where everyone else can see). Anyway, here are the two I’ve recently made to share. To download the full document, follow this link.
This is a follow-up to some posts I made a few years ago that I’ve been meaning to do for ages. Sorry it took me so long!
Anyway, I had made a few board games a couple of years ago and shared them on this blog here and here. And after someone had commented requesting more of these, I’d been meaning to make more but had never gotten around to it. Finally, I sat down to make one and realized my delay had a fitting punishment: I no longer could remember how’d I’d made the original ones (using Microsoft Word, pretty sure). So, after a little battle with the computer, I decided to just hand draw a new board game. So this one printable was truly a labor of love (and perhaps a higher-than-average propensity for crafting). I hope you and your students enjoy it.
Here’s a preview of the game. It’s two 8×11″ pages that you put together. I recommend printing on card stock and laminating. To download, go here.
To play, you’ll need to make a die with only C, D, and E on it. I made a quick template for one, which I’ll share here, but you could just as easily use a regular die and say 1 = C, 2 = D, etc. (Preview the template as an image file here below).
I hope you enjoy. Please let me know if you use it and how it goes!
Mastering any physical skill takes practice. Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence. But what does practice actually do to make us better at things? Annie Bosler and Don Greene explain how practice affects the inner workings of our brains.
This week, I thought we could revisit an old post that I think bears repeating. I copied and pasted it entirely here, but the link to the original post is here.
One of the things that teachers might forget is that a beginning music student needs to learn how to practice – a process that takes some many years. When the student is young and under a parent’s care, help from a parent is vital in helping the student in that process. Unless the student’s parents took lessons themselves, parents need a little help helping their student. And even parents who took as children might need a refresher. So here’s a easy guide that you can point your parents to.
1. Practice area should be free from outside distractions.
Make sure the piano is in an area of the house that is free from distraction, at least while the student is practicing. TVs and radios should not be audible.
2. Take away the tech.
Take away their smartphone, their tablet, their laptop, and any other devices that might distract them while practicing unless the teacher instructs otherwise. The constant texting, etc. breaks concentration and therefore makes practice less constructive. To that end, buy a real metronome rather than letting them use an app, at least until they are mature enough to not allow the phone to be a distraction (which may not occur until college with some). Metronomes vary in the way their controls work, so it’s a good idea to bring your student’s metronome to lessons until he or she understands how to use it.
3. Schedule practice appointments.
Schedule practicing in your student’s daily routine. Making appointments in their calendar is the best way to insure that practice becomes a habit. For example, I practice every night between 9 and 10pm. Make it part of their routine.
4. Practicing should be done regularly.
No fewer than 4 times per week. Preferably every day, including lesson days. Practice after a lesson reinforces what was learned during that lesson.
5. Act as a coach for your student while she learns to practice.
This may take several practice sessions and may require you to sporadically check in on her practicing. As much as a teacher may try to tell them exactly how to practice, young students routinely simply play the piece from beginning to end over and over again which is a highly ineffective method of practice. They also tend to take shortcuts. If you have questions about how the student should practice, make sure you communicate with the teacher – ask if you can sit through a lesson or come in for a chat during the last 5-10 minutes of the lesson. (Don’t try to chat after the scheduled time is over – the teacher likely has another student or has a short break which he or she needs).
6. Check your student’s work to make sure they’ve completed it.
Make sure your student completes ALL of their assignment each week. Students often fail to refer to their written assignments and come in without having completed all the required tasks. This is a waste of time and your investment in lessons. Verify that she has indeed practiced everything on the list and done all written work. Students especially love to neglect their music theory homework.
7. Enforce practice time goals set by your teacher.
Make sure you know how much your student is expected to practice weekly and you make sure that the student does it. If the student is not practicing enough, he or she is wasting your investment and will not progress very quickly. If the teacher assigns the student to practice a total of 60 minutes during the week, make sure that 60 minutes are completed. Of course, be gentle in enforcing these goals. You may have to “trick” younger students into practicing through various methods of encouragement.
8. Don’t allow students to cram practice.
If 60 minutes of practice are assigned, the student should not do all of it the night before. An ideal schedule, assuming the lesson is on Monday, would be to practice 15 minutes on 4 different nights – T, W, F, Sunday – for example. Or don’t divde the time up exactly evenly and practice T, W, Th, F, S, Sun. Frequent repetition after periods of rest is vital to allow the material to “sink in.”
9. Don’t make practice or participation in lessons optional.
Once you have committed to lessons, stick with it. There will certainly be times when your student wants to quit from fatigue or lack of interest or because he or she wants to pursue something else. Make sure to decide before they start that you will give it 3-5 years before you allow them to quit. So many adults seek me out for lessons who didn’t take it seriously as children – I hear over and over again that “I only wish my parents had forced me to stick with it.” Don’t let that be your child. Worst case scenario, let your student take a few weeks off in lieu of quitting.
10. Reinforce that learning their instrument is important.
Praise the student for accomplishing goals, such as memorizing a piece or learning a new scale. Take time to listen to them play when they want to show you something and act really enthusiastic. Also, giving little rewards for completing practice assignments doesn’t hurt either (ex) ice cream.
NEW BONUS TIP: If you commit to participating in a recital, competition, or festival, please make that a priority over other events that occur more often in your child’s life. For example, if they have to miss a swim meet once to participate in a competition that occurs once per year, make sure the student feels supported in skipping the swim meet and that it is a worthwhile endeavor.
I created this particular sheet music to introduce playing a simple and familiar piece requested by one of my young students. It uses notes (without the staff) and quarter and half notes. It is also color coded to aid in the student in quickly seeing which note is to be played. I haven’t decided if that was a bad call on my part, but I’m interested to know what any of you think. I suppose time will tell.
If you use it for your students, please provide comments below on how it went!
As I’ve taken on more younger students in my studio, I’ve been learning a whole lot about teaching the young beginner. Here’s some of what I’ve learned lately. It might be obvious to many of you, but for those that don’t accept young students, it might encourage you to give it a try.
Definitely don’t rely on the materials in any one or (several) method books to be enough to reinforce concepts or to be engaging enough to introduce them. I’ve used Bastien, Faber, and Alfred’s young beginner series extensively, but I am constantly supplementing them with worksheets I make myself or that I find online.
Always have a back-up plan in case your tiny tot comes to lessons that day and has forgotten or “forgotten” everything they’ve learned so far. The tiny can be unpredictable this way. This usually will mean teaching the same concept with a different game, activity, and/or worksheet.
Allow tiny tot to improvise EVERY lesson, even if he or she is not yet ready to do most things on the piano.
Structure to lessons. Make sure your lessons are predictably structured so that the child learns how lessons will work. Do be reactive entirely to the child’s mood. My new plan for structure will go something like this:
Review Finger Numbers and RH and LH
Review last material
Introduce new concept
Apply new concept thru a game.
Review, review, review. Just when you think they’ve nailed a concept, the child will have it completely upside down and will need to re-learn.
Hide your dog or other cute and distracting pet. I have a shih tzu named Petunia who mostly just lies around while I teach, which is normally fine, but the younger students get incredibly distracted wanting to pet her and play with her.
Beta-test any games you create for your students. It is not ideal to figure out that you’ve forgotten a key piece of the game or made a rule that doesn’t make sense when you are in the middle of playing with a young child. Play the game before you try it in the lesson with an at-least-semi-willing adult.
Remember, some days tiny tots will have bad moods, not feel like cooperating, or just be in the mood to do the opposite of what they are supposed to do. On those days, take deep breaths and do the best you can!
Well, I survived hosting my first Groupmuse concert here in New Orleans and, I must say, it was an overall wonderful experience.
If you haven’t read about Groupmuse before, see my post to learn a little about it. Groupmuse is a platform that connects people who wish to host classical music recitals in their home (or office) with performers and concertgoers. Now that it is in New Orleans, I’ve attended two Groupmuse events, one held by the President of the New Orleans Opera and the one I hosted myself.
So far, I’ve had a blast both as an attendee and as a host. At the first Groupmuse I attended, the concert was given by a clarinetist, bassoonist, and pianist. At my Groupmuse, I hosted a violinist, Eva Liebhaber, and a cellist, Rachel Hseih. Both musicians were members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and drew audience members therefrom.
Not to downplay the truly lovely performances I’ve so far seen, I wanted to talk about how much Groupmuse appears to be creating a vibrant community of classical musicians and lovers. At my Groupmuse, I met many LPO members, interested future hosts, local composers, singers, conductors, avid fans, and all around interesting and good people. As a pianist, which can often be isolating, it was really lovely to spend time talking with other musicians of different disciplines. We even spoke of collaboration in the future!
I also appreciate the community Groupmuse fosters by providing more intimate, relaxed, classical concerts in a salon-like atmosphere. New Orleans is not a city with a huge chamber music scene (although there are Birdfoot Festival and Friends of Music), and this makes that music more available to New Orleans concertgoers who have an especial interest in this music. Lastly, I love that Groupmuse will provide a new outlet for classical musicians to perform in this city. In a city with a million jazz clubs and blues dive bars, it can be hard to participate in the vibrant musical culture as a classical musician because there just aren’t as many less-formal environments in which to perform as there are with other genres. I think the accessibility of these concerts will encourage and even drive more classical musicians to share their solo or chamber works and make the community that much better.
With that said, it’s time to schedule my next hosting event!
This worksheet is pretty simple. It is designed for the student who has learned how to recognize and draw the following key signatures: C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, and E Major. Additionally, it is designed for a student that has some experience playing and recognizing basic chord progressions; I’ve included two in this sheet and asked the student to identify the key and the chord (by roman numeral). The chord progressions are ii-V-I (from Jazz Theory book by Levine) and IV-V-I.
Lest students find this worksheet with it’s key online, I’m going to share only by request. Comment below, comment on my Facebook page, or email me and I will gladly send the answer key your way.