Tried something new last weekend! A Skype masterclass with a teacher from New York, Benjamin Steinhardt. It went well and Benjamin was so great to work with. Here's a photo of him working with all three students together on a quick technical exercise:
A barcarole is a Venetian boat song, usually in 6/8 meter. Here is a lovely Barcarole by living composer David Duke (b. 1950):
A lot of skills in a simple piece: playing from a lead sheet (from Forrest Kinney's Chord Play), playing legato in the right hand with non-legato chords in the left hand, shaping long phrases, playing dotted rhythms, bringing out the melody...
The student composition below was inspired by a piece called Starry Night from 70 Keyboard Adventures of the Little Monster (Volume 2). The dark notes are fixed pitches, the stars indefinite pitches. The student called it, "Star Bright. "
This student's composition, an assignment from his book Tales of a Musical Journey by Irina Gorin, had some mixed meter patterns and I thought it would be cool to harmonize it. He really enjoyed the sound and called it, "The Magical Forest."
I've started assigning my intermediate level students "teach yourself" pieces (also known as YOYO or "you're on your own" pieces). I usually play the piece once and work through a brief score study with them. Then they work on it at home and bring it back as close to performance level as they can the next week. We generally work on it for another week or two and then move on to the next piece. My student Willow has been learning pieces by Elissa Milne recently. They're really fun. This is Salt and Pepper from Very Easy Little Peppers.
I made these rhythm dominoes yesterday from blank wooden tiles. Kids loves games and I love their excitement when they hear we're going to play a game! But sometimes games are rather abstract. For example, a traditional dominoes game will help them review equivalencies, but doesn't involve any music making. So, a variation is to lay the tiles out on the music stand. Have the student sort the rhythms into groups (four beats, three beats, two beats, one beat). Then play (or speak or clap) the complete rhythm created for each group (all in a line). Do they like the rhythm? Do they want to rearrange or remove tiles? How about putting the long note at the end to make it sound final?
This activity still reviews equivalencies but also engages the student musically and creatively.
Unfortunately, the blank wooden tiles I originally purchased have been out of stock for quite a while, however, I have seen a similar product on Etsy.
Thoughts on Piano Teaching
Lauren Sonder is a piano teacher in Norman, OK.
She loves to apply creative teaching techniques to help students get the most out of their lessons.