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.
Check out this cool video from TED-Ed that uses a circle to visually represent rhythms:
A student's drawing inspired by Haydn's Farewell Symphony. Notice the empty chairs and musicians walking away!
Tomorrow is Halloween! So, when a student today asked if she could learn a Halloween piece, there really wasn't time to learn a whole new piece. Luckily, I'd read this blog post by Diane Hidy last year! I suggested to my student that we could try taking a piece she already knew and make it more Halloween-y instead. The piece was A Prairie Dog Companion from Piano Safari Level 2.
We changed the key to G minor and then she decided it would sound better in a lower register. She marked the new notes (B flats) with pumpkin stickers :-)
These Piano Safari Level 3 Sightreading and Rhythm cards just arrived in the mail today. Very excited to try them out with my students!
One of my favorite projects from the last year. I created a homemade velcro staff to help young students explore the grand staff in many different ways. Here's an example of how we used colored dots to differentiate the staves, as well as lines and spaces.
Thoughts on Piano Teaching
Lauren Sonder is a piano teacher in Norman, OK.
She believes in providing a well rounded musical education that emphasizes training the ear, learning music in a variety of styles, and being creatively engaged at the piano.