Friday, September 28, 2012

Flashcard Frenzy

Flashcard work is so important in regular lessons. Students are often successful at naming a note, but fail to successfully negotiate this at the piano- and can really melt down if the metronome is ticking away. There are lots of ways to drill flashcards, and I thought I'd share some of the ways I do it here.

Flashcard Frenzy Cards are a set of 24 cards that I made for flashcard drills at and away from the piano. I use mnemonics here, so a couple of my cards included word-drills. (Like All Cows Eat Grass or FACE).

Flashcard Frenzy Cards PDF

Click here for instructions to play Flashcard Bowling.

(Apologies! My flashcards don't line up perfectly....I'm still new at this.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scale Shaker Game

 I've been trying to find a game to play with more advanced students and made this one up the other day. (In this photo, you can either check mark the completed intervals or write in the pitch.)

Click here for the PDF file.

Scale Shaker Game

Here's how it works:

The idea is just like Yahtzee.
I used "Pounce" cards that have the names of keys (both major and minor) or just the key signature itself.
I used foam squares for the dice. One die for each pitch ABCDEFG.
Marked this way: A, A,  A#, A-flat,  A-double sharp, A-double flat

Students can play alone or in teams.

  • Each player or team is dealt 3 cards with a key or key signature.
  • The name of the 3 keys is then written in ALL the purple boxes. 
  • Each player in turn shakes the dice in the cup onto the table. (1 shake per turn)*
  • Each usable pitch shown on the dice is written in all other applicable squares. 

*Double Sharps or flats-
In major/minor play, only double sharps or flats can be re-shaken once. Any unusable pitches are forfeit. If they come up with double sharps or flats on the second role they are forfeit.

However, if you are including harmonic or melodic minors in the game,  you can include the use of the double sharps and flats and allow a re-shake of ALL unusable pitches, just like in Yahtzee.

  • The first one to complete the entire sheet, wins. 

You can effectively put anything you want on the sheet, but I kept it to a minimum for the sake of time. I like the games to be quick and not take up too much lesson time. This one takes about 10 minutes- less is the students really know their keys and if they are in teams.

At this level, you could add a spot for the Tonic, Dominant, and Leading tone, rather than 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, and 5ths. Or have the student spell out dominant seventh chords....the sky's the limit!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Halloween already?

I found some cute halloween themed erasers at Michael's Crafts and just couldn't resist.....

We'll use these in October on the new silent keyboard to review note names- among other things.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Markerboard Art

Happy Fall Y'all

Its fall and my students are preparing for several events right now; the Halloween Party, Fall at the Mall, and the Christmas Concert (along with our Christmas CD project). This week in the waiting room, students were also busy creating some fantastic "markerboard art" with an Autumn/Music theme using window-cling leaves. Pianists are so creative!

In the meantime, I also created an Autumn-theme as students arrive for their lessons.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

D.I.Y. Silent Keyboard

Last weekend I finally had the time to make a keyboard for my students that we could use at the table during theory instruction. Students can work on identifying flashcards on this keyboard, they can spell scales, I can illustrate dominant and major 7th chords...the list goes on and on. They can even work on scale fingering. 

But I can't take credit for this keyboard idea. Joy at Color In My Piano, who has a fabulous blog, posted this D.I.Y. keyboard back in 2010.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What's In My Cupboard? 4

What's in my cupboard?

In my studio, I have a plentiful supply of recordings that are available to my students. They borrow these CD's just like they borrow from the library. I keep the CD's organized by category and within large categories like classical and rock, they are in alphabetical order by composer and artist/group name for easy access. 

I have also created a special collection of over 40  "Listening CD's" for my Listening Award. I create a play list on my itunes using music I already own and burn the CD's myself. Then I make my own colorful labels to make them a bit more interesting to look at. I choose between 3 and  5 pieces per CD but do not include a play list. This is because I want them to listen without being influenced by the composer or title. (Many of the CD's are compilation discs with various composers and pieces). The students take them home to listen. They choose their favorite track and complete the "Listening Challenge" worksheet seen below created by Jennifer Fink -


Click here for the worksheet.

The following week, we talk about what the favorite was and I reveal the composer and title. The worksheets are wonderful because not only is there a record of the artwork they've created, but when inserted into their notebooks, it becomes a listening log!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What's In My Cupboard? 3

What's in my cupboard?
Back-To-School stickers for September and Fall Leaves for October....until Halloween, that is!

I love stickers. I really only use them with my elementary school-age students. 
When I consider a song completed, I hand them the "box-of-the-month" and they choose a sticker to put on the page. 

Here's how I keep them organized....

I keep them in this "photo" box that I found at Michael's Crafts. Each little box hold the stickers in their category.....

......and the whole big box fits nicely in my cupboard!
Voila! No more stacked up tupperware containers!

Friday, September 14, 2012

What's In My Cupboard? 2

What's in my cupboard?

Its funny, but I go into the stores and utter the same complaints everyone else does....."are you kidding? School JUST started and Halloween stuff is out ALREADY??"

(But I'll walk into Music & Arts in August and ask, "Where's all the Halloween music"?
....go figure.)

Ok, so its never too early. I give my kids their Halloween songs in late September to give them a few weeks to work on them. Right now I'm figuring out who gets which song. 

I have a wonderful collection of Halloween songs. And then I always find more great Halloween songs inside lesson books and other non-Halloween material. 
 Rummaging through piles of books every year (including lesson books and everywhere else I find creepy music) is time consuming. 

So now I gather them all into one place.

I photocopy every single song as I find them throughout the year and put them into Halloween Notebooks. I have 3 notebooks arranged by (very) basically 3 levels; A for Beginner level pieces, B for Advancing Beginner's pieces, and for Intermediate/Advanced pieces.

Inside the notebook, I put alphabet dividers and insert the songs by title.

Then, on an excel spreadsheet, I list every song by title, composer, and A, B, or C.

 Here, I had them highlighted by level, but with the spreadsheet, separating the lists by level for each binder is a breeze. But its still nice to have a "master list".

So now when we pick Halloween party songs (we call choosing recital songs "going shopping" around here), I only need to grab one notebook for that student's level and we can quickly pick what they want to play!

Monday, September 10, 2012

What's In My Cupboard? 1

I have lots of bookcases in my studio. Last spring I attached cupboard doors to the lower shelves so I could hide all the piles of stuff I had behind closed doors. I've seen posts on beauty sites that do a "What's in my purse?" episode. So the person empties their purse contents and we can all see the beauty products they use. Anyway, here is the music teacher's version of that.....

What's in my cupboard?

Thanks to all the teachers out there who create absolutely amazing games and share them with teachers like me who aren't so creative or technical, I have accumulated over 60 games that I use with my students. In February, we have "Game Week" here. This is where we do nothing but play those games during their lesson. But I don't save the games just for Game Week, I used them ALL THE TIME! Today, in fact, I have a new beginning coming who has been working on his piano letters, so we are going to play the Fly Swatter game created by Susan Paradis.

Thanks Susan!!!

How do I find this game in my cupboard? Like this-

My husband installed 2 kitchen curtain rods in the cupboard and I placed each and every game in a clear Ziploc. This way I can easily see each game and rummage through them like looking for a shirt in my closet. This system cost around $40. I bought everything at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Adjustable curtain rods $10 each, rings with clips $4.00 for a package of 14 (I bought 5 packages). I went through a couple of boxes of Ziploc bags. I couldn't find a way to install the curtain rods, so he just made me a couple of wood blocks and drilled holes for the rods. 

Now I can find a game on the spot when the student comes in a asks, "Can we play a game today???"  Here is a student favorite-- you can see how easy it is to find the games.

Thanks again, Susan!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Some New Stuff For Fall

 I mentioned goals in an earlier post. Here is the list so far. (Found this giant dry erase poster at Bed, Bath & Beyond) I am so excited to see that my students are enthusiastic about setting goals- this really is the key to motivation.

This Shakespeare quote is one of my favs from one of my favorite comedies and I found this at Michael's Crafts last spring. Its a permanent part of the studio now.

Economy? Tuition? School year commitment? Practice requirements? I don't know why, but not a lot of new students so far this fall. But I do know that Quintin and Julia are both awesome students with great parental support. They have just begun their first steps to a lifetime of music!

 Just some welcome back fun! 
Incidentally, I can't say I'd recommend these letters. They don't stick very well. If you don't tape each one to the wall they just fall all over the place:(

The Fall Book Bash Card isn't mine, this was the fabulous creation of Wendy at 

Wendy has some very creative students. When I have asked my student to create, I get a lot of blank stares. I LOVE the card and wanted to do this to get some of my students through their current lesson book, so I made some "creativity cards" to help get them started. Once they learn the assigned piece, they can pick a card and do what the card says. When they complete the card's instructions, I'll punch a hole in the Fall Book Bash Card. Their reward once the whole card is hole-punched is a student choice piece to work on.

Usually my student choice month is February, but my Fall Book Bash students get to have theirs early!

You know, I have to say that its the generosity of teachers like Wendy that allow me to offer these fun programs (like the Fall Book Bash) to my students. Here's a shout out to them! Thanks for all you do. You really make a difference!