Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘piano methods’

Freebie Friday LOGOAbout six months ago I began FREEBIE FRIDAY over at PianoTeacherPress.com  Every Friday I offer a free excerpt from one of my Piano Teacher Press products.  I was recently looking over the wide variety of products that I’ve given away and I thought it should be something more widely known to my loyal readers and your piano teaching friends.

Not only do I give away a FREE excerpt each week but I provide a short commentary on the selection explaining how it can benefit a student in your studio.  To find out what we’re offering this week please click [here] on our FREEBIE FRIDAY LINK.

Here’s a smattering of what you have been missing by not being part of our FREEBIE FRIDAY GIVEAWAY!!

BK1A_00A OUTCOVER (COLOR)If you have difficulty getting the very young preschool student to read music KEYBOARD KIDS reading method may be your answer.  Our reading method introduces one music symbol at a time in a leisurely paced manner where young students are never overwhelmed.  Suzuki teachers have found KEYBOARD KIDS as a great supplement to introduce their young students into reading music notation.  I have used it for a over quarter century and it has been a great success.  One week I offered The Cool Ghoul as a FREEBIE FRIDAY GIVEAWAY.

SAMPLE - The Cool GhoulEach symbol on this page was introduced individually before The Cool Ghoul appears in their book.  … the quarter note (walk note), the rest, the bar line, the staff line, the treble and bass clef, the time signature (only the top number is given at this stage of learning), the double bar; even the fingering and the stem direction of the notes were introduced as in individual concept.

Reading is introduced to students as STEPS and SKIPS and students are given assignment pages to cement this critical reading concept into the students thinking.  This is introduced from the very beginning.  Students are taught to underC000-COLORIZED My Very First Theory Book (Cover)stand notation where reading becomes a natural process.

To help students understand STEPS and SKIPS we have My Very First Theory Book.  This book gives students exercises to help students think in steps and skips.  One FREEBIE FRIDAY I offered a page that helps student think in steps; not through notation, but through the alphabet.FF - SAMPLE The Next Letter

NOTICE:  This page gives the student the musical alphabet where “A” follows “G”.  After students gain mental facility in learning to think ahead one (musical) alphabet letter; students are given pages to help them think one step backwards.  The same exercises are repeated for skips.

These little exercise is a very good one to help students in doing simple thought exercises in basic reasoning and is one of the ways where understanding music is very beneficial for mental development.

This book provides a very good supplemental book to the KEYBOARD KIDS series of reading books.

Another week I also used The Cool Ghoul as my Freebie Friday Giveaway but this time as part of an exercise designed to build a students rhythmic skills.  This exercise is found in our Discovery Piano System – THEORY Book 1.00-FC THEORY_Middle C - COLOR Book 1  I will speak in more detail about The Discovery Piano System in a subsequent blog about our Freebie Friday program.  In THEORY Book 1 there is a section of nearly a dozen pieces that have student and teacher play in ensemble.  One player is the pianist and the other provides a rhythmic background played on a common rhythm instrument.FF - SAMPLE The COOL Ghoul

In this example the rhythm player must play on those beats where the piano player rests, almost always on beat 2.  On the first exercises of this rhythm section of THEORY Book 1 the rhythm part emphasizes the easier skill of playing on the downbeat (beat 1).  This exercises begins to develop the skill of having the student learn to feel an offbeat.  Even though the exercises are designed around simple concepts they are designed in a progressive manner where success is most easily achieved.  Students discover musical concepts in an almost seamless stream of little steps.

As I hope you can see our FREEBIE FRIDAY Giveaways not only give you free music but they give you pedagogical information where you can use the free excerpts and maybe even give you some ideas you can use in your own studio teaching.  To join our growing list of FREEBIE FRIDAY teachers go [HERE]– find the RED BUTTON that looks like the link below (which will be red and not purple) and in your correspondence write – SUBSCRIBE FREEBIE FRIDAY. FREEBIE FRIDAY BUTTONBe on the lookout for future blogs that go over all that we’ve been giving away each FREEBIE FRIDAY!!

Read Full Post »

Piano Teacher Press is adding an exciting new line of teaching products called IMITATION SOLOS.  IMITATION SOLOS are FOLIOS of musical selections, theory briefs, written work, performance exercises and certificates of achievement.

The basic concept of IMITATION SOLOS is to take a selection from the Classical student repertoire and arrange a well known Folk Song in the manner of the Classical selection.  If the Classical piece contains alberti bass patterns the Folk Song is arranged with alberti bass patterns.  If the Classical piece contains a particular syncopated motif the Folk Song is arranged with the same syncopated motif.

The reason I originally did this was to take the “mystique” out of Classical music.  I remember as a grade school student in the 1960’s my friends talking about the Beatles.  They were in awe of them because they did some of the same thing in their songs as Beethoven.  WOW!!  My friends thought if the Beatles did the same things as Beethoven they must be on a higher plane of musical composition than even Elvis.

As young music students discover the musical world they are mentally trying to figure it out.  In the process they can come to some opinions that are formed without quite enough information.  IMITATION SOLOS were written to help students on that journey of mental discovery.  If the unknown “mystical” world of Classical music can be demystified by comparing it to something in the more familiar world of folk music then we will have facilitated that mental journey of discovery.

AN EXAMPLE

Most IMITATION SOLOS are going to begin with a page called Technically SpeakingTechnically Speaking lays out the technically common feature(s) between the Classical Composition and the Folk Song.

Let’s take the idea of Melodic Imitation.  In my private studio I’ve always used Kabalevsky’s elementary composition Chit Chat but since Kabalevsky’s compositions are still under copyright protection I composed an equivalent in a piece called HelloHello.

Hello – Hello is another piece of direct melodic imitation.  Each measure is directly imitated in the next.

Hello Hello Sample

Hello – Hello is followed by treating the Folk Song – Are You Sleeping? in the same exact manner of direct melodic imitation.

Are You Sleeping SAMPLE

But IMITATION SOLOS do not stop here.  There are two more important sections designed to help the student assimilate the concept of Melodic Imitation; WRITE ON! and PLAY ON!

In WRITE ON!  the student is given a little composing/copying assignment that reinforces the idea of melodic imitation through writing.  The student is given another popular folk song, Three Blind Mice, and asked to complete each of the short phrases in direct imitation; just like the Classical Composition and the Folk Song.

Three Blind Mice SAMPLE

After students do their written work they must play that work, their own creative effort, to see the result and to solidify the concept of Melodic Imitation.

When students experience Melodic Imitation in Hello – Hello and then see the same concept expressed in an arrangement of Are You Sleeping?; the “mystique” of Classical music becomes part of the common language of all music. Students begin to feel like they are an intellectual part of the long tradition of Classical music expressed through its actual creation.  This is a very different feel and experience than just learning to physically “play pieces”.

After the completion of understanding the concept of Melodic Imitation through Technically Speaking, learning the Classical Composition, learning the Folk Song arrangement (with the option to memorize these pieces), doing the WRITE ON! assignment to understand the concept through the act of writing, and finally playing the PLAY ON! assignment to gain fluency in the concept the student can feel a degree of ownership in understand an important aspect of musical understanding.  They can and should be justly awarded a certificate for his efforts.  There are two certificates that is included in your FOLIO; one for black and white printers and one for color printers.  Each certificate has “boxes” to check off the individual assignments to earn the certificate in Melodic Imitation”.

B&W Cert SAMPLE

COLOR Cert SAMPLE

I have about 20 IMITATION SOLO FOLIOS in various stages of development.  They fall in the mid elementary to the mid intermediate level of advancement.  Stay tuned for future installments of IMITATION SOLOS.

**********************************************

Watch a YouTube Video narrated by Professor I.M. Pedantic.  Click HERE or on the graphic below.  (The video includes a performance of the Classical Composition and the Folk Song arrangement).PTP VIDEO LOGO -Professor Pedantic Speaks

To purchase IMITATION SOLO – Melodic Imitation go to Piano Teacher Press and click HERE or on the graphic below.  (The Web Site also includes a performance of the Classical Composition and the Folk Song arrangement).

PTP - Piano LOGO

Read Full Post »

Last month I began teaching piano lessons online.  Many of my online piano teaching colleagues have been doing this for quite a while and I decided to make the plunge.  Even before I began teaching online I spoke with my online piano teaching friends and speculated that the online piano lesson would be of a different nature than traditional studio teaching.

I found that I was correct.  To teach online piano lessons, as if it were simply like a studio one on one piano lesson, is to miss the subtlety that distance learning provides.  I feel it is a mistake to view online lessons as a lesser version of the private studio lesson but I think many people hold this incorrect assumption.  The two kinds of lessons are different animals.  It is important to know those differences to provide the most effective instruction.  The following quote gives us clues on the differences between online music lessons and one on one studio lessons.

American Journal of Distance Education, 24(2), 92-103. Orman, E. K. and Whitaker, J. A. (2010).

Time usage during face-to-face and synchronous distance music lessons.

This experimental study closely compares multiple aspects of applied instrumental music lessons in face-to-face and online lesson settings. Three middle school students (one saxophonist, two tubists) had lessons with a saxophone and tuba instructor respectively. Each student had a mix of face-to-face and online video lessons which were videotaped and coded for a variety of factors. When on-line lessons were compared to face to face lessons, there was a 28% increase in student playing, a 36% decrease in off-task comments by the instructor, a 28% decrease in teacher playing (modeling), and an increase in student eye contact. In the online lessons, less than 3% of the time was spent on technology issues, although audio and video quality concerns were mentioned.

This quote highlights the different nature of one on one learning (studio learning) with distance learning (online piano lessons). This quote also demonstrates they are indeed two different animals and brings out distinct advantages that online distance learning provides.  Let’s examine some of the statements of this quote and take note of distinct differences between studio learning and distance learning.

When on-line lessons were compared to face to face lessons, there was a 28% increase in student playing,

Online lessons, by their nature, is a medium that will increase the students playing time on their instrument.  Teachers need to use this information positively in designing their online lessons.  If the nature of the medium is to have the student play 28% more, on average, the teacher can adjust the lesson with this in mind.  The learning will be in the doing more than in the explaining.

The tasks of the online lesson are suited to the specific performance on the instrument more so than in studio one on one lessons.  I found this to be true in the lessons I taught online.  It was very natural to give focus to the performance and go through each passage several times.  In face to face lessons each repetition was an instruction dealing with what would improve the playing of the passage.  Another subtle difference was in the online lesson there was more trying out better fingerings instead of just a verbal instruction to use the fingering given in the manuscript.

a 36% decrease in off-task comments by the instructor

I also found this comment to be true and also something that’s simply the nature of online instruction.  When you’re with the student one on one it is natural to talk to the student about thinks not directly related to the musical material and it’s easy to get off task and speak of items not directly related to the lesson.  Certainly it’s important for any teacher to have some knowledge of their students that are not musically related but online lessons, by their nature, decrease off-task comments by the instructor. Knowing this the instructor can prepare a lessons that’s very task oriented and can feel at the end of the lesson they covered their material in depth.  The teacher feels not that “we had a good lesson this week” but “we got a lot of important material covered in this weeks lesson“; a subtle but important difference.

a 28% decrease in teacher playing (modeling)

Again, I found this to be true.  During the online lesson I do a lot less modeling than in the one on one studio lesson.  Again the nature of the online lesson directs attention very naturally on the student’s performance and the perceptive teacher will direct his attention to this fact; and I feel a very positive fact if the teacher uses it to their advantage.  It is in issues like this that I feel it is not smart teaching to make the online learning experience simply mimic the face to face studio lesson.  They indeed are two different animals and each has its own nature to give students the maximum benefit of the lesson time.  (NOTE: This blog is not to downgrade studio lessons but to highlight the distinct advantages online distant learning provides by comparison.)

and an increase in student eye contact

I find it interesting that online lessons resulted in an increase in eye contact.  But in private lessons when one doesn’t slide into non-musical conversation one involves themselves in teaching tasks that doesn’t require eye contact.  Things like modeling or writing in the student’s books and manuscripts or in pointing out items in the score.  But in teaching online after one is completed with all their performance tasks the student instinctively looks into the WebCam to look for the teacher’s next instruction and a good bit of eye contact is made because the teacher in looking into his WebCam to make eye contact with the student.  So, even something as personal as eye contact is increased in online lessons compared to one on one studio lessons.  Another plus for online lessons simply because of the nature of online learning vs studio instruction.

In the online lessons, less than 3% of the time was spent on technology issues, although audio and video quality concerns were mentioned.

To be truthful this issue did come up.  There were times when we got cut off or I lost the video of the student, or when using a different camera view I had to learn how to deal with microphone issues, but these were quickly resolved and just proved a minor inconvenience.

ONE MORE THING: Students take ownership of their music and manuscripts.

When I’m one on one with a student I generally did all the writing in the student’s books and manuscripts.  I cannot do this when teaching online, of course BUT I have the student write all my recommendations.  By having the student to do this, the student takes ownership of the music they are learning.  When they write “no pausing between sections” on their music it means more to them than if I do it.

I hope this blog got you to thinking of the different nature of piano lessons caused by the medium we use, whether one on one studio teaching or online piano lessons.  The different nature of each should automatically cause adjustments in our teaching.  As a teacher we need to maximize those adjustments to the full benefit of our students.  AND as the beginning research begins analyzing and comparing the two mediums online piano lessons provide some distinct advantages that can be utilized by the perceptive and savvy piano teacher.

SKYPE LOGO 6If interested in online piano lessons or studio lessons in the Wexford PA area call Dan Severino at 724-935-2840 or 724-898-0273.

Read Full Post »

When I began studying music it was all a mystery.  All the notes seemed to be fixed and I couldn’t change them.  This was reinforced to my uneducated mind through the mistakes I made.  Whenever I played a note that wasn’t notated on the page it sounded terrible.  I assumed that any note beyond the notation was wrong.

***

I thought it was like the story I read of a famous sculptor who was asked how he would sculpt an elephant.  The sculptor said it was easy.  All I do is eliminate everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.  I assumed music worked the same way.  To play Yankee Doodle all I needed to do is eliminate every note that wasn’t Yankee Doodle.

***

There is a principle in teaching that instructs the teacher — GO FROM THE KNOWN TO THE UNKNOWN.  It was obvious from my childhood assumptions above that there was a great deal of the UNKNOWN in my musical education.  I remember that experience and assume the same process is going on in my student’s minds as they begin their piano instruction.  My goal was to help my students not fall into the trap and limitations of holding on to the assumptions I had as a young student that were limiting at best and downright wrong at worst.

***

There are many ways I do that in my teaching but today I want to focus on only one of them.  I’ve made several anthologies of “classical music” for my students.  In several of the compositions I took some of the major ideas employed by the composer and applied it to a common folk song.  If a composer uses imitation in a composition I take a folk song and arrange it using the same type of imitation.  If a composer uses syncopation I take a folk song and apply syncopation within the arrangement.  When the young music student compares the similarity between the classical composition and the folk song; what is unknown becomes known.

***

This method of learning helps the student understand far better than just giving a text book definition of imitation or syncopation.  Let’s take a couple examples to demonstrate using this method in applying the principle of going from the UNKNOWN TO THE KNOWN.

***

Here is a popular teaching piece by Kabalevsky – Chit Chat.  The piece is a simple piece of imitation; a measure is first played by the left hand and is directly imitated by the right hand in the following measure.

***

I always mention to students that imitation is something they are going to find very common in the music they will study.  It will enter into their compositions in many different and creative ways.  I use this piece as my “entry level” piece to teach the concept of musical imitation.

***

This little arrangement of Are You Sleeping?  uses the same imitation technique as Chit Chat by Kabalevsky.  To add a little variety and to give students another example I created a variation on the Are You Sleeping? theme.

***

Using this method helps students become aware of how a composer can use an idea like imitation to create a composition.  For teachers who teach composition this is a good simple technique that can be used to guide students to make their compositions more interesting.

***

The page on the left is another way to reinforce the concept of imitation.  The student is given the major phrases of the folk song Three Blind Mice.  The student is given two measures to write out the imitation.

***

The teacher may certainly aid the student in helping him write out the imitation but most students do rather well in understanding the assignment and knowing what to do to fulfill the requirements.

***

***

A good piece to introduce students to syncopation is Morning Greeting by Gurlitt.

***

The same syncopation is repeated throughout the piece.  Also, there is always a chord to play on beat one to help the student feel/create the feel of the syncopation.

***

To reinforce the concept of syncopation to the student I created an arrangement of the popular folk song Cockles and Mussels.  I used Cockles and Mussels because it also could be syncopated with the same rhythmic arrangement of notes as Gurlitt’s Morning Greeting.

***

The pedagogical use for the Ecossaise in G major by Schubert is that it is one of the few pieces that uses root position dominant 7th chords.  Root position 7th chords makes a perfect springboard for the introduction of teaching 7th chords.

***

To compliment the Ecossaise in G I took the old madrigal Now is the Month of Maying by Thomas Morley and arranged it with several root position dominant 7th chords.  Again, when students get an opportunity to see the similarity between the two compositions the student grows in understanding that music follows rules and traditions.  When students are made aware of these rules and traditions their understanding and assimilation of their repertoire will be facilitated.

***

Finally, I would like to explain my way of helping students experience the common practice of changing from a major mode to the parallel minor.  Kabalevsky makes use of this technique in a piece he wrote called The Little March.  The first phrase is in C major and the second phrase repeats the same material in C minor.

***

To further the students understanding of the changing from major to minor I took the popular folk song Shortnin’ Bread.  Through the little arrangement I alter the mode of the phrases going from major to minor.  Being that most students are familiar with Shortnin’ Bread they can more easily discern the dramatic difference that this change of mode creates.

***

Using folk songs in this way has been a great way to teach my students the great musical tradition we follow.  It has been one of the major ways I use to help my students go from the UNKNOWN and make it KNOWN by going from the KNOWN (folk songs) and showing the connection it can have to the UNKNOWN (our musical tradition).

***

***

***

Read Full Post »

A LITTLE BACKGROUND STORY – When I was a youngster my dad was part of the auto industry.  When my first autos needed repaired my dad would help by repairing my cars.  My first cars often needed a lot of repairs!  He would go to the auto supply store and buy the parts I needed to fix my car.  I noticed that when dad bought a part, a muffler for instance, there would be two prices in the bill.  One price was the retail price and the other was the price was the price that my dad was charged.  It was significantly lower, depending upon the item purchased.  Of course, my dad only charged me the price he paid for the item; but if I went to an auto shop I would have been charged the higher retail price.

The point is that the repair man made a significant part of his income beyond his hourly wage on the parts he need to purchase to repair the car.  When I became a piano teacher I would get a “teacher’s discount”.  The discount was not very significant; barely enough for a cup of coffee.

When I was thinking how I wanted to put together Piano Teacher Press I was reminded of the experience of the auto mechanic to the auto supply store.  I knew how hard my fellow piano teachers worked and I knew they could use means to raise their overall income.  With those thoughts in mind I designed my pricing structure to give piano teachers an opportunity not only to have unique piano teaching material that could be purchased no where else but also priced in a way that would help them financially.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

POINT ONE – I personally do not like to pay shipping charges.  At Piano Teacher Press there are NO SHIPPING CHARGES for sales over $15.00.

POINT TWO – At Piano Teacher Press we offer a lot of sheet music offerings.  Our retail price for a piece of sheet music in $3.50.  YOUR PRICE is $2.50.  You make a full dollar on every piece of music you purchase from Piano Teacher Press.

POINT THREE – Our Book Pricing

A book retailing at $7.95 will cost you $5.95.   YOU SAVE $2.00

A book retailing at $11.95 will cost you $8.95.  YOU SAVE $3.00

A book retailing at $14.95 will cost you $9.95.  YOU SAVE $5.00

I think you will find Piano Teacher Press a place to find well written, attractive, pedagogically sound and musically satisfying materials that will also be financially beneficial; helping you in the very hard yet rewarding work you perform every day.

When deciding on the outlets you choose for your piano teaching needs THINK Piano Teacher Press.

Read Full Post »

Greetings!!  Welcome to this installment of Mr. Severino Presents.  I think you’ll have fun going through today’s music lesson.

Look at the picture.

What animal do you see?

The lion is known as “the King of Beasts”.  Kings and lions can be described with the word MAJESTIC.  Majestic describes things that are grand and noble or stately and dignified.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Now what animal do you see?

Of course, we have a picture of a turtle.  Turtles do not move very fast.  In fact, because they are so slow, people may express things as being as slow as a turtle.  If you are on a trip and caught in traffic you may say a turtle is moving faster than this traffic.  We characterize turtles as being slow.  Or, maybe we could say it like this …      S___L___O___W !  !  !

.

.

What is our next animal?

How would you describe a monkey?  Did you ever go to a zoo and observe the monkeys?  If you went to the zoo and saw the monkeys how did you react?  Did you ever see monkeys in cartoons?  Did the monkeys make you happy?  We can describe monkeys very well with the single word PLAYFUL!

.

.

.

Finally, what is being described in our fourth animal card?  The butterfly!   Butterflies are a favorite part of summer.  Their beautiful colors make them very fun to watch.  A very good word to describe the butterfly is to say they are FLIGHTY.  They fly from place to place, from flower to flower. They move to each destination with grace and motion.

.

.

We described each of our four animal creatures with a characteristic word.

Lions are MAJESTIC.

Turtles are SLOW.

Monkeys are PLAYFUL.

Butterflies are FLIGHTY.

Music also can be described with words because music also has character.

We are now going to listen to 4 examples of music that can also be said to be MAJESTIC, SLOW, PLAYFUL and FLIGHTY.  Your job is to tell me if we are listening to …

LION MUSIC (majestic)

TURTLE MUSIC (slow) 

MONKEY MUSIC (playful) or

BUTTERFLY MUSIC (flighty)

There will be two short quizzes.

QUIZ ONE will have 4 questions.  QUIZ TWO will have 4 questions.

Before beginning, print out the Character in Music QUIZ SHEET  [Click HERE]  Play each musical example.  Decide what animal creature best fits with the musical example.  Put the example number in the upper right hand corner of each creature you decide upon.  If you wish, color each animal creature on the QUIZ SHEET.

To do the second quiz print out a second copy of the Character in Music QUIZ SHEET [Click HERE]

QUIZ ONE

QUIZ ONE – EXAMPLE 1

QUIZ ONE – EXAMPLE 2

QUIZ ONE – EXAMPLE 3

QUIZ ONE – EXAMPLE 4

.

QUIZ TWO

QUIZ TWO – EXAMPLE 1

QUIZ TWO – EXAMPLE 2

QUIZ TWO – EXAMPLE 3

QUIZ TWO – EXAMPLE 4

Would you like to know how you did?  Click HERE for the Character in Music ANSWER SHEET.

Listening for character in music asks us to use our imagination in ways that most of our school work does not.  Yet, this is the daily work of composers and musicians.  YOUR JOB, as a music student, is to use your imagination to best express the character that is found in every composition you perform.

Thanks for participating in Mr. Severino Presents.  ‘TILL NEXT TIMEKEEP PRACTICING!!

Read Full Post »

Middle C Repertoire is a piano method for teaching beginning piano students.

It is also a great supplement for using with other methods as the book is simply an anthology of pieces in a progressive order.

The Middle C Repertoire Series of books grows out of my pre-school piano method — Keyboard Kids.  This pre-school method centers on the concept of teaching the student to read music as steps and skips and combines it with more traditional methods of note memorization.

In Middle C Repertoire I’ve purposely introduced musical vocabulary that immediately gives students the tools to learn to think musically about their piano studies.  After introducing several compositions using    2-4     3-4     and    4-4    time signatures we have a simple song called THEME.

With the introduction of the composition THEME a conversation can begin with your student about  themes and how composers use them to build their compositions.  As a note of interest it is at this point that I introduce my students to examples of art compositions for students to grasp on to the various musical concepts that are evoked in the titles of the compositions in the Middle C Repertoire Series.  The example I use for THEME is Peter’s Theme from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.  I thought it to be an excellent way to introduce students to the concept of theme.  Whenever Prokofiev has Peter featured in his musical story we hear Peter’s Theme.

Maybe with a recording of Peter’s Theme you could better grasp the effectiveness of using musical examples to make a teaching point.

Another departure that Middle C repertoiree Book 1 uses is that everything is in the English language.  Tempo’s are marked as Moderate Speed or Fast Speed, not Moderato or Allegro.  Loud is marked with an “L” and soft is marked with an “S”, not “f” or “p”D.C. al Fine is marked F.B. to End (from the beginning to the end).  In Middle C Repertoire Book 2 the traditional Italian language is used.  But, in this first volume students, who are often at the most elementary levels in their reading skills, are first introduced to these common markings in English.

Middle C Repertoire does not create lyrics for every composition.  Occasionally it does.  When the concept of song is introduced, then lyrics are essential.  This is another occasion when a music example is most appropriate.  Keeping with the humorous nature of I Forgot My Brain Today I introduce students to Aaron Copland’s arrangement of I Bought Me A Cat.

Since the concept of theme was introduced early in the book we can explore how these themes can be manipulated by composers.  The Theme and Variation can now be logically introduced, expanding the student’s concept of theme.  Not only does the simple piece study Theme and Variation form it also explores Time Signatures.  Each variation is based on in different key signature.  I point out to the student that the FIRST NOTE of EACH VARIATION plays the THEME TONE.  When students see this they all seem to have a “light bulb moment”.  They begin to see that music is not so mysterious and is something they can truly understand.

To finish the lesson on Theme and Variation I play Mozart’s Theme and Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  I only play the very beginning of each variation.  I stop the recording at the end of each variation and ask the student if they can hear Mozart’s disguise of the THEME.  Most students do very well; but there are some variations that are difficult for students to follow.  I use this as a lesson that music is something that must be studied and if they put forth their best effort they will be able to understand the music of these great geniuses even better.

The composition MARCH! introduces students to eighth notes.  I have found that it’s best to introduce eighth notes as repeated notes until the rhythmic impulse is neurologically understood.  I also introduce the eighth note as a rhythmic group of THREE notes — the two eighth notes and the succeeding note.  The three note groups are marked in blue in the graphic.  Our ear naturally organizes these sounds into three notes so I think the best way to introduce the eighth note rhythm to students is in three note groups.  After the student has neurologically mastered the rhythm then the student can slowly be introduced into playing this rhythm with more complex step and skip patterns.

Middle C Repertoire also gives the student several opportunities to play the same composition in different keys.  Again, I feel this is very important because composers will often take their themes and reintroduce them in various keys.  It is important to get exposure in transposition early on because if it is delayed it becomes a bit of a struggle to learn the same music in a different key.

While students learn their compositions in Middle C Repertoire they are also learning all of the white key hand positions (five-finger scales) and chords.  They are thoroughly given exposure to various techniques they will encounter as composers manipulate their themes.

I have  been working on Middle C Repertoire for about 20 years and have been very pleased with the results.  I’ve dedicated a major part of my teaching career to the teaching of the very young student so this method is tailor-made for young students.  Most of my students playing Middle C Repertoire are in kindergarten or first grade.  The progression of materials best fit this age of student.  Through the summer of 2011 I will be making the Middle C Repertoire Method Books and accompanying Middle C Repertoire Theory Books  available for sale on at http://www.pianoteacherpress.com/


Read Full Post »