I think it's really important to get our students listening to more music. Sometimes I get really into it and assign awesome, hard-core listening assignments (like listening to a whole bunch of pieces by a specific composer, and writing down things you like about each piece, and such). But sometimes I think it's important to just throw in a quick, simple listening assignment that goes along with whatever the student is working on.
Simple listening assignments are great ways to teach about music history, famous performers, the musical periods, or about musicality and interpretation.
Have a beginning student playing the super simplified "Ode to Joy"? Have them listen to the REAL deal and see how joyful it sounds!
If a student is learning a classical piece, have them listen to some good recordings of the piece and get some interpretation inspiration!
One of my students played a simple piece in her method book that sounded a bit impressionistic - in fact, it was almost exactly like the first line of Debussy's Reverie. We talked a little about impressionism in music, and I played a line or two of the piece for her, and then assigned her to go home and listen to the whole piece.
I recently had a student playing in her Faber & Faber "Popular Repertoire" book the song "What a Wonderful World." Well, she had never heard the song before, and didn't know who Louis Armstrong was! So I assigned her to go home and look the song up on YouTube and take a listen.
Listening assignments can be simple and spur-of-the-moment, but they will really help our students become better musicians (and maybe enjoy playing their pieces a little bit more!)
Who else is starting Christmas music in their studios? I love this time of year. I already started playing Christmas music on my own ages ago, and now am getting my students going on some Christmas music of their own. So exciting!!
I recently have had the opportunity to try out a new book of advanced Christmas solos for piano by Amy B. Hansen, a friend and accomplished pianist/composer who shared some great insights with us about composing a couple of years ago, and I am loving it! Carol Encores is a great collection of Christmas carols that are definitely more advanced than many collections out there. These arrangements will really give your students something to work on. They are a fresh and original collection of well-loved and classic carols that will really add a flourish to a Christmas recital.
These arrangements contain lots of fancy runs, two-against-three rhythms, and beautiful and original motifs, include lots of hand over hand motion, and really utilize the whole range of the keyboard. While all seven of the arrangements are showy enough to wow any recital audience, about half of them are slower and more lyrical. My favorites include the beautiful and flowing arrangement of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and the fun and joyful "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful" (and I am still trying to master the great runs up to speed on this one!).
I think this is a book that both you and your more advanced students will really enjoy this Christmas season. Carol Encores can be purchased here.
Here's a fun music video featuring some of Amy's music - it gives you a great preview of her style used in her Christmas music.
I have recently discovered the importance of teaching chords. Lately I have been really trying to get all of my students, all ages, playing major and minor chords all over the piano and in different inversions. A huge help in this has been in using my technique booklets - My Muscle Builders Book and My Muscle Builders Book 2. My students have amazed me in their chord-playing and I really think it is helping them become overall better musicians.
Understanding and being able to easily play chords, in different inversions, helps students in learning their pieces. SO, so often their method book pieces have a melody line in the right hand and chords in the left hand (whether block chords, broken chords, or whatever figuration the notes are in). When students don't understand chords well, each measure can be a struggle to learn. Many students need to stop and "figure out" the notes of each measure. BUT, if they are good at chord-reading and have a good understanding of primary chords used in a key, all you need to do is have them take a look at the piece and point out the basic harmonies. They will see that a piece may only consist of C, F and G7 chords, and will be able to learn it SO much faster because they are already pros at playing those chords.
Many of my students have also started playing a bit from fakebooks, and it is so fun to see them use their chord-playing knowledge to fill in the harmony (all on their own!!) of a fun, familiar song. I really have been enjoying this awesome Disney Fake Book (Fake Books), and it has a great variety of songs, some easier ones that my students have been enjoying, and some harder ones that I have been having a lot of fun with as well!
So teach those chords! Let's create a generation of great, well-rounded musicians, shall we?
Happy Tuesday! I'd like to thank all my great readers who keep coming back even after such intermittent posting on my part :) I'd like to get back to sharing some simple teaching tips each Tuesday that have helped me in my own studio - and hopefully they can give you some ideas to help in yours! Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference.
Today's tip is about highlighters. I love to keep a highlighter marker near my piano to use during lessons. Then I have my students use it to sort of analyze a piece they are working on, and to isolate and highlight a specific thing they need to work on.
I have a student who just learned a piece in their book very well - that is, he learned all the notes perfectly but I didn't hear much change in dynamic levels. So I had him take the highlighter and go through the piece and circle all of the dynamics.
Slurs are another great one - have your student highlight the slurs or phrases in a piece to help them remember to play them nice and legato.
Whatever a student is learning or struggling with at the moment is a great thing to circle or highlight. Having the student actually do the highlighting puts them right in the middle of the learning process; rather than watch you circle the things that they missed in their music, they have the opportunity to take a good look at their own music and figure it out on their own.
What are some simple ways you involve the student in the learning process? Do you have any particular ways you typically like to mark up the student's music?