A Simple Game to Teach and Practice Note Reading

Flashcard hunt-a great game to work on note readingEach week my goal is to provide a game for you to use in your studio. This will be a game that I personally have used in my own studio with great success so you will know that it is kid tested and approved!

Looking for a simple game to practice note reading with things you already have in your teaching bag? All you need is a set of flash cards and a piano.

Take the set of flashcards you are working on with a student and hide them around the room. Have students search for each flash card and run to the piano and play the corresponding note as they find each card. If you want to add an extra challenge you can set a timer and see how fast a student can find and play the notes.

Music NotesThis is an excellent game to work on not only naming notes, but also playing them at the piano, witch is the end goal.

You could easily begin lessons with this game or bring lessons to a fun close.

If you are looking for a good set of flash cards Joy Morin at Color in My Piano has a great jumbo set.

Anne Crosby Gaudet and Susan Paradis have great smaller sets.

Teaching Little Hands Piano Teachnique Part 2

Teaching technique to little hands part 2 One of the major issues that needs to be addressed in young piano students is hand shape. I can’t even count the number of students who have come to me playing with “flat” hands. So I thought I would share some of the philosopy I follow when correcting hand shape and some fun tricks to use with younger students.

First off, I don’t necessary believe that a student should have curved fingers. So I don’t follow the idea of giving them a ball to hold or visualize. Why? Well research has shown that for some students curving their fingers is unnatural and causes more piano playing injuries. Students instead should learn to use their hand naturally as they will be less likely to struggle with playing injuries.

How do you know what is natural? Have your student place their relaxed hand in their lap or hanging down by their side. Tell them to put their hand by their side just like they do when the walk. What shape is their hand in? Are their fingers more curved or less curved. Each student will be unique. Now take their hand, and without changing the shape, place it on the piano. This is the shape you are striving for.

That said, all students will have some gentle curve to their hands, no one can play with a completely flat hands.  Here are some ideas to help students develop a natural hand shape that is perfect for them.

My favorite is having them pretend their hand is a cave. Let them pick their animal and pretend to “place” it in their cave. Then the goal is for them not to squash their animal by letting the “roof fall down”. I have also seen this modified to be a cage with a butterfly or bird inside.

The second idea is a bridge. A student’s hand is the bridge and underneath is the road. You can even get a toy car to go under their hand. This is a great one just be aware that some student’s bridges will be shorter, smaller etc.

So if you are looking for a fresh way to introduce proper hand position then give these ideas a try.

What are your favorite ideas to introduce technique with young students? I would love to hear what you do!

October Freebie and Other Details

This week I thought I would offer a freebie for the game I mentioned in Teach Piano Today’s Podcast interview. If you didn’t get to hear the interview you can go here. I discuss how I use games to teach theory in my piano studio.

So if your just starting out and want to add games to your piano studio you can check out this week’s freebie, Caterpillar Scales, in the store (It’s at the very bottom of the list) . Just enter code FREE101105. Enjoy!

caterpillar scales game

 

On another note, a kind reader today informed me that my subscribe widget was not working properly. If you have tried to subscribe before and it was not successful, it should be fixed now. Also if you were previously subscribed you may want to subscribe again as I am now using a different plugin for this and the emails don’t look like they transferred.

 

 

Making Piano Technique Fun-Ideas for Fixing the Problematic low wrist

Looking for a fun way to make piano technique relatable for little ones? I have found that very young students don’t completely grasp why they need use proper playing technique when learning the piano. They just want to learn new songs. I am always thrilled when students are excited about playing pieces but I have yet to find students excited about technique. So over the next few weeks I will be covering some of the tricks I have learned that help students understand and get more excited about playing technique.

Ideas For Fixing Low WristsTeaching Piano Technique Part one: Ideas For Fixing Low Wrists

When students first start playing piano they often play with a low wrist.  A first, there may be no direct effect on their playing. They’re just playing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. But what happens when these students grow up? Can they play as well with a low wrist? Not really! And not only will their skills be in danger but they could experience a playing injury and have to quite all together. So how can we as piano teachers put an early stop to these low wrists? Here are some tips I have found very helpful for young students.

 

  1. Using Stuffed Animals in Piano LessonsGet a stuffed animal. I like using an alligator but there are many options. Have the student pretend the area blow their wrist is a swamp. Then say something like, “Whenever your wrist gets low Mr. Swampy the friendly alligator is going to come give you a friendly nudge. Can you play your piece without Mr. Swampy giving you a nudge?”  Whenever their wrist gets to low give a gentle nudge with the stuffed animal.
  2. Have the students pretend there is a helium balloon attached to each wrist. This balloon is then “pulling” their wrist up. This is a good one for kids who aren’t comfortable having their wrists adjusted while playing.
  3. Finally get a highlighter (make sure it is washable). Hold it below the student’s wrist. The highlighter should only be close enough to touch their wrist if it is too low. The student’s goal is to play their piece without getting any colored marks. This is a great game to use with the slightly older student who is past stuffed animals.

Method to My Madness- How to Effectively Teach Music Theory

How to effectively teach music theory. As I have taught piano lessons over the years I have found that young students need their theory broken down into baby steps. If theory is not broken down into manageable pieces they either become overwhelmed and frustrated or don’t learn the material well. In order to try and solve this problem, I  introduce a basic theory concept in steps. This helps me see if a student is understanding the new material and also helps make sure they learn it well.

For example, when I teach the notes on the staff I start with middle C and treble G. Then I add bass clef F. From there I go on to add treble D through E. Once a students has learned these treble notes well, I will add the remaining bass clef notes between F and C. I then do lots of practice with these 9 notes before expanding to more notes on the staff.  Usually each of these levels is spread over several weeks. I give  myself freedom for plenty of review if a student needs help.

With each of these steps I use a theory game I created to make learning these notes fun and interactive for each student. For example check out the free bug catchers game I use to introduce C and G.

 

Need more games to add to your studio? Check out the new products in the store.