This week I am introducing a new way of pursuing an old idea – GOALS. I am giving each student above the primer level a GOAL SHEET which must be read, dated and signed. The introduction reads,
“I understand that I am making a commitment to my personal musical achievement for this year. By considering possible goals and realistically thinking them through, writing them down, referring to them often, and checking them off in turn, I can track an illustration of my visible success map. Each student’s goal is customized. This is mine.”
Memory Challenge ; 10, 20, 30, or 40 piece options
Scale Challenge: Major – choose a number 5 or above
Minor – choose a number 3 or above
Chord Challenge: This number matches the Scale choice
Theory, Composition, Improvisation – individually selected
In addition, there are goals stated each month, including Theory Testing, Recitals, and Guild Auditions. I hope to see an increase in responsible planning and goal seeking throughout the Spring Semester.
Our venue changed this year but we still had two Spooktacular events. Photos to come.
Since there have been a few changes in my students’ lives, I will have some unexpected openings starting in January, 2015. It doesn’t happen often so if there are students out there who would like to see if piano is a fit for them, I’d love to schedule a brief “get acquainted” meeting before school starts. See contact information on this site.
With time during this holiday to ponder new approaches to teaching effectively, I came up with an idea that I haven’t used before. I created a sheet entitled “MY PIANO GOALS – 2015.
On it I listed a Memory Challenge category with choices ranging from 10 to 40 pieces; Scale Challenge; Chord Progression Challenge: Theory, Composition, Arranging Challenges. Then there are categories designated by months, so each month has space for a short term goal. February has an option to check the ADMTA theory test, May has both Guild Auditions and Spring Recital, October has Halloween Recital and finally December has the option to participate in a Holiday Recital at a senior citizens’ center.
There is a statement of commitment that will be signed and dated. I will keep a copy and the student will also. I am hoping that this reminder will instill desire to live up to the ideals we have agreed upon together for 2015.
I encourage my students to think of warming up the fingers as they would do a warm up in sports. I have a prescribed session that can be applied to each Major or Minor key. The choice of a key can be in the usual order or related to the key of a particular piece being played currently.
1. Choose a key – Major or Minor
2. Play the arpeggio – 2 or 4 octaves
3. Play the 5-finger scale up and down by step and then skips, ending with the triad. I suggest singing along with these words, ” Step-ping up and step-ping down and skip-ping up and down. Chord.”
4. Play the scale – either 1 or 2 octaves, both parallel and contrary motion.
5. Play the chord progression – either I – V7 – I, I – V – I – V7 – I, or I – IV – I – V – I – V7 – I
6. Hanon exercises – choose an exercise; play it hands separately first, then when ready, hands together. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
7. Schmitt exercises – Take a section or line and play in a sight-reading manner. Then repeat a small section at least 5 times till reading is rapid.
8. Intermediate students may also use the “Advanced Arpeggios” sheet using Major and minor 6ths, 7th, diminished and augmented chords in each key.
While preparing for the Halloween Recital, I began to suggest “spider hands” for a memory reference for hand position. It worked for the season so I kept using it. I also say, “No pancake hands. Pancakes are breakfast.” They seem to like the reference and improve the position. Whatever works!
“Why do we bow?” I asked every student as we reviewed recital protocol. “I don’t know,” was the most common answer. I proceeded to explain that when we play our recital piece, the audience applauds saying “Thank you for playing.” Then I ask the student, “What do you say when someone says ‘thank you’?” Immediately, they respond, “You’re welcome.” The light goes on. “It’s good manners, being polite.” They get it.
Then, as to the “way” to bow, I make it simple. “Say hi to your feet. Go to your seat.” Smiles and cooperation follow. Many more bows occur since the “chat.”
Reading music is much like reading words and sentences. Isolating notes is like spelling a word instead of reading the letters together. Recognizing the relationships of preceding and following groups of notes is like reading a sentence, a complete thought or phrase. Chord relationships, partial harmonies, sequences and patterns all help to increase speed in note reading.
Especially at holiday times, I encourage students to share their accomplishments in performance pieces. I tell them they are actually giving their family and friends a gift in the form of music. They seem to respond with a pride that is gratifying.
When thinking through a composition, I guide the student through the dynamic symbols and then draw a landscape using all the signs used in the composition. This way, the student can have an overview and plan for the different levels required to successfully include these important expressions.