10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks

 

Like most teachers, I always have an eye out for things that I can use when I am teaching. I came across a great set of twenty Chopsticks in the dollar store. Not only are they just the right weight to be used as rhythm sticks, they are also durable, nice looking and safe to use near the piano. At ten-cents a set, I simply couldn’t pass them up. Now, I find myself using them almost every day, especially with my younger students. Here are some of the ways my students and I use chopsticks to have fun and learn about music. Here’s the post, “10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks.”

  • We practice tapping a steady beat along with you or with the metronome.

  • We sing the words to whatever piece is being learned while we click the chopsticks to a steady beat.

  • I sing the note-names to a piece as I follow along using a chopstick to tap each note on the page as I go. (each quarter note gets one tap: two for the half notes etc.)

  • We mix it up and click the chopsticks together on quarter notes, tap the bench for half notes, and shake the chopsticks in the air for rests.

  • I use a Chopstick to point to random notes and markings on the page and have my student tell me what the note is or what the marking means.

  • We have fun learning basic conducting patterns while listening to some great music.

  • I have my student place chopsticks under rhythmic values to provide a hands-on visual example of the value of each note.

  • We play a copycat game, playing rhythmic sequences and playing them back to one another.

  • We click and tap rhythm examples from a Chopstick rhythm worksheet. This can be done with or without the metronome. We can increase the tempo to make the patterns more challenging.

“10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks”

The Chopsticks work out great. The activities really help my students to grasp basic rhythmic concepts and learn to keep a steady beat. They are a perfect change of pace when a student needs a break from playing from the book. Students can do the Chopstick activities right on the piano bench no extra space is needed. They fit easily into the piano activity bag that I take with me when I teach. Best of all, they are so inexpensive each of my students can have their own set.

Check out the new “Preschool Activities Book”

But wait! Those are only nine great things you can do with Chopsticks and I promised “10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks”

   Sorry, I just couldn’t resist:)

If you like this post please share it.

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Here are the exact chopsticks I found at a store called “Just a Buck” in Cleveland they were a pack of 20 for $1. I found this pack of 40 on Amazon. You can use any type you like.

Love Will Keep Us Together

I have one, most all important wish for every person (adult or child) who comes into my studio to begin piano lessons. That is, that they fall in love with the piano. Why? Because I know only that if they truly love the piano will they be able to persevere through the tremendous amount of work and sacrifice it takes to learn to play the piano well and discover they joy playing will bring them. That’s why I believe it is important that we are always helping students fall in love with the piano. Love will keep us together.

 

Loving the Lesson

I strive to make piano lessons the highlight of each student’s week. I want my students to look forward to their piano lessons. I want each student and their parents to enjoy their lesson so much that they literally don’t want to miss. How do I try to accomplish this?

Love will keep us together.

As much as possible I try to be physically and mentally ready for teaching. I know I need to be well rested, fed, and be ready to be fully present with each student. I make it a point to say I am really excited to see each student as they come through the door. One thing that really helps with this is to take notice something about them. I’ll say “Look at the flowers on your dress”, “You have a new backpack”. This almost always wins me a smile, people love to be acknowledged.

I try to make the lessons fun by varying activities. For younger beginners, this means lots of hands-on activities in addition to learning from the book. For older beginners, we do some ear training, and improvisation along with working through Method books, Scales, and Theory. I play a for my students at every lesson. I show them how much fun it is and how much I love it. I am hoping that my enthusiasm for the piano rubs off on them. I hope I am helping students fall in love with the piano.

“If playing the piano was easy…”

All of my students can finish that sentence. “Everyone would do it!” I never tell my students that learning to play the piano is easy. It isn’t. In fact, I believe it’s one of the most difficult projects that one can take on. How does this help them fall in love with the piano? First of all, I think it’s important not to set them up for false expectations. I want them to know that because learning the piano is a ton of work they are not doing something wrong. Second, doing something that is difficult is rewarding. Try to make my students feel like they are part of an elite club, the piano players club. This is one way I go about helping students fall in love with the piano.

The First Year

I believe establishing a love for the piano in the first year of lessons is super important. For this reason, I concentrate on teaching my students to get playing. For most students, this means learning to read and count proficiently and playing with both hands. We work on lots of ear training and improvisation as well. My goal is to have them see and feel that they are making good progress. I hold off on scales and arpeggios until year two, after my students learn to enjoy playing music.

Read the post “What Kind of Piano Teacher are You Anyway?”

Inspiration

People need inspiration. People need a dream. They need to see and hear how amazing it will be when they begin to reach their goals. As teachers, we are our students first example of someone who can play. It helps our students to see and hear us play, in the lesson, at recitals, in concerts, at church, school or wherever else we perform. It is also really inspiring for students (and parents) to see more advanced students playing. This proves that they can reach the goal of learning to play well. Having studio recitals really helps with this, I also keep some videos of my best students handy to show the newer students. Lastly, I show I show my students videos of great pianists this is so inspiring. I want my students to enjoy every aspect of the journey while at the same time dream of how it will feel when they can play the piano well.

“Where loves is deep”

“Where love is deep much can be accomplished” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki.

I love this quote from Dr. Suzuki. It is so true. I love the piano, I love teaching people to play the piano and most of all I love my students. All of this love goes a long way toward helping them discover the love that will keep them going through the many hours and years it takes to learn to play the piano. It all comes down to helping students to fall in love with the piano. Then we can be sure that “Love will keep us together.”

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How and Why to Teach Folk Music to Piano Students

<img src="img_kodaly_bartok.jpg" alt="Kodaly and bartok">
Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly

Folk Music, by definition, is the music of the people. It is simple enough that the average person can perform it and it reflects the lives and concerns of its people. Every culture has its own folk music; Music that has been handed down through generations and has endured the test of time. Here is how and why to teach filk music to piano students.

Intriguing and mysterious, folk music is rich with historical references and imagery. Though we rarely know who composed a particular song, there is almost always a story that goes along with it. Folk music can tell us so much about a historical period and the people of that time.

Read the post “Helping Students Fall in Love With the Piano”

 

Because of its singable, melodic lines and its basic harmonic structure, folk music lends itself to endless compositional and improvisational possibilities. Many (if not all) of the greatest composers were influenced by folk music. Most notably, Brahms who was fascinated with folk music and Bartok, who together with Zoltan Kodaly, (pictured above) tracked down and cataloged thousands of folk songs of Hungary and Romania.

 

Folk music is wonderful in so many ways! I believe it is a treasure that should continue to be passed along to our children. Here are some of the ways I make folk music a part of my studio.

 

How and why to teach folk music to piano students.

 

1 – I find, or write arrangements of folk songs for my students to play. My students and I always investigate the history of each song so that they can learn something about its cultural background. This can include locating the place the song comes from on a map and reading a bit about the area and its people.

2 – We take a look at the lyrics or the translation of the lyrics and discuss interesting new vocabulary that might be included. (Warning! Always check the lyrics beforehand. Some folk songs are not appropriate for children.)

3 – I ask my students and their parents about their own family’s traditional folk music. My students love to play music that is a part of their family history.

4 – Folk songs are a great starting point for improvisation and composition. I like to take an easy folk song and improvise a new melody. Most folk music uses only the I-IV-V or V7 harmonization. I take this opportunity to introduce some chord substitutions and have students experiment with alternative harmonies.

 

Download the free piano duet “Los Pollitos”

 

Folk music: the music of the people. Nothing is more personal to a culture than its music. Wherever there are people, there is also music. To celebrate, to grieve, to dance, work or rest there is music. In times of peace or strife and from the beginning of life to the end there is a song. What better way is there to connect with humanity; To listen and hear the heart and soul of a people and to teach our children to do the same.

 

If you like this post please share it. If you would like wonderful free arrangements of piano folk music from around the world, plus printable free piano games method books and resources Become a free Paloma Piano Gold Member Today.

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10 Great Piano Teaching Games Using Chopsticks

Like most teachers, I always have an eye out for things that I can use when I am teaching. I came across a great set of twenty Chopsticks in the dollar store. Not only are they just the right weight to be used as rhythm sticks, they are also durable, nice looking and safe to use near the piano. At ten-cents a set, I simply couldn’t pass them up. Now, I find myself using them almost every day, especially with my younger students. Here are some of the ways my students and I use chopsticks to have fun and learn about music. Here are 10 great piano teaching games using chopsticks.

 

  • We practice tapping a steady beat along with you or with the metronome.

  • We sing the words to whatever piece is being learned while we click the chopsticks to a steady beat.

  • I sing the note-names to a piece as I follow along using a chopstick to tap each note on the page as I go. (each quarter note gets one tap: two for the half notes etc.)

  • We mix it up and click the chopsticks together on quarter notes, tap the bench for half notes, and shake the chopsticks in the air for rests.

  • I use a Chopstick to point to random notes and markings on the page and have my student tell me what the note is or what the marking means.

  • We have fun learning basic conducting patterns while listening to some great music.

  • I have my student place chopsticks under rhythmic values to provide a hands-on visual example of the value of each note.

  • We play a copycat game, playing rhythmic sequences and playing them back to one another.

  • We click and tap rhythm examples from a Chopstick rhythm worksheet. This can be done with or without the metronome. We can increase the tempo to make the patterns more challenging.

Read the post “Convincing Kids to Count Rhythm”

The 10 great piano teaching games using chopsticks work out great. The activities really help my students to grasp basic rhythmic concepts and learn to keep a steady beat. They are a perfect change of pace when a student needs a break from playing from the book. Students can do the Chopstick activities right on the piano bench no extra space is needed. They fit easily into the piano activity bag that I take with me when I teach. Best of all, they are so inexpensive each of my students can have their own set.

Our printable Chopstick Rhythm Worksheets are available by clicking the link Chopstick Rhythm Worksheets

But wait! Those are only nine great things you can do with Chopsticks and I promised 10 great piano teaching games using chopsticks…

   Sorry, I just couldn’t resist:)

If you like this post please share it.

If you would like to receive hundreds of pages of free piano games, music and resources become a Forever Free Gold Member Today.

Here are the exact chopsticks I found at a store called “Just a Buck” in Cleveland they were a pack of 20 for $1. I found this pack of 40 on Amazon. You can use any type you like.

Visit our sister site for students and parents painoparents.net

Create Your Own Hands-on Piano Piano Activities

Hands-on is Helpful.

I live in Cleveland Ohio in the U.S. There is a large and vibrant classical music community here due to the presence of the Cleveland Institute of Music. As a result, a lot of my student’s parents are musicians. At an introductory lesson, one pianist-father observed all of the hands-on -piano-activities his son was engaged in at the lesson. His comment was that piano pedagogy had come a long way since he had taken lessons as a boy. I believe this is true, largely because of all of the awesome sharing that takes place between all of us on the internet and on social media. There are so many great ideas and activities going around. I love to come up with hands-on activities myself, and I enjoy sharing them with our Paloma Piano community. In this post, I thought I would share how to create your own hands-on piano activities.

Resources are Everywhere!

For ten years, I worked as a preschool teacher in a Montessori School. The head teacher at our school was a highly trained Montessori Specialist and highly creative person. She taught me to see everything as a potential learning activity. Discarded keys became a matching lesson; old perfume bottles: an opportunity to sort and the match tops to the bottles; clothes pins and cloth: a chance to hone fine motor skills, and on and on. The shelves at our school were filled with learning activities; most of them handmade. I noticed that there were two main strategies to come up with new activities. I also knew that I could apply these ideas to piano teaching.

 

Strategy 1: Think of a Problem that Needs Solving

Is a preschool student having trouble remembering the names of the keys? Think of ways that could help him remember. Use things that are colorful, interesting to look at and to touch. For young students, I like to choose things that feel interesting and are large enough for little hands to grasp. I think of using the senses of sight, touch and sound together when creating activities for young students. Getting young students off of the piano bench periodically is also important.

Older students can benefit from hands-on activities as well. Visual aids can be used to teach theoretical concepts like how scales are constructed or how different triads are formed. More advanced students also love games and challenges. Is an older student having trouble memorizing? Think of ways to turn memorizing into a game or a challenge. Using these ideas you can create your own hands-on piano activities.

Strategy 2: See Something and Then Come up With Ways to Use It

There really are resources everywhere. Keep this in mind when shopping, cleaning out closets and drawers or just walking around outside. When you come across something interesting, ask yourself if it is something you can use in a piano lesson. This can be super fun and the more you practice coming up with ideas the better you will get at thinking of great and unique activities for your students.

Learn more about using games in your studio read the post “Piano Teaching Games”

Start With a Brain Dump

When trying to find ways to solve a problem or make use of an object. Write down every idea that comes to mind no matter how crazy it may seem. Inevitably some of these ideas will be good ones and ideas always lead to more ideas for you to create your own hands-on piano activities.

Here’s an example of how to create your own hands-on piano activities.

Jillian is 4 years-old she is having trouble understanding the concept of high notes being the on the right side of the keyboard and low notes being on the left side of the keyboard. I am going to think of ten crazy, off the cuff ways to help her.

  1. Take a paper keyboard chart turn it on its side so the right side of the keyboard is higher, then put it back down.
  2. Put a red bead or piece of paper on the right side of the keyboard and a red sticker on the paper flip it up and see how the red is high, use a different color for the low notes on the left side.
  3. Play a higher lower gameplay a note and have the student play a higher or lower note.
  4. Put a red sticker with an H on the student’s right hand use a different color for the left hand.
  5. Have the student put a red bead on the high side of every group of three black keys (B). Repeat with the low notes.
  6. Play a “Chase” game. Play a note have the student play a higher note as quickly as possible until the top of the keyboard is reached. Repeat for the low side of the keyboard.
  7. Use a small plastic bird and place it on the highest notes on the keyboard use something like a small fish for the low notes.
  8. Make up a little chant and movement activity to a simple tune like “Merrily We Roll Along” The high notes are on the right, on the right, on the right.” Etc.
  9. Have the student play a five-finger exercise and say the word “higher” on each note C through G. Reverse for the low notes.
  10. Have the student find a series of random notes each one must be higher (or lower) than the next. (for example; A, G, F. G must be higher than A and F higher than G)

Obviously, not all of these ideas are fantastic, but a couple of them are usable and one or two might really click with my student.

Try these exercises.

Think of some ways to help these students.

    1. Scott has been playing for three years but has trouble remembering Key Signatures.
    2. 5-year-old Sandra avoids using her thumb when playing.

Think of some ways the following objects could be used in a piano lesson. (You can add other objects to the ones suggested

    1. Pipe Cleaners
    2. Sea Shells
    3. Small Wooden Cubes

I know that teachers are such creative people and are always coming up with new ways to teach. I hope some teachers might find these ideas helpful. I would love to hear about how all of you come up with unique activities for your students.

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A Heart for Teaching Piano Teachers

Here is the second part of last week’s blog post. A heart for teaching piano teachers.

Continued.

Everything has a downside

While it true that sharing and posting are 99.9% fantastic and I learn so much, I can’t help but think of my younger self. The Doreen who’d just graduated from college not feeling so confident. Let’s face it, music school isn’t for the faint of heart. I worked hard, but when I came out I didn’t feel prepared for the real world of the working musician or the piano teacher. Even if I’d had the courage to pipe up and ask a question on social media I surely would have been easily discouraged if someone would have come back with a judgmental comment.

Continue reading “A Heart for Teaching Piano Teachers”

Preschool Piano Skills and Goals

What does it mean to be the best piano teacher in town? It means having preschool piano skills and goals that will attract and maintain great students. Here are some benefits.

1) You have a full studio with a waiting list.

2) Students and Parents are happy.

3) You can charge a premium rate for lessons.

4) You will get many referrals.

5) You love teaching.

 

The Benefits of Teaching Preschool Students. Preschool Piano Skills and Goals

1) Preschoolers become great older students.

2) Preschoolers increase your enrollment.

3) Preschoolers are fun to teach.

 

Working With Preschool Piano Students

1) Young children learn best using a multi-sensory approach.

2) Most preschoolers cannot sit for long periods of time, they need the opportunity to get up and move.

3) It is important to establish goals for preschoolers and have rubrics in place to measure the progress of your preschool students.

4) Parents need to see measurable progress with regard to their child’s piano study.

 

Goals For Preschool Piano Students

1) To learn strong aural skills.

2) To Play with excellent technique.

3) To understand how music works.

4) To memorize and improvise music.

5) To love the piano and become lifelong players.

Preschool Piano Skills

1) Lesson etiquette

2) Proper Posture

3) Finger Numbers

4) The Music alphabet

5) Treble and Bass Clefs

6) Names of the piano keys

7) Concentration

8) Stories of great composers

9) How to play along with the teacher and keep a steady beat

10) How to identify high and low sounds on the keyboard

11) The names of basic rhythmic value

12) The concept of organized sound

13) The concept of timbre

14) Dynamics

15) Tempo

16) Listening to great music

17) Recital Participation

18) Basic improvisation.

19) Singing and matching pitch.

Read the post “Little Kids on the Keys”

 

 

The “Preschool Activities Book” at Paloma Piano features activities for preschool students.

This Book is available for Paloma Platinum Members. Find out more here.

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Why Teach Music History to Piano Students?

Music History…Music History! Are you still with me? Why teach music history to piano students?

Honestly, I used to hate my college Music History class. “Music Misery” does that ring a bell? The only thing mildly amusing about it was how excited the Professor used to get when telling stories about composers. The guy was really jazzed about the subject. Me? I didn’t care. I just wanted to pass the test and get on to playing the piano and composing strange sounding music. I just didn’t see the point. I felt that I needed to be in the practice room not sitting at a desk learning about the antics and escapades of Beethoven, Bach and Brahms. Continue reading “Why Teach Music History to Piano Students?”

Sight-Reading

Piano Sight-reading

Sight-reading piano music is no easy task! Actually reading piano music at all is no easy task. Being able to instantly play music that is set before you is nothing short of amazing. Some people are so good at it. It seems to come naturally to certain pianists others of us have to really work at sight-reading piano music.

I started playing the piano at the age of 12 (late!). I spent a lot of time practicing. I worked hard to prepare everything my teacher assigned. I did not, however, spend any time on sight-reading because I had a lot of catching up to do. It was all I could do to learn to play my classical repertoire, scales, and technique. As a result, I used to be a horrible sight-reader. This was not good! Not good at all.

When I got to college I soon discovered that my sight reading deficiency was a major problem. I was awed by my friends who could sight read anything. Life was so much less stressful for them. These students had the confidence to know that they could pretty much get through anything that was set in front of them during choral conducting or ensemble class. They could also play more pieces and learn them faster. I soon realized that being a strong sight reader is an indispensable skill for all pianists. So I set out to become a good sight-reader here’s how I did it, and how I teach my students to sight read.

Continue reading “Sight-Reading”

9 Tips for Teaching Teenage Beginning Piano Students

I started learning the piano at age 12. Which is kind of late musically speaking. The fact is the earlier in life you start piano lessons the better. But not everyone has the opportunity to begin lessons as a preschooler. There is a lot written about adult beginners, but what about teens? These students are in the middle, not young children and not adults. Teenage beginning piano students come with their own unique set of challenges and strengths. Here are some tips on teaching beginning teenage piano students.

Some Basic Tips

  1. Help teens set goals, Most teens are anxious to learn to play as quickly as possible. At the very first lesson, we talk about goals. What type of music they want to learn and how much time they have to spend practicing. Playing the piano is a big undertaking I let them know this from the beginning.
  2. Once I find out what it is teens want to learn I  put them on the Fast Track. Ultimately I want my teenaged beginning piano students to learn to read music, read a lead sheet and play by ear. Then end game is to have teenaged beginning students gain facility at the piano as quickly as possible so that they can enjoy playing and learn music independently.

What is the Fast Track?

    1. Music Reading, Of course, I use Paloma Piano’s Method books. Teenage beginning piano students who practice will be able to get through Books 1a through 4b within 1 to 2 years. After that, they should be proficient enough music readers to jump into intermediate classical music. I put my students into a book called “Music by the Masters”. This collection has a lot of great classical pieces from which to choose.
    2. Technique                                                                                                                                   With younger students I wait awhile to teach scales and arpeggios. However, I start right away with teenaged beginning piano students. They learn two octaves hands together (see the post-Learning Scales and Arpeggios the Easy Way). It’s also important to focus on relaxation of the hand and proper posture. With some students, I use a few of the first Hannon exercises.
    3. Music Theory                                                                                                                             I streamline it. All of the basic stuff (notes, rhythms, musical terms, etc.) are covered in the method books. Other than that, I teach whole steps and half steps, major and minor key signatures, scale degrees, and how to form chords.
    4. Improvisation                                                                                                                             I have students makeup music, play on the black keys, use the pedal and experiment with sounds. I feel that this helps them to get comfortable with the instrument. I am not a jazz teacher but I will teach my students a few Blues scales and left hand patterns so that they can have some fun. Sometimes I’ll make up a bass line and let them play over it.
    5. Playing by Ear                                                                                                                           This is an easy one just think of a song you know and plunk it out. After that add I, IV, V chords and go from there.
    6. Piano Covers                                                                                                                              A Piano Cover is a popular song played on the piano by someone other than the original artist who recorded it. Youtube is full of these. It is also full of Piano Tutorials and teens love them. I have my students show me what they are trying to learn from Youtube and I help them. I have mixed feelings about Youtube tutorials but I know that my teenaged beginning piano students are probably trying them. If they are getting their other work done and the tutorial looks like something they can accomplish I help them break it down and learn it.
    7. Chords and Lead Sheets                                                                                                        Once my teenage beginning students can read music fairly well I teach them how to form chords and play from a lead sheet. This, along with playing by helps them to learn some of the popular music they enjoy playing. If a student enjoys singing, all the better! Playing chords and singing is easy to learn and will really help them enjoy the piano.

In Conclusion

I really love working with teenage beginning piano students. They are so much fun and they learn very fast. Even though these students are very busy most of them are so excited to learn to play the piano that they will work very hard. I know how they feel I love the piano too! And I will do anything to help them attain their dream of playing the piano.

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It’s chock full of great ideas and encouragement for piano teachers.

Put it on your reading list or read it with your piano teaching club or group.