Thursday, October 31, 2013

Method Books I Use

Method books vary according to age, music styles, and teaching strategies... oh, and price.   The two main categories are adult and children.  Between children's methods there are some variations, and I enjoyed surveying many methods in my pedagogy studies.  I bring in elements of these other methods to my students to supplement the method books I use.  I also use whatever method books students may have on hand.

Students under about 6 can start with this:

Step by Step Piano Course - Book 1 (Step by Step (Hal Leonard))   (like this: )

 These are the first two books for older beginners:

Schaum Notespeller  - a workbook.   (like this: )

M. Aaron Lessons Book One - method book (
Belwin Piano Method Book One  - method book   (

 Add note flashcards.

After completing Book 2 of either method book, introduce:

Dozen a Day Book 1 - Technique / Finger agility (

I generally introduce chord symbol and playing by ear around intermediate level note reading, since the reading takes the most discipline and sets a student solidly in a mindset of hard work.   I demarcate intermediate level as my teacher did, with Bach's Minuet in G.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Musical Activities for Toddlers

Since I have a 12 month old, this has been a recurring theme of late.

Movement and Music Activities for Toddlers:

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

  1. Sit on the floor across from your child, legs spread far enough apart so that you can hold hands.
  2. Pull your child toward you, then lean forward and have your child lean back.
  3. Continue the rocking motion, forward and back, as you sing the familiar song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" or other rocking rhymes. 

I Hear Thunder

This is sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques," or "Are You Sleeping?"
    I hear thunder, I hear thunder, (Drum feet on the floor.)
    Hark, don't you, hark, don't you? (Pretend to listen.)
    Pitter-patter raindrops, (Flutter your fingers for raindrops.)
    Pitter-patter raindrops,
    I'm wet through, (Shake your body vigorously.)
    So are you! (Point to your child.)

Read more on FamilyEducation:

  • Singing and vocal play along with Story Time, chants, and finger plays all help stimulate language development in a fun and pressure-free way.
  • Vocal Development – For toddlers, learning to use their voices starts with imitating sounds, playing with the many sounds our voices can make, singing short songs, and chanting simple rhymes – all with you as a model and inspiration.
  • Cognitive Development – You’ll be able to enhance your child’s growing comprehension and cognitive skills through happy classroom routines like coming to get instruments and putting them away, musical activities that invite clapping and tapping to music, and themes that engage the toddler’s delightful sense of curiosity and imagination. 
  • Gross Motor Skills – Toddlers on the go love all their Kindermusik classes – we’re never still for very long!  From holding and shaking instruments to running and jumping to stopping and going, you will enjoy being part of helping your child’s skills blossom through a wide variety of creative movement.
  • Fine Motor Skills – At a child when your child is becoming more and more independent, a little practice with smaller-sized instruments, finger plays, and turning pages ...means that the hand muscles learn to cooperate more and more with the brain.
  • Social Emotional Development – There’s no doubt that your toddler is becoming his own little person, but he still needs you as his anchor of security.  Kindermusik ensures your child’s healthy social and emotional development through predictable routines and special rituals, being around other children, practice with sharing, and best of all, play time with you.
  • Musical Development – Toddlers are delighted by music, and there’s no better time than in these early years to inspire what will become a lifelong love for music....from drumming to singing to dancing together.
Activities I thought of from reading this: 
Musical Chairs
Musical Red Light Green Light:
Play music, children dancing, using instruments (drums, rattles, recorder)
Freeze when music goes off.
imitating sounds ( animals, hi, lo, long, short, fast, slow, happy, sad, instruments)
songs and fingerplay

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Classical School and Music by Douglas Wilson

Douglas Wilson's plenary talk from the 2013 ACCS Annual Conference. One of the great challenges faced by ACCS schools is the vexed question of musical training. We are dealing with a shortage of qualified instructors, an ocean of pagan filth, a lake of Christian schlock, the persnicketiness of many of the qualified instructors we do have, the normal resistance to anything new, the school day is already full, and the budget is
already limited. But other than that, everything is great.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Toddler / Very Young Beginner Lesson Plans

With the very young (preschool), the key is to be quick to give them short things to do.  They are incredibly energetic and the hardest part of teaching them is to keep them interested and busy.  I would go through as many of the following concepts and exercises until one third of the way through their lesson time, then go back to the beginning.

 I like to approach their lesson as visiting categories of learning: aural training, visualizing keyboard/ keyboard awareness, tactile (finger dexterity/technique), vocalization, rhythm, and notation.  Combinations of these categories are inevitable, especially the physical aspect, which the child craves. In the beginning, relationship is of utmost importance: develop mutual trust, appreciation, and optimism.

Some method books have activities for the very young.  There are so many methods, and so many different activities, since teaching the very young is challenging.  They have less skills and basic understanding then an older child.  You can't take much for granted (e.g., ability to distinguish loud and soft on different octaves).

 Here are some ideas from the recently post video and my experience:

First Lesson:

Sitting in Front of Piano - quickly ask to sit with feet in front.  Repeating this frequently is unecessary; if child moves, it is usually because you aren't keeping guessed it... interested and busy.

Find groups of 2 black keys.
Play together, separately, with index fingers only.  Repeat in all octaves.

Copy game:  Play same key as me.  As many times. Loud, soft, short, long. 
 I copy you!

Finger Exercise - Discover if child is right/left handed.  Teach R and L.   Count fingers. Show me 2, 3, etc. 
Simon says touch the piano with finger 2, 3, etc. Switch hands.

Play hi and lo keys.  Tell me too!

Teach Hot Cross Buns

Second Lesson

Student claps, teacher counts 1 - 2, by twos. Switch.

Aural/Visual : Play and ask questions about Loud, soft, short, long. 

Watch and Copy game on 2 black keys.

Use previous finger exercise game.

Hot Cross Buns with both hands

Chinese Chimes

 Third Lesson:

Student claps, teacher counts 1 - 2, by twos. Fast, slow.   Switch.
Hot Cross Buns

Repeat in all octaves.

Repeat with teacher accompaniment.

Repeat  using E, D, C.

Finger Exercises on 2 keys, copy teacher

Find groups of 3 black keys.
Teacher counts 1 - 2, by twos, student improvises. Switch roles. 

Fourth Lesson

Introduce posture and hand position.

Learn Hot Cross Buns with 3 Fingers

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Toddler / Preschool Piano

Three year old, four years, five....
This video has some ideas ("Physical and aural connections!")

I love how the teacher pretended to make a mistake, and he's taught the child mistakes are ok, and funny.  Of course, we want to enjoy the right notes more!