Having a summer practice goal is a wonderful way to keep kids motivated and growing as musicians. It also makes the most of their free time. If you’re interest in taking on this challenge here’s a list of things to consider.

 

Length of Vacation

The first thing you’ll need to figure out is how many days your child has for summer vacation. Then you can factor in family vacation time and a few full days at the water park. What’s left are the days for the practice challenge.

 

Practice Goal

There are a variety of goals your can set, including:

a) Practice every day. No set time limit. Just accomplish something.

b) Practice 20 minutes every day. Mark your practice record as students achieve their daily goal.

c) Set a a goal of 25 hours. Some kids might like this best, and have the goal completed in a few weeks.

 

Practice Charts

We have a collection of free printable practice charts if you’re interested.

Get Free Practice Charts

clown-with-balloons-practice-chart

 

Reward or No Reward

You’ll also need to decide if the reward of becoming a better musician and playing fun songs is reward enough, or should you provide a reward to work toward.

A research study conducted by Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive: The Suprising Truth About What Motivates Us, looked at a group of preschoolers who chose to spend their “free play” time drawing. The researchers divided the students into three groups. The first was the “expected-award” group. They knew they would get something for completing their assigned goal. The second group was the “unexpected-award” group. They would receive a “Good Player” certificate, though wouldn’t know it’s coming. The third group was the “no-award” group. There was no promise of a reward, and nothing was awarded.

Children in the “unexpected-award” and “no-award” groups drew just as much and enjoyed drawing just as much. However, the children who expected to receive an award showed much less interest in drawing spent much less drawing.

Extrinsic rewarded can be great. You’ll just have to decide if they are right for your kids.

Finding the perfect words to express what you mean and make the concept understandable to young students can be a challenge. When we finally figure out how to express our ideas, we tend to repeat these phrases over and over again.

I have been enhancing my students perfomances with dynamics (p, mp, mf, f) for many years.  I have accomplished this with two strategies:

1) Define Terms – I teach students to pronounce the terms and defined them.

1) Demonstrate – I play examples and explain the terms. Mezzo Forte (mf) is easy. You don’t need to work hard to play soft or to play loud. Mezzo Piano (mp) and Forte (f) are more challenging because they require extra effort. Piano (p) requires the most effort.

Nothing special here. It has worked well enough, but it was difficult to achieve artistry-level performances with grade school students… until now.

For the past 5-6 years I’ve been taking art lessons, and decided to see if a connection between art and music might help my music students play their music in a much more expressive way.

I introduced value.

Value refers to the visible lightness or darkness of a color, and is one of the most important design elements in a work of art.

So, how does this relate to music?

The following chart shows the four most common dynamic levels and assigns a value to each of them.

teaching-musical-dynamics-drawing-values.jpg

I found that drawing a box above a section of the music, and shading it with the appropriate value, gave students a visual indication of how loud or soft the phrase should be played. A light turned on for my students and it transformed their performances.

In some instances, you might draw a box above a four measure phrase and that will be enough. Other pieces are so well written, and your students so capable, that you might want to dig a little deeper -adding value boxes above individual notes.

dynamics-music-lessons-piano

Save

Save

Save

Most kids won’t grow up to be music composers. However, the opportunity to compose or arrange music shouldn’t be overlooked as it will bring a richness of understanding to their musical experience that you just can’t get any other way.

I started writing and arranging music is high school, and my band director had the jazz and concert band read every single thing I wrote. I learned how to building chords, writing counterpoint, and orchestration. All these experiences made me a better listener and helped me to appreciate the music I played.

If you’d like to try composing with your students, but don’t know where to start, you can print this book – Composing with Kids | Fives “Recipes” for Success. Each “recipe” includes ingredients (like “use this ostinato”, “this form”, or “these rhythms”) and directions on how to combine them. If it sounds a lot like baking cookies… it is!

Composing with Kids | Fives “Recipes” for Success

composing-with-kids-book

Music Notation Apps

Seeing your music printed from a professional notation tool is an amazingly satisfying thing. I recently asked one of my students to give Finale Print Music a try, so she download the 30-day free trial. She loved it! One of the big advantages of writing things out with a notation program is that students get to hear a digital performance. Finale’s Human Playback feature is pretty nice. It still sounds like an electronic piano, but sounds very much like a real person is playing.

Noteflight
Noteflight is a web-based app that can be used on you iPad or Desktop. They offer a “try before you buy” account, so you can check things out first.  Noteflight is supportive to teachers and students and includes many materials and lesson plans for download.

Finale Print Music
Finale Print Music is a basic version of Make Music’s Finale software. They also offer a “try before you buy” account, so you can check things out first. I began writing arrangements with Print Music and liked it. It’s a wonderful tool that allows you to write simple piano arrangements, or music for full band or orchestra. The only reason I upgraded was so I could switch clefs mid-measure.

If the experienced teacher is the best teacher, Olive Haffner might just be the best teacher on the planet.

piano-lessons

Olive says she loves teaching, and say’s it’s alot like reading the Bible, she’s always discovering something new.

Olive started teaching music lessons during the depression for .25 a lesson. These days she’s teaching the fourth generation of students, as her first students have sent their kids, their kids sent their kids, and their kids sent their kids.

Happy Birthday Olive!

 

The Piano Bench Mag (iOS App) is an easy-to-read app that offers practical ideas for piano teachers that would like to integrate iPad technology or online teaching into their music lessons. The app also provides tips for teachers who could use some help understanding the technology.

the-piano-bench-mag-app

App Description
The Piano Bench Mag recommended for piano instructors that are looking for exciting new resources and ideas that inspire them to make their lessons more engaging, relevant and profitable. Each issue includes:

1) App reviews, games and activities or how-tos to enhance your lessons and simplify your life;
2) Inspiring stories about piano teachers and the resources they have created;
3) Thought provoking articles about the issues that face today’s piano teacher and more!

Visit the Apple App Store | The Piano Bench Mag

screen322x572a

piano-bench-mag-screenshot

Ever offered group piano lessons?

Pianist and composer Matthew Mason recently open his piano store, Pianicity, and has been offering group piano lessons to great success. Students, out of a desire to perform well in front of their peers, are meeting challenges and growing rapidly as young musicians.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.57.04 AM

Mason says:

“Our lessons are taught in classes of two to eight students,” Mason said. “We have a system of prizes where students are judged according to how well they’re doing as far as rhythm, notes, playing with the correct fingers and at the end of each month the winner in each particular category is awarded a small prize or ribbon…” Read more on YourHoustonNews.com

Here’s game you teacher can play with their students during piano lab time, or just with the family. Provided in the printable download is a game board, musical term cards, “Jump the Plank” cards and an answer sheet.

pirate-quest-music-game

About this Activity
Ahoy there, Matey! Want to add some swashbuckling fun to your music theory skill building efforts? PirateQuest™ provides young musicians with a pirate-themed game board and 30 basic music term cards to drill and practice. Mix and match the question cards to drill the musical terms they need to know. When they’ve mastered the first set, grab a new set of terms.

Download Pirate Quest | Music Terms Game

 

_________________________________________________________________

Browse more “The Piano Student” music theory posts:

Flash Frog™ | Free Printable Music Flashcards for Beginners
Free Music Memory Game | Treble Clef Note Names
Pirate Quest | Basic Music Terms Game (Free, Printable)
Music for Little Mozarts | iPad App Review
Carnegie Hall Park (Matchbox Parking) | Music Theory Board Game

%d bloggers like this: