10 reasons why to teach Baroque music AND attend our next 88 Creative Keys webinar

#10 Baroque music sets the foundation for centuries of music to follow.

Webinar: Connect your students to the great composers of this legendary style with engaging activities and repertoire.

#9 Baroque music is energetic and action-packed.

Webinar: Gather a wide selection of appealing, dramatic, student-saver pieces.

#8 Baroque music easily crosses over to different keyboards.

Webinar: Experiment with different voices on your digital piano that will immediately engage students.

#7 Baroque music can be intimidating.

Webinar: Learn a comprehensive approach that simplifies the complex by simultaneously combining analysis, playing by ear, rote learning and reading.

#6 Baroque music can be demanding and requires top-notch practice strategies.

Webinar: Add brilliant, time-saving ideas to your curriculum that guarantee progress between lessons.

#5 Baroque sheet music is available in so many resources that it can be hard to find the ideal repertoire and up-to-date editions.

Webinar: Receive recommendations for the TOP, carefully-sequenced editions.

[Click here to watch the video below.]

#4 Baroque music is full of patterns that challenge and yet, feel good beneath the fingers.

Webinar: Learn how to identify and extract patterns to build memorization skills and inspire creativity.

#3 Baroque music can be lengthy.

Webinar: See how to break up literature into sections to save precious lesson time, ease students’ practice load and maximize memory capacity.

#2 Baroque music is based on improvisation.

Webinar: Integrate more creativity in your studio with expert tips on creating within the repertoire and beyond the page.

# 1 Baroque music includes THE most popular chord progression of all time: Pachelbel’s Canon.

Webinar: Put all the chord knowledge you learned from our last webinar (Chords at Work and Play) and immerse your students in this progression. In THIS webinar see exactly how to easily teach improvisation with Pachelbel’s canon.

SO many teachers find it hard to “fit it all in!”

This webinar shows you how to combine the essential lesson elements into one, comprehensive approach.

-Leila

Sign up NOW and join Bradley Sowash and me

on Monday, November 13, 9:00am EST.

If you are wondering…

Is it worth attending the webinar if I already purchased Go Baroque?

Yes! This webinar directly supports the activities and repertoire in the Go Baroque resource.

Do I need to purchase Go Baroque to benefit from the webinar?

No! Both are independent of each other and one will amplify the other. Learn more here.

 

How can a Practice-A-Thon make the world a better place?

What’s a Practice-A-Thon? Can it really make the world a better place? This idea recently captured the attention of many piano teachers in the Piano Teacher Central Facebook group thanks to Laura Roberts. 

How did fellow teacher Laura Roberts end up sharing her fund-raiser idea at 88pianokeys.me?

Instead of explaining the connection now, please keep reading to learn why and to download Melody Payne’s editable instructions so you can run your own Practice-A-Thon.

Thank you, Laura, for such an inspirational post!

-Leila


Change the World Through Music

That’s this year’s theme for Kathy’s Music, the music school I teach for in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As teachers, we were challenged to think about what that meant to us, and to do one thing with our students this year, that would make the world a better place.

This theme really resonated with me, since I have a background in Music Therapy. I believe in the power of music to heal and bring joy to others, and this desire sparked the idea of a Practice-A-Thon. I wanted to show my students they can use their music to help others, just through practicing and performing! I also knew that if they actually packed relief kits with the money they helped raise, it would be a tangible way for them to understand how they were helping.

When the devastating hurricanes occurred, I really wanted to do something to help, but didn’t know what one person could really do to make an impact. But, I realized I have musical gifts, some wonderful piano students with supportive families, and my church. Read More

Become a WHIZ at the Grand Staff with ONE game and TEN Ways to Play

The grand staff is a vast and scary landscape to those who first encounter it’s lines, spaces and ancient signs.

Getting to know and memorizing pitch names on this complex grid is like learning the names of 88 new best friends! In addition, musicians need to know the “homes” of all those “88 friends” on the piano keyboard.

How does an early learner become a “whiz” at memorizing the names and locations of 88 pitches? It starts by making REPETITION their best friend. As like to say in my studio:

Repetition is your best friend.

Mind you, it’s not mindless repetition! It must be strategic repetition which will help learners not only memorize but, understand that the grand staff is a map pointing the way to pitch locations on the keyboard.

Strategic repetition with a good dose of gamification and socialization is the perfect combination.

When graphic designer, Andrea West, told me she had designed flash cards to review pitch names, I was moderately excited. I’ve got plenty of flash cards in my studio and my iPad is full of apps to review pitch names. However, when she informed me that these were playing-card size and that she plays all kinds of fun games with the deck in her studio, I was intrigued. None of my flashcards come in a deck and I was eager to hear about her games.

Go Fish and War are her student favorites along with Snip, Snap Snorem and Snap. I couldn’t wait to hear how she played these!

Reading through her thorough instructions inspired me as well, and so I created games geared to help beginners. The games require little knowledge about the grand staff and build discrimination skills.

The instructions from both Andrea and me included with your purchase of the playing cards feature ideas on how to set limitations and set stages so that students of any level have fun, learn and succeed.

With Inspector Whiz Cards, you’ve got games to suit every student!

The purchase of Andrea’s Inspector Whiz Cards includes:

  • Clever “wizard-like” magnifying glass “back” for each card
  • Sheets with cards of every pitch in the treble clef and bass clef with most ledger lines.

You’ll need to print 4 sheets that feature the pitches. Print the back side of each sheet with the “Back of Playing Card” sheet. This will give you a deck of cards with four of each note, plus additional accidentals that can be used as wild cards in any of your games. 

You may wish to laminate your cards so they last for while. Scotch laminators are top notch.

Even if you own flash cards, you’ll want to purchase Inspector Whiz Cards so you can learn about and play all the games featured in the instructions.

With your small investment, you’ll gain a deck of cards and at least 10 games of guaranteed fun. You’ll also enjoy seeing your students gain confidence as they dig deeper into the landscape of the grand staff and become friends with all 88 pitches!

-Leila

Get your Inspector Whiz Cards

HERE or click on the image.

On sale for $4.99 (price goes up to $5.99, November 1, 2017)

 

 

Technique Fundamentals According to the Taubman Approach

Do you find your students suffering from an ongoing case of “knuckle buckle?” Do their wrists sag and creep into the “snake pit?” My students suffer from the same issues, too.

Playing the piano with a healthy technique is a prerequisite to becoming a capable (and of course, creative and tech-savvy!) pianist but, it’s not always an easy topic to explain to youngsters. I’m always looking for ways to communicate technical tips that will connect with and motivate students to play with ease and efficiency.

Today’s guest blogger, Doug Hanvey, has been immersed in Dorothy Taubman’s approach–a highly respected legend in the field of technique. In fact, The Golandsky Institute continues to share Taubman’s insight and brilliance with musicians from all over the world looking to improve their technique or heal from injuries resulting from poor technique.

Doug’s article explains what technique really is and the fundamentals for you to share with your students. Ms Taubman’s approach is golden so make sure to build the foundation of your technical approach around it.

Look for a followup article from me on how to model and explain these principles with concrete tips and tools very soon! You’ll gain ideas for implementing the fundamentals below and gather remedies for knuckle buckle, sagging wrists and ways to encourage the use of weight vs force.

Thank you, Doug, for your clear and thorough explanation of the fundamentals!

-Leila


What is Piano Technique?

Many piano students, and some piano teachers, think of technique as a tedious, even grim, subject. We all want to focus on music-making. Yet to the extent that the mechanics of how we make music go unexplored and undiscussed, we risk allowing our students (and ourselves) to develop poor and potentially injurious habits.

Many teachers think that Hanon and similar exercises are “technique.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Hanon exercises are just that – exercises.

Technique is how we position ourselves and move to play, and it should be taught prior to exercises. (Of course there are other important aspects of technique such as breathing and listening.) Playing piano without understanding good technique is no different than playing golf without knowing how to grip and swing the club. Good luck!

Fortunately, unlike Hanon (sorry, Hanon), technique needn’t be tedious or grim. I’ve found that technique can be an absorbing subject, especially when you experience how it helps you to play better and with greater ease.

While as teachers we often have the opportunity to teach good technique from the beginning, sometimes we must also “fix” students’ technique. Whether we are starting or “fixing,” good technique begins with knowing how to optimally position your body at your instrument.

The rest of this article will explore this topic from the viewpoint of the famous pedagogue Dorothy Taubman. Read More

Is it cheating to teach a piece by rote?

Some may say that teaching a piece by rote cheats a student out of developing reading skills. I say teaching by rote is anything but cheating!

Keep reading and watch a recent Facebook live video to learn why and how I do it. 

Can you teach a Baroque piece by rote?

Since many 88pianokeys.me readers are Going Baroque this fall, I recently made a Facebook live video of how I like to teach “Musette” by rote. In the video you’ll learn why I believe teaching pattern pieces like “Musette” by rote is so important to developing student skills. I’ve added a few more reasons below.

What are the benefits of teaching a piece by rote?

The process…

Builds students’ confidence which leads to success which leads to progress which leads to pianists who stick to the bench.

Boosts confidence in playing skills because the “middle man” or the page is removed and students aren’t trapped in the middle of the piano reading from a limited amount of notes in the grand staff. They can explore the entire range of the piano which provides an exciting and more satisfying sound–especially when the pedal is added!

Elevates playing skills as a rote piece is usually more difficult and sounds more complex than what students can read.

Connects the theory students learn and puts it into action which reinforces and solidifies concepts.

Aids in memorization skills as students are required to remember the feel and the sound of patterns instead of relying on visual cues.

Develops ear skills. If you want to balance eye ear skills, teaching by rote is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Acknowledges the learning styles of students who may find reading a music score much more difficult than learning by ear. This may be the key to unlocking success for those usually stumped by the grand staff.

Enhances reading skills. YES! I firmly believe this is true if you teach by rote and IF you also refer to the score as students learn the piece. They’ll see the shapes and patterns on the grand staff. In addition, this is a great time to master locations of favorite notes like Deep Blue C, Cow C, Middle C, Face C and Cloud C. Watch the video to see what I mean.

Highlights from the video

An easy way to incorporate rote teaching is by assigning everyone in the studio to learn a pattern piece every year–one that is easy to learn because of repetition and patterns based on chords.

Relate patterns in the rote piece to patterns the students already know–like five-finger patterns and chords.

Use words to master rhythms. For the first line of Musette:

Mom, what’s for dinner?

Mom, what’s for dinner?

can be answered with :

Chicken soup and a grilled cheese sandwich

BBQ chicken with some coleslaw

Meatball, spaghetti with some red sauce

Tacos with cheese and guacamole.

For line three, use these words to match the rhythm:

Hurry up , hurry up, it’s so late

I just want some dinner and some ice cream!

Record yourself or students playing the piece correctly so they can listen to it at home.

There will be rhythmic gaps between sections. To eliminate gaps:

Learn the notes without leaps, then add the leap.

Use sticky notes to isolate large hand shifts and repeat over and over

Learn the pattern in the RH and then teach the LH the same pattern.

Lock in a steady beat and eliminate all gaps between measures with a rockin’ beat from a device or Clavinova.

To catch all the other tricks I use to teach Musette, check out the video!

Books I like to use for Baroque and Classical literature:

Keith Snell’s Essential Keyboard Repertoire

Faber’s The Developing Artist Series

If you do like hanging out on Facebook and enjoy talking all things pedagogy, join my group Piano Pedagogy On and Off the Bench. It’s where I house all my Facebook live videos and offer an environment of discussion and encouragement (no venting, whining or feuding here!)

-Leila

PS If you cannot see the video below, please email me at lviss@me.com and I’ll send you the file.

What are your favorite pieces to teach by rote?

-Leila


PS! Check out Andrea West’s spectacular graphic designs for Fall events in your studio! I cannot pick a favorite.

Check out all the designs and GET yours HERE.

-Leila

Practice Notes…Dispensable? Rethinking Practice Notes

When students finish a lesson, there’s no guarantee what kind of practice will happen at home. Although we’d love to be in control of every practice minute, that’s not reality. Instead of focusing on what’s impossible, it’s important that we teachers focus on what we CAN do to encourage the right kind of practice at home that will ignite progress between lessons. When students see themselves make progress, they want to come back for more. Read more about the impact of progress on motivation in this past post.

Below is a guest post by Roberta Wolff that offers spot-on tips and practical maxims for teacher practice notes and student practice. Roberta includes detailed information on her excellent resources that reinforce successful practice habits and is offering a special coupon for all 88PianoKeys.me readers.

Ms. Wolff has brilliant advice and I’m so thankful that she took the time to share it with us!

-Leila


To me, practice, or assignment, sheets are a vital tool in helping students sustain effort between lessons. Not because we expect a student’s work to be under par but rather in acknowledgement of the fact that practice can be a challenge, and one that requires a healthy dose of zeal and determination.

I am a UK-based piano teacher and for the last four years I have been researching how students learn and practice with particular emphasis on developing resources and ideas to support students and teachers.

My priorities have been:

  1. Teaching students how to be more efficient during their practice, including motivating students to practice regularly, musically and creatively with a healthy dose of fun.
  2. Creating resources which streamline the teachers work, including making notes clearer and easier to write, reducing planning time between lessons and educating parents and students on the art of practice.

This article will be useful to you if you are looking for:

  1. Tips to help your students practice.
  2. Ideas which you can incorporate in your own assignment sheets.
  3. New downloadable resources, be sure to use the coupon code below.
  4. Free downloads.

This article is written in two halves:

  1. A summary of my research
  2. A summary of the resources I have developed as a result.

Read More

Our next webinar will save you time and give you NEW resources!

Why make a point of joining us Monday morning (September 25th)  for our next 88 Creative Keys Webinar Workshop? How can this be worth your time when there’s a million other things to do?

I’ll save you time by getting right to the point. You’ll gain:

Insight into the journey of a classically trained pianist crossing over to the world of playing by ear and how you can do the same.

Tools for integrating contemporary styles into classical and traditional tunes. Ex: how can inspiration from John Mayer spruce up an old hymn?

A brand NEW resource to develop sight-reading chords and chord symbols made for group or private lessons.

An innovative method for employing the most popular chord progressions tabulated by the developers of Hooktheory.

A small but powerful gift for your students packed with essentials for learning theory and composition.

Hot apps that tantalize AND teach.

A top-notch, in-depth  review of triads, 7th chords and their symbols.

Permission to teach by rote before reading, the tricks to teaching by rote and suggestions for rote pieces.

Steps to building ear skills when the eyes want to take over.

A frame of mind to help you play and teach with a well-balanced approach.

It takes time and energy to gear up for creative-based teaching and playing. It takes more than just pushing a POWER button to get those gears turning efficiently.

The good news? Bradley Sowash and I believe your time can be cut in half by the productive study of chords and putting them to work! 

We promise to charge up your teaching and your playing for the year to come.

Register NOW so you can plug in and join us Monday, September 25, 2017.

-Leila

Solemnity: A new and appropriate piano solo arrangement for the times

Hurricane Harvey etched a devastating path of destruction throughout the southern United States. Our son who lives in Jupiter, Florida, is now anticipating the arrival of Hurricane Irma. He’s on staff at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center which rescues and rehabilitate sea turtles.

A biologist cares for a 200-pound turtle injured by a boat.

The center is shuttering doors and filling and stacking sand bags. At the same time, our son Carter, is packing up his own things and plans to evacuate his 2nd story apartment today.

With 3/4 of a tank of gas, it looks like he’ll make his way to a friend’s house in Tampa on the west side of Florida. We are not sure if that will be much better than Jupiter (on the East coast) as Irma is twice the width of Florida. From all appearances, it doesn’t look good for any one in the path of Irma.

Sometimes words aren’t enough. On sobering days like these something more solemn is appropriate and strangely comforting.

Contrary to what you may think, my latest contemporary setting of Beethoven’s symphony movement was inspired long before these unnerving days. I was reminded of this pensive movement a while back when watching the movie, The King’s Speech. The music powerfully sets the scene when King George VI, played by Collin Firth, awaits the delivery of his speech announcing that Great Britain would be joining World War II. The repetitive melody and soulful counter melody made such an impact on me that I wanted to play it myself. After months of doodling with it, my abridged interpretation has been completed.

Over a year ago, I knew I wanted a cover image to fit the pensive mood of the piece, and decided upon a photo of a window painted with raindrops taken by my mom, Joanne Alberda.  It reminds me of one of those days filled with resolve to get through whatever the tasks and trials that lie ahead. Sometimes words just can’t express the determination and dedication of resolution. Music and images speak when words can’t.

Solemnity is an arrangement “owed” to Beethoven and dedicated to all those resolved to get through a day, a month, a year,—a storm—that is anything but sunny.


ALL the proceeds generated from the sales of Solemnity during the month of September 2017 will be donated to the MTNA benevolence fund which supports musicians and teachers devastated by disasters like Hurricane Harvey.

Because of this, I’m offering only a studio license priced at $10.


When a “feel-good” tune just doesn’t seem right, Solemnity will. Listen to Solemnity here.

-Leila

Purchase it here and your $10 will be donated

In case you’d like to hear the full symphony, I’ve included a video of it below.

Promote your studio with this Free Graphic Design

Sometimes those last time slots in your music studio are the toughest to fill. Andrea West has a free graphic that may get the job done for you. Keep reading…


Is your music studio full, or do you still have a few slots you would like to fill? We all have years where we are full and have a wait list, but there are times when you want to increase your studio size.  If you don’t have a large advertising budget, you may need to rely on referrals, word of mouth, apps like Nextdoor (a free private social network for your neighbor hood) and your website.

Another fairly inexpensive option is flyers.  These can be used as a leave-behind at local events, sent in an email as an attachment, posted to your Facebook page and distributed by your own students to their friends.

It’s important that your flyer be eye-catching. Start with a cool graphic design.  If you don’t feel up to creating the design yourself, I’m offering a free one during the month of September (starting today!) with the purchase of any graphic design. Print two designs to a page, so that you get two 5.5” x 8.5” flyers per page.  Be sure to include your studio name, a clever tagline is always a good idea, a call to action, and your contact information.

You can easily print these at home, or take it to a local printer.  If your budget is tight, you can use any paper you have, but if you want to take it up a notch, print on a heavier weight paper or even card stock.

-Andrea


Purchase at least one of Andrea’s design (I dare you to stop at one!) and receive her clever “Chalkboard with Quote” graphic for free!

Check out all the designs HERE!

 

 

Do Simple Better

As teachers, it’s our job to make things clear. This often requires introducing new concepts by breaking them up into bite-sized nuggets that can be quickly understood. We must make the seemingly difficult appear simple.

I recently stumbled upon this quote by Joe Maddon, the manager who led the Cubs to their first World Series title in over 100 years:

“Do simple better.”

It got me asking: what would Maddon’s challenge look like on the piano bench?

I came up with four examples of doing SIMPLE better and labelled them:

  • Expand then extract
  • Play then say
  • Explore then explain
  • Lead then let go

The video below (click here if you can’t see it) expands on these four items. Read the article found here and then watch the video.

Make sure to READ MORE so you can learn about a fantastic idea for your next piano party or studio event…

Read More