Category - Music/Books Favorites

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

Classical Repertoire that Appeals to Teens

First, congratulations to Sara, Chris and Leticia for winning a free code to Waay–a hip app that teaches the theory behind songwriting. This tutorial app passes the hard-to-please teen test. Check it out here.

Speaking of teens…

In this recent app giveaway, I asked readers to leave a comment about how they inspire teens. Most everyone commented on the importance of building a relationship with teen students. Did you know that your relationship with your students is one of the five key factors that impact student motivation? I’ve recently developed a new presentation called “Nurturing Potential into Passion” and found some fascinating facts about motivation. Relationships matter!

More on that later as I want to get to another topic of discussion in the comment section: finding repertoire for teens and specifically repertoire from the Classical genre.

Other teachers have asked me similar questions. What Classical pieces do you recommend to students? Which ones will appeal to teens? In what order do you teach these pieces?

In response to these questions, I’ll be starting a page dedicated to repertoire that stands the test of time AND teens.

Here’s a short list to get it started. These pieces featured below came to my mind immediately because for at least one student on my bench, they were a game changer and catapulted a pianist into a new level of inspired playing.

I would GREATLY appreciate your input. In the comments below, let me know if this list would be helpful. If so, I’ll flesh it out more with links to books, etc.

Next, if you like this idea, I’d love for you to contribute. Leave the title, composer and if possible, the book or collection of your favorite classics that connect with your students. I hope to grow this list into something that can be helpful in a pinch.

From the Classics

Early Intermediate

“Arabesque” by Burgmueller

“Wild Horseman” by Schumann

“Sonatina Op 36 No 1” by Clementi

Intermediate

“Ballade” by Burgmueller

“Avalanche” by Heller

“Solfeggietto” by CPE Bach

Advancing

“Nocturne” in Em by Chopin

“Prelude No 1, 2 and/or 3” by Gershwin

“Fantaisie Impromptu” by Chopin

“Sonata K545” by Mozart

“Golligwog’s Cakewalk” by Debussy

“Arabesque No 1” by Debussy

Fresh Arrangements of Classical Literature

Why not introduce the classics via a fresh arrangement like the Piano Guys do!

“Winter Window Frost” by Vivaldi arr by Leila Viss (the studio license is down to $4.88 right now so get it here.)winter-frost-copy

“Winter” by Vivaldi arr by Lorie Line

Big Publisher Finds

These titles may not be considered “Classical” but, I still want to create this list because the work of some terrific composers often gets buried under the mounds of sheet music from larger publishers. And, these titles are teen tested and approved!

“Impressions on Red” and “Impressions on Yellow” from Impressions on Color by Kevin Olson

“Jazz Suite” by Glenda Austin

“Firefly” by Billotti

This is just a start. MANY titles are missing as well as the links to where to purchase. Please let me know if such a list would be helpful to you. Next, please let me know what you would add to the list!

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Leila

Favorite Christmas Music to Celebrate the Season

I know it’s a little late to be sharing this list. If you’ve already chosen all of your music for your students, various church services and gigs, then consider these options for next year. That’s the nice thing about music–it never goes out of style! In fact, I’ve included links to my favorite holiday sheet music from years past so you can check those out, too.

From Leila Viss

Life happens and I’m SO happy to share that I will have a lovely flautist (and another female) in the family! In June 2016, my son is marrying Brittany who is a senior in college earning a degree in education and music. This called for an arrangement for piano and flute to celebrate the occasion!

Here’s my setting (with some expert input from Brittany) of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.” It IS notated–anybody need a Christmas piano and flute duet? Read More

A Free Ebook! A Perfect Tool for YOUR iPad Piano Studio

Are you looking for ways to offer your music students tutorials on theory concepts? Although there are excellent iPad apps that drill and improve ear skills, they don’t always teach. That’s why I’m so excited about my latest project: Understanding Intervals. With this interactive iBook platform you can offer a flipped classroom approach to learning intervals. It’s divided into parts so you can customize assignments to suit your students’ theory level. Bonus, I’m a huge shoe fan and thought it would make things more interesting by comparing intervals to shoes. I think you and your students will enjoy learning how intervals and shoes TIE together! Read More

Keep Your 2015 Studio Relevant with Pianoflix

After you received your undergrad music degree, performed a stellar recital of the classics, turned in that lofty thesis, passedIMG_2492 a professional accreditation exam or somehow earned shiny, new initials behind your name, you probably felt a great sense of achievement. Perhaps you felt like I did? After I received my Master of Arts in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, I felt my career was professionally wrapped up and ready to launch.

IMG_2496Although my intent is not to discount the importance of the academic achievements listed above, I’m wondering if you–like me–had your bubble burst, your box tipped upside down and your bow unraveled when you entered the real world of piano teaching? Yes, I could play and teach Beethoven and Ravel, I could design a sequential curriculum for early learners but when asked to read from a lead sheet, my skills fell embarrassingly short. Read More

A New Favorite Christmas Arrangement for Piano OR Organ!

Merry Christmas pic

Thanks to the wonders of social media, I stumbled across Paul Sweet’s dynamic arrangement of “O Come All Ye Faithful” a couple of months ago. When I heard his captivating performance featured in the video below it struck me that this piece could be a possible hit on the organ as well.

Here’s Paul’s performance of his arrangement on the piano

Here’s my performance of his piece that I arranged for the Allen Renaissance organ

Read More

Free Christmas Piano Solo and More!

Garden ColorIt seems my creative juices kick in on occasion. In fact, I’ve recently arranged a couple of hymns but need to make time to notate them. Hopefully it won’t take me 11 years for that to happen. Read on…

This setting of “Go Tell it On the Mountain” was originally conceived in 2003, and was finally notated in Finale this year. I still find it appealing after all these years, so I figure you might, too.

Make sure to sign up HERE for my newsletter (if you haven’t done so already) to receive your complimentary score. The score will be delivered in the upcoming newsletter out by this weekend. If you don’t see the 88PianoKeys.me newsletter in your inbox by Monday, November 24th check your spam folder. If you still didn’t find it, then contact me and I’ll email you the link to the score.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and THANK YOU for hanging out with me at 88pianokeys!


Looking for more Christmas arrangements for the upcoming holiday season?

As the season is short, I try not to add too many Christmas books to my already full shelves but each year I can’t resist the temptation.  Here are some I purchased this year that I know you and/or your students will enjoy as well.

From James Koerts, Koerts Music10702096_10152561006137981_3210811240333681638_n

Koerts keeps kicking out great arrangements for church musicians. Here’s a digital edition that will only take space on your iPad in the forScore app but not your book shelves!

Sacred Christmas Volume One

From Wendy Stevens, Compose Create

You can count on Wendy Stevens to provide innovative and imaginative arrangements and she has not let us down this year with her setting of  “Oh Christmas Tree.”

O Christmas Tree

From Larry Shackley, Hope Publishing8622

The title intrigued me so I purchased Shackley’s latest release. Turns out the hymn arrangements are fresh and energetic. Shackley writes in his foreword: “In this collection you’ll find carols from several countries and centuries, all interpreted with the harmonic and rhythmic colors of Celtic folk music.”

Celtic Hymns for Christmas


One more piece of good news! For those of you who have not secured your copy of The iPad Piano Studio or have a friend that would appreciate the book as a gift, below is a promo code for a 20% discount code.

Hurry as the offer ends November 30th!

 IPPS20SAVE

iPad Revolution-Book-Comp-4 2

An Ancient Tune Stands the Test of Time

This past week I received a request from a congregation member to play “Be Thou My Vision” as communion music since he was dedicatingbethoumyvision his meditation on that particular celtic hymn.

Here’s a portion of what he read before I began playing this favorite hymn beautifully crafted into an arrangement by James Koerts.

“This is the story of the song:  It was the night before Easter in the year 433.  St. Patrick defied an edict by High King Leary that no candles were to be lit until the lighting of the blaze on Slane Hill that would usher in the Spring Equinox.  Patrick chose to honor God in spite of the threat of death, and the first flame was lit by him to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  Instead of executing him, the King was so impressed with St. Patrick’s brave devotion that he allowed him to continue with his missionary work.

Inspired by these events, a 6th Century Monk penned the words to “Be Thou My Vision” as a tribute of St. Patrick’s loyalty to God.  The poem was not translated into English until 1905 and then coupled with an old Irish folk melody.  The inspiration found within the words of this hymn is a reminder of the sovereignty, the strength and the joy of Jesus.” -Bob Cox

I’ve included the historic setting of this old hymn because I’m fascinated with how words and tunes unite to create timeless hymns. In addition, I’m amazed at music’s powerful thread that continues to bond and inspire generations of believers.

Below is an informal video of me playing Koerts’ fresh arrangement of this ancient tune that continues to withstand the test of time. If you haven’t done so, make sure to take advantage of this promo code, good through October 15th, and share James Koerts’ timeless music with your friends and congregation.

Special Offer for 88 Piano Keys readers! Be-Still-COVER-115x150

Receive 30% off virtually everything in the store (except for the $50 bundle package) using this code:

Code: 88pianokeys

The code must be entered at checkout. Reminder: enter the code BEFORE you check out.

Offer is good through October 22, 2014

Click HERE to purchase your copy of this arrangement found in the book Be Still

Terrific Promo for the Savvy Church Musician from James Koerts

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James Koerts, composer, arranger, church musician, father and….

With a regular church keyboardist position, it’s an ongoing task to find fresh, appealing and accessible sacred arrangements for services. I stumbled across one of James Koerts’ books published by Alfred Music a couple of years ago and found myself drawn to his work because of his fresh, idiomatic writing. A while ago I discovered Koerts on Facebook and visited his site featuring even more arrangements, and now I faithfully buy everything he pumps out which means I purchase frequently as he is a prolific composer!

In 2013, Koerts expanded his library to include sheet music in digital download format (PDF) through his website. It’s his goal to maintain a high level of musical quality in addition to providing a fast (nearly instant) method of delivery in a modern, flexible format. Perfect for scrambling church musicians–don’t we all have a few of those moments where we need something NOW?

Koerts’ digital sheet music mecca has resulted in a rather large folder of his works stored in the forScore app on my iPad. Interested in learning more about how to use THE top app for viewing your digital sheet music? Click here for complete instructions. If you are a visual learner, here’s a video on how I use my favorite forScore features with Koerts’ digital sheet music. Read More

Piano and Organ Music for the Lenten Season

Here’s a brief list of some favorite selections I’ll be playing in the next week for the Lenten and Easter services. Included is an arrangement of my own. Would be interested in hearing your opinion. 🙂

Piano Solo: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

5903415Book: Lift High the Cross: Piano Solos for Holy Week Composer: arr Larry Shackley Publisher: Hope Publishing Company Link to Purchase:  Lift High the Cross Comments: The combination of piercing lyrics and a colorful tune are irresistible. I like to play this at least once a year. Anybody have another favorite arrangement? Read More