Category - Teaching Improvisation

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

Let’s Meet Up at MTNA!

Are you heading to Baltimore next week? It’s too late to register for the annual MTNA conference held March 18-22, but, you can do so at the hotel. Here’s all the info.

If you are registered and ready to go, let’s get together!

I fly in Saturday and leave Wednesday. In between, I’ll be part of the Music Teachers Helper Showcase on Sunday morning at 8:00AM. Come join me and we can get coffee afterwards.

If you’re not crazy about your scheduling and book-keeping system, attend the showcase and learn about the ten things I can’t teach without thanks to ten years of being addicted to Music Teachers Helper. Learn more about the service and sign up for it here.

Tuesday at 11:00AM, I’ll be presenting a session called “Set Your Studio Apart On and Off the Bench.”

For those who attend and stay ’til the bitter end, I have a REALLY cool gift that you can use with your students to build strong practice strategies. Have you been using the six scientifically proven strategies in your studio? Read about them here and get a free printable to use with your students. These work and my students and their parents agree. The gift you’ll receive at my session will definitely enhance your student’s use of these practice strategies and will guarantee progress.

After the session, I’d like to get together with you! Bradley Sowash has agreed to join me and the plan is to “brown-bag” it. We’ll connect after the session is finished which is lunch time and we can plan to meet in the hotel lobby…where you can bring your own lunch or stay for a bit, bring your iPad and teaching questions and then head off to a favorite restaurant. This is definitely an informal gathering. If it grows into something bigger I’ll let you know. If you are interested, please leave a comment in the comment section below.

A couple of other housekeeping items.

We are hearing terrific feedback about our latest 88 Creative Keys Webinar: “Keys to Colorful Harmonization.” If you missed the live stream, you can purchase the replay here.

“You threw out several VERY HELPFUL hints that were worth my attendance in the first 30 paint-tubes-with-infominutes! “

“I thoroughly enjoyed listening to your ways of composition. This summer I am looking at doing a composition/harmonization series for both my piano and vocal students. Thank you for putting together this webinar.”

“I have taken all the theory of this before, but wasn’t sure how to apply it.  You’ve given me extra tools in my tool box.  You’ve also given me lots of ideas as to how to teach this to my students.”

During my portion, I use my original arrangements as examples of how I incorporated my favorite Groups and Campsharmonization tools. All of the sheet music is on sale–here.

Looking ahead

There are some exceptional resources coming your way in the near future at 88pianokeys.me. If there is a topic that you’d like to see addressed, please let me know in the comment section and I’ll add it to the list.

As always, thanks for tuning in, your support and most of all for sharing a passion for teaching music with me!

-Leila

 

Waay: A hip music app for teens and songwriters

What app is a good fit for those who grow out of Piano Maestro, Flashnote Derby, Rhythm Swing…? If you have groomed pianists beyond the first couple of years of piano or any other instrument (hooray and congrats!), you are probably asking that question. I’ve got an answer.

Take a look at Ten Kettles’ app called Waay.

In fact, you can literally take a look by watching the video interview I held with Alex Andrews, the developer of Waay.  In the video you’ll learn that Alex is a bio engineer-turned-full-time-musician and app developer. He explains how he saw a need for an app that explains the fundamentals of melody and chords in a user-friendly, relatable format for those interested in songwriting. I’ve found that the app crosses over well to anyone –songwriter, pianist, guitarist….anyone wanting to know more about scales and chords and how they combine to create songs. I particularly like how the ultimate focus of Waay is to generate creativity!

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Register NOW for the 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop

Take a moment to check out the video below –you’ll learn what we’re cooking up this summer at 88 Creative Keys and get a chuckle, too.

Here we go!

The 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop Registration is open. If you’ve been thinking about attending, this is the year to commit. 

The first ten registrants get an extra discount–they are going fast (I mean SUPER fast) so press that blue button below.

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Need more info before you commit? Here are some answers to the questions you may have. Read More

A Look Back at Trendsetting Piano Teaching Resources in 2016

Grab a cup of coffee–here’s 40 resources worth your time!

My friend and colleague Marie Lee and I compiled a list of winning resources that worked for us in 2016, and we can’t wait to share them with you. They are organized according to topic.

What did we forget? We didn’t include everything we intended–we had to stop some where.

What would you add to the list?

Professional and Creative Development

1.

Piano Teacher Planning Center is a brand new component of  88pianokeys.me. I’m so excited to piano teacherplanning centerhave a store–no, a center–where teachers will find a growing collection of free and for-purchase teaching aids, some created by me but others created by fellow teachers who have great ideas.

In celebration of the new year, there’s a store-wide sale until January 15, 2017. By the way, if you have a cool game or product that you want to sell, contact me at lviss@me.com and let’s plan to make it part of the PTPC in 2017. -Leila

2.

I attended my first 88 Creative Keys Workshop in Denver this past summer. I waited almost an entire year and 88 CK was well worth it! It was one of the best things I could do for my continuing education as a teacher.  You can read reviews from 2016 attendees here and learn more about 2017’s workshop here. -Marie
Here’s a video of Leila leading a body beat activity with teachers.

3.

Tim Topham’s podcasts keep me happily occupied on my Sunday afternoon walks. I look forward to them each week. Tim finds the best guests who discuss–you guessed it–trendsetting topics! Here are seven of my favorite podcasts because they deal with creativity at the keys. -Leila

4.

I look forward to Amy Chaplin’s Piano Pantry Friday Finds. Amy is one of my new, favorite bloggers. -Marie

5.

Even though I didn’t practice like I should have, I learned so much from Bradley’s online lesson session that I can use with my students. Bradley Sowash is encouraging and informative. It has opened up a whole new world of piano playing for me. -Marie

6.

ForScore, Turbo Scan, the Air Turn Pedal and the iPad Pro is a combo I’ve used every Sunday since writing my December 2015 blog post. I’m not sure how I survived without this set up. In the post you’ll learn how I move hard copy sheet music to ForScore so I can enjoy hands-free page turns. This is the wave of the future for reading scores. -Leila Read More

How to Boost Creativity with the Power of Chords

Perhaps you had a startling revelation like I did? Watch the video and see if your story is like mine. Click here if you can’t see it.

Take the challenge and take charge

My shortcomings were made apparent and a challenge came my way shortly after grad school. Ever since, I’ve plugged into chords and taken charge. Now I enjoy reading chord charts and I treat myself to improvising at the keys when all my “chores” are done.

If you want to feel more confident and yes, charged up about improvising, then you need to take the challenge yourself and learn your chords. The best place to do that is with me and Bradley Sowash (co-founders of 88 Creative Key Keyboard Improvisation Workshop and Webinars) at our next webinar called Chord Boot Camp. Click on the plug below to sign up.

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What you’ll learn about chords

  • Why the four-chord pattern“Heart and Soul” is a shoe-in for improvisation.
  • How to boost your own improvisation skills using that pattern. If I did it, you can too!
  • How to teach your students to improvise with it.
  • How to explain chord spelling, quality, inversions and function with something that relates to musicians of all ages: ice cream.
  • What apps are best suited to reinforce chord mastery.
  • What off-bench activities to use to lock in understanding of chords.

Learn from one who’s paved the way

It’s too hard to measure the influence Bradley Sowash has had in my creative journey. His significant mastery of improvisation, his books, his music, his presentations continue to mold me into the creative musician I am today.

Bradley and I constantly brainstorm on how to connect those who own a similar story to mine with the wonders of improvisation. We both conclude it comes down to knowing chords.

Watch his video to learn what chords have in common with power cords and what Bradley will include in his portion of the webinar. Click here if you can’t see it.

What you will learn about chords

  • Understanding Chord Symbols – principles, common practices and variations in pop/jazz chord nomenclature.
  • Pencil Practice – how to practice chords “off bench” with just a pencil and paper.
  • Chord Drills – practical exercises for daily chord practice.
  • Roots and Birds in Chordland – three easy rules to keep in mind when playing 7th chords.
  • Scaling the Chords – strategies to send reluctant improvisers happily down the path toward more creative music making.

Look what happens when you plug in

Need some evidence of the impact of knowing chords? Below is a video of  me–a past read-only, recovering, classically trained pianist–playing my original setting of a favorite hymn tune. Click here if you can’t see the video.

The arrangement was completed soon after Bradley and I decided to hold our first 88 Creative Keys workshops in Denver in 2013. I’ve never forgotten it and I’ve finally written it down so I can share it with others.

Register for Chord Boot Camp and get something at NO CHARGE!

My setting of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” is brand new and for sale at $9.99 (studio license) but I’m offering it for FREE to all those who sign up and pay for Chord Boot Camp by Sunday, November 13th, 11:59pm.

Once you register, email me at lviss@me.com and I’ll email your complimentary score.

Register by clicking on the boot below. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Black Cat Strut: A Cool Improvisation for All Ages

Improvising can be a little scary.

It’s even scarier when both hands are required!

Here’s an accessible improvisation that offers tasks for both hands. While the left hand stays pretty simple it still sounds black-cat cool. With the suggested tips, the right hand will get the opportunity to strut its stuff.

By the way, inspiration for this pattern occurred when Bradley Sowash casually mentioned the opening two chords during an online group improv lesson. Check out his line up of courses here.

Improvising doesn’t always sound so good.silhouette-1314467_1280

Black Cat Strut is guaranteed to sound pleasing to anyone at any level because both hands play something appealing and it’s in minor!

You (try it yourself!) and your students will have even more opportunity to sound like a pro as I’ve created a chart in iReal Pro that provides an instant backup band. It’s included in the free download. (To download the chart you need to tap on the link on the device that has iReal Pro installed. Let me know if you have any trouble.)

This looks too hard for beginners.

Black Cat Strut is suited for anyone at any level because both hands play separately–at least at the first level. In fact, there’s no need to play hands together at all and that’s the beauty of this jumpstart.

When introducing the pattern, divide and conquer each part by playing one hand yourself, while your student plays the other.

Better yet, divide and conquer in a group lesson. Ask one or more to play the left hand part and assign others to create right hand patterns. You’ll have all kinds of cool cats improvising together!

Check out this video that shows snippets of improvisers of all levels and ages strutting their chops.

How do you teach this?

All of my students learned the pattern by ear. I provided no visuals for them and repeatedly modeled snippets for them to echo.

I gave them step by step instructions, adding more ideas as they became more confident with the catpatterns.

If you notice in the video, fingering is a personal choice for the sake of building a safety net for young improvisers. If given too many things to think about, students might give up.

The beauty of this simple yet sophisticated jumpstart is that you can continue to build on it for those who are comfortable with improvising.

The instruction steps are included in the free download. I highly recommend teaching the patterns by ear and/or by rote as much as possible. That way this will become a memorized, back-pocket pattern that players can enjoy for a lifetime.

What does the free PDF download include?

  • A colorful, black kitty-cat visual of the keys required for the right hand.
  • The pattern broken down into three skill levels with sequential steps on how to teach them.
  • Grand staff notation of all parts.

At any level, this exercise is guaranteed to sound purrfect! -Leila

GET BLACK CAT STRUT HERE


Enter you first name and email address for your free download

Jumpstart improvisation in your studio!



Did you sign up to win free Rhythm Produce cards? It really does produce strong rhythm readers. I use fruit and veggies every day. The winner will be announced October 21, 2016 so sign up by clicking the apple below.

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88 Creative Keys is hosting its next webinar on November 14, 2016. It targets an essential for anyone who wants to be creative at the keys: CHORDS! Click on the boot below to sign up.

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Ten Things Guaranteed to Rock Your Summer Lessons

It’s mid-summer for those of us in the States which means we are either enjoying time off from teaching or are desperate to keep things interesting during private lessons, group lessons and/or camps.

Dynamic teachers Lou Ann Pope and Anna Fagan provided some terrific posts about Practicia and group lessons for multiple ages while I’ve been away. Click on their names to check out their posts loaded with ideas for your studio. Thanks to both of you!

After a wedding in Canada (hooray, we have a daughter in the family!) I travelled from coast to coast (South Carolina to Oregon) and I picked up some additional ideas to share.

As our 88 Creative Keys Workshop begins this Wednesday–July 6th–I’m short on time but big on ideas so the list below offers limited descriptions of each idea, but…I figured it was best to show and then I’ll tell more later OR leave a question in the comment section.

1) Rhythm Boards

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Multi-Level Group Lessons with a Touch of Technology

Anna Fagan was featured as in iPad Piano teacher in the companion blog to my image1book, The iPad Piano Studio. From her smart and savvy comments in social media and presence at national conferences I know Anna stays on top of the latest teaching and tech trends.

In a recent Facebook post she generously shared her plans for a multi-level and multi-age group lesson. Her post was super material for a blog–especially since the problem of various levels in one group is quite common to anyone who offers group lessons. So I asked her if she’d share her brilliant plans.

Little did I know that I have a Florida sister! Her ideas look almost identical to mine. Both of us even have a family of frogs!

I believe you will find her tech-savvy and engaging lesson plans invaluable.

Take it away, Anna Fagan!


My students LOVE Group Lessons – a chance to meet other students and share their struggles and triumphs in this musical journey, and … frankly … just as a place to have some FUN together!

Since I want to make scheduling these as easy as possible for parents (and for me!) I always offer several days and times, set a per-class limit (6-8 students), and then let them sign-up via e-mail — “first-come, first served.”  

Of course, this means that I usually have a WIDE variety of ages and levels in each group.  This presents my greatest challenge – finding activities that will be simple enough even for first-year students, but still a learning opportunity for my older and more experienced students.

YIKES!  Technology, take me away!! Read More

Wynn-Anne Rossi’s Timeless Tips on Composition

Wynn-Anne Rossi and I first met at an MTAC (Music Teachers Association of California) conference years ago. I attended one of her Alfred showcases and was so impressed with her poised yet lively presentation of her latest pieces. She even danced the tango for us!

Wynn-Anne and I connected during the conference and enjoyed comparing notes about technology and creativity and the importance they both hold in our studios.

It was wonderful to see Wynn-Anne and her success as an Alfred composer featured in a recent blog at JW Pepper.  My students have been head-over-heels about her Musica Latina series of books. I’m so thankful Wynn-Anne pointed me to this post as JW Pepper also includes videos of Wynn-Anne and her experience as a composer and teacher of composition.

In the blog post (read the full article here) it states:

Wynn-Anne Rossi is particularly passionate about teaching composition to young musicians. She feels that one of her greatest talents is the ability to simplify complex ideas to a single “grain,” thus allowing any level learner to understand them. This was the inspiration behind the “Counterpoints” in her Creative Composition Toolbox series. Rossi believes that anyone can learn to write music if given the freedom to find their own voice.

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