what is it that they say?
ah that's right, "if you snooze, you lose".
Well it appears that I've been doing too much snoozing these last couple of weeks and not enough doing, as the weeks have simply flown by! I had wanted to write up some more notes from things we did in class but haven't quite got down to the writing up part. In our class this week along with storytime and dancing and singing, the children spent some time identifying the pattern of the black keys, from two to three. They placed coloured circles on top of each of the black keys on their keyboard printables. They also put the miniature keyboard printables on top of the keys on the piano that were black, to match them up. So for example, they put the picture of the two black keys, on top of the set of two black keys on the piano.
But I have been working on something. In my never ending quest to find ways to help the children with their learning acquisition and skill development I came across something rather wonderful as I was skimming through the latest newsletter from EPTA UK. In the newsletter it mentioned an event happening in June run by the people at "Dogs and Birds" on their teaching syllabus. And then being ever curious, I looked them up on the internet and discovered their website. I soon learnt that they have this fun way to teach note names and how to read music on the staves. It is completely accessible to 3 year olds. Which is just perfect for my students as I am currently teaching 3 - 5 year olds. And towards the beginning of this video from Dogs and Birds you'll see that they do an activity identifying the set of black keys, are they in a set of two or a set of three. And does that set of black keys have the "dog" note in it? For example, between the set of two black keys the note is "dog" (D). But there is no "dog" (D) in the set of three black keys.
I had seen elsewhere from other teachers the use of animal toys for naming notes on large floor sized staff. But this method takes it a step further as it has identified colours for the left and right hand eg. treble clef is in red, and bass clef is in blue. Then the method uses tiles as objects to move up and down the stave to identify the note names. Now instead of using the "boring" alphabet letters for the note names. This method uses the animal name instead. So for example, the C note is called cat. And the D note is called dog. The E note is called egg. And the F note is called fish, etcetera.
Well I have taken action, and am now awaiting delivery of the clever coloured staves board and the animal tiles, as well as the method books.
And having just seen this video again from Dr Mario Ajero, Dr Ajero has given me some ideas for some exercises to go through with our students in our next lesson. All these ideas are so very helpful and very much appreciated!
So for those of you who are homeschooling your younger children in piano at home, then you may also find these videos an interesting watch. Once again in the video below you will see reference made at the beginning of the video to playing the set of black keys, on this occasion the set of two black keys.
In our preschool piano prep we begin our lessons with a brief storytime. While I was setting up the children were free to improvise with the solfege pitched deskbells and percussion instruments. They also built their own piano by lining up individual white keys and black keys.
To begin the lesson we read a story together about the Barrel of Songs, an old tale from Lithuania in which we learnt how the owls ? came to get their low and deep song of "hoo, hoo, hoo"
In today's class we played a music games and revised familiar music theory concepts such as p is for piano (soft and quiet) and f is for forte (strong and loud).
We moved onto our lesson on pitch, high and low. I played random notes on the piano and asked the children to point to the sign which they thought it was. For example, was the note I played to the right of middle C, and therefore a high pitched sound, so did they point to the sign, for the treble clef? Or was the sound I made to the left of middle C and a low sound, in that case, the bass clef.
I played random notes on the piano and asked the children to point to the sign which they thought it was. For example, was it the "p" sign, for soft? Or was the sound I made a loud one, in that case, f for forte.
We introduced the music symbols for pitch and music notation with the treble clef (to indicate the high notes) and the bass clef (to indicate the low notes).
By the end of this part the children were pronouncing and correctly identifying these symbols. Our preschoolers now know how to recognise the symbols, how to pronounce these words and to associate them to their matching symbols. Keep up the great work everyone!
(credit to Nicola at Colourful Keys for the paddlesticks signs for the ? =high and the ? =low).
After circle time, we all stand up and stretch and then get going as we delve right into our rhythm flow and movement games.
We danced along to the"thumbelina" song from Wunderkeys (credit to Teach Piano Today for the music and lyrics and tutor books). Thumbelina was p=soft right until she decided to count to five and then she became very loud when she used her strong legs to stomp around the room. She stomped once! She stomped twice! etc
We revised our numbers 1-5 with our five fingers on each hand, and distinguishing between our left and right hand. We matched up our fingers with the wunderbies animals from wunderkeys (credit to Teach Piano Today for the Wunderkeys tutor books)
We listened to Aunty Bea Publications Aunty Bea as she sang "5 little ducks" in Maori for the numbers and the ? duck.
Then together we all acted out the story to the 5 little ducks as we sung the words. And in next week's class we will have a go at playing the tune to 5 little ducks on a range of pitched instruments from the deskbells to the boomwhackers, the xylophone and the piano keyboard.
Next we moved onto more movement with the action nursery rhymes like "i'm a little teapot".
We also did some classic dalcroze rhythm games as the children walked and ran and tiptoed and stomped, as instructed and to the music.
Thanks to Gaylene, an inspirational teacher I shadowed at Lynmore Primary School last year, I discovered Jolly Learning. Jolly Learning are known for their groundbreaking resources on phonics which are used internationally from the UK, to NZ and Africa and everywhere else in between. But did you know that Jolly Learning also produce music resources? Well they do! They have a division called Jolly Music. Jolly Music follow the kodaly approach to music. In our piano prep class we incorporate activities from both dalcroze and kodaly.
Jolly Music have produced a handy article discussing the distinction between rhythm and pulse, written by Cyrilla Rowsell. It's well worth a read! You can see the full article in pdf from the Jolly Music website link below:-
Source: ‘Rhythm and Pulse – teaching music to primary-aged children’ by Cyrilla Rowsell, Music Teacher Magazine (UK), Feb 2012, http://jolly2.s3.amazonaws.com/PR/MTM%20Jolly%20Music%20Feb%202012.pdf)
We continued on with more movement with the action nursery rhymes like "i'm a little teapot".
We also did some classic dalcroze like rhythm games as the children walked and ran and tiptoed and stomped, as instructed and to the music.
Popular culture and digital technologies
It's been fascinating reading this article by Susan Young on digital technologies and children's music experiences.
Young (2007) refers to Carrington (2004) who points out that pre-digital teachers tend to shy away from using technology in their music lessons. It is Carrington's opinion that traditional music curriculum is now irrelevant in today's society precisely because it does not incorporate the popular music culture and digital technology.
Young seems to suggest that the reason behind the reluctance to embrace digital technologies by specialist music teachers could be because they feel a need to demonstrate in their practice their own musical abilities. Is this reluctance to use digital technology somehow a feeling that it could be seen to be "cheating" to play digital music instead of sitting down and playing the instrument themself? Or is it instead more that they haven't received specialist training in digital technologies, and they feel flabbergasted and uncertain on how to operate the technology and therefore decide it's not for them? Or could it be a mixture of the above?
But why should the music teacher be adopting technology into their lessons? Young observed that the gap is increasingly widening between how children participate in the traditional curriculum of music at school and their everyday musical experiences and popular culture.
Young states we need to move away from an "aural experience only" to integrate "multi-media experiences" where there is more opportunity for "self-initiation, for autonomy and control".
For myself, I have taken this advice on board. And have started to re-write my own lesson plans to incorporate digital technology into my preschool piano classes. In doing so, I've realised this is very much a good thing. By pre-recording my content into video to play in my classes, it means i can be present with my students, face to face to give them directions on our musical tasks, instead of having my back to them as i sit down behind the piano. I also feel this will give my teaching more structure and the digital technologies will have the benefit of appealing to a wider range of learning styles, and particularly the visual learner. I am also taking advantage of the wonders of digital technology with my new homeschool piano course for preschoolers, with the use of a private facebook group for parents of our students and pre-recorded lessons on our membership website and utilising video-conferencing facilities for online lessons in real time. The benefits that technology allows us as educators, parents and students, is something not to be missed!
Hand signs and pitch training
Solfege forms one of the components of music training with the Dalcroze approach. As we discussed in our previous blog post, music training with solfege follows the french way of calling the alphabet letters used in reading music. In English of course we call the names of the notes on the piano as C, D, E, F, G, A, B and then C again. In Solfege, the notes are called Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do. And I was delighted to see when I discovered this toy xylophone in Hong Kong that had the solfege syllables written on it using the Japanese characters Katakana writing that said Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, Ra (for La), Te (for Ti) and Do.
Along with naming the notes, solfege training incorporates aspects of Kodaly with the use of the hand signs popularised by John Curwen. I am very fond of kinaesthetic approaches to learning and was so pleased to discover these hand signs. The posters that I like to use in my classes are from Lindsay Jervis and are available from the Teachers website if you click on the image above. The handsigns are a fun way to use interval training, by moving our hands up the higher up in pitch we go, and moving our hands down as we go down in pitch. I know for myself I found it helped significantly for me to get to grips with pitch. And even though we are taking piano lessons and not singing lessons, pitch training is a vital part of our piano lessons as it is something you will be tested on "aural tests" when you sit your graded piano exam with ABRSM.
And if you cannot make it to class you may want to join our preschool piano homeschooling programme where you get regular training via videos, live videoconferencing and a workshop and recital half way through the year in July/August.
In our classes we cover the musical concepts covered in the ABRSM Piano Prep Test being
• Sense of pitch
• Sense of rhythm
• Control of tone
• Listening skills and awareness
We incorporate digital technologies and dalcroze methodology to our piano classes to make them fun for the children while they learn. We use dancing and musical games including music statutes, Clapping the beat and echoes, Finding the notes the pitch work and music theory games.
On graduation of our piano prep classes your child will then be ready to begin classes with a local piano teacher to sit the ABRSM exams. For more details on the Piano Prep Test view the pdf/websites below:
This is a more structured lesson, so the same activities are done in the same order each week (building on the prior lesson).
Lessons will be held weekly in Allestree on mondays from 4.30-5.30pm.
This is a group lesson open to a maximum of 8 children and their carers.
The first 30 minutes will be a taught lesson where parents are required to participate and the last 30 mins is free time for the children to play with the percussion and ribbons etc and dance to music, while the parents can chat & relax or use their phones etc.
The 30 min structured lesson will consist of 10 mins rhythm games, 10 mins solfege training and 10 mins improvisation work but all three activities will tie in together in learning to play a song and/or learn music theory.
We incorporate some kodaly but mostly take a dalcroze approach to our lesson with games and learning by doing, ie kinaesthetic learning style.
These group classes will cost £5 per student payable in advance for the term. So if you know anyone with children who may want to come along please ask them to contact me.
I am also starting a homeschool piano online programme shortly where I will upload activities that parents can do at home during the week with the children and this will include a lot of work found in the lessons of the tutor books wunderkeys and piano adventures and get set ready. Access to the homeschool piano will be free for you and all the students who enrol in face to face class.
And of course it you're unable to make it to our Monday class then you can still benefit by signing up to our online piano homeschooling programme.
Dalcroze and early childhood music
A look into the modern approach of music education that is Dalcroze. Young children are able to start their music education very early on and flourish under the Dalcroze approach. Dalcroze is concerned with acquiring mastery of one's own nervous system. In other words, our brains need to have control over our bodies. So that if we decide we want to move in one direction then our brain needs to be able to send a message to our muscles and move our body in exactly the way we determined. It is this focus on the body and the flow of movement that forms the first of three parts to the Dalcroze Approach.
There are three facets to the Dalcroze approach as follows:
Dalcroze himself published many books on how to teach music including to young children. And over the years a number of music educators have added to his works. The Eurythmics is all about flow and movement. The solfege focuses on scales and adopts a fixed "do" system. Improvisation is where we practise our skills of eurythmics and solfege and join the two together. The Dalcroze approach is skill based and incorporates games and practical exercises in order to "do" and "feel" music and in this way is more of a "kinesthetic" approach to learning which finds itself particularly useful to teaching young children.
As I have been delving more into how early years learn music, I have been adapting my own way of teaching. I strongly believe in the concept of "parents as first teachers". If you have a child learning the piano or about to, your role as the parent is absolutely critical. Your attitude to music and the opportunities you give your child to listen to music on a regular basis, whether live or recorded makes such a significant impact on their motivation and curiosity to get involved themselves in making music.
Please share below if you have any questions or comments. It will be interesting to hear your thoughts.
top 5 benefits to taking skype piano lessons
In today's fast paced society where we have no time and are so busy running around here and there and everywhere, it is too easy to become complacent and not see what is right in front of us. We can become neglect to see opportunities that are available to us. And many of these opportunities are completely free, including a myriad of video conferencing softwares such as skype.
In today's blog post I will share with you the top five benefits to taking piano lessons by skype compared to traditional lessons.
In this article I will share with you the top five benefits to taking piano lessons by skype compared to traditional lessons. These are:-
Benefit #1 Covenience and Comfort
Taking skype lessons from the comfort of your own home is extremely convenient in so many ways. Below I list 10 benefits that relate directly to comfort and convenience.
First, as you're already sitting at home on your own piano before your teacher calls you, you will have had the opportunity to warm up your fingers to get the blood flowing. So you can do scales and other technical exercises to warm up your fingers immediately before your teacher calls you on Skype.
A big advantage of participating online is that you can play from the comfort of your own home and most importantly from the comfort of your own piano. There is nothing more disconcerting than playing for the first time on an unfamiliar piano!
Second, if you are an adventure seeker and living the life of a nomad, or simply travelling for work or are a student and move towns frequently, then Skype will make it possible for you to take piano lessons without the hassle of having to search for a new piano teacher in each town that you relocate to.
Third, if you live in a remote area where there are no piano teachers in your locality then skype lessons will give you the opportunity to take piano lesssons without having a make a long distance drive each week.
Fourth, one of favourite benefits for skype lessons is that you no longer need to go out in bad weather, snow, fog, storms, gails or heavy rain.
Fifth, if you are and your partner work different shifts and your schedules overlap so that there are times when neither you nor your partner is available to cover childcare at home in order to drive to the piano lesson, then a lesson by Skype from home becomes such a convenience.
Sixth, if you have multiple children and one of them is sick and needs to stay at home then a Skype piano lesson will mean you can stay at home and carry on with your lesson without having to miss your lesson. It saves you from having to cancel the lesson or to have to employ a nanny or other family member to stay home with your sick child. Naturally if your child is sick you will want to stay home yourself to keep an eye on them.
Seventh, if you (or your child) is tired or hungry, then you will not have the chore of having to drive to lessons when you are not feeling quite up for it, and instead you can stay at home, get something to eat before the lesson, and preserve your energy by staying indoors instead of having to go out and drive across town. In Skype lessons students will have had the opportunity to get something to eat or drink not having rushed straight to lessons from school or nursery. So they won't be distracted by hunger pangs and will be better able to focus.
Eighth, if you or your child develops ill health or a chronic health issue that prevents them from leaving the house due to needing to stay in a controlled environment, then Skype lessons will allow you (or your child) to continue with piano lessons instead of having to give it up.
Ninth, if you have friends or family visiting from out of town then you do not need to get stressed wondering what you will do with them while you pop out for the piano lesson. Instead, you can stay at home for your skype lesson while your guests get on with their own thing in another part of the house, and the minute your lesson is over you'll be free to carry on hosting them. Also, if your child has a cousin or friend come to stay from out of town, they will not need to wait quietly during the lesson. Instead they can get on with their own activity in another room and then as soon as the lesson is over they can continue with their play.
Tenth, as piano lessons generally take place just after school has finished, by taking skype lessons, you won't need to get caught up in the stress of school runs or suffer the frustration of sitting in peak traffic.
Eleventh, because you are sitting at home at your own piano, your teacher is able to see the height of your piano bench. This allows your teacher to check your position at the piano and suggest corrections to ensure that you are sitting with the correct posture. Practising good posture goes hand in hand with technique and is an important factor to ensure you maintain good health while playing the piano and do not develop bad habits that could later on lead to tension and pain.
Benefit #2 Time SavingsWith online piano lessons you will save yourself considerable time compared to the traditional in person lesson. And time as we know is a rare and precious commodity. To say that time is in short supply is an understatement! Below I list six benefits that relate directly to you saving time.
First, you do not need to waste your precious time sat in a car travelling to your lesson. By taking skype lessons this will cut down the total driving time required per week which adds up particularly when sitting in long queues and heavy traffic.
Second, if you have multiple children you won't have the added stress of juggling travelling to piano lessons with all of the other activities you have scheduled throughout the week for your other children. Taking a piano lesson by skype will cut out one trip for the week and will make your travelling and planning that much easier.
Third, by taking skype lessons you will not need to waste your time sitting in the lobby waiting for the other student before yours to finish their lesson.
Fourth, by taking skype lessons it will save time for your other children, as they will not be required to sit waiting quietly during the lesson as they would do in a traditional lesson. Instead they could be at home in another room getting on with their own homework therefore saving them time.
Fifth, if your child is taking skype piano lessons then (after the initial month when you would be required to sit in the same room during your child's lesson), you could be in another room in the house, supervising your other children's homework, getting dinner ready in the kitchen etcetera.
Sixth, because we have two pianos, yours at your home, and mine at my home, we are both sitting on a piano each. This ultimately means that we will save some time during the lesson, as you would not be required to stand up and move along the piano when your teacher sits down to play to demonstrate parts. Over time this all adds up, and ultimately will result in us being able to cover more material within the lesson time.
Benefit #3 Increased Student MotivationThrough skype and online resources the student is often more motivated.
First, to successfully study distance learning, the student needs to be self motivated and independent as they proactively login to the membership site to access the training videos they watch before lessons.
Second, after the lesson has finished, because the student is already sitting at their piano it just may help them to stay and practise. This will help to motivate the student to do their practise. By fitting more practise in, the student will see faster progress and this noticeable improvement will result in student satisfaction and the motivation to keep going.
Third, because skype lessons are privately recorded and the link is emailed to the parent, the whole family, whether it is the parent, aunt, nana or family friends can follow the progress of the child and share in the learning process. This process provides transparency and allows the parents to assess whether they believe their money spent on lessons is worthwhile and well spent. By allowing the family to get more involved they can better show an appreciation in the efforts of the student. The family can help the student to practise playing in front of other people by inviting friends and family over to their house for impromptu concerts and the compliments and support of loved ones will help to build up the student's confidence and motivation to keep playing.
Fourth, as students of our Music School, you will also benefit from coming together on a global scale to perform in our informal and friendly bi-annual student concerts. You and your family members are invited to attend our concerts held in Derby UK and Rotorua NZ in person or online. If you are attending online you will be projected onto our large projection screen so that you appear lifesize as you perform your piece of music to our audience via Skype. Learning to play the piano in a group is both fun and very educational! The perfect opportunity for you to excel at learning how to play the piano.
Benefit #4 Enhanced LearningIn a Skype piano lesson, it’s a lot easier to be able to become better at playing the piano in a shorter time frame than it is in a standard traditional piano lesson for many reasons. You benefit from enhanced learning allowing increased retention and speedier progress within the same time period.
Skype piano lessons coupled with the music resources on Letts Music School's student membership site encompasses a wider range of learning styles, auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Students benefit from the one to one tuition tailored to them over Skype, and lessons are recorded for review during the week. With traditional lessons it is all too easy to forget what the teacher had shown you in the previous lesson. Forgetfulness is no longer an issue when you have the video recording of the Skype lesson at hand.
It is easier to focus and improve upon your technique when learning with skype lessons. Instead of having to stand up from the piano when your teacher demonstrates something to you where you may not see it from the angle you've now been able to watch it clearly over Skype and you can straight away copy what your teacher has just shown you.
Students are encouraged to video themselves as they practise during the week and upload it to a private youtube account to send the link to the teacher 24 hours before the next lesson. This way the teacher can review the progress to ensure they cover any corrections that need to be made during the next lesson. This helps to speed up the progress of the student and makes better use of lesson time so that more content is covered in the lesson time.
Students get complimentary access to our membership site so in addition to personal tuition they also get free access to all of our online courses, and lesson handouts, lesson video recordings, MP3 audio downloads and pre-recorded course videos.
All this means that the students can progress at a faster speed than they would have done with traditional lessons.
Benefit #5 Financial Benefits
By taking skype lessons you will save money on the cost of fuel travelling to and from lessons, and over the years this will mount up to a considerable saving.
By becoming a member of Letts Music School you benefit from significant savings as you will become automatically entitled to free access to all of our online courses.
Yes! I want to give Skype lessons a go.
Learning through the medium of skype lessons coupled with the online videos, worksheets and online courses available from our membership site will have a massive impact on the speed of your progress and all round music abilities.
Where? can I get more information...
If you have any questions, click below to request your free no obligation consultation.
During your free consultation we will discover your personal piano goals and then tailor your piano lessons around this. We will design an individual programme for you starting off from where you are now at your current level and lead you step by step to where you want to go.
4 Myths that keep you from taking skype piano lessons
If you think skype piano lessons just wouldn't work for you or your child, you may be holding some fear around the use of technology. You may be prone to listening to that little negative voice that pops in telling you that you cannot get it. That you cannot afford it. Or that you don't know enough about computers to get it to work. Or that the virtual lesson could not possibly be as good as a lesson in person.
I’m going to debunk those myths for you, and show you how to replace them with concepts that will calm your fears and fill you with the confidence to try something new and give skype piano lessons a try.
Myth #1 I'm not tech savvy enough to take Skype piano lessons
It can seem intimidating. Sure you may not be a computer science graduate. You're probably not a specialist in artificial intelligence. But the good news is, you don't have to be. If you are reading this right now, then you've proved you've got access to a computer, tablet or smart phone and are capable of reading from a computer screen.
You're in a unique position to utilise the power of the internet to learn the piano from the comfort of your own home. So take advantage of this golden opportunity that technology provides. So chances are, even if you didn't get top of the class in computer studies at school (in fact computers may not have been invented yet when you went to school!?), but even if you're not entirely comfortable with technology, you can make it work. Or you can find somebody who can help you figure it out. You cannot be too old for this. You could even be in your 80's. It does not matter your age. If you can watch videos and follow simple instructions then you are up up and away.
Myth #2 Skype piano lessons are only suitable for adults
Skype lessons are wonderful for any age. Whether you are 83 years old or 3 years old.
In this modern day and age with families scattered throughout the world due to travel and work commitments, it is common now even for small preschoolers to be familiar with using skype as they catch up with their grandparents or aunts, uncles and cousins across the globe.
But of course if the student is not able to follow directions and not motivated to learn the piano then naturally skype lessons will not be appropriate. But in that applies to traditional piano lessons too. And you are better off saving your money as the student does not appear ready to take lessons.
To take skype lessons the student will need to take more ownership of their lessons and more independence of their learning goals for the piano compared to traditional piano lessons.
Myth #3 Skype piano lessons are not as good as a traditional lesson
You may be thinking that it's impossible to conduct a lesson in real time over the internet. Because you are communicating over the internet there is a short delay and therefore it will take more time to cover concepts and pieces so be prepared. The reason being that there is a small delay. But it is generally not noticeable so long as you do not both speak at the same time. You just need to get accustomed to a speaking pattern. You need to speak in turn and play the piano in turn. You need to speak only one at a time otherwise you will have problems with the connection. If one of you wants to interrupt the other person while they are speaking or playing the piano then you can establish a visual code. For example, you could hold something up to the camera, or simply wave your hand close to the camera.
You may be thinking that skype piano lessons cannot possibly compare to a traditional piano lesson. Skype lessons are just has helpful for developing technique as a traditional lesson. In fact, having two pianos is a huge advantage. The teacher can demonstrate passages and finger work that can be seen from an angle not usually possible during traditional lessons. Opportunities exist for a student's technique to improve
Myth #4 The equipment required for skype lessons is too expensive
The Skype software is free to use. And if you already own or have access to a computer, laptop, ipad or smart phone then you already have the means to take the skype call. You can use the existing camera on your device for the skype call. If you want to you can position your laptop to record yourself using a small table or a music stand or ontop of cushions on a dining seat. If you are using a small tablet or smartphone you could use three elastic bands to attach it to the pole of a lamp stand so that it is at the right height and distance to who you and your fingers at the piano. If you really want superb results you can invest in a small HD web camera, but that is optional.