Entries tagged with “piano lessons”.

This year, as I was going through some health problems, I had little extra energy for my normal level of creativity with my students, so I looked to use other people’s creative ideas. Here are my favorites that I used frequently this year.

1. First is a site called colorinmypiano.com Joy has some wonderful ideas and helpful resources for studio teachers. From practical evaluation forms to games and lesson planning, this is a wonderful resource and all of them are free!

2.From teacherspayteachers.com, I’ve found a kindred spirit. Her teacher label is “Aussie Music Teacher.” She is constantly adding theory games, great music ideas, and other great music-teaching resources to her catalog—many of which are free!!

3. And last but in no way least, susanparadis.com is another wonderfully creative and free site filled with more great resources and games for more student and parent engaged learning.

Are you trying to find a piano teacher for your child but know nothing about piano? Here are a few questions that you might want to know and a few possible answers that you might hear.

1. What methods does the teacher use when he or she teaches? The teacher might mention some of the following.

Classical method:
This is the most common method for piano teachers. This involves teaching sight reading, rhythms, finger/hand technique and theory.
Pros: A student of the classical method has a very well-rounded understanding of music.
Cons: Students don’t learn how to play lead sheets (or real-life music) or improvise.

Suzuki method: this method is mainly training the child by ear and having much parental involvement.
Pros: The parent is highly involved in the child’s music training. The child focuses more on good technique and learns things by ear.
Cons: The child does not usually learn to sight-read notes. This is a major hindrance to children using this method unless it is combined with note reading exercises.

Simply Music (or the Australian method)
This method teaches how to read lead sheet and improvisational playing through chordal understanding.
Pros: the student can play many well-known songs quickly. The student learns chord use and lead sheet reading early, and eventually learn to transpose. Much is learned by ear. The student learns improvisation early on, jazz techniques and accompaniment techniques. It is recommended for children that struggle with normal piano techniques.
Cons: Although this method is strong on teaching in lead sheet format, students do not learn how to read traditional two-handed music. The area of classical techniques and sight-reading is very minimal.

Kodaly method: A method designed more for singing. Most know it as the Do-Re-Mi method. It uses speech patterns to help children connect with rhythm and notes. It’s unlikely that a piano teacher will mention this one, but there it is just in case.
Pros: It’s highly effective to help children feel and understand beat.
Cons: The names used for rhythms (like ti-ti to signify 1 and for eighth notes) and note names (do for c, etc…) is somewhat confusing for children if they are going to switch over to classical method at any point.

The next two methods are mainly used in the classroom, but I have heard teachers mention these methods when talking to parents interested in lessons. These teachers are taking advantage of the parents ignorance because the parents don’t know that these are not regularly used in piano lessons.

Dalcrow method: this method combines movement with music (used mostly in classrooms)
Pros: helps children to feel a steady beat.
Cons: You probably won’t do much dancing for piano lessons

Orff: Using musical instruments to play patterns of music.
Pros: It goes well with Dalcrow and Kodaly.
Cons: Again, not used in piano lessons.

I use a combination method of the kodaly method for beginners (to establish feel of beat), classical method for all, and Australian method for older students (after they are proficient with in their theory, rhythms and sight reading).

Many teachers say that they use a combination method. Don’t let them stop there. Ask them about specifics like those question 2.

2. Does the teacher focus on ear training, sight-reading, hand/finger/playing technique, rhythms and theory?
Each one of these is very important.

3. What books does the teacher use?
Although the books that they use do not matter so much, sometimes teachers use the books to describe their methods. For example, the teacher might say, I use Alfred’s basic piano library, Bastien series or the Piano Adventures series. There are plenty of other good ones out there, but keep in mind that you want to know what they teach.

4. How much do the lessons cost and how long is the lesson? Depending on the teacher’s degree, location, and demand, lessons can range anywhere from $15-65 per half hour or hour lesson. The current average for Lancaster, PA is between $20-35 per half hour.

5. At what age, does the teacher recommend giving lessons?
My personal preference is begin when the child can read or the age 6. Generally, they are much better equipped to start at 6 then at 5.

6. How much should you as the parent be involved?
Depending on the teacher, you might be highly involved or not. It depends on what you want and what the teacher allows.

7. What are the suggested requirements for the student’s practice?
For young students (6-7) that are just beginning, I usually recommend 10-15 minutes of practice a day. For most other students, 30-45 minutes, and those that are serious and able, 1 hour.

I am a teacher to my very core. That’s what I naturally do. Anything that I’ve learned I will pass on–I can’t help it. I have been very blessed in my lifetime to know many “great” teachers: teachers that inspired me to do my best, and appreciate who I am, embracing both my strengths and weaknesses. They didn’t inspire me through any great speeches or Hallmark moments but they did, however, all possess three qualities that are essential for any effective teacher; especially in working with students who have disabilities. The first of these qualities is knowledge.

Knowledge? Isn’t that a no-brainer? Sure it is, but in reality, knowledge is the most time-consuming aspect of teaching. Teaching is being a life-long student. The best (music) teachers are those that are constantly searching out great curriculum, practicing and challenging themselves, learning from the experience of other teachers, and are willing to try new things. It is also important to know oneself and one’s students. I do not claim to be an expert, nor do I claim to have everything figured out. In fact, many times, much to my chagrin, the best way for me to grow as a teacher is to admit that I don’t know everything. Admitting failure (or lack of knowledge) is the hardest and most important thing for a teacher to be able to do. Those teachers that I have met who think that they have everything figured out, are usually so dependent upon one method, that when that method fails on one student, they blame the student’s lack of interest, motivation, etc…and never think of changing. Unfortunately, I have seen this happen far too often.

So how does a teacher’s knowledge tie in with teaching students with disabilities? To best teach students with disabilities, it’s most helpful to know what these particular disabilities involve; in essence, knowing the student well. Much of my knowledge in working with students with disabilities comes from personal experience and thanks to the wonders of the information super highway, I have found much helpful advice from other teachers and parents of students with disabilities who are willing to share their successes and failures and fresh ideas in how to best connect with their students. So much can be learned from other teachers! Below are a few forums and other websites that I have found to be both encouraging and insightful.

Music Forum
Teaching Helps

I have a student with Down’s Syndrome who loves music and has taken voice lessons for about 5 years now. The original idea was to use singing as a medium to improve speech clarity. And although there was some progress in his speech clarity, he made great progress in his overall musicality. His ability to match pitch, keep a steady beat, and understand basic music theory is amazing! Throughout the years, we have tried many different ways to integrate the rest of life into music since those are the things with which he connects most. At times, this has meant making up and singing songs about family members, sports, or using sign language (another part of the knowledge learning curve for me as his teacher), or making up dances to help him connect body motion to word memory. He loves reviewing things that we’ve learned previously as well as learning new things. He has now begun to read notes understand note duration by sight and is able to play both the recorder and piano. He is a joy to teach, and learning new ways to teach may sometimes be time-consuming, but completely worth it!

Although this student is just one example, knowing what motivates each student and understanding strengths and weaknesses is key. In the next part, I will be posting more examples and talk more about creativity in teaching students with disabilities. If you have any of your own teaching experiences of students, let me know! I’d love to hear!

Here are a few tips to help you get your emotive message across whilst singing.

Not long ago, I received some good questions and thought that I might share them with you.  These are in regards to some popular misconceptions about the use of the diaphragm.

Q: Here are some of the things that I’ve heard: breathing from the diaphragm may not be helpful when singing and may actually have negative effects.  Also, I’ve read that taking deep breath does not necessarily result in more oxygen.  Continued deep breathing could have very negative effects on the body, in hyperventilation, oxygen supply, eyesight, and more.  What’s your opinion on this?

A: Thank you for your comments. To respond to the things that you have read, here is what I have found in my own research and what I’ve also experienced. Breathing by using your diaphragm is mainly used in singing because it supports a musical tone much better than does JUST breathing from your lungs. It also is faster way to get air through than just your lungs. That is why any professional singer knows how to use his/her diaphragm when singing.

When you breathe from your diaphragm, you’re also breathing from your lungs, but you’re breath is more deep and powerful. Breathing from your diaphragm is a natural way to breathe when you are in a very relaxed state. If you’ve ever seen a baby breathing while sleeping, you’ll notice that their belly is moving up and down–this is breathing from the diaphragm–the breath is slow and steady. Also, a dog uses its diaphragm when it is panting. In yoga, they tell you to breathe deeply from low down–essentially your diaphragm.

For everyday purposes such as walking or running, we DO NOT purposefully breathe from the diaphragm because it can cause light-headedness, or hyperventilation (because there is much more air coming in and out at a faster rate than normal breathing).  Also, from personal experience, if you try running while forcing yourself to breathe from mostly your diaphragm, it’s much easier to get side cramps 🙂

As for worse eyesight, etc…I have never come across this in any of my research (assuming the deep-breathing is used correctly). If you’re only using this as a technique when singing, it is good for you and has no harmful effects. It’s only when used improperly or out of the singing/relaxing context that it might cause hyperventilation.

I hope that this has been helpful and informative. Thanks again for your questions.

When a new student first walks in my door, my goal is to get to know him/her. These are the three main questions:

1) What is your goal for piano/voice?
2) What kind of music do you like?
3) What kind of music do you dislike?

For many students who have taken lessons before, this is a new sort of concept to them. Normally, there isn’t a lot of say-so from the student as to what will be learned. The teacher usually goes by a certain method that has proved good results, and sticks to it. I have my favorite methods books (that make teaching a bit easier), but not every student learns alike, nor do they all enjoy the same things.

I’ve found that being open and willing to try and learn new things to accommodate students is one of the most helpful things for me to do as a teacher. It means a little more work and creativity from me, but usually, more learning and enjoyment from them. It can be hard to motivate a student if everything he or she is learning is disliked.

Of course, there are many times when a song must be learned in order to achieve a new technical skill or concept–and learning perseverance is also a good thing 🙂

In conclusion, allowing the student to set his or her own goals is a great way to focus and motivate. Every student is unique and gifted in many different ways; my philosophy is to make use of that.