Monday, February 25, 2013

Keep your piano skills alive during breaks!

Hello Students and Parents!

Have you ever said to yourself "Wow, my child was able play new songs so quickly last year, but after taking this summer off it's like he/she has completely forgotten how to read music!"  Today I'd like to brainstorm a few ideas with you for keeping those piano skills alive - especially during extended breaks like summer, holidays, and when your teacher has a baby! It's frustrating how quickly skills like sight-reading and playing scales deteriorate with even a few weeks off.  Oh, and it takes a ton of work to build them back up once lost!  Argggg.

Try 1 or 2 of these simple ideas at home during your next break and I bet you'll be patting yourself on the back in a few weeks!

  1. Routine within a Routine:  It doesn't have to be 30 minutes every day.  Even 10 minutes of "real practice" before breakfast or after homework a few times a week will help keep those piano skills alive.  BUT HERE IS THE TRICK: Listen to what your child is playing and help them structure a PIANO ROUTINE for those 10 minutes.  Don't let them just noodle around or play the 3 passages they remember from their favorite piece over and over as fast as they can (especially if your child is a 4-7th grade boy).  Encourage 1-2 minutes each of warm-ups, scales, SIGHT-READING, and old recital pieces along with their current favorites.  
  2. Sight-Read: Being able to play the notes on the page is the first....THE FIRST....skill to crash and burn when you stop practicing.  So encourage your child to try and play something their fingers don't already know. Take out a lesson book from a few years ago, swap books with a friend, buy a "Sight-Reading" book for $5-8, google your favorite pop songs and you'll find sheet music to print off, or even get a set of flashcards and practice naming notes.
  3. Online Games and Ipad apps: If your child is anything like my husband, then they will do anything to have their face glued to a screen all day long. There are wonderful ways of taking advantage of this! Here are a few links for you
    • Emily's favorite Online Games/Apps
      • - I pay for a monthly subscription to this site, please use it! If you don't know your username and password, email me!
      • YouTube Videos - When I need a little inspiration, I watch a few of my favorite pianists play.  Try a few of these big names in the piano world: "Horowitz" "Argarich" "Lang Lang" "The 5 Browns" "Emily Brown" 
      • Here is a list on my website
      • Here is a great blog with the most current Ipad apps 
  4. Music Activities Away from the Piano: OK, so your child won't sit down on the piano bench. How can you sneak music-related activities into other areas of their life?
    • Emily's Favorite "Away from the Piano" activities
      • Music Sketch Book: Buy or make a little book of staff paper and a pencil. Use this to practice drawing treble clefs, or try writing down your favorite pop melodies or rhythms, or compose your own music!  It's like a scrapbook of little musical ideas!
      • Theory Pages: Get a notespeller book or find free notespeller or theory pages to print online.  Keep a stack of them in the car or when you are at a siblings hockey game. An old-fashioned written version of a smartphone app :)
      • Listen to Piano Music: That's right, download some classical music or check out a few CD's from the library.  Have them playing in the background before dinner or on the weekend.  You'll soon develop favorites!
Paderewski (a famous concert pianist) is coined with this thought: 
If I don't practice for one day, I know it; if I don't practice for two days, my friends know it. If I don't practice for three days, EVERYBODY knows it...

If you don't practice all summer, your piano teacher will DEFINITELY know it :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cool video using prepared piano to get a hip hop beat

Hey Kids - take a look at this one!  These guys are using a "Prepared Piano."  Prepared Piano is where you alter the regular sound of the piano, usually by placing something on or through the strings that add a different sound.  The tune they use is an old jazz standard, but they've re-imagined it so that it sounds very cool.  Duets for the spring recital anyone??