Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fun Piano Game for Beginners

Well it’s half-term holiday in the Russell house and the weather is rubbish. What better time to trawl the internet for fab music games to play with my boys.

My younger son Matthew is 5. He’s been playing around with the black key songs in My First Piano Adventures and he knows where C, D and E are on the keyboard. My elder son Adam is 7. He’s been playing for a few years now and is a confident reader. I’m going to need a game that will work well for both of them. Not too hard for Matthew nor too easy for Adam.

First stop – as always – is Susan Paradis’ amazing site. Always loads of fun games, composition activities and pieces. Especially for pre-readers! Straight away I found an adorable game she calls Save the Turkey. It’s been designed for the US holiday Thanksgiving, but since we don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK then we have no problem playing it in February!!

Save The TurkeyYou can take a look at her site to see the “proper” rules for the game. However, I thought I’d share my adaptation.

The set comes with a Turkey card, two “Skip a Turn” cards and seven keyboards, each with a different key highlighted. You can download, print and cut out the cards here.

Firstly, we got rid of the skip a turn cards, they didn’t go down well at all with Matthew!! Secondly we put the Turkey at the bottom of the pile (actually Matthew “looked after” the Turkey – he has been a bit poorly this week!!). We made a pile with the rest of the cards and left them face down.

My Rules: Each player took it in turns to take a card from the top of the pile. Each player had different tasks to do with their cards. Matthew just had to find the key on the piano and play it. Adam had to name the pitch, draw it on the stave on my whiteboard (you could use manuscript paper), then find the key on the piano.

As the game progressed I was able to stretch each of the boys. For Matthew he started naming the pitch if it was C, D or E. Then we talked about “counting” up the alphabet to get F and G. A and B were a stretch but at least the concept has been introduced to him. Matthew also “helped” me when it was my turn! For Adam he was tasked to draw the note on the whiteboard, but in more than one octave. When he played it on the piano he had to match the octave to the ones he had drawn. If your child or student isn’t very confident with writing yet, you could find a piece they’ve been playing and ask them to find the note on the page.

I did think one set would be a very short game so I printed two copies – however, in retrospect I think a couple of short games with a number of winners would have been better. We managed to play for 30 minutes though, which I was really pleased with.

Thanks Susan!!

Get Set Piano Book 1 Review

I am a piano teacher and also a Kodály fan. I incorporate the Kodály Approach into my piano lessons. We sing and chant Jolly Music‘s traditional playground songs and we use actions to define pitch and pulse. I have gorgeous little mouse and snail puppets for investigating tempo and I use them to help children understand how crotchets and minims relate to each other. As we progress, the students play the Jolly Music songs on the black keys by ear. Starting with so-mi songs and moving to so-mi-la, then do-mi-so etc.

But what have we here!? A brand new tutor book? Get Set Piano by Heather Hammond (of Cool Clarinet fame) and Karen Marshall.

I saw a copy at the Music Education Expo 2014 earlier this month and liked the look of it but didn’t have time to dig deeper. Then another piano teacher asked what I thought of it. They thought it looked good so I bought a copy of Lesson Book 1 and the Pieces Book 1.

It arrived this morning and I sat down to trawl through it. To my amazement it is choc-a-block full of the rhymes and songs that I use. Including many I also use with my singing students from National Youth Choir of Scotland’s Go for Bronze musicianship scheme (also a Kodaly resource).

Get Set Piano goes much faster than some US based methods but perhaps an older beginner, especially one with prior musical training, could get on quite well with it. There is a free teacher guide online, as well as quite a few additional pieces.

What I will certainly do with Get Set Piano is have it in my bag. I think once the students have played their songs on the black keys and I have exhausted the song’s musicianship and ear training potential then I think they will enjoy seeing them in this book and having a go. We could even use them as sight reading material and see if they recognise the songs as they play!!

I am always on the look out for nicely presented, gently progressive books and pieces to make the transition from Piano Adventures to the UK exam board system. Get Set Piano Book 1 is too elementary to meet this need, but in two weeks time Get Set Piano Book 2 is published and you can be sure I’ll be first in the queue to buy a copy and that might certainly make the grade, as it were, for my students! I’ll be sure to let you know!

Saying Goodbye

I recently said goodbye to a much-loved long-term student. The separation was my own suggestion and I feel terrible about it.

This morning I read this blog-post by the amazing piano teacher, performer and composer Diane Hidy. It has made me cry a little. I wanted to share it, and persuade you to look through some other of Diane’s wonderfully written posts.

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