Inversions

Are you familiar with chord inversions?  The concept of flipping a chord around into different positions is a fundamental concept in music theory.  However, did you know that chord inversions are great ways to practice fingering in warm-ups, and also great source material for songs.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. A standard chord warm-up plays broken chords from the bottom to the top of the piano, hand over hand.  rather than playing root, third, fifth (ie – C E G), try doing the exercise in first inversion – third, fifth, root (ie E G C), and then in second inversion – fifth, root, third (ie G  C  E).  Great fingering exercises.
  2. Compose a piece of music where you alternate between inversions.  Or maybe keep the same inversion with different chord progressions.  Try both block and broken.

For a good song to help you learn inversions and their fingerings I recommend “Black Forest Polka” from Alfreds Level 4.  I often use this song before level 4 if a student shows an interest in inversions.  It is also a great piece to use to teach memorization for students who struggle with memorization, simply because it is so formulaic.  I enjoy the theory benefits, but the students just like how it sounds and often are excited to memorize it for a recital or show-off piece.

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Using Media to Learn

Here’s a quick tip for a fun way to find new learning resources.  Spend some time on Pinterest!  There is a wealth of ideas out there on how to keep your study interesting.

Try searching:  Piano lessons, piano apps, music theory, sheet music, music education, or even your favorite artists.

I encourage my students to mix up their practice sessions occasionally.  Reward yourself for a great week of practice with 30 min of browsing Pinterest for new and creative ideas.

 

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Conducting

Have you ever wanted to learn to conduct music for a group?  The LDS church has put together a top quality site with all FREE content to help you teach yourself how.  The site contains a FREE online book, with FREE audio examples, and even videos.  You won’t find a better quality, more interactive, no strings attached site to learn basic conducting.  You can work through the course online, complete with musical examples, or download and read offline.  There is even a certificate to use upon completion of the course.  Content can be used for a teaching situation or for self study.  You even have the option of accessing the site in English, Spanish, French, or Portuguese.  Highly recommended site!

http://www.lds.org/music/conducting-music/conducting-course-book-and-audio-examples?lang=eng

 

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Funny Thanksgiving Jingles

One of my BIG pet peeves is that all our holidays seem to focus on candy!  What would Easter, Halloween, Valentines Day, or even Christmas be without chocolate and candy?  Add to that one of my other pet peeves – we aren’t teaching our children our heritage of musical tunes, and our creativity is disappearing.  So instead of focusing on some of the less rewarding things this Thanksgiving, why don’t we try some new songs to sing?  Let’s be thankful for our musical heritage, and our tradition of creativity and education.  Here is a fun collection of Thanksgiving jingles.  You can spend some of your holiday season singing these words to some of the most recognizable tunes.  How many of these can you sing?

Here is the link to a whole bunch of fun songs:   CLICK HERE

And here are some of my favorites.

Thankful added 10-12-04 Submitted & Written By: Lyndsey Baron

Sung to: Frere Jacques

I am thankful,
I am thankful
Yes I am
Yes I am
Thank you for my mommy,
Thank you for my daddy,
And our food, and our food

Gobble, Gobble, Giggle  added 11-7-00 Original Author Unknown

I’m a little turkey here to say.
Try some beef on Thanksgiving Day.
Turkey is tough, and turkey is dry.
You really should give chicken a try!
Or how ’bout a plate of veggie delight
for a Thanksgiving dinner that tastes just right?

Dinner Bells  added 11-7-00 Original Author Unknown

Sung to:Jingle Bells

Dashing through our food,
With a knife and fork so fast,
Corn and peas to go,
While through the throat they pass,
Into the tummy they plop,
Making growling stop,
So, oh what fun it is to eat
And eat until we drop!

Oh, dinner bells, shot gun shells.
Turkey got away
What are we supposed to do
On our Thanksgiving Day?

A Sledding We will Go
(A Hunting We Will Go)

A sledding we will go
A sledding we will go
We’ll hold on tight and sit just right
And down the hill we’ll go
Wheeeeeeee!

The Pilgrims Came  added 11-7-00 Original Author Unknown

Sung to:Yankee Doodle

The pilgrims came across the sea,
And never thought of you and me
And yet, it’s very strange the way
We think of them on Thanksgiving Day.

We tell their story old and true,
Of how they sailed across the blue.
And found a new land to be free,
And built their homes quite near the sea.

Every child knows well the tale
Of how they bravely turned the sail,
And journeyed many a day and night
To worship God as they thought right.

For a really holiday treat why don’t you try to put Thanksgiving words to your own favorite tunes?  Post below any that you especially like.

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Actual, usable, FREE sheet music

Here is an unsolicited review of a very helpful music site.  I recently was looking for some good sheet music for my students and I found www.makingmusicfun.net.   This site not only has some fun arcade style games you can play, but a wealth of resources and some of the best sheet music for students that I have found!

Sometimes one of the best motivations a student can have is a great arrangement of a song they have always wanted to learn.  While this is not the single most extensive collection of sheet music, it is a very useful, well organized collection of good, solid material.  I found the site easy to navigate, the music easy to open (pdf’s), and the levels well marked.  I am currently printing out some for my students that I know they have been wanting to play.

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Seasonal Music

Jack-o-latern

Image via Wikipedia

It is always fun to have a few songs ready for Christmas or Halloween, or whatever!  Here are some fun options from some of my favorite sites.

Halloween:   Play your normal pieces in minor!   Or check out this one (early intermediate):  http://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/support-files/tabithas-de-boself-corrected.pdf    or find a copy of Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg) or other favorite.  Here is some sheet music that we have enjoyed over the years:  http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Black-Cat-Shuffle/310955

Thanksgiving songs:   I suggest some simple hymns for Thanksgiving.  Usually we don’t get too elaborate for Thanksgiving because we are spending more time on getting Christmas stuff ready.  Two of my favorites include the Dutch “We Gather Together” (check out MakingMusicFun.net for sheet music) and any arrangement of Copeland’s Simple Gifts.

Christmas music:  I can’t do justice to all the great Christmas options out there in one single post, but I will suggest looking for some duets and starting before Halloween!   More suggestions later!

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Really, its not my fault!

Piano tuner

Image via Wikipedia

My students think it is sort of funny that I let them “cheat” in their music lessons.  By “cheating,” I tell them I want them to use any resource available to learn their music properly while they are practicing.  Learning correctly is more important than knowing everything before you start.

Now I am telling them that there are some “excuses” to bad playing that I am going to listen to!  Here are some “excuses” that have actual merit.

  • I can’t play quietly, only loud.
  • I have to play that note extra times.
  • My left hand is always louder than my right.
  • I can’t play fast, only slow or medium.
  • I can’t play repeated notes, give me something easier.
  • I can’t use the pedal correctly.
  • It hurts my ears to practice, so I don’t.

These “excuses” are really warning signs that many piano teachers and parents often dismiss as laziness.  In reality what you need to do is to get someone over to inspect your instrument ASAP!  Pianos that are out of tune are no fun to practice on, but also a piano that is needing a regulation can also stop responding correctly, no matter how hard you practice.  I am amazed at how many piano owners and piano teachers are unaware of the signs that your instrument needs attention.

The piano technician‘s guild suggests a guideline of having a regulation done as often as every 3 to 5 years.  I know I just got mine regulated and I can’t believe I was actually practicing on and teaching on such an unresponsive instrument.  The problem is that it had gone out so gradually I hardly even noticed. Even I fell into the trap of thinking that if I just practiced more I could get those notes sounding quieter.   Now I feel like I have a brand new piano and things are working so much easier.

By getting a qualified piano technician to work on your piano, you will not only be protecting your investment, but you will also solve the common practice excuses listed above.  With my husband as a piano technician my student’s “excuses” should be short lived, but I will be listening for the warning signs and will help fix the REAL problem, which is NOT always the student!

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