Musicality Activity

Most of my kids pick up on the concept of things like diminuendo and ritardando pretty quickly. Getting them to actually play a diminuendo or a ritardando is something else again. A lot of them just can’t do it, so here’s a very simple activity to review it.

What You Need:

  • A set of cards or signs with various musicality terms. I used the following: adagio, andante, allegro, presto, accelerando, ritardando, forte, piano, crescendo, diminuendo, and fermata.
  • Two blank cards or signs to use as wilds (optional)
  • Some kind of game piece to move along the cards. I’m doing this shortly before Christmas, so I used a nutcracker.
  • Dice

Setup:

  • Lay out your cards face down in a path of any shape

How to Play:

  • The student should first choose a review song or phrase. They should be totally confident of the notes in the section chosen.
  • Roll the dice and move the game piece along that many spaces.
  • Flip the card and play the review song using that musicality term. If they get a wild card, they can choose whatever musicality term they would like to use.
  • Go again.
  • If you get to the end and there is still time, turn around and make your way back again.

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Performance Prep (Halloween Style)

Our fall recital is this weekend. On the last lesson before a performance, I always like to record the kids several times and watch it with them. It’s extra practice for them, but even more importantly, it gives them a good opportunity to analyze their own performance and talk about what went well and what still needs work. I find that students tend to fall into one of three categories:

  • Those who think their performance was perfect, when it definitely wasn’t.
  • Those who think their performance was terrible, when it was actually pretty good.
  • Those who stare at me blankly and have no idea what went well or what needs work.

When I listen to their analysis, I start to understand why their home practice isn’t always very effective. How can you make progress if you can’t tell what needs to improve? It’s definitely something we need to work on.

At any rate, we always need this to be a little fun, and here’s this year’s incarnation.

What You Need:

  • These Halloween numbers, printed on orange cardstock
  • Plenty of memory on your phone
  • A pen and/or Halloween stickers

Setup:

  • None

What to Do:

  • Talk about what Take One, Take Two, etc., means in movie-making. (Most of my kids didn’t know.)
  • Record Take One by starting the camera on the orange number One. The student can start playing at any point after that.
  • After Take One, ask for two things that went well and one thing they could improve. Many of them will need help with that.
  • Record Take Two and repeat the process. If there is time, record Take Three and Four. If not, stop with two.
  • Watch the recordings. When the student has determined the best take, allow them to draw or add a Halloween decoration to that Take Number.

By the end of the week, the kids are all playing well and my somewhat plain Halloween numbers had a lot of delightful additions. Most of my kids preferred to draw rather than using my googly monster eyes or Halloween stickers.

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Skeleton, Human or Monster? (How to Drill Anything)

This is one of my student’s favorite Halloween activities. We use it every year, which is the only reason I was willing to do all this cutting and laminating. This year I used it to drill rhythms, but it can be used for anything.

What You Need:

  • A giant skeleton, like this printable one here.
    • It will last longer if you laminate the pieces.
  • Flashcards for whatever you want to drill.

How to Play:

  • Ask the first flashcard. If the student gets it right, with or without coaching, they have earned one bone. The bones can be laid out on the floor as they earn them.
  • Some of my students want to create a human skeleton, so they need to go in the right arrangement. (The link above provides a helpful diagram.)
  • Most of my students prefer to get creative with a monster skeleton, in which case they place that bone wherever they feel like it.
  • Repeat.

Variations:

  • To make it go faster, award two or three or four bones per flashcard.
  • To make it go slower, award one bone for every second or third correct flashcard.
  • If you’re using rhythm cards, you can place two or three in a row for a multi-measure challenge.
  • If you’re using note cards, you can place two or three on the piano for a multi-note sight reading challenge.

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Monster Eyeballs (Note Review)

Here is a Halloween-themed way to review the notes while creating a decoration for your studio.  It’s sure to thrill kids. Except for my own daughter, who said it was creepy and she didn’t want to touch the eyeballs. Other than her, everyone loved it.

What You Need:

  • A set of monster eyeballs. These are available at dollar stores around Halloween.
  • A bag big enough to hold your monster eyeballs.
  • A clear vase, bowl, or other container.
  • Flashcards or a sheet of piano music.

Setup:

  • Before the lesson, use a permanent marker to write note names on each of the eyeballs.
  • Put all the eyeballs in the bag.
  • If you’re using flashcards, lay them out face up, but not in order.

How to Play:

  • The student reaches in the bag and draws out an eyeball.
  • The student then looks through the flashcards or sheet music and finds a note that matches the letter on the eyeball.
  • If they correctly find the match, the student can add the eyeball to the vase to add to your Halloween decorations.

Variations:

  • For pre-readers, have them play the note on the piano instead of looking for it on the staff.
  • For readers who haven’t yet learned all the notes, limit the flashcards to the ones they have learned. You may also want to use treble clef notes separately from bass clef notes.
  • For more advanced readers, use flashcards or music with lots of ledger lines, or you can require them to find not the note on the eyeball, but a note that is a third above that note (or a fifth or whatever).

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