June 2018 Plans

The reason I keep this blog is because I myself can’t remember what I did from one week to the next. I had to go back and read my own past blog posts even to have a clue about this one. Here’s what we did in June:

Week 1: We practiced intervals with Interval Ice Cream.

Week 2: We practiced rhythms with Whiteboard Rhythm Dictation.

Week 3: We played the Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game. Amazingly, I lost every time.

Week 4: We composed with Chromatic Composition.

Winter Intervals

I have yet to have a student who can remember the definition of an interval (the distance between two notes). They sputter a bit, and I sigh and say, “Okay, play me a fourth.” That they can do.

Understanding intervals is not just great music theory, it also is enormously helpful in reading music. Your brain doesn’t have to process all the note names if it knows the relationships between the notes.

For this activity, I am indebted to Teach Piano Today for a great little free printable called Wintervals. It’s a lovely idea for private lessons in January, and their instructions are fun. I played it differently, in several different ways, as you can see below.

What you need:

  • The sheet Wintervals, printed from Teach Piano Today
  • One game piece to represent a snowman
    • I drew one up on cardstock in about 30 seconds. Teach Piano Today recommends a mini-marshmallow. Anything would work.
  • One die
    • I used a ten-sided one, but you could use a regular one.
  • Staff paper/pencil or giant staff/manipulatives (optional)

Setup:

  • Place the game piece above the first square (“A”).

How to Play on the Keyboard:

  • Roll the dice. That number specifies what interval you need to play. The bottom note should be the letter on the square your game piece is on (A for the first turn). For example, if the die says 3, play A and C because that makes a third.
    • My 10-sided die included a 0. If they rolled that it meant teacher gets to pick the interval.
  • If the student plays the interval wrong, the game piece moves up one space. If correct, the student can choose between moving up one or two spaces. That choice is pretty important because if the game piece lands on a hot spot, she melts and goes back to the beginning.
  • Repeat until the game piece makes it to the finish line.
  • Talking points along the way, depending on the level of the student:
    • Which intervals sound pretty?
    • Which intervals sound harsh?
    • Which intervals are so important they have a special name? (1=unison; 8=octave)
    • Which intervals sound harsh but could be resolved into something pretty? (7th to 8th, 2nd to 3rd, etc.)
    • How many half steps are contained within the interval?
    • Is the interval major or minor?

How to Play on the Staff:

  • Follow the same instructions as above, but instead of playing the notes, draw them on staff paper or place manipulatives on a giant staff.
  • Talking points along the way, depending on the level of the student:
    • Odd numbered intervals always go from line to line or space to space.
    • Even numbered intervals have a line and a space.
    • Knowing intervals allows you to correctly place notes on ledger lines, even if you don’t know what the name of the note is.

How to Play Backwards on Either Keyboard or Staff:

  • Alternatively, you could also skip the number die entirely. Instead, have the student draw letters A-G out of a bag. Then they play or write the start note from the Wintervals sheet, play or write the note from the bag, and name the interval the two notes make.

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Halloween Rondo (Composition)

We rounded off October with Halloween Rondos. A rondo is a musical form where one main theme keeps coming back again and again.

What You Need:

Setup:

  • If you’re using a spinner, arrange the Halloween pictures in a circle with the spinner in the middle. Don’t include the cards that say “A” and “Coda.”

How to Play:

  • The student spins the spinner. Whichever card they end up with becomes Theme A, the one that will be repeated in their rondo. If you’re not using a spinner, just shuffle the cards and have them draw the first card.
  • The student should compose two measures in 4/4 time to be the A section, which the teacher transcribes onto the staff paper. (I thought about making the kids do this, but it would just take way too long.)
    • I recommend placing the hands with the lowest finger on an A. That way they are automatically playing in the key of A minor, and it will sound spooky without much extra effort on their part.
    • Depending on the picture, we talk about how to represent it in music. Should it be fast or slow? Loud or soft? Legato or staccato? In a high octave or very low?
    • I do insist on exactly two measures in 4/4 time. Part of the reason for doing this is to learn to compose reasonable phrases.
  • When the A section is defined, put it on the music stand, and spin again. The next card becomes section B, which should also be two measures of 4/4 time.
  • When the B section is written down, put it on the music stand to the right of the section A card. Afterwards place one of the cards that says “A” to the left. For example, you might end up with this sequence: Jack-o-lantern, Witch, A. The cards are there to remind you and the student that the Jack-o-lantern measures come back after the Witch measures have been played.
  • Spin again for section C. Continue as before until you run out of cards or out of time.
  • Every rondo should finish with a Coda. The coda can be as simple as a long low note quietly fading away or a loud, high note to represent a scream or it can be a further two measures just like all the others.
  • Play the final composition for the student and enjoy. Most of my students were not actually capable of fully reading and playing back their compositions themselves. There is nothing wrong with this: Composers who write symphonies certainly can’t play every instrument themselves. It’s good to have an imagination that stretches beyond our current abilities.

You can listen to my students’ creepy compositions here.

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Halloween Rondo

A rondo is any piece of music, in which the opening section returns again and again. Great composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and my piano students have all composed rondos.

Unlike their more famous counterparts, these kids had only about ten minutes in which to perfect their rondo. All of them captured the creepy sound we were going for. These will sound best if you imagine you are walking through a haunted house while you listen.

Aaron:

Abigail:

Davy:

Dylan:

Emmie:

Holly:

Jack:

Jacob’s “The Scream of a Ghost”

Paige:

Rachel:

Sarah’s “Creatures of the Night”

 

For more details on how we composed these, check out this post.

Happy Halloween!