Halloween Practice

I always like being able to make one set of materials and use it in multiple ways. Most of my kids used these Halloween cards to compose a rondo, but one lucky girl also used it to work on her current songs.

What You Need:

  • These Halloween cards, printed and cut (you won’t need the second page)
  • Dice
  • A mini pumpkin or anything else you can use as a playing piece
  • A list of Halloween jokes. I have a little book of jokes, but you could also use these, either printed out or just available on a device.

Setup:

  • Make a list of the pictures on the cards and assign them to things you need to practice. It’s okay to repeat, it’s okay not to use all the cards, and it’s good to include a few things in there that are more exciting. For example, here’s a sample list:
    • moon: current song, section A
    • raven: current song, section B
    • haunted house: current song, hardest phrase
    • jack o’lantern: current song, hardest phrase
    • skeleton: current song, hardest phrase
    • bat: review song
    • trick or treat bag: review song
    • cat: current scale or arpeggio
    • witch: current scale or arpeggio
    • spider: next step in the composition book
    • skeleton: Halloween improv duet
    • mummy: sing a Halloween song
    • ghost: sight read
  • Arrange the cards face down in a circle on the floor and place the pumpkin or playing piece on one of them.
  • Hide the jokes so the student can’t see them all at once.

How to Play:

  • Roll the dice. Advance the pumpkin that many cards, moving clockwise.
  • Flip the card. Spend a couple of minutes practicing whatever goes with that picture.
  • Keep the card just as it is and roll again, continuing the same pattern.
  • If you land on a card which has already been flipped over, you have earned a Halloween joke. Conveniently, the likelihood of getting a joke increases the longer you play.

20171031_085759.jpg

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.

20171101_114525

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!

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.

20171020_160946.jpg

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.

20171016_145516