Preparing My Students for Christmas Parties

Preparing My Students for Christmas Parties

This year, I decided to bring back Group Class Week at my piano studio. My reasoning was three-fold: First, my students love getting together. Second, there are also concepts that are best taught in a group class setting. Finally, with juggling multiple jobs as well as my studio, I needed to build in some time to catch up on studio administration and planning. Running one group class per teaching night gave me that much needed time to work and/or rest.

The focus for this month's group class was Bulletproofing Your Christmas Music. We explored likely scenarios one could face at a Christmas party, social or community setting...

Mastering the Art of Playing & Singing

My student Bianca has been working on accompanying herself singing, either with piano accompaniment or guitar. She's become pretty good at it, to the point of inspiring her examiner to clap and say "Brava!" at the end of her examination performance of "Teardrops from My Guitar". She's been one of my inspirations for doing the same - for gigs though, not exams. Here are some sites my students and I have been using for our chording and singing purposes:

Ultimate Guitar MegaChords Guitar Tabs

As I mentioned in a previous post, it's a great way to practice ear training. It's really tricky trying to sing on pitch while only playing chords.

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Improvising at the Piano

Two blog entries in one night? I may be sniffly and sneezy with the cold/flu, but my brain is still coming up with stuff to write... Another interesting project I’ve had my students work on for the past couple of weeks is to play around with the following chord progression:

|: DA | Bminf#min | GD| GA:|D ||

They get about halfway through before exclaiming, “Hey! I know this! Isn’t this Pachelbel’s Canon?”

I’ve asked some my students to play through the chord progression as solid chords, then as broken chords. Then, I give them free rein to experiment with it (otherwise known as improvising). They’ve now all heard about the wedding I played at in which the bride wasn’t at the altar by the time I reached the last page of the Canon. I wound up improvising on the repetitive chord pattern until she reached the front of the church.

Some students have taken to this project like Maestro has taken to stickers

(my dog is obsessed with stickers), while some require encouragement on every single note. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them wind up improvising on this at a party or family reunion. After all, it’s a recognizable tune, the chords repeat (translation: easy to memorize) and everyone who hears them improvise will be impressed that they’re simply winging it.

All right. I'm out of blog ideas for the night. Time for me to practice chiburi. Iaido, is like piano, full of technical details that need to be just so to flow smoothly.

© 2006, Musespeak™,Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.




Adventures in Teaching and Playing

My students and I are starting to get used to our school-year routine (a couple of students who forgot about their lessons the week before). Even Maestro is learning to be the model teaching assistant. With the weather cooling down, I thought it was apropos when a student played "Jingle Bells" at today's lesson. This week, I asked several students to try chording (or faking) a pop song they are currently working on. For the non-music folk, it means that instead of playing what's written on the page, they will play chords in the left hand. Most pop folios write the chord symbols on top of the music. Chording accomplishes three things (at least that I can think of): it helps students learn their songs more quickly, it gives them the freedom to embellish their own accompaniment and it helps them better understand the song's form and structure.

I'm chording more these days. For the wedding that I'm playing at this weekend, I have no idea whether I will be asked to play the music for the parts of the Mass. I have a version of "Glory to God" but last night, I just realized that it's not the one we usually sing at church. Thankfully, I borrowed a hymnal from church a few weeks ago. I found the version that we usually sing. However, the hymnal only has the vocal melody. No chords. Nor chord symbols. Nada. I had to fiddle around with it and figure out the chords. It's not perfect, but it's definitely passable. After all this effort, I bet Murphy's Law will kick in and that the congregation at the wedding will just say the parts of the Mass that are often sung. Then I'll be off the hook. I should be prepared though - just in case.

(c) 2005 by Musespeak(tm). All rights reserved.