Sightreading 101: Audiation

Thank you for joining in on this Sightreading 101 series, if you're joining us now and haven't checked out the previous weeks, you can find them here! 

I know I've said this series of posts was going to be all about sight reading, but I sorta fibbed. Today I'm talking about one of the valuable skills that musicians have that definitely relates to sight reading, but is really a skill in and of itself, and that is Audiation. Audiation is the ability to 'hear' or comprehend music internally in the absence of the actual sounds that would comprise it. This can be with or without sheet music, but being able to read sheet music while comprehending the sounds can really take our sight reading to the next level. I think the best way to introduce this is with a picture. A little while back, this image made the rounds among the classical music circles on social media.

And I think this sums up the idea quite nicely. This really is a musicianship superpower. And while it may …

Sightreading 101: Intervallic Reading

Welcome to week 3 of this Sightreading 101 blog series! If you read last week's post, you may have noticed that several times I mentioned the 'relationship between the notes,' today we're getting into what I meant by that in a discussion of "intervallic reading." So, jumping right in:

The movement from one note to another, or the relationship between one note & the next, is described in music theory as an interval. Intervals can be a step from one note to the following, a skip, or a leap from a low note to a higher note or vice versa. Intervals are given numbers depending on how far the movement is. For example,
One note to the adjacent note is a "second" because they're two notes apart. A skip over one note is described as a "third" because they're three notes apart.If the notes are 7 keys apart, we call them a seventh, and so on. The line below shows us what each interval can look like on the staff.

You may be thinking this mu…

Sightreading 101: Landmark Notes

Here we go into week 2 of our deep dive into sight reading. If you missed last week's post and are wondering why we bother with this, check it out here

This week we're talking about landmark notes - what they are and how they help: Landmark notes are a handful of strategically placed notes, that when memorized, make sight reading simple & intuitive without having to memorize a bunch of mnemonic devices,* or memorizing the locations of every single note on the staff.

The first 3 landmark notes are very simple. Middle C (the one with the 'whiskers'), Treble G on line 2 of the treble clef, and Bass F on line 4 of the bass clef. These are often the first 3 notes beginning students learn in their first few lessons with me, because learning these 3 from the start establishes the relationship between the notes & the staff with 3 easily distinguishable notes (they're not too close together). When we move forward and learn how to find the remaining notes, we reinfo…

Sight Reading 101: Why bother?

Hello everyone, and Happy Spring! I'm going to be kicking off the Spring season with a blog series all about sight-reading. I've definitely touched on this in the past, especially with some app recommendationsover the years, but I've not dedicated any blog space to why we bother learning it, or to really dig into how we can help young pianists train their brains to be successful at it. So this April, we're diving deep into sight reading!

Today's post is about the 'why': 
Why do we bother learning sight reading?
Music literacy - Playing music vs. reading it is often compared to speaking vs. reading language because all of the reasons we value language literacy translate to musical literacy as well. It's universal - you can hand any classically trained musician anywhere in the world a piece of sheet music, and they'll be able to turn it into music. Much like language can cross borders & build bridges, so can music, and music literacy makes the commu…

Summer 2019 Espressivo Piano Camp

If you're looking for a great way to kick off piano study for the summer, you'll definitely want to check out Espressivo Piano Camp.

What is Espressivo Piano Camp, who's it for and what are the benefits? 
EPC is a summer day camp for piano students from elementary (entering 2nd grade in fall 2019 and up) through advancing levels hosted & run by the local KMTA chapter. It provides an opportunity for local piano students from different studios to interact and become a part of the larger musical community in McPherson. Since the camp is run by area piano teachers, students will get valuable learning & feedback from teachers beyond their usual studio experience.We get to focus on extra-musical learning, such as music history, composition & theory, performance classes, aural skills, rhythm etc in a group setting. All those things that can often get squished into the last few minutes of typical lessons can now take center stage. The camp also includes 2 performances! …

Africa by Toto - Sheet Music

One of my current students asked to learn this song, and I must say this was a fun piece to put together for late beginning piano. I strongly encourage my students to pursue playing the music they like, because it connects us to our own learning process and demonstrates the value of the skill we are learning.

This pop/rock classic offers good practice in syncopation, changing key signatures and dynamic range. Because the themes are repetitive, it works well as a late beginning piano solo with only a couple rhythms & passages to work out, and then the player's job is just to follow the patterns and repeats, and have fun.

As with all my arrangements of popular pieces, the sheet music is available for purchase on Sheet Music Plus where you can also preview the sheet music.

look insideAfrica by Toto - Easy Piano Solo By Toto. Solo Part. 6 pages. Published by Dawn Ivers (H0.510797-SC000003618).
You can also hear a short preview of this arrangement in the video belo…

Piano Video Log

Progress in piano study can be difficult to recognize because it is so gradual. This can sometimes feel discouraging for the student, because even though we make strides from week to week, it's not always easily measurable from the student's perspective. The best way to remedy this is to track and celebrate long term progress. Those who follow the studio on social media will know that I often share student videos. In addition to celebrating current success, these videos can also be a way of marking where we've been so at a later time students can look back and see how far they've come. But you can go further than this by keeping a video or audio journal of your child's piano progress. 

In episode 128 of the Piano Parent Podcast Shelly gives us some tips on how to keep just such a video or audio journal of a piano student's musical journey.

You can listen to the episode right here, or read the full show notes on the podcast's website

One of the added benef…

Summer 2019 Enrollment

Enrollment for the Summer Session at Dawn's Piano is officially open! For new beginning students, Summer is a terrific time to try out piano lessons and see if they are a good fit for you before committing to the coming school year. 

For existing students, or those who have a little musical experience, summer is when we get to stretch our creativity with a Young Composers project. What this means is each student who participates will work on composing an original piece of music, notating it, and recording it. At the end of the summer we will publish an e-book & album of all the collected compositions. Because tuition at Dawn's Piano is always all-inclusive, this program is no extra cost to you! Check out one of the past Young Composers projects here.

Here's how summer session works: 
Session runs from June 11th-Aug 2nd (8 weeks). The studio is open for lessons Tuesday-Friday 11:00am-7:00pm Tuition is one fee paid by May 31st, calculated on the cost of 6 lessons, so you…

2019 Spring Recital

Save the date for our Spring Recital! 
When: Saturday, April 27th at 1:30 pm Where: The recital will be hosted at the Free Methodist Church at 1010 S Maple St, McPherson. To tune in online, head over to our Facebook Event for details. This Spring Recital will also mark the end of our 2018/2019 School Year in the studio, and so we will be showcasing & celebrating what students have learned and achieved since the session began in August. This is also the end of our 20 piece challenge that launched last August. This means if every student has completed their 20 pieces by the recital date, we will have an ice cream party for the reception! 

What about online students? 
You will participate by recording video of your performance to be played during the recital. And my hope is that you'll be able to tune in and watch the recital from home with a conference call or a youtube livestream. More details will be coming your way in the coming weeks.

Who can come?

For many…

Bloom - New Spring Sheet Music

During my first winter in Kansas, I - like so many others in cooler climates - find myself hoping for Spring. And it is from that anticipation of the changing seasons that these compositions took shape.

Bloom is a collection of 5 spring-themed compositions for piano solo. Each solo in the book is distinct, and offers unique teaching points for piano students. The variety of styles will bring new life to Springtime recitals, or provide a refreshing variety for a hobby pianist to enjoy playing at home. As has become tradition in my Seasons Series, for the creatively inclined or curious, one of the pieces includes an invitation to improvise your own passages within the piece. The music is leveled at intermediate, and would be appropriate for pianists of all ages. 

This collection celebrates the newness of life as Winter fades and Spring begins to bloom again. It explores the rejuvenation we feel as the world wakes up around us, as we hear the gentle rain of a spring shower or see the gree…

Stage Fright - tips from Jenny Leigh Hodgins

Most everybody experiences some level of stage fright when preparing to perform for an audience, audition, or examiner. And it's completely understandable, we are showcasing something that we've put a lot of preparation into, and we want our performance to reflect our hard work, to show what we're capable of, and to bring our audience enjoyment. But what can we do when the nerves start to take over?

Today I'm sharing some tips from fellow music blogger, Jenny Leigh Hodgins' siteall about turning those nerves into a positive performance energy. Hodgins shares 4 big tips for nervous performers (plus a couple bonus ones at the end) and I hope you'll find them as useful as I did. With the KMTA Progressions & our studio Spring Recital just around the corner, I think these will definitely come in handy in the coming months!
1. "get as many performing opportunities as possible and frequently!"This is absolutely the number one way to become a confident per…


This may date me a little bit, but when I was a kid, I think starting around age 5, I had tape player that I put right next to my bed, and I started collecting different tapes, often mix tapes (read: playlists) that my mom, uncle or grandpa had made for me. Whenever I was hanging out in my room and it felt too quiet, I would hit play on whatever my favorite at the time was.

One aspect of music learning that can easily be overlooked between getting through songs in lessons & practice time at home is listening. Listening to music often can go a very long way to help train a young musician's ear for music making. Today's post is all about reminding us to expose piano kids to music on a regular basis.
How does music listening really help? Exposure to new music & genres. If we listen to a broad spectrum of music, we learn the styles, rhythms, and sounds of different types of music in an organic way. This makes it easier to reproduce them later on.Listening to different inte…

Practice Tips & Tricks: Visualization

My final practice trick for you this month is visualization. If you've played sports or done other competitive activities, you may have heard of this before as a training technic. And it does work in practicing your instrument as well. If you follow the blog regularly, you may have caught my book review of This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin last month. In reading it I learned that when we imagine doing something, the same portions of our brains fire up as though we were actually doing it. This is why visualization actually can work. 

When I am using visualization to practice a piece of music, I like to have the sheet music in front of me and I read along at the performance tempo, and mentally 'play' the piece. I know which fingers fall on each note, I hear the piece in my head, I know which parts get louder or softer. I rehearse all the elements minus actually playing it on a piano.

Some variations to make this do-able for beginning students:
Your piano kid could t…

Practice Tips & Tricks: Backing Tracks

Backing tracks are my favorite new practice tool! I'd been using them a little bit for the past couple years, but after moving & transitioning to lots of online lessons where playing in-person duets is not as feasible anymore, backing tracks have taken center stage. And after implementing them so successfully with online students, I've also started using them more with my in-studio students too!

So what is a backing track? 
A backing track is a recorded accompaniment that your piano student plays their piece along with. It can either be a piano duet part or a full band accompaniment. If there are backing tracks for your music, I will bring them to your attention so you can arrange to have access to them at home. 

And how do we use them? 
Start by listening. If your piano kid hasn't heard the backing track yet, listen to it first. When available, listen to the version with the melody included, so your piano kid can hear their part & how it fits with the accompaniment.