Showing posts from 2020

What's on My Music Stand?

Summer is a time to unwind a bit and have fun exploring music that makes us happy. And since I have been encouraging students to play through favorites, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into some of my soothing favorites that have been on my music stand lately.

As we all know, the past few months have been hard, weird and overwhelming. We also know that the arts and music can be really valuable as a way of emotional relief or shelter, or to work out some of those harder feelings. I've been sharing some music on my personal instagram page to connect with friends and bring peaceful little breaks from the news cycle into their routines. These are just casual, spur of the moment videos, and they are what I've sharing with you today. 

Jim Brickman - Timeless
This is a piece from a sheet music collection available here that I picked up at the Jim Brickman concert here at the McPherson Opera House back before the Coronavirus hit. The collection is full of soothing music, and this is…

Go To for Popular Music - FM Sheet Music

Anyone who's followed the studio for a while will know that I love to arrange music for my students on request. However, sitting down to arrange a piece of popular music with a specific level in mind, while retaining enough of the song's elements that it sounds right and is still fun to play can sometimes be time consuming. Some weeks, I simply don't have the time to dedicate to arranging and engraving (typing notation) music. On those weeks, enter Jennifer Eklund over at FM Sheet Music. I'm not affiliated with FM Sheet Music in any way, it's just a resource I've come to really appreciate, so I'm sharing about it. Especially as I know students sometimes like to look up and download new pieces on their own, and if that's you, this may be a good place to start. 

So there are lots of places online to buy digital sheet music you can print at home of popular works. Why is FM Sheet Music becoming my go-to? Here's what I like about it. 

The arrangements are …

Playing Note Rush on Zoom

As you all know, we got to explore a full-time online studio the last 6 weeks of our school year session, and one of my favorite techy things that we managed to do was to use our sight reading apps on the iPads over Zoom in real time. Here's how we managed it: 

First, Open the Note Rush app on the iPad.

Second, Screenshare the iPad in Zoom using Airplay, be sure to 'share computer audio' so the student can hear the little 'dings' when they get the note correct. 

Then, choose your level and start the round! The student begins playing the notes they see in the screenshare. The iPad *should* pick up the computer sound and register the notes correct or not, but here are a couple things to try if it doesn't. 
Make sure your computer volume is all the way up & position the iPad so the mic is closer to the computer if it's not already. Watch what the student plays, and play along with them on your instrument. This way if the audio blips, or the iPad doesn't re…

Musical Summer Reading Recommendations

It has become something of a summertime tradition that I put together a list of some favorite children's books that involve music or art. As a former children's bookseller for 12 years at Vromans bookstore, books and literacy will always be special to me. And in the summertime I like the idea of letting go of some of the structure and looking at the value of what we learn during the year with some fresh eyes. So, without any further ado, here is this year's list.
Picture Books

I See a Song by Eric Carle
This book features a musician and his violin. As he plays the instrument, a world of colors and shapes grows on the page. This is the perfect book for stimulating a young artists' imagination and artistic sensibilities. Recommended ages 3-6.

My First Classical Music Book by Genevieve Helsby
The cool thing about this book is that it is available as a physical book, or as an app. You can grab both to use in tandem, or either one individually, and let your piano kid explore the…

Lord of the Chords - game review!

Sometime last year our studio contributed to a kickstarter for a tabletop card came called 'Lord of the Chords', and several months later received our physical copy of the game. Not too long after that I scheduled a game night with a couple local music teachers so we could get the hang of game play before implementing this game in our teaching. Today I'm writing up a short review of Lord of the Chords, and how I look forward to implementing it in lessons. 

A short sum-up of game play: You try to build chords, and when you've built a chord in the chosen key signature, you get that key signature tile. Whoever gets 3 tiles first wins. It sounds fairly simple, but there's lots of fun strategy opportunities built in like 7th steals, and action cards that create all kinds of surprises as you go along. Also, when you first sit down to play, you look through the instrument cards and decide which one you'd like to be. Each instrument offers different advantages specific …

The Value of Composing in Piano Lessons

One of my favorite things to do each year is revisit our Young Composers program during summertime lessons, and in today's post I'm outlining some of the reasons why I feel giving music students the chance to compose their own music is an incredibly valuable creative exercise. 

Reinforces Music Fluency
We spend a lot of time in lessons learning to hear and see music from a musician's point of view. We learn to read notes, to hear intervals and chords, we identify the quality of our music with terms like 'major' and 'minor'. All of this works together to create music fluency. When we write music we get to reinforce some of these essential skills: 
Note Literacy - when we write or type up the notes for a composition, we're interacting with those notes from a new perspective that will help to remember them better in the future.Dynamics & Expressive Tools - especially for young musicians, expressive markings in the music can easily get overlooked when our …

COVID-19 Update: Studio Reopening Procedures

Here's our studio plan to resume the option for in-person lessons in compliance with the Kansas phased reopening plan. (And if you're a piano student reading this, go practice a song every time you read the word 'reopening'! ;D) If you are not familiar with Governor Kelly's phased reopening guidelines, I've put all the images at the bottom of the page for reference.

The good news is: The studio will be able to resume in-person lessons when the state has reached Phase 2. Hooray! We'll also be taking some extra precautions when that happens, and specifically making some changes to the studio layout, waiting area and cleaning procedures between lessons to help keep everyone safe. Please read these below. 

The online studio will remain open for the forseeable future. This means if you have traveled to an affected area, had a known exposure to COVID-19, are showing symptoms on our screening checklist, or just want to continue exercising some extra caution, you can…

How to keep momentum during a Studio Break

A break from the routine can be a good thing once in a while, but for students who are wanting to keep up their momentum a studio break can leave them wondering what to work on! Since we have a good long studio break coming up between May 2nd and June 7th, I'm sharing a few ideas of what to do with some time off of lessons.

Review some of the year's favorite pieces
On May 2nd we'll be finishing up a terrific school year session during which students have learned a lot of great music! A break from getting assigned new material is the perfect time to go back through and pull out some of the year's favorites to play through again. In addition to the fun of revisiting some favorites, this will have the added benefit of reviewing the theory and techniques that we learned along with those pieces.

Learn something by ear, purchased sheet music or an online tutorial
Most piano students have a favorite artist, movie or song that they would like to be able to play on the piano, and …

Recital & Party Weeks!

Our studio recital was Saturday! If you missed it, you can still enjoy the video feed here. I want to give a huge thank you to studio parents, friends & family who supported these piano kids on their work in learning their recital pieces and preparing for the performance, especially as we transitioned to online lessons for the final 6 weeks of the session. 

This week in lessons is going to be a fun week to wrap up the school year session! Here's a peek at what we'll be doing: 

Debriefing the Recital -  We'll talk about everything from favorite pieces they saw their peers play (and any of those that we might be inspired to learn) to their thoughts about that type of online performance. We'll also discuss the successes and growth that we can recognize from their own performances, and students will have a chance to debrief areas that felt difficult that we can plan ahead on for the next recital. The goal of these conversations will be to help students establish a growth…

Spring Recital - Moving Online!

This week's post is just a quick one to share an update about our Spring Recital moving online, as well as to share with all the Dawn's Piano followers that a couple weeks ago, I wrote an article I wrote for the Alfred blog on the topic of Online Recitals!

Alfred's is one of the industry leading music publishing houses started in 1922, and they now maintain a blog with articles from music industry professionals on a wide range of topics. They approached me about sharing some ideas from my experience with online recitals to help out other music educators during this time. 

If you would like to read that article 'Creative Solutions for Online Recitals' on the Alfred blog, Click Here.

And, for those who may have missed the announcement on Facebook, our upcoming Studio Recital will officially be moving online as well. To learn more, or to RSVP, head over to the Spring Recital Facebook Event on the Dawn's Piano Facebook page. Studio parents are invited to share this ev…

Summer 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 2020 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! …

Metronomes - which type is best?

We're talking about metronomes today! This is one of those tools that depending on what kind you have and how you implement it, your piano kid will either learn to use as an effective tool, or to dread it. I'm not here to tell you which kind you have to get, because I believe different students can have different experiences and responses. And the good news is that we really do have a lot of options! So I'm sharing some of my observations on several different types of metronomes and their usefulness that will hopefully help you find a good fit to try in your home practice space.

Smart Speakers
When I was travel teaching, I had several students with smart speakers in the same room as the piano, and I loved the convenience of saying "Ok google, set a metronome to 120 beats per minute" and bam!, it would. I also saw that when the piano kids got to tell Google or Alexa to turn on a metronome, and articulate how many beats per minute they needed, or the time signature…

Piano Studio Tour!

Today I'm sharing a quick video tour of our piano studio! Please forgive the camera shakes as this is just an informal video blog to invite you all into the studio for a look around. Whether you are someone who follows the studio from online, or an enrolled student that has made the social distancing switch to online lessons, come on in and enjoy a minute or two in our studio - including some new posters!

Also, since I'm set up for online lessons at present, you can see what my basic online teaching setup looks like. For anyone at home (student or teacher) who is making the switch to online lessons needing some encouragement, hopefully this will help. 

And here's the video tour: 

Be well, be safe and stay in touch these next couple months!


Back in January we did a Happy Birthday practice challenge, and in order to present a real learning opportunity for some of the studio's intermediate and advancing students, I turned this into a chance to work on transposing the traditional melody & accompaniment to a few different keys. It was such a valuable exercise for these students that I'm going to try to incorporate this more frequently into our regular study, but also thought I'd share a blog post for our studio parents about what transposing is and why it is a valuable skill for a musician. 

What is transposing? 
Simply put, transposing is when we take a song that is written in a certain key, and move it to a different key. 

Why would we want to transpose a piece? 
I've found that it most often comes into play when arranging music, or when accompanying a vocalist. For example, sometimes when rehearsing a vocalist may discover that the original key takes the melody out of their comfortable singing range, and c…

Piano Parent Podcast - Flipping the Script

This is going to be a quick blog post, but it's about something that I think can be incredibly valuable for piano parents (and teachers!) to keep in mind as a way to encourage piano students. 

Last month the Piano Parent Podcast did an episode where Shelly & her guest Kate Webb talked about 10 ways to 'Flip the Script'. I really enjoyed this episode because it addresses how important our own internal narrative is in our ability to be successful, and to feel confident and positive about what we are learning. If we tell ourselves that we are 'bad at piano,' then we're going to believe it and that becomes part of our story, but if we remind ourselves that we're just learning something new it can completely reshape how we approach our piano practice.

I'm embedding the podcast player from the Piano Parent Podcast website here so you can listen to the full discussion, and hopefully find some new, fresh ways to help your piano kid turn discouragement, frust…

Preschool Piano - What We Are Learning

Preschool piano lessons are a wonderful opportunity for young children, not only to start learning how to play an instrument, but also to reinforce coordination, early math skills, contrasts and listening skills etc. I know there's a lot of curiosity about what a preschooler can actually accomplish at the piano, so in today's post, we're taking a closer look at all that we learn in preschool piano lessons, and how that learning carries forward. Since I use the Wunderkeys method for Preschoolers, this post focuses on how that method progresses through essential skills. I'm including an infographic from the Wunderkeys method authors, but also expanding on that with my own observations.

Aural Skills
In book one of the preschool method, students learn aural contrasts like high/low, long/short, and moving higher/moving lower. As we move into book two this expands into counting sounds and recognizing aural patterns. In book three, preschool students start to listen for relativ…