Showing posts from February, 2020

What do the Pedals do?

"What do the pedals do?" is one of the most asked questions in beginning piano lessons, and not surprisingly so. They're intriguing, and most beginning students can't quite resist testing them out to see what they do. I like to take that curiosity as a learning opportunity to talk about how we need treat the instrument (pedals are not for stomping on), as well as how they work mechanically within the instrument. So here's the quick run-down for those of you studio parents who may have curious piano kids at home, or maybe you're just wondering for yourself. Most acoustic pianos have 3 pedals, and in today's post I'll be outlining the functions of each one, and quick examples of when we might use them. Starting all the way on the right we have our most commonly used pedal called the Damper Pedal, or sometimes the Sustain Pedal. It's job is to lift all the dampers to prevent the strings from being silenced when the keys are released. This

Book Review - Kid's Guide to Learning Ukulele

Today's blog post is a throwback to when I was a bookseller in the Children's Department at Vroman's Bookstore, and one of our regulars was a music educator, and singer/songwriter, named Emily Arrow. Emily frequently writes songs based on popular picture books ( here's her youtube channel ), and would often stop by to check out the new releases and visit about kid's books. And just last month, she released an instructional book on how to learn the ukulele that I'm very excited about.  Ukulele is one of those instruments that's pretty easy to pick up, especially for kids with some musical experience. A beginning instrument is not very expensive, and the neck & fretboard are the perfect size for little hands to get a start on a string instrument. With this book they'll learn about tuning, strumming, playing some beginning chords, learn up to 24 folk songs, and (my favorite) use the Song Recipe to write their own songs on the ukulele. The format

The Bead Challenge

As we head into the home stretch of our studio school year, and look ahead to Progressions & the Spring Recital coming up in April, we've got one last practice challenge that is focused on getting us confident and performance ready: the bead challenge is back! The way it works is students mark on their practice tracker every single time they play their Recital and/or Progressions piece. For every 10 practices, they will earn a bead for their lanyard that we'll make in the last week of lessons. The goal is to practice those performance pieces 100 times before the show.  Students who get 10 beads will have completed the challenge, and will earn a music charm to attach to end of their lanyard, but they don't have to stop there! We'll be adding beads for every 10 times they practice their recital song through the end of March, and those lanyards can get as long as they like.  While this practice challenge does have a fun incentive, as always, the goal is to enc

Staff Wars - Note Reading App Review

Every so often, I like to share an music education app that will help with home practice, and today, I'm sharing one that is sure to be a hit called Staff Wars. This will be especially helpful for students who are preparing for the upcoming Progressions evaluations, and we will be using it in lessons for the next month or so to help build their confidence for the written portion of the exam. Staff Wars is a note reading app that can be played on an tablet or phone. It's set in outer space, and would be especially great for Star Wars fans, as the ship you are in looks remarkably like a public domain X-wing, and your objective is to shoot enemy notes out of the sky.  As you get notes correct you will level up, and the notes will start moving quicker to increase the challenge. After your three lives are used up, the game is over, and you can play again, trying to improve on your last score.  There are 2 ways to customize the notes you'll be trying to identify, especial