Monthly Archives: August 2009

Easy Hymn Solos by Wendy Stevens

Easy Hymn Solos copyThere are two ways to arrange hymns for the piano student. You can arrange them harmonically, in more or less a simplified hymnal setting, with words. This is great if the student wants to play an accompaniment for singers. It also helps students learn to play out of a hymnal and to sing along as they play.

 Another way to arrange hymns is for solo piano in a way that is meant to be performed, perhaps as a prelude or during the offertory. For most pianists, this is a lot more enjoyable to play and often more musical.

 Wendy Stevens has written 3 graded books in the solo arrangement style, Easy Hymn Solos, 10 Stylish Arrangements, recently published by Hal Leonard. Each book contains 10 beautiful and sophisticated arrangements of the best traditional hymns, complete with introductions. These are performance-oriented arrangements, but they are student friendly. They have finger numbers where appropriate and they contain all the expression markings needed for a musically sensitive performance. They are obviously arranged by a teacher/composer who knows how to challenge without overwhelming her students and they are enjoyable to play. But what I would like to stress is that these arrangements are interesting and more creative than most arrangements at this level.

 The hymns in level one are at the Elementary level. The book includes a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, the Doxology, Come, Christians, Join to Sing, and other favorites. The notes are in 5 finger patterns, and there are only a few accidentals. Hands are separate most of the time, but together enough to add interest. More interest is added with articulation and dynamics, creative introductions and endings.

 Level two contains ten hymns in several positions that should be comfortable for a student at the late elementary level. There are 8th notes and the hands move around in very interesting ways, but they rhythm is not difficult. Included in this level is Come, Thou Almighty King, This Is My Father’s World, and Be Thou My Vision.

 Level three is where the music really sounds satisfying. Here, keys change, hands move up and down, and each piece has a flowing style that is very enjoyable to play as well as listen to. Written at about the early intermediate level, they sound much more difficult than they are. I believe I could perform out of this book and the audience would not guess it was easy piano. Three of the ten hymns are All Things Bright and Beautiful, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.

 The books are well designed and engraved. Because they contain beloved traditional hymns, not Sunday school songs, and book covers appropriate for all ages, they are especially good for older beginners and adults. If you are looking for good hymn arrangements for your students, I encourage you to check these books out.

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Fish Rhythm Cards

Fish Rhythm Cards

Fish Rhythm Cards

My beginning student wanted to play the fishing game, so I made some rhythm flash cards for him. He had not learned rests yet, but after playing this game, now he knows them!  I changed the color of the fish so they are all a solid color. I thought this would help young and/or distracted children to focus on the notes. Then they looked too plain, so I added the dots.

My little student is bothered by the fact that the dotted half note doesn’t have his own name!  He feels sorry for it. Then he wanted to know why I didn’t make a dotted half rest. Isn’t it funny what children will key on?

I also used these cards with lower elementary level students,  and for them I set a time limit to see how many they could catch and identify in a certain amount of time. Otherwise, we would have spent the whole lesson fishing, which I think was fine with the kids, but not for me because I have a lot of music I want to teach!

The cartoon nature of these cards show they are intended for young children, so I don’t plan to make any with higher note values. However, if you want to play a fishing game with older students, you can use regular flash cards. I suggest a time limit for this, too.

Every day I get emails asking me what program I use to make these fish. I drew these myself in Photoshop.  The reason they look so homemade is because they are! I’m not an artist, so it’s kind of painstaking for me. But I love art and I wish I could really draw.

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Filed under Preschool Music Resources, Rhythm

Back to School

Back to School

Back to School

I wrote another piece for my beginning pre-school student. I haven’t actually used it yet. Does anyone want to check it out for me and see if there are any errors? I usually like to use something before I post it.

This time I wrote a simple duet. My student is getting really good at playing with me. He always reminds me to play an introduction!

Soon, he is going to be using his thumb and pinkie. But I don’t want to go on until I am really sure he can follow 3 notes. I hope it is soon because I’ve just about written all the 3 note tunes I can think of!

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Filed under Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources

Fish Music Flash Cards

Fish Flash Cards Fish Flash Cards

These are the cards that go to a flash card fishing game my students like to play. As you can tell, I drew these fish myself on the computer, but I had a lot of fun drawing them. In my mind, I gave each fish a name and a personality. By the time I got to the last page I had run out of ideas!

There are three pages for you to print. I laminated mine and glued a paper clip to the back with my hot glue gun. I really wish I had used a metal washer on the back because that looks a lot better. But paper clips are inexpensive,  and most of us have them on hand.  

For a long time our fishing pole was a dowel with and string and a magnet on the end. A few weeks ago I found a cute toy fishing pole at a local dollar store. I really like it because students can “reel” the fish cards in. This is a game for young students, so they like to reel in the fish!

There are so many different variations  you can play with this game, depending on the age of your student and how much time you have. I usually put the cards face down on the floor and have the student reel in one at a time. I give the student a time limit to catch and identify the note. Sometimes I keep a record for the week to see who can identify the most cards in a given time.  If students are just learning the notes, they do better if they are not timed.

If you have a great idea for a fun game with these cards, please pass it along to all our readers. Many of you are so creative with ideas for games! I would like to thank Cecilly for giving me the idea to make these cards.

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Filed under Note Identification

Lizzy’s Cat — a pre-reading piece

Lizzy's Cat

Lizzy’s Cat

Young students often get the 4th and 2nd fingers mixed up. This is because the  child under 6 or 7 does not understands mirror image fingers like an older child. Even some older children get this mixed up when they first start lessons. And then there is me. I still get mixed up and will often write the opposite finger when I am putting finger numbers in my music.

With that in mind, I tried to come up with a way for students to see which finger to start with in each phrase. This is what I finally designed. Let me know if it helps one of your students.

If you have ever tried to write a song using only 3 fingers, you know that it is not as easy as it might seem, especially if you want all steps and no skipping fingers. My little student hasn’t learned to use the thumb yet.

For this piece, I was inspired by folk songs in the mixolydian mode,  with the flatted 7th tone in the melody.  According to my poll, most of you want me to write a teacher duet,  so I added one here. I couldn’t decide if I wanted the  8th notes to be swung jazz style or not, so I’ll leave that to you.

Continue to have the child drop into the keys. Don’t worry about legato playing at this point. Be sure and learn the rhythm well before trying to play the piece.

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Filed under Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources