Monthly Archives: September 2009

Five Little Pumpkins Pre-reading

Five Little PumpkinsPRFive Little Pumpkins

One of my beginning students knows this song, but he hasn’t learned to read on the staff yet. He saw the “on-the-staff” version and I could see in his eyes that he really wanted to play it. To give him a little treat, I wrote this pre-reading version.  Before you print it out for your students, please make sure they are old enough to follow the notes on the page.  This is longer than most pre-reading music and I didn’t want to make two pages, so there are a lot of notes packed into one page.

If  you want to use this with a student, here are my suggestions.

1. Sing the song together for several weeks so that your student knows it. Tap it out on the fall board. Do motions with it. Use rhythm instruments. Trust me, if they don’t know this song, it is going to be difficult to follow on the page. Remember, I wrote this out for a child who can already sing it.

2. When he knows the song, you are ready to teach it on the piano. I broke it into 2 lessons and only worked on the first four lines the first week. 

3. Young students will have LOTS of trouble  following all the repeated notes. All the quarter notes are really supposed to be eighth notes, of course, and there is a reason repeated eighth notes are beamed! So get out your trusty pointer and point to the notes to help the student follow the score.

4. Of course, some of the students are capable of playing this by ear, or partly by ear, so go for it! The days where piano teachers didn’t want students to learn to play by ear are over, thank goodness.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn their notes, but nowadays we want a balanced approach.  

This is a pre-school song, so your older elementary students will find it babyish. Go with your instincts. If you want the on-the-staff version I posted last year, here is the link.

For all the teachers who are curious about the artwork, I drew the pumpkins and grass in PhotoShop. I wrote the notes in Finale and imported the score into Photoshop where I changed the color of the notes and added finger numbers.


Filed under Holiday Music, Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources

Ask a Composer Questions

At Compose/Create, a blog I read a lot, the wonderful piano composer Kevin Costely is being  featured.  There is a lot of biographical information about Dr. Costley, an interview with him,  and a review of some of his pieces.

This is a great way for your students to connect with a composer. My students have submitted a lot of questions for Dr. Costley. It has given us a chance to talk a little about composing and to get to know my students better.

One of my students’ favorite is Mighty Eagle. You can actually listen to Mighty Eagle at the FJH Website. Click here and scroll down the page to find Mighty Eagle. There you can see the link to listen to it. It is a dramatic piece that really catches the imagination and makes students sound very impressive! Both boys and girls like it, especially middle school age students.  

You have to get your questions in by Oct. 6, so start asking your students today. There are so many resources available to us as teachers. If Dr. Costley and Wendy are willing to spend some time making this available, lets support their efforts.  All of our composers are so busy, it is hard to find time to feature this kind of direct involvement.

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Filed under Music Reviews, Teaching Business

Invert These Triads

Invert These TriadsInvert These Triads!

Now that your students have used  my funny posters to learn how  to invert triads,  they need a worksheet to try it themselves. I agreed, plus I love to draw these things. I am very attached to my NoteBoys™, although, I have to admit some of my younger students don’t “get” it. My middle school and older students love them.

I suggest you laminate this worksheet so students can practice drawing more than once. Younger students or students who have difficulty with the concept can use colored dry erase markers. I found a nice set with felt erasers at WalMart.

What are some of the more difficult music theory concepts that the NoteBoys can help by using humor to get the idea across to students? Send me an email if you have any ideas. Thanks to Wendy at Compose/Create for this idea!


Filed under NoteBoys, Texas State Theory Test, Theory

Inverting triads in the bass clef

Inverting_Triads_bass_clefInverting Triads in the Bass Clef 

Back in March I posted a humorous poster to teach students how to invert triads.  If we use color, we find that students understand the concept a lot better because they can see the notes move up and can understand inversions better.  I like to use humor  because when students later “forget”, and they usually do, I remind them about the NoteBoys  and  it all comes back to them. When they have a piece with inversions and are having trouble, I pull out these posters.  Also they have to learn inversions for the Texas Theory Test and these help with that, too.  

 Wendy, from ComposeCreate , suggested I post another design in the same series with the triads in the bass clef. If you use both posters with a student, you can show them how the fingering is different in each clef. You can ask the students to write in the fingering on each post and they are more likely to remember it.

In my studio, these posters are laminated and are sometimes on the table so the students can read them while they wait. This way they sometimes they learn about inversions before I formally introduce them. I also have some fine point dry erase markers and ask the students to write in the fingering. This way I don’t have to use so much printer ink and paper.  Besides, they look so nice when they are laminated.

You might have to try several dry erase markers to find one that erases well on your laminated sheets. I use some very inexpensive ones with little felt erasers that work perfectly.

 To print this new poster, click on the link under the picture above and when you get to the next window,  select download.

You can find the PDF for the March post here. Another poster in the series is here.


Filed under NoteBoys, Texas State Theory Test, Theory