Monthly Archives: November 2009

Light Up the Tree

WordPress, the host of this blog, has an interesting announcement. You can now sign up for email notices when there is a new post on my blog. Simply click on “Sign Me Up” on the right side of this page and follow the directions. I have had many teachers email me and ask if there was an easy way to receive email notification for new posts,  and now there is! This is different from the RSS subscription. By the way, I will never use your email address except to reply to a message you send me. I usually post several times a month and more often during certain times. If you get tired of the notifications you can easily unsubscribe. I subscribe to several blogs because sometimes I get busy and forget to check up on the lastest posts.

Light Up the Tree

I have made several coloring sheets for Christmas, but they only had notes around middle C. This one has the notes from bass C to treble C. I might have students color this while they wait on their siblings or use at a group lesson. One of my students didn’t know that Christmas lights could be in color since so many people use clear lights now!

Coming soon will be the same notes with a Chanukah theme. In the meantime, there is a Chanukah composing activity on my website.

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Filed under Christmas, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Note Identification

Jolly Old St. Nicholas — Elementary

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

I arranged this a few years ago for a student who was in-between levels 1 and 2. We wanteds something a little more fancy than just the melody. I am posting it here to share with you. Over the summer I spruced it up a little. I added some color, put Santa on a diet,  and wrote the words to the second verse.

I have a set of jingle bells that I like to play during the introduction and coda while the student plays the song. They won’t miss the rhythm if they think “Jin-gle Bells -rest” as they play the first 3 measures. When the bass has the melody in measure 9, sometimes I’ll sing it as written, and sometimes up an octave with a funny voice. We get really silly and have lots of fun. You can also use it as a learning experience and discuss singing up and down octaves. While it’s old hat to us, it can be a new concept for our young students.

I was on vacation for a while and haven’t posted some of the things I worked on before I left. I have a few more Christmas solos that I hope to get up soon.

I hope everyone had a wonderful and thankful Thanksgiving! I am thankful for all the teachers who have emailed me with comments and suggestions. It means a lot to me to hear from all of you!


Filed under Christmas, Elementary Music, Holiday Music

Deck the Halls — Late Elementary

Deck the Hall_LEDeck the Halls

The other day I was looking for an arrangement of this for one of my students and I couldn’t find the level I needed,  so I wrote one.

Here is a word of advise for non-piano teachers reading this who might want to print it out for themselves or their children. While this looks very easy, playing different melody lines in each hand like I wrote in this piece is a skill that takes a lot of practice for most children.  If they have not done it before, they will probably get frustrated. There are also some finger crossings,  changes of positions, and dotted quarter notes which a lot of first and second year students have not been taught.  I do not suggest giving this to an elementary student in his first year of piano. If a student can play the C Major scale hands together, he is probably ready for this.


Filed under Christmas, Holiday Music

Some Thanksgiving Worksheets

Last year I polished up and I posted some Thanksgiving worksheets that I had used over the years. I have so much material on my website that it is hard to find some of the older things, so I am reposting them today. You won’t need all of these, but you can pick and choose what intrests you. I plan to use some of them at my group lessons right before Thanksgiving.

Turkey Egg NotesTurkey Notes

This is a quick worksheet for beginners who are just learning the names of their notes. You can also use it to play games or to pass out at a group lesson. Be sure to print in landscape mode.

Funny Thanksgiving food2

Funny Thanksgiving Food

I was in a whimsical mood when I made this. (I’m usually in a whimsical mood. I don’t know when I’ll grow up!) If you have some younger students who are still learning their keys on the piano, they will enjoy this. You can also use it with your own young children and let them color the funny food.

Color the Feathers

Color the Feathers

This is another worksheet that you can use at group lessons or with your own children. Be sure and check out the black and white version if you want them to color the entire thing. This is also something you can give to children who are waiting for  other siblings and have nothing to do.   

Turkey Find the Notes

Turkey Find the Notes

It is real easy to set your PDF dialog box to 2 on a page and save some paper. Then you can use it for several weeks to see if your student’s time improves. 

Usually Thanksgiving gets lost in piano lessons as we prepare for Christmas so I hope you enjoy the change of pace.


Filed under Note Identification, Preschool Music Resources

We Wish You a Merry Christmas-Pre-reading

We wish you a Merry Christmas_2_PR

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Last year about this time I posted a pre-reading version of this well-known Christmas song. I had no idea that for many months it would be  the most popular download on my site! I’ve always heard that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. But since I post for educational purposes and not commercially,  I have removed the one I posted last year and replaced it with a new one, which you can see above.

In an effort to help students with learning problems, specifically visual tracking problems, and also to help very young students, I changed several things in this new version. I made the note heads bigger, which is quite easy to do in Finale, I color coded the notes. I always use a highlighter to do that anyway in the method books I use.  I added a light yellow background to help the student track which line he is on. While our older beginners without visual learning problems do not need this extra help,  we often forget what a challenge this is for most 4 and 5 year olds. I added art drawn by my talented daughter.

As a music educator with years of experience, I’m not going to get into a fight about pre-reading or the age students should start piano. Let me just say that students who start piano early with a good teacher who knows how to teach preschool children, have a much better sense of musicality than if they had started later. And while a lot of teachers despise pre-reading, when used correctly it is a great aid. Certainly we don’t want to use pre-reading when it is not necessary and we want to get to a real staff as soon as possible.  With my own students the rate varies from a week or two up to almost a year. I do not hesitate to take children with learning problems. Many of them have wonderful musicality in aspects of music besides simply learning to read. In the past many of  these children give up  thinking they could read music or become a musician because they were forced into learning just like our other students. Some of them became successful playing guitar by ear but never learned to read a note. One of the reasons I make so much of my own material is because it is designed for specific students. If one way doesn’t work, we try another.

I asked one of my adorable  students who has music reading problems if he has trouble reading a map. He admitted that he cannot read a map. I told him that I can’t either, but I get around just fine and never get lost. I have learned other ways to get around and I have a good sense of direction. Maps just look too confusing but I can tell you what is on the southwest corner of any intersection for miles around.  I can remember obscure history facts, but I don’t do well in visual memory games.   I had a terrible time learning how to read music, even though I was always several grades ahead in my reading group at school and I started first grade a year early because I was already reading books.  In piano I  could never remember which one was B or D, which one was G or F and ledger lines were torture.  I could not tell if the notes repeated. They seemed to jump around all over the page. Teachers constantly wrote that I was not working up to my potential. I have no idea why I have these odd strengths and weaknesses, but it really helps me understand the problems students have.  Fortunately I did master my music reading problems, and I did very well as a music major in college. Certainly ear training and sight singing were easy for me and music history was a breeze! I could remember who wrote everything and what year it was written.

Many piano teachers never had music reading problems, so they really don’t understand those of us who did. I tell my students  that we have to find other ways to learn to play piano because there are many ways to go about it. From the email that I get, there are many teachers who realize there is more than one way to learn to read music and the challenge is to make it enjoyable and musical.  One day we may unlock the secrets to learning. Today the challenge is not to give up OR to obsess about learning to read music, but to come up with different ideas to produce music literacy and give our students some space.

The next time you get a transfer student who can play but can’t read, don’t blame the previous teacher. She probably did the best she could; and some students take longer than others. Thank goodness we now realize that piano can be for everyone!


Filed under Christmas, Holiday Music