Monthly Archives: February 2010

Studio Technique Program

Technique Certificate

If you have trouble getting students to practice scales and arpeggios, maybe you can start a step-wise technique certificate program. Most students  will practice more diligently when they have a goal. It is a well-known fact that long and short time goals motivate and inspire us. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and even adult organizations have goals for their members.

With this in mind, some years ago I created a technique certificate program that has really helped in my studio. When a student completes a level, he is awarded a certificate at the recital. Many times a student will work extra hard to complete a level so he can get his certificate at the recital. Now technique is not a boring exercise to do before playing real music, but an attainable goal that each student can reach.

Some teachers are fortunate to participate in state or national programs that require technical proficiency. If so, you certainly do not need to start one of your own. But other teachers do not have the opportunity to participate in this kind of program, or want something simple and free. The only thing my program costs is the ink and paper to print a certificate.

If you would like to start this in your studio, you must first decide what technical exercises you want your students to learn. Then divide your list into levels.  This is your program, so you may have as many levels as you wish.

A lot of music teachers are very detailed oriented. That is how they got to be great musicians in the first place. But most students are not, and if you make an elaborate program their eyes will glaze over. I know mine do!

 Therefore, I think it is better to keep it simple, without a whole lot of metronome requirements or time limits. That way you can personalize it for each student and more students can succeed.  You can always require specific metronome markings on a case-by-case basis with your students and not have it part of the certificate program. Some students play scales hands together and some do not. As teachers, we know the students who need a challenge. Remember, this is your program and you can modify it later on.

The following is a suggestion for a technical certificate program that you can modify to suit yourself. Level four and above  can be customized for the student, with some also working on arpeggios and inversions. Students who plan to study music in college will need a stepped up program, but it does not have to part of your studio certificate program unless you want to.

Level One: Major Five Finger Scales, stepping, and skipping and a tonic chord

Level Two: Minor Five Finger Scales as above

Level Three: Simple hand-crossing arpeggios in all major and minor keys

Level Four: Major One Octave Scales ending with a chord progression I IV I V7 I

Level Five: Harmonic Minor One Octave Scales with a chord progression

Level Six: Major Two Octave Scales

Level Seven: Minor Two Octave Scales

Most teachers know how to make their own certificates.  But if you don’t, I made this one just to post today for teachers who are not handy with a graphics program or don’t have time. It is a PDF document for you to write in the student’s name and technique level by hand.

If you would like to type directly on the certificate as a Word Document, try this link  Technique_certificate_web  instead of the PDF at the top of the page. Let me know if it turns out correctly because this is the first time I’ve posted a Word document as a graphic. One of the fonts in this Word document has been changed to  Times New Roman because that is a Word font. I suggest you use that one so there will not be 3 different fonts on the page.


Filed under Certificates, Teaching Business

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah

Here is another pre-reading solo. This is actually from a collection of folk songs that I wrote “on-the staff”  and made into a book for my younger students who had learned to read music at the primer level. My daughter illustrated the book  for me. I decided to turn this song from the book  into a pre-reading solo and share with you.

Be careful if you use this with beginning students. There are some skips that need to be addressed, as well as the tie. If your young child has never played skips before, do a lot of pretend play in the air and on the piano cover before attempting to play. It will make a big difference. I’ve found that children who play a lot of pre-reading pieces with skips do a lot better when they come upon them in their music.


Filed under Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources

The Bulldozer

The Bulldozer

If you have been following this blog for while, you know that I have a special, cute, red headed beginning student who loves for me to compose songs for him. He parades into the room, looks for his footstool, and gets right to work.

Starting on the black keys we progressed slowly, learning the names of the keys, how to hold the hands, how to drop into the keys, left hand and right hand, finger numbers, and all the other things we teach beginning students.  I  wrote one song a week for him for many weeks, mirroring what he liked and his favorite activities. My student was very young and could not sit to practice for too long , so we took our time and leisurely went through his first book,  My First Piano Adventures.  Now he is learning to read notes on the staff, and thanks to a great background, he is doing very well. But I have a nostalgic, bittersweet feeling, because I know that period of his life is gone and he is growing up. It is the same feeling we have when we drop off our children for the first day of kindergarten. We’re happy and sad at the same time!

This was the last pre-reading piece I wrote for him.  He was thrilled to play hands together and he loved the sound of the open fifths and the minor key. A lot of practice drumming this out on the piano cover helped to get hands together, as well as all the rhythm activities we have been doing for the past 9 months. He sailed through the skipping notes because we did a lot of preparation. This is a great song to memorize and play for others because it sound impressive. My student repeated it an octave lower for a longer piece.

If your student has trouble with the skipping notes, play them in the air and on the piano cover before playing on the keys. Unless your student is older, this should not be one of his first pieces. Wait until he is ready.  

Some teachers do not think it is good to spend so much time on pre-reading. But I would like to point out that it took weeks for this student to develop the coordination to play with the correct fingers consistently.  Other teachers wonder why start piano so early if it take so long to get anywhere.  Why not wait until they can learn it faster? But he enjoys his lessons so much, and loves to play. This alone is a great motivator for him and a good ego boost. Plus, there is no doubt in my mind that the earlier children are exposed to rhythm and musicality, the easier they catch on, just like learning a foreign language. I can guarantee that this student will have no rhythm problems when he is older, unlike many of our students who start at a later age. If boys are playing impressive sounding pieces by the time they are in the later elementary grades, they are much more likely to stick with piano.

The words and art from this song is recycled from my book Sunny Solos. In that book this piece is on the staff with a different melody.  My daughter was able to draw and color the bulldozer in about 5 minutes. I wish she could do all my art!

To print this song, go to my website, click *music*,  scroll down to SP013 and click *download*.

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Filed under Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources