Monthly Archives: January 2011

Tangy Tango – a Spicy Elementary Piece by Wendy Stevens

Wendy Stevens from ComposeCreate, has a new solo published by Hal Leonard. I already know it is going to be a big hit in my studio because it so appealing. Tangy Tango is a spicy sounding early elementary solo with a fun-to-play teacher duet. It is perfect for a first recital or festival piece for beginning students.

 The staves are wide spaced and it uses only quarter and half notes and rests.

It is in the key of A minor but the hands stay in middle C position and it moves mostly by steps with a few easy skips. Except for a few dynamic signs, there are not any articulation and expression marks to concern your beginners. I remember one time giving a beginner a very easy piece, but it was full of marks he had never seen and the staves were tiny, so he would not give it a try.

The rhythm is syncopated, like a tango should be. It is written in 4/4 so beginning students can read the rhythms. However, it should be played in duple meter (cut time) so the syncopation will really pop out.  

 Because there is no text and the front cover is not child-like, this is a great piece to use for every age student.  Sometimes it can be hard to find a recital piece for an older beginner that does not have a cover or text that is too childish for them. If you have such a student, this piece will be just what you need. It is also fun and appealing for young children, especially if they can play the syncopations with flair and energy. Children love pieces with interesting rhythms. Time and again they will pick this kind of piece as their favorite.

 You know what the hardest part of this fun and appealing piece is? How am I going to decide who gets to play it at the recital! 

Comments Off on Tangy Tango – a Spicy Elementary Piece by Wendy Stevens

Filed under Elementary Music, Music Reviews

Chocolate Valentines and other Valentine Piano Music

Chocolate Valentines pre-reading

Here is a little Valentine’s piece for your beginning students who have learned how to use all 5 fingers. It’s very easy because there are no skipping notes. It is good for sight-reading because the second line is a little harder for them.

I have several students who are beginning readers and I wanted to re-use my graphic, so I made an on-the staff version.

 Chocolate Valentines on-the-staff

If you are looking for more Valentine’s Day material, a few years ago I posted several arrangements of folk songs we sang when I taught school, as well as some Valentine themed activities. The links are below:

Love Somebody Pre-reading

Love Somebody Primer (on-the-staff)

Love Somebody Level 2 (8th notes and some hands together)

There’s a Little Wheel a-Turning in my Heart (late elementary)

Write a Valentine’s Song (a composing activity)

Valentine Notes (a worksheet to write notes on a grand staff)

Valentine Note  worksheet  (draw lines to connect notes to the staff)

Rhythm Heart Beats (for dictation)

More Rhythm Heart Beats

If you want to keep up with other Valentine’s Day material I may post, you can subscribe to this Word Press blog at the top. It is completely private and you can unsubscribe any time.



Filed under Elementary Music, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Holiday Music, Valentine's Day

One Minute Club 2011

It’s 2011 and that means it’s time to update the One Minute Club cards.  I make these cards for my elementary age students as an incentive to “say and play” all the notes on the grand staff in one minute or less.

 I am going to put the cards in a clear plastic sleeve badge holder and attach it to their music bags.

Every year I get emails about these cards from new teachers, so the rest of this post will try to answer them.

With what age group do you use these cards?

They are made for elementary age children.  In my studio, it usually takes several years of lessons before a student can do this in less than one minute. Only a few students in grades 2-3  can do it, and I don’t even try it with younger students. They do not have the coordination. Older students are more interested in the gift card I give to the overall fastest student.

 I gave up on this because my students don’t like flash cards.  Do you have any suggestions?

Well, make sure they are old enough and have the potential to be successful. Everyone in your studio does not have to participate. However, if  you know they are capable you might have to have a “talk.”  Sometimes I tell a reluctant student that they don’t have to win or even be able to do it in a minute. But parents are paying a lot for lessons and the least they expect is for students to learn notes and where they are located on the piano.  I have noticed that the ones who need it the most are the most reluctant. That’s natural, because kids like to do things they are good at.  Once they start getting faster it becomes so much more fun.

Why do they have to play the note as well as say the note name? Isn’t it enough to know the name of the note? 

Piano students need to know where to quickly move their hands when they see a note that is not in a five-finger position. The faster they can do this, the better they are at sight-reading. You will see sight-reading improve as well as the student’s self-confidence when they can find notes quickly.  

How much time do you spend on this at a lesson?
I don’t think a lot of time should be spent on this at a lesson. Just a couple of minutes each week can reap great rewards, if the student is prepared in the first place. If it is taking over 2 minutes, you probably need to prepare them better before you start. Often the problem is simply developmental. Students need to learn gradually and in a child-centered manner. That takes time and patience on the teacher’s part. Before you start flash cards, use a lot of activities and games to learn the note names. There are many on my website and other sites in the links on this blog. Don’t let this turn into drudgery!

How did you make these cards? Where do you get your clip art? 

I made these cards in Adobe Photoshop and I did not use any clip art. Since I am not a professional, it took forever to make them!

These cards are not  centered correctly when I print them out on my blank business cards. 

I made them for pre-perforated 2″ x 3.5″ business cards, 10 to a page. When you print the PDF file, be sure the setting for page scaling is set to “none.”   



Filed under Note Identification, Teaching Business

New Year Game Reminder

New Year Game

Game Pieces

I have over 300 pages of activities, music, and ideas posted, all available at no charge to music teachers around the world. With this much material, it is very time comsuming for a teacher to sort through it all. With this in mind, I am reposting a New Year’s game you can play this month.  This is one of those games that it is easy to forget about until it is too late! 

When I first played this game, it was with a group of beginning students.  This week I plan to make it a fast activity at a private lesson. I plan to put the star game pieces in a bowl and let the student draw a star, name the symbol, and place it on the hat. This is simple and it won’t take very much time at a lesson. With an even younger child or with a new beginner,  you can leave off the identification and let the student match the symbols to help with visual identification.

You can also play it in a group, but notice there is only one game board.  You can go here if you want to read the directions I posted several years ago for playing with a group.  Feel free to make up your own rules and post your ideas as a comment to share with other teachers. 

For durability, laminate the game pieces and game board. You can cut the game pieces into stars, or keep the circle shape. 



Filed under Group lesson ideas, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Preschool Music Resources