Monthly Archives: April 2011

Lots of Goofs!

Lots of Goofs!

Have you ever worked on composing with your students and noticed how much trouble they have with all the little rules about symbol placement? Sometimes students ask me why it is so important to put everything in the exact place, and I remind them that music notation has been around for hundreds of years and used by people all over the world. We are very precise so it will stay that way.

This sheet will also help students who are preparing for theory exams.  As a state theory grader for many years, I noticed in particular that students put whole and half rests on the wrong line, stems on the wrong side and in the wrong direction, accidentals after the note, and flags are all over the place!

I made this for students who are about 9 and 10 years old and taking level 4 of the Texas State Theory Test, but one of my younger students asked if I would make an easier version because he thought it looked like fun. If you have any ideas of what should be on an easier version for 6 and 7 year olds, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!


Filed under Composing Activities, Texas State Theory Test, Theory

A pre-reading version of Bingo


I often receive email from teachers who are not used to young beginners or  parents who want to try out my pre-reading music,  so I am posting a suggested teaching plan for this fun folk song. Experienced teachers do not need to read on!

1. Before you begin, teach the song if you discover your student doesn’t know it. Have fun, and maybe play some instruments or march around the room.  

2. With both hands, drum out the rhythm on the fall board, singing along. At this point, chanting or singing the song in rhythm takes the place of counting.

3. Using the correct right and left hand, tap the rhythm on the fall board. Each hand has a different colored highlight to help students who get mixed up. 

4. I am going to assume your student knows piano finger numbers. But if he does not have experience with skipping fingers, you will need to work on that before you proceed. A good piano method book for young children is invaluable. Also, I have posted some pre-reading solos  easier than Bingo that I use as supplemental music.

5. If this is the first time he has used skipping fingers, practice 3 to 1 and 4 to 2 on the fall board. Circle the places on the music where these are found.

6. Play the song in the air, using correct fingers. Try it on the fall board. If he “gets it”, he’s ready to play. Let him find his position.

7. Always count off. Like most folk songs, this one has a pick up beat, which you don’t need to explain at this point. It helps the rhythm if you count off 7 beats at the beginning:  “1 2 3 4, now let’s play….”.  Point to the notes as he plays so he will learn to read and not look at his hands. This is where all that preparation helps.

8. Make sure he drops into the keys using fingertips and keeps his wrist fairly level. Drop with the forearm. Avoid excessive lifting of each finger up and down in isolation to the rest of the hand. That will lead to some hard to fix problems. 

If you are not sure what I mean, watch the following videos.

Dennis Alexander This video shows the student tapping the rhythm on the fall board and playing with a relaxed hand.

Nancy Faber This video shows how to drop into the keys. Watch her other videos of beginning lessons for more information.


Filed under Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources

Rhythm Round About – to identify notes and rests

Rhythm Round About Game Board

I made this game to help students who can’t remember the rhythmic names of notes. My younger ones don’t have any trouble remembering how many beats a note is worth, but they often either forget the name, or get the names mixed up. This is especially true with rests. I wanted a fun activity that would only take a few minutes of lesson time, and this is what I came up with.  Rhythm Round About  really moves along quickly, and if you only have a few minutes left at the end of a lesson, you might be able to play it several times. I tested it quite a lot with my students and they gave me helpful suggestions!

Rhythm Round About Cards

I found that printing 2 pages of the card PDF is enough for a teacher/student game. The cards will run out, but shuffle them and keep going.

I did something different for the cards that go along with this game. A few years ago I bought a huge box of blank perforated business cards at a warehouse store for a very reasonable price.  I made the cards for this game to fit business cards, and I really like the size, and the fact that I don’t have to cut out anything!  The cards are 2″ X 3 1/2″.  For those of you who don’t have any blank business cards, my PDF also contains short cutting lines.

Since I love graphics, I usually draw a colorful back for my game cards.  This one has little pianos covered by dots to match the game board.

Colorful Backs for Cards

I laminated the game board, but since the cards are perforated, I coated them  with clear acrylic matte coating to keep the ink from smearing. Here in hot Texas, students’ hands will cause ink to smudge. If you are in a cooler climate, you might not have this problem.

This is a good game to check if your students really know the rhythm symbol names for association tests!

If your students enjoy this game, leave a comment!


Filed under Games, Music Vocabulary, Rhythm

Piano Recital Certificate – Traditional

Traditional Recital Certificate

If the colorful  certificate from my last post was too much, you might be interested in this black and white certificate I made for my older students. This one is made to be printed on colored parchment paper that you can buy at office stores and even some craft stores.  

What do you think of my border? I didn’t want to use a pre-made one, so I made my own.  I drew the entire border in Photoshop, starting with one flower and then stringing them along, kind of like quilting.  Originally I made it in color, but I converted it to black and white for use with colored paper.


Filed under Certificates, Teaching Aids