Category Archives: Teaching Aids

Write Your Own Scale Fingering

Scales-WriteYourOwn

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I have been busy making things! Sometimes I look through my website for material for my students, and I notice gaps or things I thought I posted but didn’t. That’s what happened as I was looking for the “write your own scale fingering” files.

Unfortunately, I don’t use the software that I originally used to make the files, so in order to remake them, I had to start all over. By this I mean really start all over, drawing white and black rectangles for the keyboards on a blank document. I know there are keyboard graphics and fonts to use, but I am picky and like to draw my own.

I also made some blank two octave keyboards to make whatever scale we need, such as one octave scales, natural minor, melodic minor, chromatic, whole tone, the blues scale, and modes. There is a line above each scale to write in the name. These are great for student composition. Some students like to make up their own scale. For a bonus, I made a plain grayscale version for teachers who do not use a color printer.

The idea behind the “write your own fingering” scales is that if students write in their own fingering they will understand the fingering better. Also, some teachers use different fingering than I do.

These are big files, so give them time to download. If they don’t print correctly, download the latest version of Adobe Reader, which is a free program. If you don’t want to print all of the scales, check out my tutorial in the FAQ to learn how to select pages to print. 

As usual, if you see a mistake please let me know, and I’ll fix it right away!

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Filed under Music Printables, Picture Scales, Teaching Aids, Uncategorized, Worksheets

One Minute Challenge

OneMInuteClubPP2014One Minute Challenge 2014

Jane Bastien,  composer, method book author,  and piano pedagogy expert talked about an idea that I use with my piano students. This post explains how I do it. 

I thought up the idea of a different card each year when I noticed my elementary students liked to collect cards and put things in scrapbooks. You can watch a video here of my students saying and playing flash cards.  If you need little mini cards, click here for mini grand staff cards and here for mini ledger line cards. If you use different color card stock for each level, it makes it easier.

Teachers who do this each year have their own way of doing things. Some tell me they have different sets of cards for each level. Some use less cards for younger students and more cards for high school students.

Included in this year’s PDF file is the set of “membership cards” that are made to be printed on pre-perforated business card stock, a large certificate for those of you who like to give out certificates at your recital, and a chart to post each student’s time, as they try each week to improve.

Since I’ve written at length about this over the years, here are some frequently asked questions from the past.

What is the One Minute Challenge?

This is a way for students to learn to say and play notes on the grand staff. If they can do it in 60 seconds or less, they get this membership card. Once a student is the fastest in my studio, they win a gift card (my students like iTunes or restaurant cards) and “retire.”  This is something that my students look forward to each year.

What is the age of students who participate?

I made the cards for children about age 8 to 11, but most my older students participate in the contest, unless they were the overall fastest in a previous year.  In my studio, it takes several years of lessons before a student can do this in less than one minute. Only a few students in grades 3  can do the entire grand staff, so I don’t try that with younger students. This year, I am going to try something different and use just the 9 cards around middle C for my K-grade 3 students. They asked to join in the fun, so we’ve been preparing all year. Use your judgement as a teacher.

How many flash cards do you use?

I use 21 cards, the entire grand staff from bass G to treble F. As I said above, this year I am trying something different. 

What do they do with the cards?

I give my elementary age students a plastic badge holder with a chain and attach it to their music bag. I ask middle school students if they want one. Some teachers post them on the wall.

Why do they have to play the note as well as say it? 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. This is not a cure for students who can’t sight read because they have difficulty tracking notes on the staff and/or other problems that often seem insurmountable. However, for average students, I notice sight reading skills improve as they learn where to move their hands. Good sight readers do not think of individual notes as they play, but in patterns of intervals. This is just one part of the difficult skill of sight-reading.

How much time do you spend on this at a lesson?

I run the challenge for about 2 months. I don’t think a lot of time should be spent on this. Just a couple of minutes each week can reap great rewards if the student is prepared in the first place. If students take over 2 minutes, I usually need to prepare them better before I start timing. 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 free resources on my website and other sites in the links on this blog. Don’t let this turn into drudgery!

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

Some teachers can make this fun and some can’t. If you still want to try, make sure they are old enough, know all their notes, and have the potential to be successful. Do a lot of note naming activities before you start. Prepare them well. Realize that not everyone in your studio has to participate.  There are many pages of note naming resources on my website and other websites. If your student has a learning disability, tread very carefully. Not every idea works with every student. I have had students who freeze up when they are being timed, especially if they are older beginners.

These cards are not centered correctly when I print them out on my blank business cards. What am I doing wrong?  

When you print the PDF file, under “size options” select “actual size.” You need the latest update to Adobe Reader for it to print correctly. This is a free download you can get at the Adobe Reader website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Note Identification, Teaching Aids

Jot! A Great iPad App for Education

Jot_2

Jot! An iPad App

I’ve noticed a lot of piano teachers have iPads. I see them at conventions typing away on their tablets while I’m still trying to find a pen in my purse as I remember that I left my paper back in the room. So I take scribbled notes in the margins of the presenters handouts. I have files of scribbled notes with very wise sayings from some of the great presentations I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. I think I’m rambling, so I’ll get right to the point.

Jot! [$4.99] is a white board app for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod, and I think it’s a fine app to use with older elementary students. It’s easy to learn, quick to set up in a piano lesson, and simple enough for even me to use.

After you download the app from the Apple app store and open it, there is a page to show you how to use it. You will need to refer to this later.

Once the app is installed, it is easy to use with any PDF printable. Here is how to open one of my documents.

Open up my website on your iPad. It’s faster for me to use www.susanparadis.com  but you can use my WordPress blog, too. Follow the links until you get to “download PDF document“. Select it, and it will open on your iPad. Turn your iPad in the same orientation as my printable. This is important. Most of the material I use on the iPad is in landscape orientation, so turn your iPad to the horizontal (landscape) position if the PDF is also in landscape.

Touch the top right corner of your iPad, and the words “Open In” will magically appear. Select, and a pop-up box will appear with an icon of every app on your iPad that will open a PDF document. If you do not see Jot, go to the second or third page by using the tiny buttons on the bottom of the box. Select “Open in Jot!” (You have to have iOS 6 installed or it will not show up.)

Now comes the only hard part of Jot. On the next screen there is a pop-up box that says “Background.” You will see a mini version of my printable. Using your fingers, drag it to fit inside the even smaller red rectangle. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but get it all inside. Any part that is not inside the red box will not show up in Jot! Obviously the guys who made this app are not used to granny eyes!

Click done, and the printable will open and you can draw on it. You can still adjust the size by using the two finger iPad gesture to stretch it bigger.

The menu is on the right side if you are in landscape orientation. Select the squiggly line, a color, and draw away. You can adjust the size of the drawing line. Try out the other boxes and notice you can draw shapes.

There is an undo selection, a way to save documents or send them to parents, and best of all, an eraser. If you press hard on whatever you draw, you can move it around the screen without changing the PDF background. That comes in handy if you want to draw whole notes and move them around the staff.

There is a free version of Jot, so you can try it out. [Edited: This tutorial does not work with the free version, but the free version can give you an idea of how it works. Also, you can take a screen shot of a PDF and use that in the free version.} It is supported by advertisements, which distract me, so I upgraded to the paid version, and it was worth it.

There are other interesting things you can do in Jot, such as real-time drawing collaboration. You can share your document in real-time with users on the internet.  Students can do worksheets on their iPad at home while you watch back in your studio, just as if they were sitting beside you. I have not been organized enough to try that out yet!

I would like to be clear that I do not find writing with a stylus or a finger on a tablet easy for younger children in the  limited time session of a piano lesson. I think it is better for younger children to use hands on activities and not writing on a computer tablet. Jot is better with children over 8 years old. However, parents who have the time to sit and work with their child and guide them will have a better experience.

Disclosure: This review is my opinion after using Jot! for almost a year. I was not paid and I did not receive compensation in any form.  My review was not solicited, nor do the developers know I am writing this review. I discovered Jot! in the app store and bought it after using the free version for several months.

Jot_1

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Filed under iPad Ideas, Music Reviews, Teaching Aids

A Handy Set of Grand Staff Printables

Grand Staff Set

Set of Grand Staff Printables

This is a versatile set of grand staff printables. Two are in color, and two are black ink. Two have the notes typed in, and two are blank so that students can label them. There is a handy keyboard at the top to show where each note is located on the keyboard. The middle C is directly between the two staves so students can see how the bass and treble staff continue with the music alphabet.

  • Instead of printing out a copy for each student, put them inside sheet protectors and use dry erase markers.
  • If you have a beginning student who needs to learn the notes very quickly for an exam or test at school, this might be just the thing they need. It also coordinates with the polka-dot theme on the printables I posted last week.
  • Put the labeled version inside their binder,  or insert one in the plastic, see-through binder cover.
  • Using the Skitch app (or your favorite app), download the black and white version on an iPad. While the notes are tiny, elementary students can still write on it or even draw lines to the keyboard at the top. To save time, call out letters and let students match them.

Be sure to only print the version you need. See my last post if you are not sure how to do that. Set you printer to  landscape orientation.

If you are looking for larger staves to write in note names, please check my website, because I have multiple versions for just about every holiday.

I hope I thought of everything! If you have any ideas, please leave your suggestion in the comments to share with other teachers.

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Filed under iPad Ideas, Note Identification, Teaching Aids, Worksheets

My New Autoharp

Autoharp500x224

Not too long ago I got the idea in my head that an autoharp would be perfect to get my students enthused about reading lead sheets and learning chords. When I was about 10 years old our classroom teacher would sometimes let a few of us stay after school and play on an old autoharp. That is where I think I learned about primary chords and a lot of music theory that I didn’t learn in piano lessons. It made learning the guitar and playing lead sheets a lot easier for me.

I started checking on eBay to see if I could afford a used one. I know something about autoharps because I used them when I taught elementary music education.  Every time I started at a new school I would get out the dusty autoharp and tune it up.

For several weeks my husband and I checked eBay often. I didn’t want to spend much, $35.00 tops. I wanted a name brand autoharp in case I needed to buy some parts, one  with all the strings, and a hard case. I figured I could tell by the descriptions if they were playable, but we knew we were taking a chance.

I bought a 20-year-old Oscar Schmidt because you can still get parts for this brand. It was out of tune and a few of the strings are pitchy. But it sounds fine, at least for a $35.00 autoharp. For comparison, on Amazon you can see the cost of a new Oscar Schmidt 15 chord autoharp, so I saved a lot of money buying an old one. It did not come with a tuning wrench, but I picked up one at my local music store for about $6.00. You can also order one from Amazon. I have to tune it more than I want to because it has been so long since it was tuned. Every time I tune it, it stays in tune longer, so I have hope for it. Right now I don’t want to invest in a new set of strings, which will cost more than the autoharp! If you think you might want to buy a used one, be sure you are comfortable with how to tune it, and don’t pay too much! If you can tune a guitar, you can tune an autoharp. It just takes longer.

I made some song charts for my students with easy chords and used it with all ages at my last set of group lessons. The songs had one, two, or three chords, depending on the age of the group. One of my goals with older students was to bridge the gap between playing I IV V7  and C F G7. The students and I had a lot of fun, and I think they learned a lot. What was amazing to me is that my students had never seen one before. I guess they aren’t used in school music programs any more! 

Now I wonder if I can arrange some music for autoharp and piano! Would that sound weird?

A New Piece on Sheet Music Plus

If you didn’t see my notice on Facebook last week, I have a new piece up on Sheet Music Plus. You can listen to Rain Rhythms here. It is a $3.99 digital download at the intermediate level.

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Filed under Group lesson ideas, Teaching Aids, Theory