The following post is from guest blogger, Emily Steves:
Some of the most important instruments in the history of music have been stringed instruments, which range from early to modern forms of the violin and the guitar, through to contemporary experiments with amplification and electric or digital recording. Forerunners to current instruments have been found in ancient burial sites, and demonstrate a clear historical progression into the stringed instruments that we use today.
Some of the earliest stringed instruments have been identified in archaeological digs of Ancient Mesopotamian sites, which include artifacts over three thousand years old. Lyre instruments with wooden bodies, and strings used for plucking or playing with a bow represent key instruments that point towards later harps and violin type instruments; moreover, Indian instruments from 500 BC have been discovered with anything from 7 to 21 strings.
During the medieval era, the rate by which string instruments developed arguably varied from country to country – Middle Eastern rebecs represented breakthroughs in terms of shape and strings, with a half a pear shape using three strings. Read more…
As a teenager I was intrigued how my history teacher could refer to the Victorian period as being both in the 1800s and in the 19th century! It wasn’t till more recently that I fully understood the two methods of counting numbers humans have mysteriously been using over the years and the interesting impact that has on the world of music. Curious? Let me explain. Read more…
A couple of months ago I reviewed books by Elena Cobb at MusicTeachersHelper.com. It was a pleasure connecting with her and sifting through her colorful books. Since then Elena asked me to spread the news that one of her books, Higgledy Piggledy Jazz, recently underwent some major renovations.
II III II III II
Review of Original Edition
To fill you in: here are observations I made about her book in my past blog:
“Elena is clearly a fan of jazz and the 12-bar blues (yes, this American form made its way overseas) and sees the importance of introducing this standard pattern to early level pianists. Higgledy Piggledy Jazz is packed full of pieces targeted for “inexperienced” pianists. [The book] includes clever, original compositions that fall into the standard blues form. They could serve as supplementary repertoire or provide great material for a studio jazz–themed unit.
1) Ten pieces with a CD of live jazz band recordings.
2) Four tracks of varying tempos of witty arrangements for play-along enjoyment. The CD is great training for building solid rhythmic skills and confidence for future gigs with a “real” band.
3) Color coding (in some pieces) of chord changes to enhance reading security.
4) Colorful, full-page illustrations.
5) A considerable amount of extra staff instructions including fingering, counting numbers, phrase markings and chord symbols.
6) Amusing lyrics to enhance rhythmic mastery.
7) Some helpful and pedagogically sound teaching tips.
8) A generous donation to Theo Lifeline Trust with the purchase of each book.
A few things to consider…
1) The Higgledy Piggledy Jazz Book Grades 1-3 includes pieces in a wide range of levels that appear beyond the reach of those who are “inexperienced” as the cover suggests.
2) Most early readers are accustomed to reading from larger notation. The formatting–size of notes, grand staff, extra symbols and teaching hints–varies from piece to piece. Many selections seem “squished” onto a single page which results in a cluttered appearance. This may intimidate early readers.
3) The kid-friendly illustrations and cover description make the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz Book appear suitable for early-level pianists. However, it seems most pieces would be more appropriate for those at an intermediate or at least a more experienced reading level.
4) Tricky rhythms and quick shifts in hand positions may prove to be discouraging to those with limited reading and playing abilities but fun for pianists who need to stretch their rhythmic skills.
5) Although the blues and jazzy edge pervades both books, there seems to be little encouragement for pianists to go beyond the page (a standard jazz characteristic) and improvise original riffs, or patterns over the blues progression.”
More staves and instructions on one page makes for a cluttered appearance and may be harder to read for early level pianists.
To catch you up: here’s a list of some changes in the latest Higgledy Piggledy Jazz. Congratulations to Elena for producing this revised edition in such a short time!
1) The table of contents is re-formatted for easier reference.
2) Most teaching tips can now be found online instead of at the front of the book.
3) Eliminating colorful illustrations provides more space for larger, more easy-to-read staff notation. This omission results in a much less cluttered appearance and keeps the book appropriate for any age.
4) Formatting the same piece over two pages with fewer finger and counting cues provides a cleaner look.
5) Improvising within the blues framework is a standard tradition. In this new edition room to create within scale patterns is included in one of the selections. As Elena states, “spontaneity is in the heart of Jazz, is it not?”
Although the pictures were nice, the larger, expanded format is easier to read.
6) Less staff instructions–counting numbers and fingering–make staves cleaner and easier to read. I liked the color-coding of dominant chords but this does not appear consistently throughout the book.
7) The level-range indicated on the front cover has increased from levels 1-3 to levels 1-4. Leveling a book is subjective and completely up to the composer/publisher. I would hold off using this book with students until they are well-equipped with reading rhythms including 8th notes and strong hand independence. Teaching some selections by rote may be a possibility since a CD is available.
In case you need a visual/audio sample, here’s a delightful rendition of a Higgledy Piggledy Jazz selection. Enjoy.
II III II III II
Elena has offered two books to give away.In order to qualify for the drawing, leave a comment below about how you use jazz-inspired music with your students or how you are interested in doing so in the future.
In case you don’t win and want to purchase one, you can find Elena’s music books at Sheet Music Plus.
Winners will be announced one week from today, so hurry and enter soon!
I am writing this letter to you because I am thinking about your upcoming piano competition. You have worked so hard for this and I want to let you know first and foremost how proud I am that you will be performing in this event. As your teacher, I am so happy you will have the opportunity to play in front of seasoned judges and other accomplished pianists.
Have you ever watched the Olympic Games on TV? The best athletes from all over the world get together to compete for the Gold Medal. Those athletes must have trained so hard, and they must have been the best from their country in order to be chosen to represent that country. Yet at the end of the game, there can only be one Gold Medalist.
Piano competitions are sort of like that. All the competitors are the best students from their teacher’s studio, but because it is a competition, the judges must select only one person to receive First Prize, Second Prize, and so on. It does not mean those not selected to win a prize are not good. Sometimes the person that gets First Prize is indeed the very best and really deserves it. Usually, however, it just means that particular person played that particular piece the best that particular day, on that particular piano, in that particular hall, for that particular judge. On another day, at a different venue, using a different piano, with a different judge, a different student may very well be selected as the First Prize winner instead. What matters the most is not who wins and who doesn’t. What matters is that you have graciously accepted the challenge, set a goal for yourself, worked hard to master a difficult piece of music, and improved so much from the experience. Read more…
Returning Student Registration and Fall Scheduling Made Easier with MTH!
Many music studio schedules follow the local school schedules. The end of the year fast approaches with extra work often necessary for recitals and registration for the next fall.
One may use MTH website to eliminate the hassle of tracking changes to fall schedules.
In contrast to music teachers who request registration during the late summer months; at my studio registration is due in April. This accomplishes several goals: I am able to determine how many lesson slots I have available and advertize accordingly, I do not have to work with customers during the busy summer months when they are often traveling, and it may be a lot more difficult to tell an instructor you are not returning when you have lessons for another month (perhaps a good marketing strategy). This also allows time to discuss reasons for discontinuing lessons and possibly the opportunity to suggest changes to keep a student playing.
Use MTH to make yearly registration and scheduling much easier!
Every year when I set up the yearly schedule I include an extra week of lessons on the web calendar. Example: Lessons end May 19th but my web calendar shows lessons running through May 26th. I let customers know that lessons will not actually be held on these days but are only there for administrative purposes. It is easy to add a fake event for all students stating there are no lessons during this week and that the extra lesson showing on the calendar is only for fall scheduling purposes. When a parent/student logs onto the website they will see this note on the calendar (See picture 1). Read more…
Life as a private music teacher can be a lonely one indeed. When the rest of the world is chatting it up at the water cooler with co-workers, we are doing everything everyone else does after work. And when “after work” has arrived for everyone else, our day begins!
But our day does not look like everyone else’s day! While many see work as a social outlet, private music teachers spend their time, (for the most part) with preschoolers, children and tweens. And while this group is a blast, we need the opportunity for a water cooler chat too.
And that’s why next week we are presenting International Week of the Piano Geek; an opportunity for private music teachers to connect with online piano personalities and resources that are making our profession a little less lonely.
Every single day between April 29 and May 3, we will be sharing a wealth of resources that exist online to make life as a piano teacher easier. From blog posts to live Q and A events, to comment discussions, there will be a ton of action to keep you entertained and informed. And you can be a part of it all at PianoGeekWeek.com.
About The Authors Andrea and Trevor Dow are piano bloggers and educators with a passion for creating innovative music education resources and sharing cutting-edge teaching strategies. When they aren’t in front of their computers writing for their TeachPianoToday.com blog, they are busy running their thriving music school on Vancouver Island.
With International Week of the Piano Geek, Andrea and Trevor hope to advance piano education by opening up a world of resources that are continually evolving online each and every day.
Skype and other online learning options are increasingly attractive for people who are comfortable with communicating via computer, and especially for people who have few local learning choices.
For music teachers, working online presents some special challenges. Here are some tips. If you’ve tried Skype teaching or learning, please contribute your thoughts as well. In my next post I will discuss ways to work with students online in real time, without the delay of Skype!
Let’s take a look at setting up for a Skype lesson, verbal skills, visual and sound issues, online materials and what to do in the case of technical difficulties.
Set up. From the college of hard knocks, here are a few tips on preparing for a Skype lesson. Read more…
Or are you lucky enough to be one of those music teachers who has all of your receipts in perfectly organized envelopes, a well-filled-out mileage tracking notebook in the glovebox of your car, and a tax accountant on hand to answer any tricky tax questions?
If, indeed, you are one of these blessed souls, can I come watch how you work? Can I adopt your systems? Because here is how tax season works at my house. Read more…
Selecting the right piano teaching method can be a daunting task, especially if you are a brand new piano teacher. There are probably as many piano methods as there are piano teachers to teach them. So how do you know which one to use? You could choose a single method to teach across the board – all new students start with the same materials. Or, you could find out what each student wants to learn and choose a method for them individually. Chances are, after a few years of trial and error, you will find a method that you truly feel comfortable with and very much enjoy teaching from. Maybe you’ll even write your own! Regardless, here are a few piano methods that I enjoy teaching from.
John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano. I love this piano method, for several reasons. First, it’s the method that I learned from as a little girl. I was so excited when I got to play from the big red book! It brings back many fond memories of piano lessons. Of course, given my age, you might not think of it as being all ‘that’ modern, but that’s the name of it.
In all seriousness, this method is my go-to method for students who want to learn classical piano. It contains great directions for classical technique (think wrist staccato and drop and roll) as well as many classic style pieces that every budding pianist needs to learn. Book 1 is great for the late elementary school student who has had some music experience at school. For the younger beginner, check out Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which is a great introduction Read more…