Our Keyboard Karate months always make for a quick turnaround into Performance Club the first week of the month!
I contemplated not doing Keyboard Karate this year, but I love bringing the kids together for a mostly social event. We did learn about pentascales on Friday. The kids learned there is one half-step in a pentascale because they got to eat the filling out of one of their 4 Oreo cookies. By eating the filling and then reassembling the two cookies, the Oreo got smaller in height creating our Half-step. Then we put the Oreos in order of the pentascale steps (Whole, Whole, Half, Whole)! For several of the kids this was a first intro to pentascales, but we'll begin working on them in lessons this week and will refer back to our tasty Oreo lesson :-)
So on to this week! We have our Performance Club from 3:20-4:30 again, where students are encouraged to share anything at the piano that they'd like. I hope those who were first-time observers last month realized it's not scary and nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes and nobody laughs at you or even points them out! It's just fun to share music and hear what other students are doing.
Please RSVP via the portal (betsybreaker.mymusicstaff.com) or this email. Also, please let me know if you can help out by staying for the Club gathering this month. Siblings not taking lessons are welcome to come with you when you help out!
PRACTICE is working on something for the sake of learning and improvement. A student who starts at the finish and plays through to the end is playing that piece, not practicing it. At lessons I often ask them NOT to start at the beginning; many pieces have small sections marked either by Post-It notes of by a pair of slashes on the score. Also, students should be looking for areas needing improvement, marking them or stopping to fix them right away as they practice. When you play a piece, you don’t stop for mistakes but do circle back to fix them afterward.
So much time is wasted by simply playing a piece. The portions of the piece that are in great shape get just as much practice as the difficult spots. As a result, difficult spots improve at a glacially slow pace – they only get played once per practice session. Imagine if each difficult spot was played 5 or 6 times each practice session before the whole piece is played! Much greater progress would be made, without much more time invested, and progress is our ultimate goal.
Piano Maestro’s Learn Mode is the perfect example of how to practice. I can’t emphasize enough how fantastic that app is (iPad only), and many students are ignoring my direct instructions in their lesson books to use Piano Maestro Learn Mode. If your child has Piano Maestro at home, please make sure they are using it for their Lesson Book assignments. The majority are just using it for fun - which is better than not at all – but they’re missing out on a great tool that can really help them advance their skills.
The Practice Zone is a space conducive to focused work, minimal distractions, with all the tools needed at-hand. It’s also helpful if the Practice Zone is not off in a remote corner of your home making practice time feel like an exile to Siberia! Distractions can be minimized if your family can adopt a collaborative spirit and agree to no TV while piano practice is occurring, eliminating the need for banishing your young pianist to that far-off piano location. Obviously every house layout is different and we only have so many options for where we can locate a sizable instrument in the house: just do your best!
One of my piano families noted that when they moved their piano from the basement up to the foyer, right at the base of the stairs to the second floor, the piano was practiced much more. It was centrally located in the house and in a place where the piano was just begging to be played whenever a student walked past (which was often!).
Another element of the Practice Zone is having all books and materials handy, including their practice pouch which is equipped with pencil, highlighter, Post-It notes and a variety of additional practice tools. A Practice Zone is a work zone, not a play zone, so having these tools is an important reminder of, and also assistance for, the work to be done! Every page that has a Post-It flag is requiring attention at home. Be sure to check their practice binder for a full list of assignments, and there will likely be Post-It flags on pages in their binder as well.
The last component of the Practice Zone is you! The more involved you are in your child’s practice, the more successful your child will be. For a younger child, it may mean sitting on the bench with them and helping them read instructions. It may also mean learning alongside your child…having them teach you their pieces is a fantastic motivator! Or just be in the room to keep your child from feeling isolated. For late-elementary and middle school students your presence may even not be in the same room but it should be close by and providing feedback – encouragement and suggestions. “I’m hearing real progress on that section, can I hear it again?”