Friday, March 29, 2019

16 mm Music Dice

Comprehensive List

I've added more music dice to The Practice Shoppe and now I can see it can be overwhelming to know the differences between all the dice, so hopefully I can outline all my dice here in a blog or two as well as give you some ideas on how to use them during practicing and teaching.

First of all, there are two sizes, 16 mm - which is a standard size dice.  I also have 25 mm - which is larger and can fit more details, but is also more expensive.

Here is a list of all the 16 mm. dice I have in stock today (I've colored all the rhythm dice to make them easily distinguishable) in a basic order of simple to more complex:

Light Green Rhythm Dice

Super basic, just beamed eighth notes, quarter notes and quarter rests. Get a bunch of these and have the little beginners start clapping and counting.

Brown Rhythm Dice

The basic rhythms above with added half note, dotted half note, and whole note.
This is a great die for playing games where the kids don't have to know fractions like "Roll 100" and "Rhythm Race"  I also play "Shut the Box" and "Rhythm Chemistry" with these dice.

Blue Rhythm Dice

These are the first rhythms I teach my beginners out of the book Rhythm Train.  They are also the rhythms learned with Let's Play Music.  Great for composing and counting.  

Orange Rhythm Dice

Start learning how to count the eighth note and eighth rest.  These dice are harder to use for composing with beginners because the eighth note and eighth rest add some half beats.  But a "Rhythm Race" game is perfect to start introducing the half beat.

Magenta Rhythm Dice

These dice have everything from eighth note to whole note, with the fractional notes (eighth note and dotted quarter note.)  This is a great die for identifying different types of notes playing the game "Roll 10."  It's also a great "Tic Tac Toe" and "Bingo" die.

Purple One Beat Rhythm Dice

I love using these dice for composing because the rhythms are variable, but each side is only one beat.  This way you can easily fill measures and learn the tricky dotted eighth note rhythms.

Red Rhythm Dice

This is very similar to the magenta dice but it adds a sixteenth note (and eliminates the dotted quarter note.)  I love to use these dice to play the game "Musical War."  It's also a more complex "Rhythm Race" game dice, dividing the beat into 4ths with the sixteenth note.

Green Rest Dice

This dice mirrors the red rhythm dice, but with rests.  This would make the game "Musical War" more complex.  One person plays with the red, one with the green.  You could also play "Musical War" with only the green dice.  This is a great die for identifying all the different kinds of rests.

 Blue Rest Dice

 Here is another super basic dice with only a quarter rest, half rest, and whole rest duplicated.  

 Light Green Rest Dice

This die is on clearance and won't be around much longer.  It is pretty much the same as the green rest die above, but it has a 32nd rest (and no dotted half rest.)

Lavender Dotted Quarter Rhythm Dice

These next few dice are great to use when learning and teaching about the time signatures 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8.  

Light Pink Dotted Quarter Rhythm Dice

 Gray Dotted Quarter Rhythm Dice

 Roman Numeral Chord Dice 

 This has been one of my ideas for a long time and they are brand new so I haven't played with them much.  I hope to use these to initiate composing and a discussion on the basic chord progressions.

 Accidentals Dice

Pair these dice with the Lines and Spaces dice to learn the names and locations of all the notes on the staff.


I initially got these dice to roll to determine which string to play a finger pattern on with my students.  But, I also realized after I've played with these that they are the first five keys on the circle of 5ths and also the notes in the C major pentatonic scale which is really fun to compose with.

 Dynamics Dice

Here is another dice to use with the game "Roll 10" to teach students how to identify the different dynamic symbols.  It's also fun to roll and play a passage with whatever dynamic that is rolled.

Clefs Dice

Test your knowledge of all these clefs when you pair this dice with the Lines and Spaces dice.  Can you roll and name the note?

 Intervals Dice

I orignally made this dice to help teach intervals on the violin or piano.  It's also fun to play and practice whatever measure you roll (4th measure, 6th measure, etc.)

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Anyone can compose music!

Composing Dice? How do I use these? Why are there notes missing?

These are the most common questions I get at conferences where I have my music dice for sale. I wish I could easily and quickly convey how cool these dice are and they are the very reason I started making music dice in the first place.

Composing Pentatonic Dice do not have every note in a scale because there are only SIX SIDES! I commonly get the question why I can’t have every note, but please remember, my friends, there are 7 notes in a scale – 8 if you put the tonic on both ends. The solution is to make it a pentatonic scale (pent=5, 5 notes, plus the tonic at the end.) The notes are these dice are scale degrees 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 1 (omitting scale degree 4 and 7). There are four different dice available.
  1.  A Major in treble clef – perfect for violinists (A, B, C#, E, F#, A) 
  2. C Major in treble clef – perfect for pianists and general music (C, D, E, G, A, B) 
  3. C Major in bass clef – perfect for pianists and general music (C, D, E, G, A, B) 
  4. G Major in bass clef – great for cellists (G, A, B, D, E, G) 
  5. Here is a set of 1 of each dice.
Now, let me tell you why I decided to make pentatonic scale dice and why they are so great for composing. Often Jazz music, hymns, and folk tunes are composed using the major pentatonic scale. It is the best scale for improvising and composing simple tunes. The more I know about this amazing pentatonic scale the more songs I realize use this very scale and notes in their melody. Think of the following pieces:

My girl (opening introduction), 

Oh Suzanna, 

Amazing Grace 

The notes in a major pentatonic scale gives a nursery-rhyme like quality and is easily remembered. It has a pleasant sound that works great with many chords. It’s easy to compose a pentatonic melody because you don’t have to worry about what to do with the leading tone or the tricky 4th note of a major scale.

Here is what I do with my students to help them start composing:
  1. Start with four measures of music. Use staff paper, white boards, I personally like using a paper cut into 4ths and using each piece as a measure and then connecting them at the end. 
  2. Add a clef (treble or bass, depending on which dice you are using) and a 4/4 time signature. You could use ¾ or 2/4 as well, but let’s just make it easy and use 4/4 this time. 
  3. Before you start rolling let’s end the melody on the tonic, so write a half note tonic note at the end of the piece – a C if you are using the C scale dice, and A if you are using the A scale dice, etc. 
  4. Now, let’s add a dominant half note at the end of the second measure. The dominant is the 5th note of the scale, so for C scale it would be G, for A scale it would be E. 
  5. It’s time to start rolling and fill in the measures with quarter notes with the notes your roll on the dice. 
When are your measures are filled up, voila! You have a simple melody. ANYONE can do this – your most beginner student, your smarty-pants high school student, ANYONE!

Take it to the next step:
  1. Now, let’s add another 4 measures to your piece. In measures 5 and 6 copy what you wrote in measures 1 and 2. 
  2. Add a tonic half note at the end of measure 8. 
  3. Fill in measures 7 and 8 with quarter notes rolled with the dice. 
Voila! You have a phrase.

And now…
  1. Here is where you can fancy things up a bit with passing tones and neighbor tones. 
  2. Are any of the notes next to each other? Make the first one a barred 8th note with the note above it and create a neighbor tone. 
  3. Are there any notes next to each other that skip a note? Make the first note a barred 8th note and pass the tone to the other note. 
  4. There are lots ways you can doctor your melody by adding rhythm, dynamics, articulations, etc. See what you can come up with. 
If you want to try something fun with your students – see if what happens when you compose a “duet” to a common melody. For example, Jingle Bells. Do the same steps as above, but make sure you are following the same rhythmic pattern as Jingle Bells. When you play Jingle Bells in the key you are composing you have just made a simple duet to your common piece.

Here are several downloads that you can use when composing your own melody or teaching your students how to compose:

Basic Composition 1 - 4 measures
A Major (treble)
C Major (treble)
C Major (bass)
G Major (bass)

Basic Composition 2 - 8 measures
C Major (treble)
A Major (treble)
C Major (bass)
G Major (bass)

Basic Composition 3-coming soon

Jingle Bells Composition-coming soon
Jolly Old St. Nick Composition-coming soon

Little Composer - this is a great little handout to use to help compose different rhythmic passages.  You could follow the same principles and use it to compose rhythm with your melody.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Prepping Students for Recitals

It's that time of year when I'm preparing my students for our big Spring solo recital.  This is the biggest recital of the year for my students and a lot of preparation goes into getting ready.  I was excited to see an idea from an amazing piano teacher, Karen Hunter, who gave me a lot of great ideas for my violin students as well and I've asked her to write today's post:

The week my students choose their spring recital pieces is (by my students’ own admission) a highlight in my piano studio.  I teach 70 students in three teaching venues, so I begin the music “vetting” process in summer.  Two of my three recitals have themes, so the selection process is slightly easier for those recitals.  Students spend much of their first lesson of the new year listening to me play recital piece options and, ultimately, they select one.

The Saturday morning before lessons resumed in 2016, I spent some time perusing piano teaching ideas on Pinterest.  Something I read triggered the thought that if students are to spend 12 l-o-n-g weeks working on a single song to perform at the spring recital, perhaps it would be beneficial to have the students get familiar with the song and its composer before learning to play it.

That thought morphed into the creation of the “Recital Piece Hunt” worksheet which students were to complete for the second lesson of the new year.  Reviewing students’ responses with them provided many teachable moments.  For example:
  • Younger students discovered that songs have a “form”—a kind of map of a piece.
  • Many students were reminded that a song without sharps or flats may not necessarily be in the Key of C Major.  This resulted in a review of relative major and minor scales.
  •  Students became acquainted with the various “articulations” used in their pieces.  What exactly is tenuto?
  • Students googled “rubato” and other unfamiliar performance instructions.
  • We discussed metronome markings and googled the definition of circa (as in ♪=ca.60).
  •  Younger students were skeptical that a quarter note could receive two beats (in 3/8 or 6/8 time). 
  • One student couldn’t wait to tell me that her composer (Robert Vandall) had a wife whose name was Karen!  Same as you, Mrs. Hunter!

Download here

As my students proceed with learning their pieces, I’m confident that they have adequate background into their pieces and their composers.

To provide students with a “visual” of their progress in learning their pieces, I created “Scoops to a Great Performance” contest cards.  As students move from hands apart to hands together, from slow to performance tempo, to adding pedal and dynamics, I mark another scoop on their 7-scoop cone.  When the piece is performance-ready and (hopefully) memorized, the student receives a token for a free scoop of custard from our local custard stand.  Prepping a piece for performance is a step-by-step process.  I hope this contest encourages my students every step of the way!

Download Here