Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe for a Successful Practice

A few weekends ago I got the privilege to present at a Suzuki Piano workshop for parents.  As I was thinking of ideas of what to present I decided that we were (mostly) all moms and we do a lot of cooking and can relate to recipes.  Therefore, the title of my presentation was "Recipe for a Successful Practice."

Nothing I said was new or scientific, but rather a fun way to reinforce some basic qualities of a successful practice.  I've included my handout here and hopefully you can get some ideas on what you need to improve to make your practicing more successful.  Perhaps you can give a presentation like this to parents of music students.  It's good to hear the same things over and over!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Memorizing All Major Key Signatures

As the newsletter editor or the Suzuki Association of Utah newsletter, I get to read a lot of great articles about teaching.  I particularly liked this one from the SAU Flute VP about memorizing key signatures.  This is one of my goals for my Book 4+ students this year.  

I was also thrilled because I just received a new shipment of key signature dice.  I've had the dice with the basic key signatures (C, G, D, A, F, and B-flat), but I've had several requests for the more advanced key signatures, so here they are!

Memorizing All Major Key Signatures

By Katrina Young

Since the Utah Suzuki Flute players are learning their major scales for our SAU Sweet Scale competition on October 12th, I thought I would include some tricks and incentives that have helped my studio in the past to learn and memorize their scales. 

For visual learners:  I adapted this idea from Cindy Henderson.  Cindy includes in her student flute journal the note names of the scales written out with the sharps and flats circled.  I realized that some of my students would respond better with color and being able to focus on only one scale at a time.  I made these major scale flip charts for my students.   If you would like to make a set for yourself, they can be downloaded here.          
 We discuss how each scale is like houses on a street.  For example, the “E street” has two sets of sharp houses that live next door to each other.  The “F# street” has only one house that is not sharped on the entire street!  When we venture into the flats neighborhood, we discuss how flats also like to live next door to each other.  These cards help students see and recognize the patterns of major scales.  To make these cards, simply print onto white cardstock, cut on the black line, punch a hole in the corner, and place on a binder ring.  I arrange the scales on the ring based on the circle of 5ths for my students.

For Kinesthetic learners:  I give these students the following worksheets.  By writing down the letter names of the scales themselves, they understand how the scales are formed and why we have a circle of 5ths and 4ths. Using the sharp major scale worksheet, I walk students through how we move around the circle of 5ths.  We start with the C major scale.  Have students count up to the 5th note of the C major scale (G) and this is how we find what the next scale will be around the circle of 5ths.  They fill in the next set of boxes starting with G.  To find what note will be sharped in this scale, the rule is to always add the sharp to the 7th note or degree of the scale.  In the G major scale this is F#.  When the worksheet is finished, it leaves students with a handy chart to refer back to.  You can download these worksheets here.

Make up a sentence to help you remember the circle of 5ths and 4ths:  Cindy Henderson uses these sentence “gimmicks” in her studio.  For the sharp keys in order around the circle of 5ths she says: 
                                    #        #
God Destroyed All Earth By Fire of Course.
                    # of sharps in key: 1      2               3   4       5   6         7

For the Flat keys going around the circle of 4ths she says: 
                                                 b       b    b        b                b               b
Fat Boys Eat Apple Dumplings Greedily of Course.
            # of flats in the key:  1    2       3    4        5               6                7

My own eight year old daughter made up a sharp order sentence the other day.  It is silly, but it helped her memorize the order in one day:  Good Dogs Always Eat Breakfast Fastly and Cleanly!  Make up your own sentence!  It will stick in your head better.

Make an incentive to learn them:  Each student in my studio has a fishy scale card from susanparadis.com.  As they pass off one of their scales, I fill in a scale on their fish card.  Once they learn all of their scales for the sweet scale competition, they will get a box of Swedish fish!  Sometimes, incentives such as these really help when things seem hard to learn. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Music Dice Game and a Fun Chart

This week I've been sick.  Moms aren't supposed to get sick.  It makes momhood really hard.  All was bearable until I had to teach lessons this week on top of everything else.  After smiling and acting happy through my morning lessons I threw in the towel and cancelled all my afternoon lessons, took a hot bath, took a long nap, and then just sat at my computer and vegged until my husband got home and cooked me dinner.  With all of this spare time on my computer I was able to tinker with some games I've had in the back of my mind for a while now.

I should come up with a good name for this game, but I don't have one.  Basically I used 4 two-eighth-note dice and my daughter and I took turns rolling rhythms.  We'd count up the number of beats, clap and count, and then move our game-piece that many counts.  She loved it!  It wasn't very hard for her, but it gave her good practice clapping and counting the various rhythms.
Roll the dice
Count the number of beats
Clap the rhythm
Move the game piece the number of squares as the number of beats in the rhythm rolled.
 I used the two-eighth-note dice because nothing is less than one beat so the rhythms don't get too complicated (and it's easier to move the game pieces.)  Sometimes if we had a nice round number like 8 or 9 or 12 beats, we'd break it up into measures so she could count 1-2-3-4 or 1-2-3.  Otherwise it would just be the amount of beats of the note (4 for whole, 3 for dotted-half, etc.)  Since the game board was pretty long (192 squares is what my daughter counted - I haven't verified) the game took over 15 minutes.  So, I made two smaller boards for younger kids, or if you wanted a shorter game.

I love these game boards.  I definitely think I will laminate these ones to have on hand.  Not only are they good for this particular game, but I was thinking that I could use them to help guide the practice.  For instance, my daughter could roll a die(my 24 or 30 sided dice would be great for the long board) and whatever they land on is what they play.  We'd determine what the different symbols would mean before playing the game.  One idea would be the heart would be her choice, star would be my choice, and the note would be note reading.  You could make-up your own rules.  That's the great thing about these chart.  There are no set rules - just make them up to suit your individual needs.

By the way - the long chart has pretty small squares.  We were using my gorilla erasers for game pieces.  I was thinking a small die would also work.  It would be hard to use anything much bigger than a centimeter.  Keep that in mind when planning this game for your kids!
I'd love to hear if you have any other ideas for this game board!