Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guitar - Exercise for Fingering

As I teach my guitar students, I find that they can always use more practice to develop finding individual notes on the guitar.  Having them practice scales works well, but that only helps them with notes that are located next to each other.  I've started assigning practice that involves using notes from individual chords.

I assign the student to work on the C major chord.  I have the student practice the following as quickly and smoothly as possible: C (on string 5), E (on string 4), C (on string 5), G (on string 3), C (on string 5), C (on string 2), C (on string 5), E (on string 1), C (on string 5), G (on string 1)

To add variety, you can have the student practice this exercise backwards.  Of course, you can also use this exercise for any other chord.

If you use this exercise with your students, I'd be glad to hear your feedback on it.  What was your experience with it?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Drills - Can They Really be Fun?

Learning to play an instrument is just like any other learned activity - it takes practice, it takes commitment, and it takes time.  One of the best ways to build up your skills is by drills.  Sports teams do this all the time - and music players should as well.  However, it seems that most students dread drills, so here's a way to make those drills a little more fun.  I'm sure this idea is not unique to me, but I wanted to just share some of the ideas I have come up with.

I have a small stack of 3 x 5 cards.  I have each action below listed on of the cards. 
  • Play a major scale.
  • Play an arpeggio.
  • Identify the key signature (of the piece you are working on)
  • Name the notes (select a certain section of the piece you are working on).
  • Name the intervals (select a certain section of the piece you are working on).
  • Name the chord (select a certain section of the piece you are working on).
  • Clap the rhythm (select a certain section of the piece you are working on).  
  • Sightread a section.

The cards are all laid out face down, and I have my student select one card.  (note: you can also do this for yourself, if you are working on drills on your own)  The student then does whatever is on the card.

If you want to make it more competitive, you can challenge the student to see how many cards he can finish in a set amount of time.  

What other actions would you include on your cards?  Share them below in a comment.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week - March 25th

Looking for something to read this weekend? Here are some recommendations.
Piano Street now has its sheet music available through its mobile website. While the pages are a bit small on an iPhone, this would be a great thing to access on an iPad.

Business Secrets from a Cambodian Tuk Tuk | The Art of Non-conformity | by Chris Guillebeau
Here's some great advice for any small business owner – from an interesting perspective. This is definitely worth reading!
This is a good resource if you are looking for a job or are working on promoting your services.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Expanding Sequences

Part of learning to play piano - or any other instrument - includes learning different intervals.  Here's a creative way to practice intervals. 
  • Pick a starting note and then pick an interval to play from that note.  
  • Pick a new interval to play from the last note you played.  (You should have played a total of three notes now.)
  • Play the three notes in the order that you had them from steps 1 and 2.  Add a new note.  
  • Play the four notes in the order that you had them from steps 1 - 3.  Add a new note.  
  • Continue to repeat the process, adding a new note every time.  

Here's a variation (no pun intended!) on this idea.  Play through the sequences for your student and have him name each new interval that is added. 

This exercise can also be used to practice improvisation. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week

This week was a quieter one for me. I haven't read as much online this week; instead I have spent more time on reading books and listening to audio books.

How Writers Can Use Twitter for Networking and Success | Guide to Literary Agents | by Alexis Grant
This article has some great points on using twitter for networking. It's really worth a read, even if you aren't a writer. The points that Grant makes can easily be adapted to any area of business.

26 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation | Social Media Examiner | by Debbie Hemley
This is quite a comprehensive list. Pick one or two to start implementing. Or use this as a reference any time you're looking for new ideas for using social media.
I'm only about half-way through this book, but already I have found this book to be invaluable. It's written in an easy-to-understand style with lots of “apply it right now” tips and worksheets. If you are a freelancer or are self-employed, this is a must read!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Developing Technique - Arpeggios to the Rescue

Are you looking to further your piano skills? Are you trying to help your students develop their piano playing technique? Use arpeggios to develop technique.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, an arpeggio is "a chord in which the notes are played separately instead of at the same time."

- Pick an arpeggio.
Depending on your skill level - or the skill level of your student - pick an arpeggio to use. Start with a simple C major chord. As you work on developing your skill, branch out. Instead of using just I chords, use other common chords and their inversions (such as IV and V7 chords).

- Use the whole keyboard.
Don't just confine yourself to the area around middle C. This will help you to become comfortable with where notes are. This will help your students learn to recognize note patterns on the piano. Work your way both up and down the keyboard.

- Play around with timing.
Challenge yourself to play each arpeggio at a fast tempo with even notes. Change things up by varying the rhythm you are using. Work on honing your fluency and your articulation.
Question for you: What technique exercises have worked for you?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top Rated Piano Teacher in Minneapolis has listed Laura's Music Studio as one of the top 3 piano teachers in Minneapolis!  Click here to see the listing. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week

Here's my weekly dose of recommended reading.
Branch out with a new tuning and a simple arrangement. This would be a great idea for an intermediate guitar student.

There's a Better Way to ReTweet! | twitip | by Miles Tinsley
A new perspective on retweeting along with some great advice.
More insights on using twitter. Especially helpful if you're just starting out. 


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Make Improvisations Fun!

I recently stumbled across Rory’s Story Cubes and picked them up for a different class I am teaching. But then I got to thinking about how they would be a great idea to use in helping students with improvisations and compositions.

Depending on the student and how advanced he is, I would recommend limiting how many cubes he rolls (there are a total of nine). I would probably have him start off with one. Have him roll the cube, and then have him brainstorm what the picture makes him think of. Now, ask him to think about how he would express those thoughts in music. Have him start with a few notes - probably some type of melody line - and expand from there as is appropriate to his skill.

You could even use this as part of his weekly assignment. You could have him roll the cube and write down what the picture is, so that he can come up with a composition idea over the week.

If you teach a group class, you could also use these cubes with a group of students.

Those are just some ideas! What ways do you see yourself using the cubes?

Disclaimer: These recommendations are purely my own based upon what I personally have found helpful. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week

  • Trying to improve your studio?  Here's a great way to see where you have been and work on moving towards where you want to go. 
  • Jen posts about a great game idea for teaching whole and half steps.  Check out her blog for additional game ideas. 
  • If you're looking to grow your studio, here are some great ideas. 
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