Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Goodbye, Old Paint

Here at Let's Play Music, we use several traditional songs to help teach music. (Read our post on why we use folk music.

One of my favorites is Goodbye, Old Paint, and I've found lots of ways to have fun with it in all three years of the curriculum.  This song gives a perfect example of how we can layer levels of skill into an activity.

Say Will, why don't you pull out that thing and play us a tune?
Goodbye Old Paint was a trail-drive song first notated around 1885. Cowboys spent long hours in the saddle, herding their cattle for days and weeks.  And what did they do for fun? They made up songs!  They couldn't bring pianos, just whatever small instruments they could carry.  Cowboy Jess Morris learned this song from another cowboy with a jew's harp, and decided to make his own arrangement for fiddle.  In a 1928 fiddle contest, Jess was singled out for his interesting arrangement of Goodbye, Old Paint and had his tune was recorded for the first time on vinyl.

We enjoy rockin' out in our car to this modern version of this song by Dan Zanes, on his album, Rocket Ship Beach.

*Goodbye, Old Paint, I'm leavin' Cheyenne.
Goodbye, Old Paint, I'm leavin' Cheyenne.

Old Paint's a good pony, he runs when he can.
Good morning, young lady, my pony won't stand. 


I'm ridin' Old Paint and I'm leading Old Tan
Good Morning Little Annie, I'm off for Montan'


Oh hitch up your horses, and feed them some hay,
Seat yourself by me as long as you stay,


My wagon is loaded and rollin' away,
My horses ain't hungry, they'll not eat your hay,


My Let's Play Music students always want to know: "what do those lyrics mean!?" So, here's one interpretation: This is a song about a cowboy (insert your favorite cowboy name... Winston), leaving Cheyenne and heading to Montana on his horse, Old Tan (insert a bold reason to be moving states... to meet his bride). He must leave behind his beloved childhood pet pony, Paint, because the pony's too old to make the journey. This song is almost 150 years old and they did not have horse trailers back then, you'll want to explain to your child.  And why was the horse named Paint? American Paint Horses are breeds that are beautifully mottled, so this pony must have been spotty. (Follow the link to learn more about horses with the various official patterns- pretty cool.)

Dan Zanes sings about Little Annie, the cowboy's younger sister who always wanted a pony, (why not?) and will take care of Paint while he's gone.  Annie says, "hitch up the horses and sit down and hang out," but our cowboy says, "My wagon is loaded and my horses are fed so I'm just gonna take off now. Bye!"

I often have some 4 or 5 year-old students who are so sad to consider leaving a beloved pet behind. Having a verse about sister, Annie, pet-sitting is a really happy twist.  Occasionally, we'll decide that Winston comes back to visit, so we sing:

Hello, Old Paint, I'm back in Cheyenne
Hello, Old Paint, I'm back in Cheyenne

I'm back in Cheyenne, yeah I came from Montan'
Hello, Old Paint, I'm back in Cheyenne

First Year: Harp and Bells
Students will meet Old Paint in the first year at lesson X.  We love that this song is harmonized with only one chord: red. At this point in the curriculum, it is important for the student to play independently on the harp while accompanying a group of singers.  To make this requirement a bit easier, we love using a song that has no chord changes.  Students just focus on correct strumming and timing to find the beat and play steadily.  Does your child strum too quickly, or play without coordinating with the singers!?  Practice at home using any of our practice-at-home harp tecniques (read our post).

Teacher Darlayne Coughlin (Middleton, WI) has first and second year students play Old Paint on a gathering drum. If you have a drum at home, get it out so your child can master matching the beat. This is critical before moving on to bells.

I like to prop the bells in the case like this. For the first try, I have my daughter just play the red C bell on the downbeats (all that drum practice will pay off). Only once that's mastered, I let her try adding in the E and G notes of the broken red chord (what is a broken chord?).  

I love to have a drum, harp, piano, or other bells continue playing the downbeats only, so my bell-player remembers to get back to the C for every downbeat. In the absence of a piano, I slap the floor as if I were playing a drum, and I say "you have to make sure to play red every time I slap the floor, so we can stay together." If you have younger or older children, pull them in to practice this song- the more the merrier! Everyone keeps the downbeat with their instrument and the bell-player plays a broken chord.

Students love melody, too, and are learning to read on the staff.  Teacher Genny Earl (Mesa, AZ) notated our melody. I love that it is NOT colored, because we want students to focus on baby steps and skips instead of matching bell colors. This is essential in how we teach students to read music (read our post). If you have a super-smarty first-year student, let her read and learn the melody. (Yes, we are missing a few bells)

Second Year: Keyboard

Old Paint comes back in second year to help students play the red chord on keyboards.  We play nice and slowly to give small hands the ability to keep up and gain strength. After all, Paint's an old horse and can't go very fast. It is most important that students use the correct fingering (1,3,5) so fingering and correct hand shape will be integrated through muscle memory.  I like to paint all of my students' 1,3, and 5 fingernails RED to help them match up those fingers to the red chord stickers on the keyboard.  When we practice this song over and over at home, we add in the extra verses from Dan Zanes, or I play a duet with the melody an octave higher while my daughter plays the chords. If your kiddo struggles to play the red chord due to weak fingers, keep practicing and also add in our non-piano finger-strengthing games.

If you have a super-smarty student (I call them Super Turtles), here are some additional ways to make a one-chord song like Old Paint exciting:
  • Take Paint for a walk. Play the lowest red chord you can find, then jump up an octave, then another. Be sure to sing the song as you help him walk along the keyboard from low to high.
  • Kick him into a canter (see photo below). Play bugs instead of slugs (quarter notes instead of whole notes) while you sing. Keep a steady rhythm.
  • Give Paint a friend. Play the left hand while you sing (as long as you use correct fingers: 5,3,1). Then, play both hands in steady red chords.
  • Go Marching. Have the left hand and right hand take turns playing the chords, nice and slowly.
  • Be a fancy circus horse! If your child has mastered everything so far and has strong hands, play the chord in a broken style (just like we played on bells last year). Be willing to go really slowly at first. It's not a race.
  • Play the melody. I recommend you get the bells out and practice reading/playing melody there for now, since playing on the keyboard will require stretching the hand into some handshakes we haven't practiced yet.
Old Paint loves to canter across the keys!
Having lots of fun with Paint? The iPhone app Horse Lovers Camera lets you superimpose horse images over other photos.  Now your Paint can play the piano, too! If you create a fun Old Paint photo, please share it with us on our Facebook page.

Third Year: Mixed Paint

Old Paint comes back again in third year when we work on chord inversions. When we sing the red chord, we sing Do-Mi-Sol.  BUT, we could also sing Mi-Sol-Do or Sol-Do-Mi and it would still be a red chord.  I take my red triangle from class and rotate it around, "Look! Old Paint is doing cartwheels!"  Students in every year can and should practice singing the chords in different inversions like this. Soon enough they'll be playing all the inversions on the keyboard, too. (Watch for our upcoming post on inversions.)

I hope you enjoy singing about our favorite horsey pal, no matter which year of the curriculum you are in!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Commitment and Consistent Effort at Every Level

So, you've been in classes for a month now, and the shiny newness of practicing is morphing into the actual habit of music practice. Another of our Let's Play Music Core Values is: We expect commitment and consistent effort at every level. 

How Do I Become a Master?

In a recent blog post, I wrote about helping students crystalize dreams for future musical study by taking them to all kinds of musical performances. They have a chance to hear different instruments and styles and discover what they want to do with music. Those performances are also a sneaky time to open this discussion I hope you'll have with your child: "How do you suppose those performers became master musicians?"

Students are relived when I tell them it's way easier than they think. Becoming proficient at an instrument is easy because, first, you don't have to be born naturally great. There's a load off your mind! I'll admit that there are some who learn things more quickly, but the vast majority of us find a new instrument to be a huge challenge.  No matter! Humans were designed to create music.  You can do this.  As long as your feet are pointed in the right direction, you're on track. Hooray! 

The Magic of One Little Stone

The second reason it's easy to become a master is because any progress is still progress.  I send my LPM students home each week with the confident message that they can accomplish the practice assignments by the end of the week. Parents and students are surprised when we learn Bounce and Roll in the 3rd year of class, and at first I ask them to learn only the first line!  That's so little, they say.  Yes, if every day you get marginally better at playing one line, or one tricky measure, or one drill, you're that much better.  After days and days, these little bits add up. Soon you know several songs.  Then you start learning more challenging songs.

Click here for video
Playing a tricky song (like this Debussy piece by 9-yo LPM grad, Truman) can seem as crazy as moving a mountain.  Here's an analogy for you to share with your child: If you wanted to move a huge pile of rocks from the front yard to... the piano room (no excavating tools allowed), it might seem impossible.  But if you take a small stone or two from the pile each day and carry it to the piano room, and repeated every day for three years, you will have moved that mountain!  

The Hard Part

If everyone started from zero and took increments of progress, everyone would eventually become a fantastic musician. What happens? Other things come along and we forget to save time to practice (or help the child practice).  Often moving single stones is too small for our commitment. The day-to-day progress is too boring, not to mention challenging. "Why should I sit and practice for 10 minutes? I'll hardly improve!? What fun is that?" 

The hard part of mastering any skill is consistency to keep at it, even when the progress is incremental.  It takes commitment and consistent effort at every level to master an instrument.  Looking down at the small stone (or listening to the simple song) might seem hardly worthwhile. And maybe boring. And possibly frustrating. "I'm working so hard, and I hardly seem better."

What we must cultivate is the ability to see past the small task asked of us today and recognize the greater whole it creates.  Perhaps the next time your child want to skip practice, remind her of the analogy of the stones- you may even want to keep a jar of stones in the piano room!  

"It seems like today you don't feel like you can do a boulder, but could you do a 5-minute pebble? It will really help the jar of stones fill up."  "Even if you only have 5-minutes, I bet you could help your fingers get better at playing the chords on this page...and the muscles will be that much stronger." 

I adore recitals (read our post) because they let us look at the hypothetical pile or jar of stones and bask in what has been accomplished! Recitals get students motivated and excited to move the next big pile.  These moments prove to the students that the cycle of effort and reward does work.

Body Building

I just realized that my stones analogy may have a little flaw.  If a student forgot to move one stone per day for several months (or years) he could decide to pull an all-nighter and do nothing but move stones until he was caught up on stone-moving.  Can we catch up on missed piano training?  

Well, we can make practices longer and more frequent, but because piano training involves muscle memory and creation of neural connections (read our post), the repetitive days and months of practicing cannot be replaced by cramming.  Long practice sessions usually lead to mental fatigue and limited learning, anyway.

Weight-lifters can't spend two straight days in the gym and expect to build muscles they haven't worked for months! Neither can pianists.  On the same note, just as a body builder takes a day or two off, pianists can do the same.  During your rest day, your brain assimilates your efforts and commits them to memory.

The take home message? If you have 5 or 10 minutes to practice, do it! If you find 5 or 10 minutes later in the day, practice again! It will be more beneficial  than waiting for a day when you have 40 undisturbed minutes.  Those teeny-tiny pebbles are going to be your key to success!

A Life Lesson
Consistent effort in music, school, and life

Let's Play Music is not just about making every child into a superstar (although that's pretty nice). We also believe in helping educate well-rounded humans.  Music lessons offer a perfect venue for teaching the value of consistent effort applied to long-term challenges. The discipline practiced and learned here can be applied to every pursuit your child chooses to embrace. Embrace this teaching opportunity.

A child who learns to reap rewards from her long-term efforts is, not surprisingly, a better student and worker.  Many recent research articles have delved into the benefits of music lessons and found the ways that the mental workouts achieved in music lessons strengthen areas of the brain and improve a variety of skills. 

Music students are better students, scoring higher on tests and getting higher grades in school.  Is it because the music made them smarter or because their music study helped them learn consistent effort? 

Stay tuned for other articles encompassing all of the Let's Play Music Values.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Monday, September 14, 2015

Start With Piano! How Piano Study Prepares You

Does Billy dream of becoming an electric guitar player? Start with Piano!
Is Sally planning to be a violin maestro? Start with Piano!
Is Gretchen longing to jam on a trombone? Start with Piano!

No matter where your child is heading on his musical path, we know what STEP ONE is;  Developing a musical foundation of ear-training, note-reading, and piano-playing for 3 short years is the BEST way to launch on the right foot.

Advantages of Keyboard Learning
Want to play clarinet, or trumpet, or sousaphone? Yes, the keyboard is still the ideal first musical instrument.  Spend three years with us and you'll be a star in your orchestra/ marching band/ punk rock club.
First, every key on the keyboard relates directly to one note written on the staff. Go up the staff, go up the keyboard.  Step by step and skip by skip, the piano is a miraculous visual and tactile way to make sense of music notation. The keyboard’s arrangement promotes staff reading! Contrast this to a violin or a trumpet: step-wise notes are produced with random fingerings and positions. Ack! 

Learn to Read: the Right Tool
When a child is learning this all-new thing called reading music, let's take away the crazy tricky stuff, please.  The piano is the phonics storybook of the music world: so very logical and easy to deciper.  Extract the sesquipedalian and arcane circumlocution so a novice can decode your verbiage! You would not want that last sentence showing up in a kindergarten reading assignment, right? You would not give a dusty tome to a child, you'd give him a phonics book.

The saving grace for a LPM graduate when the time does come to learn a new and tricky instrument is that she already knows how to read music, and she already knows how it should sound.  Many LPM graduates can truly read the music: look at the notes and hear the melody in their mind. Check out our post to learn more about how we teach reading.  So next, hitting the note with the trumpet is pretty easy-peasy! She becomes the star of her concert band in no time! The foundational LPM years were SO worth it!

Contrast her experience with the student who can't discern any logic for how dots scattered on a paper correlate with fingering and instrument AND simultaneously does not have an inner ear helping him know if he hit the right tone! So tricky!

Part Of the Whole
The second reason the keyboard is a fantastic teaching tool is it gives the player the distinct ability to create all three elements of music – melody, harmony and rhythm – at the same time

Most songs we play in class have a melody played by the right hand, chords (harmonies) played by the left hand, and of course they can each use different rhythms.  Often the left hand provides a steady rhythm for us while the right hand plays something interesting.

When your child plays in the orchestra or band, she'll be playing only one part of the picture (and for most band instruments, only one note at a time).  If she plays flute, clarinet, or alto saxaphone, she'll probably play melody frequently.  If she plays french horn or baritone, more time will be spent harmonizing. Grasping what makes up the whole before narrowing down into the part is foundational for musicians.  A student who hasn't had practice listening to music and analyzing it for the parts might be frustrated to play a harmonizing part.

Multi-sensory Learning
Finally, the keyboard connects a child’s sense of touch and sight to the ear and mind, much like Solfeggio connects the voice to ear and mind and hands.  The student can see and feel the relationship of the melodic patterns he has internalized in Year One as he plays them on a keyboard.  A tactile feel of a step, skip, or leap further internalizes these relationships in the mind and ear.  

When a child sings a SFMRD and sees the notes going down on his staff in baby steps and simultaneously feels his fingers moving downward step by step, musical connections are made – not only in understanding the staff, but in understanding how music works.

The World is Your Oyster
This is a phrase I sometimes use with my students.  It means: You are in a position to take advantage of the opportunities life has to offer!  It's like the whole world is nothing but potential for creating pearls (or awesome experiences).  You've had a great whole-musician training, so NOW you are all set to excel in all kinds of music. Get out there and EXPLORE to find out where your passion may lie.

Here are some ways to expose your child to different instruments and musical venues:

* Take your child to the local symphony (many have special children's concerts and probably play some pieces you know from LPM!) Teacher Emy LeFevre in Chubbuck, ID (studio link) says: Our Idaho state civic symphony has a kid's Halloween concert and instrument "petting zoo". Kids love to try them out.

*If the symphony price tag or time commitment is prohibitive, take your child to the concert band, orchestra concerts, or musicals at your local high school.  If a particular instrument has a solo, quietly point it out to your child and help him identify the instruments.

* Watch parades and football games with a special eye on the band!  I refer to our sporting events as "Band Games."  I tell my son, "I really loved tonight's band game! You played so well!" It's no secret who I'm cheering for out there.  Help your child notice the different instruments as they perform.

* Visit music studios that form and coach youth bands (rock, jazz, Beatles cover, etc.)  Attend the student concerts so your child can see youngsters playing in small groups (and being awesome).  One such nationwide chain is School of Rock, but many independent local music businesses offer lessons in every instrument and help you form up a group! Call up any of these places and say "my child is considering lessons with you in the future, but we wan to check out your student performances/recitals first...when will they be?"

* Don't forget about PIANO! It's very motivational to listen to someone slightly older play something amazing. Kids get the idea "I could be doing that soon, too!"  In your area, google "piano teacher association" to find out if a local group is having contests and competitions- they can be exciting to watch.  Otherwise ask your potential future piano teacher if you can come to the next recital to hear the students perform.

* LPM Teacher Katie Anderson (Anthem, AZ studio link) suggests: Find family-friendly performances in your area. I took my kids to see a cute family of fiddlers performing group and my kids haven't stopped talking about it since.  And I got a ton of practice mileage off that show. Now they are entering a fiddling contest of their own! 

* LPM Teacher Megan Dougherty  in Westminster, CO (studio link) says: This summer we watched a few operas online through the Metropolitan Opera website (the kid friendly ones). I was expecting the kids to be bored but they LOVED them? I believe their puppet shows trained them to enjoy classical music!

* Don't forget singing! LPM Teacher Sarah McKay in Marietta, OH (studio link) says: For several years I have sung in the community choir hosted by the local college; my children would always have a chance to hear our performance. This year the college staged a children's choir and my daughter decided to audition- and she made it!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.

Let's Play Music Teacher

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

High Adventure in North Carolina: Sara DeVries

High Adventure Sara DeVries

Let's Play Music teachers come in all flavors. This month, we'd love to show you how fun it is when an adventure-loving woman like Sara turns her attention to teaching music in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sara's Philosophy: "The world is beautiful and people are good. Live and love fully, with no regrets."

Dreams accomplished: Sara has: danced on a roof in London, kissed on top of the Eiffel Tower, was a glacier guide in Alaska, swam with pink dolphins in the Amazon Jungle, was a river guide on the Main and Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, helped orphans in Ecuador, loved, lived among, and served Filipinos while on a volunteer mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter­day Saints, mountaineered above 20,000 feet, rappelled off the Grand Teton, summited Mt. Rainier, spoke Mandarin for a year, had a piece of writing published, stayed up all night in Scotland, went scuba diving in Mexico under a full moon, has two lovely children and a wonderful husband.

Dreams yet to come:
Sara plans to: see a sunset in Africa, learn yet another

language, live/travel with family to a foreign country, get a novel published, win a photography contest, be kind all the time, continually make a difference for good, perfect my Southern accent, have another baby! (due December 18, 2015)

Your Let’s Play Music History?
"I have been a Let’s Play Music teacher since 2008 and LOVE the program. I graduated in secondary education and enjoy being able to help develop young musicians and meaningful relationships with both parents and students. 

I taught for several years in Alpine, Utah, with a large studio (9 classes, 3 of each year) and am in my second year teaching in Charlotte, NC, with a small studio (3 classes in all). It's fun watching the program blossom here in the South."

Why Let’s Play Music? "After teaching in the public school system and wanting to stay home with two children, Let’s Play Music was a great fit for many reasons. 

I looked at the lesson plans and saw that all five learning types of students would be reached, that curriculum focused on movement, play and experience, and that the philosophy of Let’s Play Music centers on a quote from Plato, “The function of beauty in the education of children is to lead them imperceptibly to love through sensory experience what they will afterwards learn to know in its own form as an intelligible principle.” Beautiful! 

Let’s Play Music curriculum encourages me to teach in a way that comes naturally to me—through play, positive experiences, and relationship development. I love “leading” these darling children on their path to musicianship and I learn much from them, too!

What are some things that make your studio stand out?: It's fun to be in a class with a friend, or to have someone to carpool and share childcare with. To help current clients as well as new families know that their friends will have an opportunity to register, I pass around my waitlist monthly for clients to write their friends' names. I make sure not to completely fill my classes for the next year until I have contacted the new friends. Basically, friends and family get to register before the general public to ensure they get a spot!

To help make dancing to the song, “Baby step, leap” even more adventurous, we might pretend we are at the ball with lovely gowns on and we are dancing in the middle of the ballroom. We do the song with elegant steps and leaps and delicate trots “down again”. Especially for the boys, we might pretend we are in the middle of a jungle, surrounded by the enemy and we have to get across the room without stepping on any landmines/bombs. We step and leap through the jungle and run “down again” when we see the enemy. 

The first time I had second-year students graduating, I had a few that hadn’t missed a practice all year. At the end of year program, I rewarded them with  small gift and perfect practicers award. I also had the parents of these perfect practicers stand and receive a single rose. We all know that behind a perfect practicer is a dedicated parent!  Now my first year students already ask if they can be perfect practicers when they are in the second year! This also sets the tone for parents that expectation are both high and achievable for students to accomplish a perfect practice year. Of course I offer an opportunity for make-ups if students travel and miss a practice or two.

REGISTER for classes with Sara in Charlotte, NC, or contact her.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Itsy-Bitsy Spider Fun at Home

The Itsy Bitsy Spider, also sometimes sung as the Eensy Weensy Spider is a fun way to work on fine motor skills and dexterity in a playful way during Sound Beginnings class.  For young children, making fingers move independently and do just what they want can be frustrating and challenging.  Like the hero of our song, they'll have to overcome some obstacles and keep trying again and again to get their fingers to climb that spout!

Step-by-Step Instructions
When we adults demonstrate the spidery finger motions that go along with this song, youngsters are amazed by our dexterity! This website can teach you if you're not a master yet! 

Help your toddler by teaching with this washable-marker finger-painting trick, and by breaking actions down step-by-step. 
"Hold up both fists like me. Now point to the sky. Keep those fingers up, and let your thumbs come out." This may require some serious thinking, so leave time for figuring it out.

"I'm going to add some color dots to your fingers."  Put a red dot on one index finger and the opposite thumb.  Put a black dot on the other index finger and opposite thumb.
"Now make the red dots touch each other. Keep them touching...now make the black dot touch the other black dot."

"Keep the black touching, but let the reds come apart....weee...and then rotate them around so they can touch again. Now the black dots come apart...weee.  Keep climbing as we sing... it's okay to go slowly!"

Finger Puppet Fun
Here's a spidery finger puppet originally from Lalymom that's just right for Sound Beginnings students. Spiders have eight legs, so the fun comes when four of the legs are actually your kiddo's fingers, dancing and climbing and wiggling just like you'd expect.

Here's a clever time-saving tip for working with craft foam: use a plastic lid and a marker lid to PRESS into the craft foam instead of having to trace the shape.  

Materials Needed:
  Black craft foam
  Googly Eyes
  Pipe cleaners (2 black, 1 red)
  Plastic lid for pressing
  Marker lid for pressing
  Scissors, Glue

1. Place the lid on black foam and press down. Use scissors to complete the cutting of the imprinted circle. Press 4 circles (using the marker's lid) for finger holes. Complete cutting with scissors.
2.  Use scissors (or a pen) to poke 2 holes on each side for the black pipe cleaners, and feed them through the back. No need to cut them- they should be the right length.

3. Glue on eyes.

4. Poke 2 more holes below the eyes.  Fold red pipe cleaner in half and feed through the holes to make the mouth.  Now your puppet is ready to wear!

As a PIANO teacher, of course I love this particular puppet because I see some opportunity to encourage even more early finger control and dexterity in a fun way.  Make a spider for yourself, too, so you and your child can:

* Make your spider jump to the rhythm of the song while we sing (tap all fingers simultaneously on the table)
* Make your spider walk slowly (each finger taps one at a time-tricky!)
* Make your spider dance really fast (drum your fingers on the table)
* Make your spider copy mine (make up some spidery dances- 1,2,1,2 etc.)
* Repeat everything with a spider on your other hand
And of course...*Let's have our spiders go tickle someone (Daddy, Mommy, Sister, etc.)!

Spider Legs Build Strong Fingers
Strengthen fingers in yet another way with this game of adding and removing legs. You create a spider body from foam sheet and googly eyes, and the legs are bag clips.  Little hands and fingers get stronger from practice squeezing and controlling those clips.

We want to see YOUR cute spiders! Post pictures of any of your spidery crafts in the comments or on our Facebook Page!

Spiders Going Up Up Up
My other favorite spider craft is a little guy from this website that actually goes up and down his string.  Your child can make him go up and down as you sing together, visualizing the words of the song in action.

I also like to sing "up up up" (going up a scale in pitch) as the spider climbs up, and "down down down" (decreasing pitch).  If you have an older child in the Red Balloons semester of Let's Play Music, she should be really helpful at singing for your spider. Play glissandos on the piano or other instrument, too, to match your busy spider.

  One paper plate, painted black by your child
  Googly eyes
  One drinking straw
  String or yarn, beads for the ends
  Scissors, tape

1.  Cut the corrugated section off and save it. So you have one black circle.
2.  Trim the round shape to make it into a more spidery figure-8 shape.
2. Cut the corrugated section into 8 pieces and staple them on for legs. (Kids love to do the stapling!)
3. Glue or paint eyes.
4. Flip spidey over and tape down 2 short segments of drinking straw.
5. Thread the yarn through the straws and attach something (bead, broken crayon, whatever) to the bottom.
6. Attach the yarn up high, and as your child pulls the beads apart, the spider climbs.

We want to see YOUR spider in action!  Post photos or videos to our Facebook Page!

Who Else Can Play?
Red Balloon students will show off their major scales ascending and descending, but the rest of the family can help your spider sing, too, with this handy CHORD MAP to print off.  

If you have an autoharp at home, of course you'll want to use it, but second and third year students (and parents) can play piano chords to accompany your spidery song, and graduates will even be ready to transpose it to other keys!

Wind Down with Storytime
The story of our spider friend is fairly short, but several authors have expanded the story in sing-along picture books.  I enjoy the version by Iza Trapani (and her other singable storybooks), because we find out what the spider does in addition to climbing water spouts all day! Find it at your library or Amazon.

If your child is interested in spiders, pick up some more nonfiction books from the library to learn amazing facts like: Spiders are covered in water-repellant hairs.  That means they don't get wet when water hits them, they can float, many can live underwater for long periods, and...they can climb right back up the waterspout!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music teacher

Thursday, September 3, 2015

$100 For Our #LPMGrads

Hey, there Let's Play Music graduates! WHAT are you up to these days?  Perhaps the answer is...

You're busy WINNING $100!

Really, we want to know where you've gone.  Are you playing another instrument (violin? drums? trombone? piano?) or performing in musicals or singing in the local talent show or rocking with a band?!

Post a short VIDEO to Instagram, showing off your musical doings, and include the tags:  #LPMGrads and #letsplaymusic  You know those videos are VERY short. Use your phone. This will be easy.

Tell us when you graduated! Tell us who your teacher was! Tell us what you remember about your LPM days! We are super proud of you and want to show off how much you've grown up.

If your account is private, be sure to invite @ShelleSolfege to see your post so we can find you. If it's mom or dad reading this post, yes, parents can post on their accounts on the behalf of the student (but some of our grads are in their 20's already!)

Tell your friends and family to LIKE your post, and on September 30 we'll choose the 3  most-liked grads to win $100 VISA cards!