Saturday, June 2, 2018

Should I Enroll Both of My Children?

Hooray! Your kiddo is finally the right age to enroll in Let's Play Music and you are ready to roll.

But WAIT! You have ANOTHER child that is also the right age to enroll. Maybe they are twins. Maybe they are a few years apart. Should they be in the same class? 

Parents' Time Management

Many parents have HUGE success with siblings in the same class. 

In Let's Play Music, parents attend every other week in year one, and once per month in years two and three.  

If you only go through the cycle once, it saves you (parent) tons of effort arranging to attend on parent day and finding childcare for whichever one is not in the class.  For this reason alone, it is often a good idea to purposely plan to enroll in LPM when one child is 6 and the other is 4!

What will parent day be like with multiple kids? Your teacher will always welcome another adult to attend, but if that doesn't work for your family, you'll have one child by each knee when on the floor, and you'll be seated between their two keyboards during keyboard time.  

Don't worry- you will definitely be able to give hugs and high-fives and feedback to both kids. I have seen many parents succeed with two in a class. We will make sure that there is enough of you to share with your crew.

Family Practice

Many families also love having both kids enrolled in the same level because practice time can really be family time.  One mom told me, "During these few years, music is a big focus for all of us in the family, LPM is something we are all invested in, and we are all on the same page. The girls both learn the songs and sing for each other and cheer each other during practice. They both have similar practice assignment, similar chores, similar bedtime. It's easy to go to class together."

When the whole family is excited to do a puppet show together after dinner or a group rhythm game... family time is a fantastic re-creation of music class. So fun!

My Time to Shine

While some families are loving being in class together, there are few reasons you might decide to separate them.

One mom told me that it was very important for her older daughter to have her own thing to shine at without being upstaged by a little sister. She hoped that her younger daughter would be even more excited to take LPM after watching and waiting for a year or two.  "She needs to see that the class is an honor that comes with age, and I don't want her to be competing directly with her sister."

There was another benefit, too. "Because she's the big sister and in LPM, we let her stay up 15 minutes later from bedtime to do her practice. She feels cool because she's a big girl doing serious practice, and her sister looks forward to that someday."

Rates of Learning

If your children (or you) are competitive, having two in the same year can lead to stress.  Children (even of the same age) will learn in slightly different ways and at slightly different rates.  

Your 6 year old will play songs with excellence. During the 2nd and 3rd year, she will be able to play at full speed with both hands, and may even be given extra challenges from the teacher. 

Meanwhile, the child who starts at age 4 will understand the concepts and be able to perform the skills, but may do so a slower speed. During year 2 and 3 she may never reach the highest level of "polish" on songs.  


We ensure that students understand and love the concepts, but rather than take time to bring every student to the highest level of polish, we spend a set amount of time on each song and skill.

As a parent of two children at different ages, are you prepared to show delight and congratulations and joy at progress by both of them, even if results vary? 

And here is a secret side note... starting ear training as EARLY as possible leads to best's possible the younger sibling becomes better at hearing and identifying intervals, melodic patterns, and chord progressions, even though her older sibling can do the technical parts of making music better! (You, parent, will learn aural skills in class as well, but it will probably take you a LOT longer than your kids to rewire your brain.)

Sibling Personalities

Also consider the personalities of your children.  Will the younger one fall into despair if she cannot keep up with her older sibling? (Note: this is an opportunity for some heart-to-heart conversations about realistic expectations that YOU have and that SHE can have.) If you already know it's going to be a struggle for her... let her wait and do LPM on her own. 

Will your older child lord over her sister, or will she coach her and cheer her on? (Again, be prepared for some parenting! This is a great springboard for coaching her on how to have perspective and be kind.)

Poor Lost Souls

Every year I have a few parents enrolling a student and it turns out that there's an older brother or sister at home who missed out on Let's Play Music, usually because it wasn't available here or they didn't know about me!  (By the way, some areas have PRESTO for ages 7-12.)

YOU, parent, are going to be in class seeing everything that is taught, and YOU are welcome to sing the songs and share the ideas with your older kids at home. Parents are always amazed at what better musicians they become by attending with their child. Now, take that feeling home and share with everyone.  Nobody is a poor lost soul.

The worst case scenario was when one mom told me, "I feel bad enrolling Tommy because I never did this for Johnny." EEK!  

I told her, "As parents we do the best we can for our children with what we have at the time! When you find something amazing, partake as much as you can and share as much as you can. No guilt allowed, because years ago you were ALSO doing the best you could with what you had!"  True, that.

So, WELCOME to Let's Play Music! We are so happy to have your family.

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Writing is Fundamental.

Music is a Language. We Must Read AND Write.

Imagine the following scenario: a 17-year old with straight A's is ready to graduate from high school.  

You hand her a difficult piece of prose to read, which she does well. 

Next, you ask to write something original in the next 5 minutes--a short essay on something of her choice.  She stares blankly, then says "I've never written anything before."

"OK," you say. "Well, I'll tell you a sentence or two, and you can write that down."

You are met with a stare again as she says, "I can't do that."

We'd be shocked if someone could graduate high school without ever having written anything before, or even being able to write down what someone says.

But, in music, we're guilty of this ALL THE TIME.

What's up with Writing Music?

People with many years of lessons under their belts can read music fluently, but often have never written a note on paper, and can't even begin to write down the music they hear.  

In fact, I wonder whether a person ever actually does learn to read ANY language fluently if they don't have experience writing words and connecting the written word to the spoken one.  We begin teaching this skill to students in preschool who are mastering English. 

We might ask if a student, like the high school student in the story above, even has a real understanding of the music she plays.  Or, is she like the allegory of a monkey who can type Portugese--a monkey can be trained to look at the symbols and push the corresponding buttons on the typewriter but has no understanding of the meaning of what she types.

Sadly, there are too many music students who are like this.

How do we Train Musicians, not Typists?

We can overcome the weak trend in music education. It starts with having students write music.  

Just this week, one of my younger students, who is starting her third year of piano, started writing a short piece.  When she started to write middle C, I pointed out that what she was playing was in fact a C but one octave higher, and should be written as such.

She exclaimed, "Oh! That's why that C is at the third space!"  And this was a student who has been reading and playing notes for 2 years and doing well for her age.  The exercise of doing it the opposite way-- when you can see the keyboard and the note you want, and you can hear it, and then you have to figure out how to write it on the staff-- this registers differently in the brain. It registers is a way that is likely to stick and reinforce what we're teaching.

Better Writers = Better Performers

Not every studio teacher will be comfortable or experienced in helping students write their own original music.  Even allowing the space and time for students to do this for a few minutes' of lesson time can have great benefits and help them accelerate ALL of their learning and musicianship.

I know when I began to compose, I found it not only fun and fulfilling, but the exercise made me a much better performer because I saw everything-- dynamics, phrase marks, articulations, repetitions-- in a new light.  

I knew, then, exactly why a composer would put those symbols in because I had put those same symbols in my music to gain a desired result.

Shall we Transcribe?

Even if the activity isn't truly composition, great results can be had from transcribing an easy piece or folk song. This can actually be a very effective way to help students learn key signatures: transcribing simple songs in keys with three or four sharps or flats to help students internalize what the key signature really means and why it is so important.

Similar results can be had in the domain of rhythm. Most students, even at a beginning level can quickly develop a good sense of rhythm by clapping and tapping along with their favorite songs.  Converting that clapping to written symbols is difficult for many students (and teachers). 

Of course, doing drills and working on the reading aspect will help, but don't overlook simply taking a student's favorite song and having them try to write out the rhythm themselves. 

I know this can be time-consuming and it is tempting to think, "I don't have time for that!"  But it has been my experience that an hour or two devoted to doing this for even a few bars of a couple of songs comes back with many returns in the form of much quicker learning through rhythms in every piece a student attempts after having done it. 

Learn By Doing it YOUR Way

Composing and transcribing is fun! All students, but especially kids of this generation, want to do things their own way.  They enjoy being creative, whether that's in the form of improvisation or creating their own music or arranging their own way of playing a popular song.

Students will enjoy lessons more and internalize more if they're creating their own way to play something they like.

One of my favorite things about Let's Play Music is that it gets students writing and allows them to finish the curriculum with a short piece they invented themselves.  

All of us who help these students continue their studies, and especially those of us who have students who have never written music themselves, must take every opportunity to get students putting the music they make, see, hear, and play down on the page themselves.

The rewards are always worth the time spent to both students and teachers.

- Dr. Kris Maloy is an award-winning composer, arranger, and performer. He has served as a professor at several different universities and taught students of all ages through Gold Lantern Music, the studio he founded in Fort Collins, CO.

In Spring 2018, we are happy to have Dr. Maloy as a guest judge for our own Let's Play Music composers.  We have over 1500 3rd-year students in the USA and Canada, and each of them has written an original piece of music before graduating from our program. And, we are happy to tell Dr. Maloy, they still have ten years before they get to graduation.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sound Beginnings Articles

If you're a Sound Beginnings Parent, we've collected some blog posts that will be most helpful to you:

Sun, Moon, and Stars: Why we teach patterns in Sound Beginnings class. Learn the reasons AND get ideas for playing with patterns in your daily life here.

Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick! Here are 3 more fun ways to enjoy this nursery rhyme and extend learning at home. Read more here

If you love to sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, be sure to check out these extension activities and crafts for more fun at home. Read more here.

Solfege is a powerful tool for ear training and singing skills. Find out why it works, why we use it in class, and how you can learn solfege quickly in this series:

Part One Here
Part Two Here
Part Three Here

Let's Sing! In PART ONE, learn why singing is a fundamental musicianship skill and essential for ear training. Read it here.

In PART TWO, help your child sing on pitch and match pitch with some exercises and activities. Read it here.

Ready for a fun exercise? Turn your favorite story books into song! Story time just reached a new level of greatness! Read our post and enjoy some easy to sing books- or create your own.

Discover the Pentatonic Scale in this post here. This simple five-note scale is a basic learning tool for musicians and children all around the world. Bobby McFerrin gives a demonstration showing how humans naturally internalize the pentatonic scale.

Why do youngsters need so much repetition in learning? Find out in this post and learn how to apply layered repetition to your own learning and teaching- you'll be able to remember every song you know!

Understand instrument families with this post: how we categorize the instruments of the orchestra and how we help students hear the different timbres they make. Sound Beginnings instrument day is a "petting zoo of instruments" for your child!

Understand the heart maps in your workbook, and learn more about helping your child develop the ability to find and keep a steady beat with some games and tips in this post.

You might also enjoy these topics from our FIRST YEAR STUDENT articles:
Big Ideas that Shape Let's Play Music:
Have a request for a post? Leave a comment below! Fresh posts come every month to help you get more from class by playing at home.

Third Year Articles

If you're a third- year student or parent, let us help you find the articles that are most helpful. 

The Purple semester begins in a few weeks! Let us help you and your student refresh your piano skills so you'll be totally prepared for the MAGIC. Find out how here.

If your child is working on learning Cockles and Muscles, check out these tips and tricks to help overcome the challenging parts of this song. Read them here.

How much technique do we need when teaching beginning pianists? Our program focuses on building complete may be surprised to read our take on technique.  Read more here.

What technique and posture do we cover? Find out here.

Make a major scale ANYWHERE on the keyboard using your ear and following a pattern of tones and semitones (Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half.) Read more here.

Our 'Magic Keys' song is packed with music theory. In this post we'll lay out everything you heard in the song, and show you how you can find Do from ANY key signature. Read more here.

CEG is the C triad or C chord. Is it Red, Yellow, or Blue?  The answer is... it can be any of them!  A chord's role depends on SCALE DEGREES and where Do is. Read more here.

Memorization helps you get ready for your recital AND has loads of brain-boosting benefits. Here are tips to help you memorize painlessly and keep those songs in the bank forever! Read more here.
Practice Habits: Parents need to develop habits of their own to become consistent cheer leaders and practice reminders.  Here are a few tried and true ways to get going on your habit so you can, in turn, help your child. Read more here.

You hope your child practices because he LOVES making music, but right now he's only motivated by extrinsic factors.  Here's a guide for talking to your child about piano practice in a way that nurtures the developing intrinsic motivation. Read more here.

Looking for more ease and peace at practice time? Author Carol Tuttle, the Child Whisperer, helps you adjust practice habits for your child's personality in this post here.

Frustrated with your child's practice time? One strategy for bringing peace and ease back into this family routine is adjusting expectations. Read more here.

When is the right time to use flashcards to drill reading skills and note skills? The answer might surprise you! Read the post here to find out and make some fun progress at note reading mastery.

Reading and playing is a mental process, so here are some tips, games, and tiny flashcards to help you master note reading at the piano. Read more here.

Do you get worried when your pianist isn't looking at the music? She's playing by ear.... is that bad? Read this article to learn when and how to guide note reading.  Read more here.

Our culminating semester of Let's Play Music is called Orange Roots- it's all about the culmination of musicianship after laying 2.5 years of roots that cover all aspects of musicianship. It's also about how playing with chords and chord roots provides a foundation for composition and improvisation. Check it out here.

Playing chords in different styles is one of the secret superpowers held by musicians. Our students learn chord styles and change them up with some classic songs. Check it out here.

Learn a bit about Johann Strauss II and the real story behind the music for our skater's waltz puppet show. Read the story here.

Don't get too scared! Our Monsters puppets show uses dramatic music by Prokofiev. It's tricky to keep two themes running simultaneously, but you can learn how in this post.

Chords are a foundation for understanding music, composition, and improvisation. This classic song demonstrates what you can do with just one chord- check out some of the ways we use Paint to explore chords and inversions at many levels, in this post.

Discover the pentatonic scale and why it's such a great teaching tool for musicians. You'll be surprised to find out how this scale is popular around the entire world! Read more here

Variation is an important element to composition. See how we use Twinkle Twinkle to help teach this idea. Read more here.

The connections songbook and program: every graduate needs it!  See how we transition students from our Let's Play Music program into mainstream private piano lessons. Read more here

Have a request/ topic for an article? Leave a comment below! New posts come out every month to help you get the most from class by playing at home.

Big Ideas in the Third Year:

More Ways to Succeed in Third Year:

Check out These Examples of Third Year Compositions:
A Few More Interesting Topics:
CLICK HERE for posts about our CORE VALUES

CLICK HERE for Second Year Topics

CLICK HERE for First Year Topics

CLICK HERE for Sound Beginings Topics  

First Year Articles

If you have a first year student, let us help you find the articles that are most helpful right now!  

Have a request for a topic/post? Leave a comment below. New articles come out regularly to help you get the most from music class by playing and learning at home

Parent involvement is the single most critical factor determining a student's long-term achievement in music. In Let's Play Music, parents attend class with students, and they don't just watch! Find out the why, the what, and the how of being an awesome music parent in this post.

The first year of the Let's Play Music program is light on the practice schedule, but when recital time comes, it's time to ramp up the regular, recorded practices with an intention of polishing the recital songs. Get a fun practice chart and some ideas in our blog post here.

Solfege is a powerful tool for ear training and singing skills. Find out why it works, why we use it in class, and how you can learn solfege quickly in this series:

Let's Sing! In PART ONE, learn why singing is a fundamental musicianship skill and essential for ear training. Read it here.

In PART TWO, help your child sing on pitch and match pitch with some exercises and activities. Read it here.

YES. We do teach perfect (absolute) pitch. Find out what this term means, how we teach it, and how it will benefit your child. Superpowers, here you come! Read the post here.
Ready for a fun exercise? Turn your favorite story books into song! Story time just reached a new level of greatness! Read our post and enjoy some easy to sing books- or create your own.

One facet of ear training is recognizing major and minor sounds. We have lots of fun training with a classic song and teach you a cup-passing-game in this post.

Have some pitch-matching, ear-training fun at home with your tone bells and a classic memory game. Find out how in this post.

We use vocal channeling to expand your range with this Halloween song. Plus some trick-or-treating with memorable melodies. There's even a coloring page just for fun. Read about it here.

Tambourine Train: Understand the difference between BEAT and RHYTHM, and learn more about helping your child find and keep a steady beat with some games and tips in this post.

Ever wondered: what exactly is ear training and what can it do for you? Find out a bit more from an ear training expert by reading this post.

Meet the BLUE BUGS! We use rhythm syllables to teach accurate and easy rhythm reading- find out how. Read the article here

How can building blocks and jungle drums help teach musical rhythms? Check out clever ways to think about subdividing beats in this article. Read more here.

The autoharp gives students a chance to read chords, play accompaniment, sing, and keep rhythm. Even without a harp at home, you can practice skills from class: read this post to see how.

We sing several traditional nursery songs in each of our programs. Find out why (and read to find out what happens next to the 3 blind mice) in this post.

Chords are a foundation for understanding music, composition, and improvisation. This classic song demonstrates what you can do with just one chord- check out some of the ways we use Paint to explore chords and inversions at many levels, in this post.

Make a major scale artwork to display in your home, starring YOUR CHILD. SO CUTE. Read more here.

Big Ideas that Shape Let's Play Music:
More Fun Ways to Succeed in First Year:
 Even More Interesting Topics:

CLICK HERE for posts about our CORE VALUES

CLICK HERE for Second Year Topics

CLICK HERE for Third Year Topics

CLICK HERE for Sound Beginings Topics