Friday, August 9, 2013

Brush Up on Piano Skills for Fall

August is here, and that means Let's Play Music classes are starting up soon!  If your child has already completed year two (Yellow Arrows), a few weeks of brush-up practice can really help your youngster get back in the groove for the upcoming purple class.

The Student Helps Decide
Just as we suggest for the school-year, chat with your child about practicing and have him be part of the decision-making.  Which days will we be in town to practice?  What time of day will we practice?  How many days will we practice (perhaps 5/week).  Make a chart to keep track of each week.  Your child might want to draw a simple 5 shapes to color in, or you might want to make a table or use any variety of printable charts.


Why are We Doing This?
Talk up the joys of returning to class.  "You learned so many great things last year, I really want your fingers to remember what they could do, so you can learn some new fun things!"
Be understanding of your child's feelings.  "Remember how last year it took a while to learn the chords, and was really tricky.  It might feel tricky at first because we haven't practiced for a few weeks, but I'm so excited for you to have fun playing these songs again."
Help him remember his favorite things from class. "I remember how much fun you had playing this song last Spring.  Let's practice it a few times so it can be fun again.  Your teacher is going to be so surprised to see that you're even better at this than you were last Spring!"

Design Your Practice
Even without a weekly assignment from your teacher, you can put together a nice practice routine with these guidelines.  Once you decide what you'll work on (let your child have some input as to what he thinks needs work), write it out on his chart so your he knows the assignment.  Choose one item from each category each week
  • Warm up each day with a review of the Red, Yellow, and Blue chords.  Use "Primary Cadence"; choose block, marching, or broken style.  Or play the "Primary Chords Song".  Or practice shifting between 2 chords (red, blue, red, blue, red).  If each hand is perfect, move to hands together.
  • Work on technique, focusing on curved bubble-fingers and individual finger control.  Play "The Caterpillar Song", "Do Re Mi" (remember the pops?), "Bug Scale", or "Scale in and Out"
  • Polish up some repertoire with chording.  Although some of these songs are written for right hand, your child should try it with left hand instead, or both hands if each is perfect.  Use "Love Somebody", "Lullaby and Goodnight", "Tingalayo", or "When the Saints Go Marching In." Several Green Songbook songs would be fun, too.
  • Polish up some repertoire with two hands.  Remember to start by playing only one hand (Mom, you get to play the other hand for a nice duet.)  Then get back into playing hands together.  Use "I'm an Indian", "How to Skip", "Practice Everyday" or "Hickory Dickory Dock."
  • Learn something new. Be adventurous! Try learning the melody with right hand to Green songbook songs like "Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Firetruck", "Halloween is coming",  "Johnny's Hammers", or Yellow Songbook songs like "Love Somebody." Although the notes are printed small, your child (with a little bit of help) can probably figure out the melodies to almost all of our songs, remembering to take it slow and look at steps, skips, and intervals.  Mom, you can play the accompaniment for a duet, and if your child learns the right hand really well, learn both hands to WOW your teacher!

Be There. Have Fun
Now that you have a practice chart and a list of things to work on, be there with your child as he gets back into the practicing groove.  Cheer for all the bits he remembers well, and take it slow on the bits he has forgotten.  Focus on having fun (sing! be silly! be surprised! play your duet! play along with the CD!) and remember that a few giggles with your child will buy mounds more success than approaching the new year with tears or fears.  See you soon!

-Gina Weibel, MS
Let's Play Music Teacher


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