Throwback Thursday: At the 2014 Spring Recital, Josue Levis Jr. performed “Starry Night” composed by Carol Matz.
Category Archives: Piano & Keyboard Lessons
Holly Hughes was the first student in Expressive Keys Studio to reach the Memory Challenge during the 2016-2017 school year. In fact, she pushed herself to memorize above and beyond her goal. By the end of May, she aspired to have 25 pieces memorized and ready to share whenever the opportunity emerged.
Mali Hanner plays Got Those Blues from the Adult Alfred series. It’s her first year learning to play blues, and she is enjoying every moment of it.
Vanna Chun learned Harvest Festival by Martha Mier. Her dynamic contrast and expression has developed immensely through this piece.
Abigail Fisher, Sophia Fisher and Jamie Fenton play an arrangement of Amazing Grace. Playing six hands at the piano is no easy task, but so worth the effort to make music together!
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the months of February and March seem to be the time of year that students begin to slack in their practicing. With a little planning, tools and communication, it won’t take too much time to encourage your kids to continue mastering their art.
1. Watch it
Set aside an evening together and look up YouTube videos of students their own age playing the piano. Record your children playing a song of their own and share it with friends and family.
2. Be Consistent
Establish a practice schedule together. Rehearsing the same time every day creates consistency and a good routine. As students practice daily, they will be naturally inspired by their own progress. If they can’t seem to stay focused during the chosen time, rearrange the schedule or break it up. Try practicing half the time before leaving for school in the morning and half the time when they arrive home from school in the afternoon.
3. Keep it all together
Provide a system that helps your kids stay organized. If they can’t find their music to practice, they waste time, energy, and may give up quickly. Using a basket or a reusable grocery bag to hold their music and assignments is a simple way to keep it all together.
4. Motivation is key
Provide an incentive for consistent practice. Going on a vacation during Spring Break? Choose a fun place or activity for your kids to do during the vacation. Create short, attainable goals for them to reach in order to do that fun activity. For example, every 5 days they practice, they earn points toward the fun activity. Keep track of it on your smartphone. There must be an app for that! If you know one, please share in the comments below!
If all else fails, some students simply need to be pushed. Talk about expectations of piano practice (30 minutes each day, 5 days a week, M-F) and explain the consequences for not practicing (no digital devices over the weekend; an extra chore for each day they didn’t practice). They can “earn” their privileges back by practicing extra to make up for lost time.
Have you found successful ways to keep students motivated?
Vanna Chun performs “Morning” by Edvard Grieg, arranged by Faber, in her lesson.When Vanna found out that I wanted to post her video to YouTube, it motivated her practice and memorize this piece within no time!
Every year, my piano teacher hosted two piano recitals. Even though I practiced and practiced, I could not overcome the stage fright until my senior year of high school.
So, here are 5 tips to help you execute a successful performance.
1) Practice Performing
There isn’t a better way to become comfortable performing then by doing it. My mother would have each of us kids perform one or two pieces for anyone who walked through our door – even the guy who repaired our appliances. Find opportunities to share your music. Be courageous!
2) Practice Acting
Stage freight starts in the mind. Pretend you are an actor or actress. Imagine that you are someone else on stage. It may sound strange, but it psychologically helped me to overcome my fear of feeling vulnerable.
3) Practice Imagining
Walk through the entire performance (even in the clothes you would wear). Sit in a chair near the piano. Imagine that there are people and other performers surrounding you. Walk to the piano, and adjust the bench to a good distance. Take a deep breath and perform for your “audience”. Remember to bow at the end of your performance!
4) Practice Ghosting
Have you ever tried to play your piano piece on a hard surface while singing it in your mind? One of my teachers called it “ghosting”, like you are moving your fingers without hearing the actual sound. If you have a memory glitch without even playing the piece on the piano, then you most likely will have it when actually play the instrument. Review that passage and practice ghosting again.
5) Practice Breathing
Yes, it may sound like a blonde joke, but it’s true. You need to make sure that you are breathing when you play. Take deep breaths during the challenging passages. Oxygen to the brain can only be a good thing when you are under pressure.
Each year, I introduce a new challenge for my students to engage in. At the end of the school year, the students who attained the goal are honored with a trophy! For the 2014 – 2015 school year, my challenge to each student in my studio is to practice 200 days from September – May! This comes out to approximately 5-6 days per week. Each day they practice, they will fill in a star on the chart below (click to download and print). The first student to reach 200 days will receive special recognition! Parents, please hold your children accountable by having them come to you first before they fill in the star.
If you would like to use other charts, I have found a few others online that might appealing. I’m looking forward to a successful year of practice!
At the beginning of the summer, I challenged each of my students to name all of the notes on the grand staff in one minute. Lesson after lesson, I would set the timer and use flashcards to test them.
One of the first students to attain this goal almost didn’t try it a second time. She named them in 1 minute and 24 seconds. I encouraged her to overcome her fear of failure by being courageous. She decided to overcome her fear and try again. When she saw the timer, her eyes shined with excitement. She made it in exactly 1 minute! She almost couldn’t believe that she really attained that goal!
Sometimes it takes the extra bit of encouragement to help students move toward their goals. Teachers and parents, don’t give up! Keep on encouraging! It may be the moment that helps them reach the stars!
This week is the last week for students to fulfill this challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing how many more students will name those notes in a minute!
Do you have any great ideas to encourage students to memorize notes on the grand staff?