mozart had to start somewhere (a.k.a. rhythm composition in lessons)

File May 18, 9 30 14 AMIt is known that starting music at an early age can bring about some powerful things in a person’s life (thank you mom!) and Mozart is one of those examples of a student who grew up in a musical house and this complex thing of learning an instrument became a game and pastime for him and his father. Now, we aren’t trying to create “prodigies” here, but even simple musical games played during a person’s childhood can form some powerful connections.

So let’s get down to what is really important – rhythm. Instead of trying to approach things academically with a three year-old, I find it best to approach it from a composition game angle. With this I use two powerful tools: composition card
s
and a drum beat app.

File May 18, 9 30 38 AMThe lovely pianist who runs the website pianimation has created fantastic tools for rhythmic composition (and you can find her explanation of them here.) Each 4/4 measure is the size of half of a sheet of regular 8.5×11 paper, so it makes composing measures easy for kids! I have a few different sizes of colored paper that represent the types of measures I am asking them to create to give them a road map to then be creative. I love this as it is not just drilling flashcards or etudes, but giving the student autonomy over their learning.

This alone is great for learning rhythms, but in order to get that internal pulse going I have added the use of my favorite drum app called Drum Beats +. By adding a fun beat at the tempo the student can handle we can explore and create lots of music that fuels their internal pulse. Music is the only subject that if you don’t come up with the right answer at the right time then you are wrong – adding drum beats shows students this and propels them forward.

The magic combination of composition cards and a drum track has been trans-formative for my studio. And anytime I can use a funk beat to get my point across, then I’m happy 🙂

Download the rhythm composition HERE!iTunesArtwork

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improv and teaching resources (and a monkey.)

Prompts-for-Piano-ebook-sample-950x629-600x397There are so many wonderful teachers that provide and share resources, but no one organizes quite like a piano teacher (as hard as the rest of us try…)

Joy Morin from Color In My Piano has oodles of fascinating teaching tools she generously shares on her blog, and the one that intrigued me most today was a composition/improv prompt ebook she is selling entitled Composition and Improvisation for the Piano ($16.)

What this makes me want to do is to set some similar parameters for my cello students to help them with exploring the idea of improv on our beautiful instruments. So much of what we do is interpreting notes and memorizing what composers have set forth, so anytime I can throw in something that encourages a student to explore their creativity then I’m all in!

Prompts-for-Piano-ebook-cover-950x629-600x397Maybe if I created flash cards with a simple visual, and on the back had specific notes they were limited to, with dynamic/articulation options…this could be a great start! Thank you Joy for the inspiration!