Thursday, June 20, 2013

Penguintervals Flash Cards

Looking for a fun way to review intervals with your students? Try Penguintervals flash cards! Nine pages of seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths are included in this adorable set of flash cards, for a total of 54 unique interval cards plus extra pages each containing the intervals in text format. These little blue penguins with intervals on their tummies are the perfect way to review line and space notes, interval recognition, and playing intervals on the piano or other instrument. They could also be used for sight-reading, song-writing, improvisation, matching games, and lots of other ways! The student could place a select number of cards on the music rack and play the intervals one after another as a sight-reading activity or song, or a specific interval could be used repeatedly for an improvisation activity. Students could also use a select number of interval cards, plus the corresponding number of text cards, to play a memory match game. No clef sign is included, so the Penguintervals could be used as either treble or bass clef flash cards. The cover page and a sample page of 2nds and 3rds, as well as a sample page of the interval in text format, are below. 

What are some other ways you could use Penguintervals? Add your comments below! 

You may purchase the entire set of Penguintervals in my store

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"I've Got the Blues"

Today was our "I've Got the Blues" summer group class for some of my younger students. They listened to some blues songs, learned some rhythm patterns they could use to play the blues, they learned the C blues scale, and they also learned to play some rhythm instruments so we could all play together as a band. Our rhythm section included sandblocks, jingle bells (we referred to it as a tambourine today), castanets, a triangle, rhythm sticks, and maracas. Of course we used the piano too! I'll tell you about the fedoras and sunglasses in a minute...

When students first arrived, we all listened to several short clips of a variety of blues songs to get students into a "blues mood", and we did a few movement activities along with the music to help them feel the beat and prepare them for the next part of the class. Then I gave a multi-page handout to the students. One page of the handout included several rhythm examples they could choose from to help them improvise on a blues scale. Another page contained pictures of blues scales the students could play (we played the C blues scale today), and another page included information on free apps with blues jam tracks students could download and play along with at home.

We practiced some of the rhythm examples together, then we all chose different rhythm instruments on which to play the rhythms. Once the students were 100% comfortable with two of the rhythms, we divided into small groups and played them at the same time to prepare students for performing the different rhythms along with the piano. The next thing we did was take turns improvising on the C blues scale, using two or three notes at first, then more notes according to the comfort level of each student. To help the students locate the notes of the C blues scale easily, I placed little pieces of painter's tape (it was blue of course!) onto the piano keys. As each student improvised a blues melody at the piano, the other students and I each selected a rhythm instrument to play. We each chose a rhythm and all played together, taking turns at the piano until each student had a turn.

Then the fun really started! I had downloaded three free apps of jam tracks from the App Store, so I selected the C Major track from the free version of Guitar Jam Tracks, tapped "Play", and we all jammed together with the track. Each student spent a little more than one minute at the piano, and I played Jennifer Eklund's "Bluesy Tuesday"(which was the perfect piece for today, our very own bluesy Tuesday!) as a closer to our blues performance along with the track. Then we donned fedoras and sunglasses, which I found at Dollar Tree for $1 each, and we were ready to go! We jammed a little longer so the students could get more comfortable with the idea of improvising in front of one another, while wearing dark sunglasses, and so they could get used to switching places quickly when their turn at the piano was over.

Then we waited until their parents/grandparents came to pick them up. Once their adults arrived, I filled them in on what we had done during class, and we performed our song "Rainy Day Blues", so named because it had been rainy all day! One of the parents asked us what the name of our band was, so we decided on "The Rainy Day Blues Band". Meet our band in the picture below!

This class was a blast! I only wish I had made the class longer than one hour, and that I had recorded a video of the final performance. The parents and grandparents seemed really pleased with what the students had learned in such a short amount of time (I know I sure was!), and now the students have the knowledge and tools they need to play the blues at home!

A couple of my high school students will be taking a blues class later this summer, and for them, I plan to incorporate something similar to these blues improv sheets from

I've included the handout from today's class as a free download. Click here for a copy of "I've Got the Blues!" and here for a copy of the page/sign I created for my laptop.

If you use these blues sheets with your students, please let me know. I'd love to hear how it goes! If you know of someone who would enjoy this idea, use the sharing buttons on the left or pin the image below to let them know about it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Ultimate Pre-Staff Sight-Reading Program for Beginners!

After blogging about The Great Sight-Reading Challenge last July and this May, I immediately began working on a pre-staff and partial-staff version of The Great Sight-Reading Challenge so students who were at the very beginning of their piano studies could participate in the challenge. My goal was to create at least ten sets of sight-reading sheets (the final project includes 12), with sixteen examples in each set, for students who were not yet reading music on the staff. Some of the examples would be fingers 2 and 3 on two black keys, fingers 2, 3, 4 on three black keys, all 5 fingers on white keys, and partial-staff examples of 2nds through 5ths. The complete Table of Contents and sample pages are below. 

I was so excited when, earlier this week, Joy at Color in My Piano blogged "The Role of Intervalic Reading when Reading Music". The timing of her post coincided almost perfectly with the completion of The Great Sight-Reading Challenge: Pre-Staff Edition, which includes quite a few sight-reading examples requiring students to read by intervals! If you haven't read her post yet, read it, because she does a beautiful job explaining the importance of intervals in the music reading process. 

If you want all of your students to get a head start on sight-reading, get your copy of "Sight-Read Like a Rockstar" (formerly known as The Great Sight-Reading Challenge: Pre-Staff Edition) and your students will be sight-reading like rockstars in no time! 

Do you know someone else who needs pre-staff sight-reading materials? Use the sharing buttons on the left or pin the image below to let them know about this fun set of sight-reading pieces!