Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gift Ideas for Music Students

Some years it is more difficult to decide on Christmas gifts for my students than for anyone else! This was NOT one of those years :) There are so many possibilities. Ornaments, personalized recital videos, gift cards, and treats are some of the things I have given in the past. This year, I decided that I would make a favorite treat that friends and I have shared for years: Puppy Chow!

Puppy Chow? Wait a minute, what's that? Puppy Chow is basically Crispix cereal covered in melted chocolate and peanut butter, then covered in powdered sugar. It really looks quite similar to the food we feed to small puppies, and that's what's so much fun about it! Plus, it is delicious!

I made a double batch yesterday, purchased some adorable clip art graphics, and made these. I'm giddy about how cute they are :)

Drum roll please…


The front of the treat bag toppers says Merry Christmas and the back says Puppy Chow. I filled a cellophane treat bag with Puppy Chow goodness, stapled the toppers on, and here's the result. Hope my students like them!

I also made some Cookies 'n Cream Fudge for some friends of ours, and here's what the finished product looks like. The front of the treat bag toppers says Merry Christmas and the back says Cookies 'n Cream Fudge. I can't wait to put these in the mail! 

Please enjoy these free sets of treat bag toppers. Merry Christmas from The Plucky Pianista!

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to download your own set of toppers. Toppers with the names of the treat + Merry Christmas are included, as well as blank toppers. The links are below. Hope you enjoy :)

I've also added three additional treat bag toppers to my store. They're free as well! 

I'd love it if you leave some feedback after you download the toppers. Thanks so much!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Accompanying 101: 5 Tips for Beginning Accompanists

This post is featured as part of "The Top Influential Piano Blogs You Should Be Reading" at Digital Piano Review Guide. The post has been revisited, refreshed, and revamped to bring you even more tips for accompanists, and you can read the updated post here!


'Tis the season to employ your accompanying skills, or teach them to one of your students!

One of my high school students was asked by her high school choir director to accompany their Christmas concert this year. She has been practicing the music for about three weeks, and we have been working on her accompanying skills during her lessons.

Here are five tips for beginning accompanists that my students have found helpful, and hopefully your young accompanists will find them helpful as well.

Tip 1: 
Get a specific tempo from the director for each song before you begin practicing. You don't want to practice something too slowly or too quickly. It's best to know the performance tempo before you begin so that you know what your final performance goal is. 

Tip 2:
Three-hole-punch your music and put it in a binder as soon as you receive it. This will streamline your practice sessions and keep the music from falling off the piano as you as you work on your page turns.

Tip 3:
Practice the page turns so that they become a seamless part of the performance. Plan in advance whether you need to omit notes, what notes you will omit, and which hand will turn the pages so that you can practice that choreography. 

Tip 4:
Know how the director conducts entrances and cut-offs. If you have participated in choir or band, you are probably very aware of following the director. If not, this is something the director will have to help you get used to. Your piano teacher can work with you on this as well. 

Tip 5: 
Play musically. No matter what, no matter when, play musically. Think of accompanying as an artistic endeavor, and perform artistically. You will be supporting the choir in many ways, but supporting them musically will enhance the performance. 

These simple tips can make a first-time accompanist's rehearsals and performances run more smoothly, and they can greatly increase the likelihood that the accompanist will feel confident and have a positive experience. 

Do you have more tips for beginning accompanists to add to this list? Please comment below. I'd love to hear from you!