2016-2017: “A Musical Year”

Monday, September 26, 2016 by Lisa Barwell | Games

Week Five

This week, students continued to enjoy sight-reading with Sheldon and Maxwell.  We are learning to think about notes, rhythm, dynamics, and other important details before playing.  Sheldon and Maxwell make it fun!

Older students enjoyed a game break this week!  We learned how to play “Pitch It,” a game that helps us practice naming enharmonic notes.


Younger students had a fun time reviewing finger numbers and piano keys with “Lumber Jack,” one of our all-time favorite games!

Some highlights from my week were hearing several students come into their lesson saying they are really enjoying their recital pieces and seeing one of my youngest student’s awesome hand posture!

2016-2017: “A Musical Year”

Friday, September 16, 2016 by Lisa Barwell | Sightreading

Week Four

It’s the fourth week into the semester and we’re starting to settle into a routine.  Students (well, most of them) are filling in their weekly practice logs that are on their assignment sheets, they are enjoying their binders, and we’re looking forward to recitals and other events.

One of the special things that many students did this week was choosing music for the October recital and Federation Festival.  Festival isn’t until February, but we like to plan ahead to allow plenty of time for everyone to memorize their music.  We like to avoid last minute stress!

Students who participate in Federation Festival are required to have a flashdrive that clips into their binder.  I was able to take several of these flashdrives this week and put a recording of their Festival solo onto it.  I loved using my new digital piano to record the solos!

Several students also started to learn how to play lead sheets.  We are using this fun book from the Teach Piano Today’s Book Club.

Not all students could do the above activities so we had fun playing theory games.  Some reviewed note values and tried to not wake the dinosaur with “Slumbersaurus”; some found and labeled all the 2 and 3 black key groups and continued practicing that with “Rock On!”; and some solidified their knowledge of pentascales using “Pentapillars”!



However, as fun as all of these other activities were, the highlight of most students’ week was sightreading!  Last year, we met Sheldon T. Squirrel and did one page a week as a sight-reading exercise.  They were eagerly anticipating meeting Maxwell A. Skunk this year and were all so sad that we only did one page this week.  Our goal for sightreading is to get it right the first time so students have to study the exercise before playing.  After they finish, we say “two stars and a wish.”  The stars are two things they did well (correct notes, good rhythm, etc.) and the wish is something they wish they did but will try to remember to do next time (dynamics, hold the half note, etc.).


It was a full week!  I’m looking forward to hearing the progress they’ve made on their recital pieces and lead sheets next week.  Fall is always an exciting time in the studio!

2016-2017: "A Musical Year"

Friday, September 9, 2016 by Lisa Barwell | Composing

Week Three

Group classes this week were fun!  We learned a little about the Renaissance era.

Students read some facts about this era while munching on some Renaissance “small cakes” (kind of like a raisin scone, but more dense).

We learned about the madrigal, a vocal piece set to a love poem.  Since we are learning piano, not voice, we wrote a piece for piano instead.  Students started by writing a four line poem about something they love.  Many students wrote about food but we also had a madrigal about the beach and another about Minecraft!


Then students wrote music to go with their poem using the “A” natural minor scale (also known as “Aeolian Mode,” a mode used during this period).


Here are some of the finished madrigals.  I created this heart-shaped worksheet based on Baude Cordier’s, “Belle, bonne, sage” (Concise History of Western Music, 2nd Edition, Hanning, 2002).

What a fun way to incorporate music history into lessons!