Tag Archives: Piano


PianoIt has been forever since I’ve taught voice lessons, until recently. I am enjoying them so much more than I used to, and I am not sure why. Maybe it’s because I am working outside the home as well and therefore enjoying music lessons because I get to teach them from my own house. Or maybe it’s because I just plain enjoy people and their company more than ever.

But it could also be due to the fact that sight-reading is much easier for me now that I have been our church’s pianist for two years. One of my good friends, who also happens to be my employer and former piano teacher, always told me that the best way to improve sight-reading is to play under pressure. She was totally right! Teaching voice is so much simpler when you don’t have to worry much about the accompaniment.

So, for anyone interested, here’s what I know about sight-reading:

Play new music every single day – music you’ve never seen before, or that you only see rarely. A good way to do this is to play through a hymnal, covering maybe one or two songs per day. To get some experience reading other types of music, try reading from octavos. They come in all styles and range from very simple to very difficult. I was lucky that my piano teacher had a huge collection of octavos to choose from, and about once a week, I would bring twenty or thirty new ones home and just play through them and take them back. So if you know any other musicians, you can borrow music from them for this purpose.

It’s important to play pieces that are just above the level that you already sight-read well.

Also, be sure to turn on a drum track or a metronome to create some pressure to stay in time. Also, drum tracks are just fun to play with. 🙂

Always look ahead in the music so you can see what’s coming up.

If you have to drop notes, retain at least the bass note and the melody.

And if you get really confused, just play the chord structure until you can jump back in to the accompaniment.

So that’s what I know. Not, much, but perhaps it will help someone out. If you all have any other tips, leave them in the comments!

Current Projects

ScheduleI find that I work best when I have a deadline looming. Sad, I know. I try so hard not to be a procrastinator, but it’s so much easier to meet my goals when they are well-defined and include a due date!

Usually when I start a “project,” I fall off the deep end. I have the habit of completely obsessing over one project for a week or two. Sometimes I’ll see it through to completion, and other times I’ll just give up on it. The ones I end up completing are usually the things I am doing for other people. Maybe that’s why I have trouble setting exercising or eating goals – no one is going to be checking my work. 🙂

Anyway, here are the projects I have been working on lately:

Voice Lesson Binder

Now that I am teaching again, I have put together a binder with fun songs that have a limited range (for my young students’ developing voices). I’m going to call that project “done” for now, even though I will be adding to it as I come across new pieces that I like. At the front of the binder, I attached a basic format for a voice lesson – to help me make sure I am covering all  my bases each lesson, and also to give me some direction is I can’t think of anything to do! I intend to blog about voice lessons and my format later this week, so be on the lookout if you’re interested.

Piano Curriculum

I have wanted to write my own curriculum for a while. I don’t have any pedagogy credentials, but there are so many things that get on my nerves in the method books I have tried over the years. First and foremost is the sheer number of books you have to buy at one time to cover all the basics. There is usually a main book supported by at least 3 more: technique, theory, and some sort of book that includes nice pieces that could be played in a recital. This drives me crazy! Does anyone know why music publishers do this?

So I have some new students, and they would prefer to not play pop music or anything with questionable lyrics. I was lying awake after having talked to one of their parents via FaceBook (I hadn’t met the family yet, but we had arranged a lesson time), when an idea hit me: write my own curriculum, but use lyrics directly from the King James Bible. I’m so excited about this because it’s something I can really get behind. How cool is it that students will be able to learn to read music and memorize scripture at the same time?!?

Kindle eBooks

I have published a couple of ebooks in the last few weeks: A Prompt Disguised and Write an Outstanding Paper. I am looking to get another one up pretty soon – basically one for each of the three categories I intend to write in: creative writing, education or homeschooling, and devotions. I have so many inspirational blog posts that I’ve written over the years; I’m going to compile my favorites and put them out there for Kindle readers. I just need to think of a theme to tie them all together and choose the ones I want to include. And then format everything – that’s the boring part.

Multi-Sensory Creative Writing

I began putting this creative writing curriculum together several summers ago while teaching a homeschool class on the subject. It’s a work in progress, but one of my favorite ideas ever, so I’d like to see it through to completion. I blogged about a few of the lessons here, here, and here.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now! It feels like I have more going on than that, but maybe that’s it. What have you all been up to this summer?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42931449@N07/6812481635″>Business Calendar & Schedule</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Playing by Ear

PianoIan surprised me the other day. I was practicing for an upcoming gig, and he came into the music room and started playing his own song in the top octaves of the piano. I always let him play whatever he wants while I play because it doesn’t really distract me, and I figure it’s good for him to be creative. Slowly, it dawned on me that I recognized the tune he was playing; it was Ode to Joy. When I asked him where he heard the song, he replied, “Peggle.” I guess it’s a video game he’s played. On the next day, I overheard him working out the harmony in thirds. I showed him where to add in a few fourths to make it fit the chord structure and explained the reasoning behind using different intervals in harmony. Now I am kind of excited about the fact that his ear is so good. I’ve played piano since I was nine, but I have only rarely worked out melody and harmony to an existing song, and the first time I did, I was a teenager. So, of course, I would like to help him improve his existing skills, but I don’t want to ruin it for him by forcing yet another instrument on him. So, of course, being me, I have concocted a sneaky plan.

I found a book in my closet that I’ve owned for years but never used. It’s called Performance Jams. Each song starts out with eight measures of a simple melody. Two of those measures (at least in the first song) contain a single harmony pitch that lasts the entire measure. The next eight measures of the book are completely blank, in which the student improvises using prescribed pitches played in any order in any octave. The last eight measures bring back the original melody and finish up the piece. There is also an accompaniment included for the teacher, so the melody and improv parts will have a nice background. I am going to:

  • Record the song into the song bank on my piano
  • Have him mute MineCraft for at least an hour of his playing time
  • Loop the song over and over and turn it up where he can listen
  • Have him spend five minutes a day at the piano until he can work it out on his own (I may help him with the harmony at first)
  • Once he can do this, I will show him the parameters for the improv section and have him try

I’m pretty sure he will think this is fun, and not a horrible waste of his time. Wish us luck!