Product Reviews

  • How can I get my piano students to play musically?
  • Will they ever learn to truly perform rather than just play?
  • How can I help them to become more confident music readers?

These are some of the challenges that Alison Mathews has addressed in her new book “Doodles” published by Editions Musica Ferrum.

Aimed at beginners to around grade 3 (ABRSM), this chunky book contains 128 little pieces of 4-8 bars (measures) arranged in four difficulty levels.

Now the interesting part! Rather than name each piece, Mathews has provided a small picture, often an emoji, hence the title “Doodles,” which is meant to inspire a mood in the music student. She has also given lots of interesting directions like, “playfully – fish are chasing in the coral” or “fast and furious – what else could you do to make it sound stormy?” I love how at the centre of these short activities the emphasis is on performance. The pupil just simply can’t resist but will soon be inspired to create their own pieces. Watch out John Williams, we will all be writing shark music at this rate!

An interesting feature is the use of the same pieces at each level but with increased difficulty and technique. This a great way to help a student see how to develop a composition. I can see my pupils having lots of fun improvising with these pieces and using them as the basis of their own compositions. Young pupils love engaging their imagination, so this book will inspire them not only to be better readers of music but more importantly, to play with feeling and understanding.

Lots of different playing techniques are explored through the pieces and are an intrinsic part of each song. Legato, staccato, dynamics, tremolandi and glissandi are all represented. I’ve even picked up a tip for helping young pupils to play a glissando without hurting their fingers by using a roll of sellotape!

My only criticism is that there are no key signatures used. I’m very keen on introducing a sense of key very early in development but this is a “minor” grumble compared with the fantastic way that musicality is being taught here. Maybe this is an issue that could be addressed in later editions or subsequent volumes.

For its ability to inspire musicality in such a fun and engaging way, this book gets a big thumbs up from me.

To purchase the book, click here.

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Guitar methods are out there. But how can I tell whether they’ll fit my teaching style and my students’ needs? Will I end up reinventing the wheel anyway? What will work best for me and my students?

In the past couple of months I wrote about starting up a private music teaching studio. And I touched on the plethora of piano methods out there.

The guitar teaching method question is, to my mind, a tougher and more complex one.

Asking some questions might help zero in on who you are as a teacher of guitar students.

Questions to Ask 

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Hi everyone,

This is Rock Robbins, the Community Manager from Music Teacher’s Helper.

If you don’t know me, I’m an author, music teacher, tech geek, singer, saxophone and piano playing karaoke loving husband and father of 2 boys. I’ve been playing, singing, or teaching music for many years. Nice to “meet” you here online.  

 

This week, I’m reviewing Piano Marvel.

You likely have already heard about this really cool looking online tool for teaching piano to students. Brandon Pearce, the founder of Music Teacher’s Helper, shared this service with me and asked me to review it.

I’m bit of an old school type where you just use the piano and piano book and work out your sections the old fashioned way. But I’m also a bit of a geek as well, so when I saw a video of the service in action, I thought…

Oh yeah, this is really the evolution of music teaching tools for the generations that are born with gadgets and apps around them.

Remember — most of these young students have never known a time without the Internet. Wow. This really is second nature for them to use these tools.

 

Ok, here we go — so, Piano Marvel just sent out an email saying…

Can you learn this song in 5 days?

Impossible? It is not as hard as it looks, but don’t tell your friends that. We will make it easy for you.

Just follow the steps below and you will have this song mastered in 5 days. (Ages 8+)

 

Step 1 – Watch this Instructional Video (Printing the Sheet Music and Smart Practicing)

Step 2 – Get a Free Account with this link: http://bit.ly/PianoMarvel

 

So, I’m going to jump into this service and see what it can do

Now, I have two boys (13, and 15) who are musical as well, and have had some basic piano lessons from my wife and I. I’m going to have them try this out and get their input too.

What do you need to try Piano Marvel?

This was my first question, and the basic set-up you’ll need is…

 

  • A Digital Piano or Keyboard
  • A Computer (PC or Mac)  Sorry, Chromebooks won’t work
  • A MIDI or USB cable (to connect the computer to your keyboard)
  • Internet Access (Basic Cable or DSL speeds are fine)

(See here if you want to know more of those set up details)

(Believe it or not, you can actually try Piano Marvel if you only have a piano and a computer — it’s called book mode and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but you can follow the video tutorial for each song and learn from that.)

Now, it just so happens that I have a Roland digital piano, and I have an older MIDI adaptor I can connect to my Windows laptop.

I’m going to create my own free account, and we’ll test this out together.

If you want to play along at home, click here to set up your own Piano Marvel account.

I personally think I can learn the song sooner than 5 days, but I’m interested to see how my boys do with the service. Since they like games, and this makes learning piano a bit like that with Stars and Percentage Complete that encourage you to keep going to get the “high score”. I think this will be HIGHLY effective for them.

I’ll let you know how it goes here soon — stay tuned for more in my next post.

Rock Robbins

 

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