chord chart

When listening to a jazz trio years ago, Bradley Sowash (age 12 at the time) bravely walked up to the pianist and asked how he played with no written music.  Without missing a beat, the pianist replied, “learn your chords, kid!” Since then, Sowash has managed to build a career as a recording artist, pianist, composer, arranger, collaborator, educator…

As I continue on my path towards keeping myself and my students musically fit (see last month’s blog), I continue to seek out musicians/educators who inspire, train, and challenge me–one of them being Bradley Sowash. Inspired by his story above (see link below for entire article), my studio bulletin board exclaims “know your chords, kid”.  All students know we will be hitting chords hard over the next months to build some strong “chord” muscles. Sowash crafts inspiring articles, unprecedented books and videos that help me hone my skills as a musician, teacher AND a jazz player. Of course, many of them will be used this summer to develop students‘ chord playing skills and so much more. [···]

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This is one of the really successful music camp activities  we’ve done this summer. During our   Let’s Get Creative Camp, the students all made music creativity journals.  For basic journals,  you can use school composition notebooks found at the local drug store or school/office supplies store. They have a solid cardboard cover that is easy to cover with varied pieces of scrap booking papers and decorations. I chose to use card stock for the covers, with various lined, blank and music manuscript papers for the insides. I have a binding machine, which makes it easy to put together booklets with whatever filler paper you desire. They can also be taken to a copy store and bound for a small fee. After the journals were completed, the students used them to write and illustrate on of each:

  • Poem
  • Silly Song (lyrics set to melody)
  • Simple Instrumental Composition (for piano, drum or other instruments using standard notation)
  • Lead Sheet (notated melody with chord symbols, like you find in a “fake” book, for a nursery song   or other simple song)
  • Lyric Song Chart (lyrics with chord symbol above to indicate chord changes)
  • and…last but not least…

“My Big Event”  Improvisation Game –

(Learning how to organize music while having fun improvising!)

Here’s  how it went:

1 ~ We started out by writing a title at the top of one of the blank unlined pages in their journal. This title was determined by answering this simple  question, “What favorite thing did you do this  summer?”  Some of my students’ titles were: “Sea World”, “At the Fair” and “The Big Swim Meet”.

2 ~ Next, the students were asked to draw three big circles on their page, and illustrate each, depicting three different scenes from their “Big Adventure”.   [···]

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As I ponder my blog entry today, I’m in the process of scheduling new monthly jam sessions for my students!

In the past, as a summer workshop, Keyboard Jam proved to be very successful in stretching the students abilities, as well as giving them experience and enthusiasm for playing with other musicians! Have you read Nate Shaw’s two most recent articles on this very blog site? (If not, I hope that you will! I have added the links at the bottom of this article!)  Nate has some great ideas that I am definitely going to implement into my studio jam sessions, private lessons and recitals!

All of my students will be invited (pianists, singer, other instrumentalists). As the jam sessions become a huge hit, I will use them as an incentive, and extend invitation first to top practicers, best scales for the month, etc. All of the students will have fun creating music together, and learning how musicians work and play together. It works best to have separate sessions if you have a  large variance in ages and level of students. We will use the grand piano, a few keyboards, hand drums, shakers, my electric bass, and any other instruments that show up with the students.  There are so many different directions a class like this can take, but here’s a session plan that I have found to work extremely well!   [···]

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