Friday, November 28, 2008


Guest Blogger Allison Nisbett writes about a game she created for Kalil Olsen to help him with pitch and key identification. Allison is a Sophomore majoring in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy at the Michigan State University College of Music.

This is a memory game to help Kalil match the notes on the staff with notes on the keyboard. Kalil enjoyed the game, and it is a helpful way to practice away from the piano, not to mention a fun way to learn with other piano students. The game can be simplified, matching only one clef card to the keyboard card, or made more challenging, such as matching treble clef, bass clef, and keyboard cards all at once. To make the game more creative, once the game is over, students can use the notes on the cards they won to make up a melody. The goal of the game is not to name the notes, but to strengthen the student's correlation of the staff to the keyboard, and thus become a better music reader.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Improvisation and Creativity in Lessons

Kalil Olsen, the student I've been chronicling over the last few months on this blog, continues to blow me away with his natural musical and pianistic instincts. At almost all of our meetings, Kalil with play something for me that he has composed in the past week. Kalil's ability to synthesize so many of the concepts we have been working on into these piano improvisations is remarkable. I try to work a bit of simple piano improvisation into each of our lessons. Watch Kalil and I jam in a minor mode:

I try to integrate many "unspoken" musical concepts into our improvising. In this clip, I try to get him to respond to harmonic changes, changes in mood, and formal elements. As you can hear, he's really listening!

Composing and improvising are Kalil's favorite activities on the piano. I spoke to my piano pedagogy class the other night about the importance of making each and every moment of a piano lesson a musical and engaging experience, and they have worked hard to create this for Kalil. We occasionally get so swept up in explanation and details sacrificing sheer joy in music making. I keep Kalil hooked with weekly moments like this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Technique Talk in Holland Michigan

I'm giving a talk this coming Monday evening at Hope College in Holland Michigan on teaching tone production to small children.  If you're in the West Michigan area on Monday, I would love to meet you and discuss this important piano teaching topic.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Capturing the Sound

Thomas Moss, a student in the Seminar in Piano Pedagogy at the Michigan State University College of Music, leads a pitch matching game that might be called "capture the sound."  Our students just love this activity, and we've found that it has significantly refined their ability to differentiate between high and low sounds, as well as smaller differences in pitch level.  Watch this brief video for a demonstration, and notice the sheer delight on the faces of our young students!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Piano Pedagogy Blog featured on MusTech.Net

The Piano Pedagogy Blog is now listed as #88 on a list of Music Education Bloggers featured on Check out this great site!