Thursday, September 24, 2015

Music Tip - Fun Chord Progressions

I've been giving my piano students chord progressions.  I love them, and my students seem to like them too-- anyway when they come back to lessons I can tell they've been practicing them.  You may know about the popular 4 chord progression made popular by Axis of Awesome.  These four chords I V vi IV are used in more than 70 different popular songs.  In the key of C major, this would be: C–G–Am–F.  When you play the chords one right after another, they make a pleasing musical phrase that you can improvise melodies above.

Recently I gave the following chord progression to my students, but I can't remember which website I got it from.  It might have been Tim Topham, a popular Australian pianist/teacher/speaker.  The progression is:
Am/a  G/a  F/a  G/a        
Am/f  G/f  F/f  G/f
Am/d  G/d  F/d  G/d
Dm/b  EM/e  Am/a.

The capital letters represent the chord played with the right hand- four times in a row.
The lower case letter after the slash is the left hand note, played one time.
(So Am/a means right hand plays the notes A,C,E as a block chord four times in a row while the left hand plays an A on the piano with just the first time the chord is played.  Then the right hand plays GBD four times with the left hand again playing an A, etc)
One of my boy students said, "That sounds like the music to Rocky."  He was hooked, of course.

The next week after giving my students this chord progression, I gave them a number of different ways to try playing it at home during their practice time.  Here are some different ways to play it:
* Have the right hand play a broken chord instead of block chords.
* Have the left hand play a rhythm on it's note during the chords instead of just playing the note one time per chord group.
* Play the chord progressions in a different octave on the piano.  Playing it up high sounds like a music box.
* Use different dynamics during the progression.
* Add the pedal - in fact, this is an excellent way to introduce how to play the pedal correctly.
* Improvise a melody above the chord progression.  I would demonstrate by improvising a melody as the student played the chord progression, then I asked the student to improvise a melody.  I told them to use stepping or skipping steps on the notes in the chord I was playing.

Another chord progression my students have enjoyed is from Jon Schmidt's (from The Piano Guys) song he wrote way back when he was in high school.  He based it off a tuna commercial.  The song is called, The Dumb Song, and that really appeals to students. The link will take you to a pdf of the song.

I teach just the left hand of the first page.  Then the next week I add the simple right hand single notes.  Depending on the ability of the student, I eventually have them add block chords for the right hand and/or inversions.  This is a great way to teach students about chord inversions.

Teaching my students to play and have fun with chord progressions has really appealed to my teen and preteen students.  It works so well with older students who are just beginning to take piano, or who don't sight read very well.  It's an attention getter when they play it for friends and family, it sounds like they can play advanced music and it is WAY FUN!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Music Tip - Practicing Helps

I just got back from visiting my son's family and was surprised at how all three of my grandchildren had progressed so quickly in playing the piano since I had last heard them play.  I asked my daughter-in-law what had happened and she said, "they have to practice 30 minutes a day." 
 Well, there's a no-brainer.  That is what I have been saying for years, as a piano teacher.  But here is a family who is actually doing it and it works!  You can see progress when you practice 30 minutes a day!!

Sounds easy.... just go tell your child to practice the piano for 30 minutes.  But you and I know that just telling a child to go practice and having it instantly and happily done is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!

So here's the back story of the spurt of progression, at least this is what happened for my 7 year old grandson.  He complained about practicing, he wanted to take guitar or singing lessons instead, and he became uncooperative at home and at lessons. It just so happened that he also wanted an ipod.  Ahhhh, the perfect item to use for positive reinforcement.  And that's exactly what my daughter-in-law used.  "Son, I would love to buy you an ipod .  But you have to earn it and this is how: practice cheerfully for 30 minutes a day (5 days a week until Christmas)."

Not all piano stories end up happily like this one. Some children still won't cooperate.  Some parents refuse to "bribe" their children (when in fact it it NOT bribing).  Sometimes the reward loses it's appeal.  But it is certainly worth the try. Also, in my grandson's case, his teacher had to give him some fun songs that appealed to him.  He used a timer so he knew how long to practice.  He found he had to play his songs for more repetitions than he had before, to use up the full 30 minutes. He started to enjoy playing the piano!

It takes time to learn something new.  Time.  Repetition.  Consistency.  
And a little positive reinforcement along the way.....

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Parenting Tip - How to Build and Uplift Your Children

In Moses chapter 1 we learn of the vision Moses received where he saw God face to face and talked with Him.  God showed Moses the workmanship of His hands.  He told Moses that he was in the similitude of His Only Begotten.  He showed Moses the world and the ends thereof and all the children of men.  He called Moses His son, over and over again.  Moses marveled and wondered.

God was enlarging and expanding Moses' understanding.  He was showing Moses who he really was (a son of His) and what his potential could be.  That's what God does for all His children including you and me.  He lifts, builds and enlarges the soul.  He encourages us and He even gives uplifting nicknames as He did to some of his disciples....Peter the Rock, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, the Sons of Thunder, John the Beloved.

As parents, do our words build, uplift and encourage our children?  Do our words show them their great potential? Do we sprinkle character building thoughts throughout our conversations?
          Sarah, my faithful daughter.
          Jason, my creative son.
          James, my quick to obey son.
Do we label our children's actions to help them see who they are becoming and what their potential is?
           Macy, look at how you obeyed me when I asked you to put away your toys.
           You're right, Craig, you do have a lot a math.  What courage you're showing right now to begin it.
           That was a creative way to solve your problem, David.
           It's hard to stop playing right now Wendy, but see how you can do hard things!

The scriptures can teach us how to become good parents and we can pattern ourselves after the Perfect Parent.
Thanks for reading, you may be interested in listening to this talk, which is where I got my ideas from.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...