Warm-ups, Flips, Rope Climbing. Yes, we do these during piano!

Piano Gymnastics!

Warm-ups, flips, and cartwheels!

Around this time each year, piano lessons start sounding a bit more like gym class than music lessons. Students are working on warm-ups, knee bends, ladder climbing, flips, cartwheels, and much more. But don’t expect to see padded mats on the Studio floor! These are all exercises we are doing with our fingers and not our whole bodies. 🙂

We are preparing for a fun and beneficial activity called Piano Gymnastics. This event focuses on technical proficiency (scales and the like), which helps any piano student achieve a smoother playing style and, what everyone is working towards, SPEED. The exercises are named for gymnastics events (thus, “Piano Gymnastics”) to help the kids visualize the type of movements their fingers are doing and to make the exercises a little more entertaining.

Piano Gymnastics will be held on Saturday, November 14. Most of the Studio has been preparing since the summer. Some of the newer students who have just joined the Studio will not be participating in Piano Gymnastics this time around. But no worries – there’s always next year!

Please ask your student about Piano Gymnastics, and ask him/her to show you his/her moves! I know you will be impressed with the coordination and dexterity that you see.

Welcome to the Wild, Wild, West

Howdy, folks! I’m so excited to get our Fall 2015 practice incentive rolling. First, a thank you to www.teachpianotoday.com for the fabulous thought starter for this term’s Wild, Wild West practice incentive. I’ve had so much fun adapting their materials to meet the Studio’s needs.

Parents: if you don’t usually stop into the studio when your student has lessons, you’ll definitely want to take a look this term. There’s a bunch of really suspicious-looking outlaws who are “WANTED” this term for various reasons. Here are some examples of the most frightening offenders:

Weston the Forte Fighter

Wild Will Treble Clef

Under-A-Rest Lizzy Lou

(Actually, this third Outlaw doesn’t actually look all that threatening, does she? I kind of want to adopt this one.) ☺️

Our objective this term is for these escaping Outlaws to work to clear their names with the Sheriff (that’s me). The chase will lead us through four areas of the Wild West of Practicing: Repetition Ranch, Creative Canyon, Inspiration Inn, and The Practice Cactus. On the path to redemption, each outlaw will have the opportunity to complete jobs for the Sheriff to ensure that they will no longer be considered outlaws by the end of this journey.

Be sure to check in with your student and ask him/her what the Job is this week. Yippee-ki-yi-ay!

Joplin: The Father of Ragtime Music

Our final composer study in our Eras of Music unit will be modern American composer, Scott Joplin. Joplin is known for developing the form of jazz called “ragtime”, which combined European classical styles, the American march, and the rhythms of African folk music. Ragtime music was highly popular from the late 1800s to around the 1920s, and generally featured a syncopated melody with a leaping chord accompaniment. Ragtime pieces also usually contained several distinct themes of set bar length and arranged in typical patterns.

There is a Joplin selection in my Modern Era YouTube Playlist that plays features something called “piano rolls.” The YouTube selection features Joplin’s original piano rolls – there are only seven surviving piano rolls of Joplin playing his own piano rags (recorded in 1916). Piano rolls are paper rolls that go inside mechanical “player pianos.” Player pianos could then play back the music as originally recorded on the paper rolls – kind of like a movie projector that uses film today. Here is a person using a player piano that is playing Joplin’s “The Entertainer”!

Here is a closeup of a paper piano roll. This particular piano roll contains “The Thunderer”, by John Philip Sousa.


Piano Roll

We are very lucky to have any original “recordings” of Scott Joplin performing his original works!

This month’s lapbook will be completed over the two weeks that we have regular lessons scheduled. This lapbook is fairly straightforward and does not have a lot of complicated elements, so it’s perfect for a shorter lesson month. Here are pictures of the completed lapbooks, for your reference.

Front of Joplin lapbook!

Front of Joplin lapbook!

Inside of Joplin lapbook!

Inside of Joplin lapbook!

Enjoy our last composer study and don’t forget to listen to the Modern Era playlist selections this month!