A little light reading

PianoGirl with her weekend reading

PianoGirl with her weekend reading

Every Sunday we take PianoGirl and her little sister to our local library.

PianoGirl loves to read, so we like to encourage her by making lots of different reading material available to her.

Sometimes she picks 12 books for the week. This particular week she chose 28!

She has always loved books, ever since she was tiny and we have always read to her a lot! Hours each day, in fact. So it was no surprise when a year ago she started reading on her own.

We are applying the same theory to her piano playing – we make lots of material available to her to explore on her own. Now that she can sight read quite well, thanks to a dedicated first six months of lessons, she can pick up beginner piano books and just play for enjoyment!

Here are some of her favourites!

PreTime Piano Popular, PreTime Piano Christmas, Getting to Preliminary New Mix, 70 Keyboard Adventures with the little Monster, Happy Birthday to You and other Great Songs (5 Finger Piano), My First Piano Adventure Christmas, P Plate Piano Book 1

PreTime Piano Popular, PreTime Piano Christmas, Getting to Preliminary New Mix, 70 Keyboard Adventures with the little Monster, Happy Birthday to You and other Great Songs (5 Finger Piano), My First Piano Adventure Christmas, P Plate Piano Book 1

Don’t Blame the Teacher!

I was chatting with a neighbour recently who was complaining about our local swimming school.

“James really doesn’t like swimming lessons. He still doesn’t like going in the water. I don’t think the teacher is very good.”

Really? Do you go swimming with James on the weekend?

“Good grief, no. I don’t want to get in the water”

Ah. Well. OK then.

I explained that PianoGirl had been learning swimming for a couple of years now and that we had been really happy at the swimming school. We have found that all the teachers and the management are fantastic.

PianoGirl didn’t always like swimming though, but we always make an effort to take her swimming on the weekends, if we have time. We also chose a swimming lesson time that we knew we could always attend (it constantly amazes me how many lessons some people miss because they book other appointments at the same time!).

This year we booked a swimming lesson time that we knew would allow PianoGirl to have an extra 15 minutes in the pool before the lesson started to just muck around and have fun.

Swimming teachers aren’t the only ones that parents complain about, though!

Before you complain about the piano teacher being no good, ask yourself three things:

  1. Have I timetabled in a daily practice session for my child?
  2. Am I helping my child read any instructions from the teacher after their weekly lesson?
  3. Am I providing an additional range of appropriately leveled, interesting piano music for my child to read and explore, in addition to their lesson repertoire?

If you are not doing these three things I would suggest that you are not making the most of your investment in piano lessons (and at about $1500 for the year, that’s some investment!). And that your child’s lack of progress has more to do with a lack of structure and support than a bad piano teacher!

You really can’t expect your child to improve at piano (or swimming, or eating vegetables, or riding their bike, or kicking a ball, or reading) if they are not actually spending time practicing.

And thus ends my (cheeky) sermon for today.

Have a lovely weekend!

Smartie Sight Reading Challenge

Over breakfast a week or so ago PianoGirl said “Oh, I wish I could play some Christmas music. Wait a minute; I have those Friends at the Piano Christmas books!”

PianoGirl is luckier than most little piano students in that, due to the very nature of my job, we have loads of music around the house.

She loves the My First Piano Adventure books, and especially loves the Christmas book.

My First Piano Adventure ChristmasThe book is full of well-known Christmas Songs and is at the perfect level for PianoGirl to sight read and really enjoy. She has been learning piano for almost 10 months now and her sight reading skills are consistent with a child who has been practising almost daily.

JollyOldStNick

So, just for fun we held a sight reading challenge. For each song she read through, she received a Smartie. Now, I wouldn’t do this kind of thing every day, but for the sake of 7 Smarties she played through 7 new pieces and really had a lot of fun. It was in addition to her regular practice for the day (the Smartie challenge was after school and her regular practice session happens before school), and it was my attempt at encouraging her to really explore playing any kind of music that she wants to play.

The end result: More lovely Instant Musical Gratification.

Instant Musical Gratification

A couple of days ago PianoGirl picked up the Pre-Time Popular book from the Piano Adventures range.

PreTimePopular

The pieces in this book are easy enough for her to sight read and provided instant musical gratification.

The songs she has explored from that book so far are: I Just Can’t Wait To Be King from the Lion King and Part of Your World – from the Little Mermaid. Now, despite not having seen either the Lion King or the Little Mermaid, she already knows the music so LOVED being able to play those pieces.

Other tunes in the book include: The Candy Man, Groove Tune, If I Only Had A Brain, It’s A Small World, The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, Oompa-Loompa-Doompadee-Doo, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything and Scooby Doo Main Title.

No, she won’t recognise all of these songs and no, they aren’t “popular” in a Justin Beiber/Beyonce/Taylor Swift/One Direction kind of way, but they are popular in a classic way –  a way that Mum and Dad and Grandma will recognise and enjoy them.

My tip for parents wanting to encourage their students to play music and really enjoy it (in addition to learning music) is to provide them with lots and lots of books to look at. Now, it may seem that I am just saying this because it is my job to sell music books, but that is really not what this is about.

Imagine how horrified you would be if you sent your child to school and the prep teacher gave them one little golden book and said “ok, this is what you are going to use to learn how to read this year.”

No, you expect your child to have a new reader every night, and if you are anything like us you are forced to read many (many, many, many) stories to your children each night.

That’s how PianoGirl learn how to read; by looking at lots of books and being immersed in them. It is my hypothesis that this will work the same way for her learning piano, and indeed any instrument.

Weekend practice session – the meltdown (part one)

Last weekend I was enjoying the most delightfully relaxing Saturday.

PJs on until 2pm. A little baking, a delicious breakfast, a pot (or 2) of a fantastic new coffee (you too can order some from www.bertoncellocoffee.com.au), an hour or two of reading stories to the cherubs snuggled up together. Just lovely.

Then, it all went horribly wrong.

I suggested a trip to a park nearby, one that has recently had a renovation so it has lots of exciting new wizzy things and big climbing frames.

I told PianoGirl that as soon as she finished her practice we would go.

So, in about 10 minutes, I was thinking.

3 hours later (I kid you not) we moseyed across the road to a far inferior park for a quick play before dinner.

So, what happened?

PianoGirl’s lovely teacher, Bettina, (who really is fantastic…I will post more about finding a great teacher soon) had mentioned to PianoGirl that she might have ‘trouble’ with these two bars, as indicated with the blue star.

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When we got to those bars PianoGirl started screaming “I’ll never be able to do it” and flouncing and crying and being overly dramatic.

“No worries, just give it a go and then we will go to the park” was my answer, but this just did not persuade her. She refused to even attempt it. Not because it was too hard for her, but because she had been told it might be tricky.

Holy moly! The drama.

I was actually feeling really Zen that day so I was very calm, yet insistent about her giving it a go before we went to the park.

Did I do the right thing?

All I can say is that when she finally attempted it (after many trips on and off the piano stool and even a couple of 10 minute sessions outside on the ‘thinking chair’) she found that actually it was easy and she could do it after all.

Our day ended with some friends visiting for dinner.

And lo and behold, we couldn’t stop PianoGirl performing at the end of the night. We had to almost drag her off the piano so they could go home.

Kids!

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A Visit from and Old Friend

This post has nothing to do with music, but everything to do with becoming a parent.

This week I had a visit from an old friend.

There are not many old friends guaranteed to make me cry, but this one does every time!

Best $700 I ever spent!

Medela Double Pump-Best $700 I ever spent

For those of you who don’t recognize my old friend, this is my Medela double pump (the stylish back pack version ….ideal if you are heading back to work but still want to breast feed), also known around our house as ‘the machine.’

I had feeding issues with both of my babies so this pump allowed me to feed them breast milk, despite the difficulties.  Baby One worked out how to feed naturally after 10 weeks (yes, that’s about 500 hours of working at it…not such a quick study!) but Baby Two just did not get it. At all.

In fact, Baby Two was 8 months old the first time I saw her open her mouth wide (seriously), and even with solid food we had to trowel it on between months 6 and 8.

It really was most peculiar and had to be seen to be believed.

Despite this I managed, with the help of the machine, to feed Baby Two naturally until she was 7 months old.

Yes, this officially makes me a super hero.

But the story of ‘the machine’ does not end there.

Since my babies, the machine has gone on to feed a myriad of other babies whose mothers had a variety of circumstances to deal with (including twins, cleft palates, low birth weight, latching issues…) that required them to need ‘the machine.’

So here’s cheers to babies Alice, Eva, Felix, Elvie, Henry, Hannah, Josephine, Evie, Zoe and Eve and their incredible mothers, whose desire to give them the best start in life meant battling with the machine…and winning!

Musical Rewards

PianoGirl has had such a good practise week that I decided to buy her a new book.

A musical reward for PianoGirl

A musical reward for PianoGirl

The very last piece in this book is Clowns, which PianoGirl can already play having discovered it a few weeks ago in Getting to Preliminary New Mix.

So, why give her a book that is obviously easier than the level she is currently learning at?

Well, that’s exactly why!

Her sense of achievement of being able to just open up the book and play instead of having to “learn” the music is really wonderful.

Already she has sight read her way through 5 or 6 pieces and because it has not been a struggle for her it is just pure enjoyment, which is just way it should be!

If you are a parent of a piano or music student, consider buying additional books for your child to explore on their own. If the teacher is using a method book, there are bound to be correlated books that you could explore in a variety of styles.