Ear training is one of those things that can be difficult to jazz-up as a piano teacher. Play backs, clap backs, intervals… there’s only so much you can do.
Or is there?
Singing students at my studio were going crazy for “The Cups Song” by Anna Kendrick for several months. And I can see why – it’s a total blast. But my piano wheels started turning and I realized that The Cups Song could be used for more than just a party trick or a good laugh as you attempt to learn it. It actually could be the inspiration for some seriously fun ear training, rhythmic awareness-building, coordination practice and a whole lot of fun!
Before you go any further, click this link to have a listen. This is my favorite version performed by a quartet of young youtube sensations. They go into much more complex “cup tricks” than would your average piano student – but you get the idea.
Here’s How to Use “The Cups Song” in Your Piano Lessons
1. Ear Training
Using a cup for “clap backs” is much more cool than just clapping. Close the lid of your piano and have some fun creating cup rhythms for your students to copy. Use a variety of clapping, cup tapping, pick-ups and put-downs to create your rhythms. Your students’ ears will be a-buzz with rhythm and they’ll be itching to get it right.
2. Rhythmic Awareness Building
Can your piano students transcribe The Cup Song rhythm into rhythmic notation on your white board? Can they do the same with a new “cup rhythm” you give them? Use a cup to add a cool factor to rhythmic dictation and your kids won’t bat an eye at writing out reams of measures of rhythm. This is a good time to discuss time signatures, weak vs. strong beats, how to correctly group eighth notes etc. If they had done this in my dictation class in university I probably would have attended more classes (giggle).
3. Coordination Practice
Just learning to complete The Cups Song trick correctly requires a whole lot of coordination, and with piano lessons demanding your right brain and left brain to be good buddies… this really helps! It’s best to break it down into small modules when learning the cup trick for the first time (especially if you’re a young student… or you happen to be spatially-challenged like me). Check out this youtube video for a great break-down of how to do it.
This song is seriously infectious, and once you can do the trick you just don’t want to stop! Not only is it fun in lessons, but can you imagine how cool it would be to present The Cup Song at your studio recital? Just picture your entire grouping of kiddos showing off their rhythmic prowess in unison! I can hear the word-of-mouth buzz now…
Making Theory Fun Again
Keeping a finger on what’s trending with your piano kids is key in keeping their lessons relevant. Surprise your piano students with a project like The Cup Song and you’ll literally have them begging to return to their next lesson… and that’s what it’s all about! Things like rhythmic dictation, ear training and theory don’t have to be dry… at all! In fact, we think they can really be made amazingly fun! Check out how we turned Piano Theory on its head and how you can too in your own studio.
For more inspiration check out this video