It’s the week of Halloween… and, aside from having wired piano kids, you’re probably also going to have piano kids who are super busy this week with costume parties, school dances, trick or treating and some major candy burn-out come Friday. Their pianos are likely to be collecting some cobwebs and dust this week… and while that’s all very festive, it’s not the ideal situation for piano students.
So, instead of fighting against the Halloween distractions I’m using them to my advantage in my studio and we’re applying some Halloween-themed piano practice techniques to really make this a week of efficient practice even when time is tight.
Halloween Piano Practice Activities; Simple, Fun and Fast
1. Four Weddings and a Funeral – I’m a huge Hugh Grant fan, and while this was my least favourite of his movies, it did inspire a practice routine that I get my kids to do when I’m looking to up the efficiency of their practice time. It’s simple – your student plays his piece 4 times as written (the weddings) and then the final time he turns it into a funeral march. How? By moving down several octaves, adding the minor 3rd instead if it was previously a major piece and slowing it to a very very sombre pace. It’s a simple concept that many of you probably do already (and it encourages your students to listen to themselves while they play, to make decisions as to how to make their piece minor – and therefore build awareness of key – and to do slow practice) but in this little package of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” it’s easy to remember.
2. Frankenstein Your Piece – This activity was such a favourite with my students that we incorporated it into one of the 88 activities in Shhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice. Have your students number random measures “1” through “7” (definitely in no particular order!). Now have them play the numbered measures in numerical order to make a new “stitched up” piece. It’s a simple activity with a kooky result!
3. Kill The Lights – My piano kids have all been instructed to practice their pieces in the dark this week after 1 or 2 run-throughs with the lights on. Once they turn off the lights and feel their way to the piano, they have to use their sense of touch to figure out their starting position (yay for keyboard awareness!) and then play their piece as best they can from memory. By the 4th or 5th day of doing this they are quite adept at finding their starting position and navigating through their piece even with no visual help.
4. Swamp Monster Song – For your wiggly 8 year old boys this is like winning the lottery. They get to turn their piece into a Swamp Monster Song by adding articulation, changing major to minor, adding pedal, changing octaves etc. etc. to make it sound… well… completely awful! The only rule is that they still must follow the music (so they can’t change the notes). This gets those creative juices flowing as they have a blast messing up their piece. Little do they know they’re actually learning theory as you discuss articulation markings, major vs. minor etc.
Don’t Give Up During Halloween Week!
It’s temping to just coast through this week and wait until the candy-induced stupor ebbs… but resist that urge! Use your piano kids’ excitement about this event to not only keep your kids raving about their piano lessons, but also to teach them some strategies for practice that are efficient and effective. I’ve found that sending my piano kids home with a fun-looking sheet for this week with these activities listed helps to direct their practice and it makes home piano time seem more approachable during this busy time if it’s clearly laid out and seemingly simple and fun.