I have a struggling young piano student who is, nonetheless, making progress. My heart breaks for him because he is not a natural. But still, he has the will to keep on keepin’ on.
For most of my students starting a new piano piece is a joyous occasion. For this student however, completing a piece and flipping over the page to reveal another “Rosetta Stone of notes” is less than motivating.
So, towards the end of this teaching year, in a quest to make the introduction of a new piece a little more exciting and a little less overwhelming… I’ve started using a game I call “Lift The Flap Piano Piece”.
Lift The Flap Piano Pieces
If you have children, then you are likely familiar with “Lift The Flap” picture books. In these books, there’s a clue to read to the child such as “It’s furry and slobbery and black and white!”, and then a flap on the page is lifted to reveal the picture (“It’s a Dalmatian!”).
When this strategy is applied to a piano piece, students who are usually overwhelmed by a new piano piece know that they can stop worrying about “everything else” and just focus on “lifting the flaps”. Deciphering a piano piece quickly becomes less of a struggle and a lot more fun!
Building a Lift The Flap Piano Piece
The beauty of a Lift The Flap Piano Piece is that it can be created in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a pen, a pair of scissors, and some sticky notes.
Before a student arrives select between four and six notes from the upcoming piano piece and cover each with a sticky note. You will need to trim the sticky notes to size as an entire sticky note will obviously cover far more than a single note. Next, for each covered note you’ll need to come up with a clue that, when deciphered, reveals the hidden note below. Write this clue on the sticky note… or number the sticky notes and write the numbered clues at the bottom of the page.
As an example, here are some clues:
“It’s 4 beats long and it rests on the first space on the staff” (“It’s whole note F!”)
“Its 3 beats long and it’s found in the 3rd space.” (“It’s dotted half note C!”)
“It’s 2 beats long and rests on the top line” (It’s a half note A!”)
When your student is ready to begin his new piece, present the “friendly and fun” looking page. Work together to read the clues. Have him make a guess for what is beneath the post-it note flap and then allow him to lift the flap to reveal the measure.
He can then write the answer to the clue directly on the page. You can remove the flaps for home practice, or you can stick them back down and ask that he re-visit the clues and remind himself of the answers when he practices at home.
See the photos below for how a “Lift The Flap” measure can look both “closed” and then “open”.
Lift The Flap… Ease the Burden
For such an easy activity, it has big pay-offs. Why? Because, 1) The visual appeal of your student’s page is ramped up as the page no longer looks like a sea of confusing notation, 2) your student’s ability to problem-solve and decipher his music is improved… and 3) you’re sneaking some great “in-context” theory into your lessons!