Getting our two children to eat “adventurous” food is next to impossible. While they happily exist on an extremely healthy diet of veggies, fruit and chicken… if we try to purée, sauté or flambé… we are met with some pretty powerful resistance.
But recently, Trevor and I began cooking with our girls every Wednesday and Friday evening (after reading that one in three University students don’t know how to boil an egg!) and things are starting to change. Each time our kids cook their own meals… they eat every last bit… even if it is puréed, sautéd or flambéed.
Our girls’ “eat it if I make it” attitude can easily be applied to the piano teaching world. Giving children an active role in their learning is a powerful teaching tool. And so while Vindaloo bubbles on our stove under the careful watch of our 5 year old, we’re sharing 5 ways piano students can create their own technical warm-ups.
5 Ways Students Can Create Their Own Technical Warm-Ups
If you want your piano kids to warm up and hone in on technical skills effectively… hand over the reigns. You’ll be amazed at their excitement to create their own warm-ups and drills and at their willingness to actually practice those drills at home!
1. The Fearless Pinky – Begin by teaching your students a technical exercise that reinforces leaps, tucks or crossovers. Then, have your students give the tricks wacky and funky names. I use a simple trick-naming formula: The + Adjective + Finger Name. Students get to choose each of the components of the name to make it truly their own. The result is super-cool names such as “The Fearless Pinky” for a technical exercise that involves the 5 finger leaping up to reach a certain key or “The Twisting Tallman” for a technical exercise that involves the 3 finger crossing over the thumb.
Be sure to record their trick names and a notated version of the warm-up on the back of a recipe cards so you end up with a collection of awesome-sounding technical tricks that can be traded among your students in your studio!
2. Feathers, Fur and… Scales – The next time you’re at the Dollar Store, grab an assortment of small plastic animal figurines. Then, before your young students play their pentascales or scales, have them choose several animals and place them on the piano. With your students, discuss the selected animals’ attributes and how those attributes could be represented on the piano. Consider articulation, tempo, and octave choice as a good place to start. Instruct your students to play their scales “in the style of” each of their selected animals.
3. The Name Game: Have your students write their name at the top of a blank piece of staff paper. Next, have them cross out any letters that do not correspond with keys on the piano (For example, Aiden becomes ADE, Abigail becomes ABGA etc. Add a middle or last name if you need more letters).
These letters then become the notes in your students’ new warm-up. Match the notes to a rhythm in 4/4 time and then repeat it to fill 4 measures. Notate it on a piece of staff paper… and you’ve just created a mini note-reading warm-up! You can also photocopy and trade these among the students in your studio and have your students attempt to guess whose name inspired the technical warm ups!
4. The Fab Five Challenge – Roll a die five times and write down the number rolled each time (if you roll a “6” roll again). These numbers then become finger numbers. Have your students place their right or left hand in any desired position and then play each finger number one after the other. For example if a student’s line of numbers looks like 1, 4, 5, 3, 1 and her hands hands are in G position, the resulting notes played would be G, C, D, B, G.
Using a piece of staff paper, write out the resulting notes on five different lines (repeated to fill 4 measures each line). Then have your students add articulation markings (slurs, staccatos, accents and fermatas) and fingering in a way that creates five different technical warm-ups out of the same five-note combinations.
5. Soundtrack Creation – Technical warm-ups take on a whole new meaning when they’re used to provide the soundtrack to a story. So, find a short children’s book and, with your students seated at the piano, read the first few pages or paragraphs aloud, pausing at opportune moments for your students to create a sound effect on the piano using stepping, skipping, and leaping patterns paired with their choices in octave, articulation and tempo. Videotaping this process adds an element of share-able fun!
One More Way To Rock Technical Exercises
Our story-based approach to technical warm-ups is like nothing you’ve ever seen… and it will capture the imagination (and the attention!) of your piano students. TEDDtales makes it easy to bring technical warm-ups to life with 72 “level 1” exercises to improve your students’ skills. Find out more here.