New Lower Price Teacher Guide!

I am pleased to announce that due to its popularity, the DoReMi Piano Book 1 Teacher Guide is now available at the new lower price of £4.99! A free pdf is still available to all teachers ordering Book 1 directly through the site. All you need to do is order Book 1 and pop the free pdf in your basket too!

DoReMi Piano Book 1 Teacher Guide CoverDoReMi Piano Book 1 Teacher Guide pdf CoverDoReMi Piano Book 1 small

 

Recital Video – Sing and Play – Matthew

On Saturday some of my students performed their favourite pieces from Sing and Play. I would like to share a couple of clips with you.

Matthew is in Year 1 (age 6) and has been learning music with me since he was a toddler. He started with general music classes based on the wonderful Kodály resource Jolly Music by Cyrilla Rowsell and David Vinden. When he started reception in 2013 we started more formal piano lessons with My First Piano Adventures and continued the Kodály work alongside. However he was struggling a little with notation reading and started to get frustrated. When I launched DoReMi Piano in the Autumn of 2014 he asked if he could start using those books. I agreed and he has made excellent progress since then. He is now confidently playing pieces from Crazy Steps, however for his recital he decided to play his favourite black key pieces from Sing and Play.

The speed of his success with DoReMi Piano is down to the excellent foundations that were created using the activities from Jolly Music and it would be a dream come true if all young children had the opportunity to study music in this way prior to starting formal instrumental lessons.

The pieces he is playing in the clip are:

Woof Woof – my own composition and a favourite with all my students, regardless of their age! Unlike most of the pieces in the book, it starts on the lower of the two pitches and also introduces the student to the idea that two pitches can be played at the same time, creating a chord.

See Saw – a highly popular song with Kodály practitioners and is included in Jolly Music. In DoReMi Piano we use it over and over to not only introduce the singing names “so” and “mi” but also work on steady pulse and the introduction of rhythm and rhythm names.

Here Sits A Mousie – my favourite of all of the songs in Book 1 and so versatile. We revisit it in Book 2 and there are so many different ways we can play with this song, both on and off the piano. Here is another article I wrote about this wonderful song.

Very Effective – Review of DoReMi Piano Book 1

Thank you so much Lindsay for this lovely review of DoReMi Piano

“This is a good, thorough grounding in basic music skills, that will lend itself both to individual, and to group teaching. I particularly liked the Improvisation section (Unit 2.9) as a simple but really effective introduction to the joys of improvisation and composition in a sociable way, and also Unit 3.2 on using the thinking voice to understand pulse and rhythm.

The way that homework is used is also potentially very effective, and perfect for the young child – getting them to teach new songs to someone at home is inspired!

Music as a social activity really comes through.”

 

Here Sits A Mousie

One of my students asked me the other day which of the songs from DoReMi Piano is my favourite. I didn’t have to think very long. My favourite song is the one that can come out time and time again. My students never get bored of playing it and it can cover a number of learning objectives.

The song is Here Sits A Mousie.

First found in Sing and Play, on the surface it is a simple “la“, “so“, “mi” song. It is the first one that is printed with the stems already in place, as by now most of my students are confident enough with the rhythm not to need the extra task of drawing them on each piece. It is also the first song that changes pitch within a quaver pair and the first song since Balance Balance that has the same pitch for more than one beat. So plenty to challenge a student and plenty of reason to encourage good preparation with a great game.

My idea for this game came from a sadness about this poor little mousie. I must have been having an emotional day! The lyrics are: Here sits a mousie, in his little housie. No-one comes to see him. Poor little mousie. Poor little mousie indeed. No-one comes to see him? That’s just too sad. I can’t leave it at that! So I devised an extension to the song where lots of his friends do come to see him.

Here Sits A Mousie

I have a soft mouse toy to play the part of the mousie. I select two or more other toys as the mouse’s friends and give them each a rhythm flash card. I use at least the two rhythms from the song. I bounce each toy to the rhythm on their card and ask the student to do the same until they are confident they know the rhythms. Then we sing the Mousie song, the mouse bounces in time with the pulse, and at the end of the song I knock or clap one of the rhythms. This is the toy knocking on Mousie’s door. The student then chooses the correct visitor. You could leave the rhythm flash cards visible, or put them away. An alternative start to this game is to demonstrate each rhythm without the cards and the student must select the correct card.

As always, next we swap roles. The student sings the song and knocks the rhythm and I have to select the correct friend. You can expand this game by using more and more friends. You can use known rhythms or use those from a new song you want to prepare. You could even create a doorbell melody to cover pitch as well as rhythm.

The students will play this all lesson if you let them!

Puzzle Erasers

PuzzleErasersI just have to say a massive thank you to the pianist, teacher and composer Diane Hidy for introducing me to Japanese Puzzle Erasers!!  She has been advocating them for years but I had never seen them in the UK until the wonderful day when Paperchase opened a branch in Worcester! I was browsing for a gift for my son’s clarinet teacher and suddenly saw them hanging temptingly on the wall. My fellow customers probably gave me funny looks behind my back as I squealed with delight. Yes, I know! I’m clearly crackers.

Why was I so excited? Well I just knew they would work wonderfully with my DoReMi Piano students.

DoReMi Piano starts by introducing students, via the concept of high and low, to the pitches, solfa or singing names of “so” and “mi”. These two pitches are the easiest for beginner musicians to sing since they commonly occur in many playground songs and of course the irritating “ner ner” taunt! The students learn to sing these pitches through songs and games. Then they learn where to find them on the keyboard.

Once students are confident with these two pitches they are ready to add a third pitch “la” which also commonly occurs in playground songs and taunts.

Some students apply these pitches to the keyboard with ease. Others have more trouble. Any key on the keyboard can be “so“, which means there are many correct locations. We start with the black keys to limit the options and eventually we move to the white keys. This is where the puzzle erasers come in!

Puzzle Erasers on Black KeysFor students struggling with the locations of “la”, “so” and “mi” we can use the cute animals to find our keys. We build them up by starting with “so”, then “mi”, then “la”. They love choosing from my bag of “friends”. This student has placed the tiger on “so”, the piggy on “mi” and the cow on “la”.

You can see how the animals sit nicely on the keys and if they’re played gently they don’t fall off. Plus they are kinder to the keys than the Lego mini-figures I had been using!

Puzzle Erasers on White KeysBut that’s not all they can do! When the student is ready to move to the white keys, they make it really easy to show how “la”, “so” and “mi” can move. One animal can’t move on its own though, if one moves they all have to move. Getting the students to move the animals themselves gives them an understanding of the nature of transposition. Not that we use that term just yet! If they make a mistake, all they need to do is play the keys and they soon hear the problem.

So thanks Diane, on behalf of my students and myself. Our lessons are not only full of joy, they are also more effective.

Book 2 Coming Soon

Coming soon, pre-order now for delivery before the end of February 2015

Book 2 Cover for web

DoReMi Piano Book 2 covers

  • Solfa singing names do, re, mi, faso and la as hand signs and on the stave
  • Rhythm names taata and titi (minims, crotchets and quavers)
  • Time signatures 2/4 , 3/4 and 4/4
  • Grand staff
  • Treble clef notes from B3 to D5
  • Bass clef notes from C3 to D4
  • C major tonic triad
  • Tied notes
  • Rests
  • Hands together
  • Slurs and phrases
  • Staccato
  • Sight Reading

What’s in DoReMi Piano Book 1?

DoReMi Piano Book 1 covers

  • Posture and hand position
  • Two and three line staves moving to five line staves
  • Black keys leading optionally to white keys
  • Solfa singing names do, mi, so and la as hand signs and on the stave
  • Pulse
  • Rhythm names ta and titi (crotchets and quavers or quarter notes and eighth notes)
  • Stick notation leading to stems on the score, including stem direction
  • Ta rests (crotchet rests or quarter note rests)
  • Dynamic markings forte, piano, mezzo-forte and mezzo-piano
  • Time signatures 2/4 and 4/4
  • Ledger lines
  • Accents
  • Repeat sign
  • Use of both hands with single fingers (starting with middle finger) and moving onto using the index finger
  • Two note slurs
  • Improvisation
  • Sight Reading

DoReMi Piano Book 2, coming soon, continues from this point introducing the Grand Staff and absolute letter names.

Jolly Music

If you would like some further resources to help you use the Kodály Approach with your students then I can highly recommend Jolly Music Handbook for Beginners by Cyrilla Rowsell and David Vinden

This book is a comprehensive classroom scheme for Early Years and KS1 classes to teach singing and musicianship using the Kodály Approach. I’ve also used it to good effect with pre-schoolers and on a one to one basis with my piano students. It was an invaluable resource while I was developing DoReMi Piano.

Many of the songs in this book are also contained in “Songs for Singing & Musicianship Training” by David Vinden and Yuko Vinden. This is an excellent reference book for the Kodály Approach and solfa, and has lots of songs in it slowly increasing in complexity. However with Jolly Music the songs have been made into a full scheme of work with detailed lesson plans and audio CDs. You can also buy a Big Book to go with it. I love it and so do my children.

If you’re new to the Kodály Approach and want to learn yourself then it’s not the best resource since each book only covers a small amount of content. However it’s great for identifying creative ways to be repetitive with the skills and information. You could use it without a deeper understanding, or gain your personal understanding elsewhere and then use it to help your teaching.

Have you used Jolly Music? Or perhaps another Early Years scheme. Why not share thoughts below?

Understanding Pulse

For many years now I have sung songs with my students to help them learn various elements of musicianship. One of the first songs we sing helps them understand pulse. This song is the two pitch song Cobbler Cobbler. The children pretend to hold a shoe in one hand and a hammer in the other. They bang their fist in time with the pulse of the song. We then hold the hammer in the air; place the “shoe” on the ground; swap the hammer into the other hand; and pick up the shoe again. We can then repeat the song using the other hand.

They love it! We can use it to explore tempo as sometimes the cobbler is very tired and goes slowly, or he might be running late and need to go fast. Of course the children go so fast that their steady pulse goes out of the window! But they’re having fun and we can tone it down and discuss the different tempos still have a “steady beat”. We can also march around the room to this song or play a simple pat-a-cake game. All great ways of feeling the concept of the steady beat.

Sometimes I use the terms pulse and steady beat interchangeably. We talk about our own heartbeats and I make the children laugh by tapping out a random jazzy “heartbeat” and shout “Quick, call an ambulance!!” A healthy heartbeat is nice and steady and our songs need a healthy heartbeat too. Explaining that the doctors can feel your heartbeat by finding your pulse brings in the term pulse quite nicely. They can rarely find their own pulse so we often have to “call an ambulance” for them too! They find this hilarious!

We can tap the pulse all over the place! On the piano lid, on our knees, on our noses, nod our heads. Anything we can think of. Especially anything they can think of! The more ideas and repetition the better. One of my students wanted to tap his eye – not sure about that!! I suggested eyebrow and he seemed happy enough!

I had one student who found tapping a steady pulse almost impossible. We tried everything from marching around in my garden to nodding heads. One day, almost by chance, I asked her to try tapping fingertips on her chest but keeping the heel of her hand fixed to her body! Hooray! She still can’t clap or march but she can make that very small movement needed to understand the pulse.