Piano Blog

A piano teacher's notes and successes!

The Science of the Lazy Brain

Saturday, September 19, 2020 by Becky Brouwer | Practicing, parenting, performance

What if you could have your child immediately put their dishes in the dishwasher after they eat, do all their homework as soon as they are home from school or practice their instruments every day without a fight? What about getting themselves ready for school and not need reminding about what to bring? What would that world look like?

Our brains are set up to function efficiently. It’s a really smart system. Like a river that finds it’s way down a hillside where it meets least resistance, our brains will find the most efficient way to complete a task with the least amount of effort. 

We can use this system to our advantage by establishing patterns and habits so our brains don’t have to think and will just do. Cutting that path is the hard part because it goes against what’s easy for your brain. But if you persevere with patience, you can develop habits that will make things easier in the long run.

In the book “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning”, Peter Brown explains that advertisers, influencers and politicians persuade us to buy their product or change our mindset because of a stimulus or cue. When we run our tongue over our teeth, if we feel gritty, it makes us want to brush our teeth. This wasn’t always the case though. We had to be conditioned to run our tongue over our teeth and recognize that what we felt meant we should brush our teeth. Just like Pavlov’s dog was conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell, we can condition ourselves to any habit through a stimulus.

At the beginning of the summer, I made chore cards for my children. They are just simple cards with 20 different jobs on them; clean bedroom, brush teeth, play outside, outdoor chore, 30 min reading, practicing piano, etc. When the card is completed, they can ask for time on screens or to play with friends. The stimulus for them is wanting to play with friends or on screens. Any good habit delivers rewards. It may seem that the reward is playing with friends or on screens, but there is another reward; checking off the boxes. Checking off boxes gives your brain a dopamine hit that is subtle but increases your desire to continue getting more. This is why Better Practice App can be so effective. Through simple cues such as getting home, eating a snack and sitting down to play the piano before going out with friends or playing on screens, children will form habits that will help them to manage their lives more effectively. 

Just like a river cutting it's way down a hillside will deviate when it comes across an obstacle, we can manipulate obstacles or cues to help ourselves to the path we want to be on. Children are learning to manage their time. Parents can't expect them to do this on their own. Most children need to be taught how to manage their time effectively. Having a consistent schedule that includes activities that involve delayed gratification like playing an instrument will help them to learn how to manage other difficult tasks and goals in the future. Your brain wants it to be easy, so make it easy by putting a little more effort into building habits that you know will benefit you in the future. 

And now I'm going to tick "Write a blog post" off my list!

How Parents Can Help Their Piano Student

Monday, September 7, 2020 by Becky Brouwer | Parents

I would like to provide some suggestions to parents if you want to be an even better piano parent  

Sometimes the best and easiest thing a parent can do to help a student practice is to simply walk them to the bench and help them sit at the piano. If you’d like some other ideas of how to help, this list might be helpful.

1. The Practice Practice Bouncer: Let’s begin with the simplest of tasks for piano parents. To encourage effective daily practice, proactive parents must act as the Practice Practice Bouncer. This job requires parents to keep family pets, siblings, and friends out of the piano room. Even more importantly for older students, this job requires keeping cellphones quiet during practice sessions.

2. The Practice Videographer: Piano teachers love to know what’s happening at home. By being a videographer, proactive piano parents can provide teachers with valuable home practice recordings that can be used to improve technique, posture, rhythm, and more.

3. The Piano Piece Request Line: The most accomplished piano students always revisit pieces from their past to brush up on skills and to simply revisit some old favorites. During practice sessions, parents can get involved by requesting their children to perform some pieces that they have enjoyed hearing from past recitals.

4. The Lead Vocalist: Most people are not too comfortable with breaking out into song in public, but they will happily sing in front of their own children. Sing along with song lyrics. Make sure your student is playing well enough that you can sing along without distracting them.  

5. The Youtube Liaison: As students get older, it can get harder for piano parents to be active in the home practice process. By transitioning from an authoritative role to an assistant role, parents can be supportive by performing simple tasks such as searching out quality Youtube performances of pieces their children are playing. It can be a really useful experience for teen piano players to see and hear performances of the pieces they are about to play.

6. The Piano Studio Janitor: Parents are the ultimate, and original, janitors. While it is important that students learn to organize their own practice spaces, if parents are looking for a simple task to get involved in practice sessions, getting the home piano space in order before each practice session can be very helpful.

7. The Concert Promotor: As a parent myself, I know that showing off our kids comes naturally. For this reason, proactive parents can take on the role of home practice concert promotor. This job involves getting their children to perform when friends, grandparents, and aunts and uncles come over for a visit, or sending videos and initiating FaceTime performances.

8. The Timekeeper: Work on note reading, key signature identification, interval identification and a host of other challenges with your children  Help them with technology or just time them on flash cards or worksheets  

9. The Sticker Giver: The worst thing a parent can do during a home practice session is to instigate practice wars. Music is supposed to be a delightful experience. And what is more delightful for piano students than stickers?! Listen in on home practice sessions and then distribute stickers when you hear a piano piece or a technical exercise that was performed particularly well.

10. The Role Reversal: Parents spend most of their lives in an authoritative role but during home practice sessions it can be a wonderful learning experience for their children to take the leading role and teach the adults something new. Have your students teach you how to clap a rhythm, play a piano game, or perform a simple duet.

11. The Check-Marker: Take charge of checking off home practice tasks on lesson assignment sheets, send a note through betterpracticeapp chat feature  

12. The Lesson Note Reader:  I often give specific instructions on Betterpracticeapp notes. Read the lesson notes to your children before the start of piano practice.

13. The Active Audience Member: Whether musical or not, piano parents can lend an ear as a piano practice audience member. Only provide positive feedback as you listen to your children perform repertoire and exercises.

14. The Frustration Interpreter: Young piano students are not great at vocalizing their challenges. For this reason, parents can serve as an interpreter for piano teachers. During home practice sessions, discuss difficulties and challenges with your children and then record your findings in the chat feature of Betterpracticeapp.

These 14 suggestions are taken from and modified from a blogpost on https://www.teachpianotoday.com/2020/08/31/14-tasks-to-turn-piano-parents-into-home-practice-teaching-assistants/

2020-2021 Music Studio Challenges

Wednesday, September 2, 2020 by Becky Brouwer | Uncategorized

Studio Challenges 2020-2021

Choose a challenge to work towards. Try to spread it around and do a few different challenges throughout the year. Earn Challenge Points towards prizes and recognition in the studio! Accumulate challenge points for your Hiker, Climber and Mountaineer award.


Hiker - 15 points

Climber - 30 points

Mountaineer - 50 points


Each point also enters a ticket into the “Lucky Dip” drawing at the Final concert in May for a $50 Amazon Gift Card.


These are the Studio Challenges for this year:


Technique

Practice Champions  - You level up with every 20 days practiced. Every Level earns 1 challenge point. Earn an extra challenge point for every 30 consecutive days practiced.

Scale Ninjas - Every Level up earns 5 challenge points. All scales must be played with dynamics, accuracy, fingering, tempo, rhythm and tone (Check requirements on Betterpracticeapp)

Career Chordsters - Every Level up earns 5 challenge points. All chord patterns must be played with dynamics, accuracy, fingering, tempo, rhythm and tone (Check requirements on Betterpracticeapp)


Theory

Tenuto Trainers - Choose a challenge with appropriate parameters and earn points towards challenge points. Earn 1 challenge point for every 3 challenges. Testing on Tenuto. Record challenge numbers in box

Challenge 1: Scale Identification (3 min 20 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 2: Chord Identification (3 min 20 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 3: Note Construction (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 4: Key Signature Construction (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 5: Interval Construction (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 6: Scale Construction  (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 7: Chord Construction  (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 8: Keyboard Note Identification  (3 min 60 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 9: Keyboard Reverse Identification  (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 10: Keyboard Interval Identification  (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 11: Keyboard Scale Identification  (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Challenge 12: Keyboard Chord Identification  (3 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Interval Investigators - Every Level Up earns 1 challenge point. Testing on Interval Identification on Tenuto.

Level 1 - 2, 3, 4, 5 harmonic and melodic (1 min 20 questions, 90% correct)

Level 2 - 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Oct (2 min 40 questions, 90% correct)

Level 3 - M3, m3 (3 min 45 questions, 90% correct)

Level 4 - M3, m3, P4, P5 and P8 (3 min 30 questions, 90% correct)

Level 5 - M2, m2, M3, m3, M6, m6, M7, m7 (3 min 30 questions, 90% correct)

Level 6 - All qualities and Intervals (3 min 30 questions, 90% correct)

Level 7 - All qualities and Intervals (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Key Signature Killers - Every Level Up earns 1 challenge point. Testing on Tenuto with these requirements.

Level 1 - Major up to 3 sharps (1 min 25 questions, 90% correct)

Level 2 - Major up to 3 flats (1 min 25 questions, 90% correct)

Level 3 - Major up to 7 sharps (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 4 - Major up to 7 flats (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 5 - Major 7 sharps or flats (5 min 70 questions, 90% correct)

Level 5 - Major/minor up to 3 sharps (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 6 - Major/minor up to 3 flats (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 7 - Major/minor up to 7 sharps (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 7 - Major/minor up to 7 flats (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 8 - Major/minor 7 sharps or flats (5 min 80 questions, 90% correct)

Symbols and Terms Space Cowboys - Level Up when you can pass off all cards for level with 100% accuracy 2 weeks in a row. Every Level Up earns 1 challenge point. Testing on Quizlet or studio flashcards


Ear Training

Interval Interrogators - Every Level Up earns 1 challenge point. Testing on Tenuto Ear Training.

Level 1 - Unison, 2, 3 Ascending (1 min 20 questions, 90% correct)

Level 2 - M2, M3, P5, P8 Ascending (2 min 35 questions, 90% correct)

Level 3 - P4, P5, M6 and M7 (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 4 - M3, P5, M6, M7 (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 5 - M3, m3, M6, m6 (5 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 6 - M2, m2, M7, m7 (5 min 100 questions, 90% correct)

Level 7 - Tritone, P4, P5 (5 min 100 questions, 90% correct)

Level 8 - M3, m3, M6, m6, M7, m7 (5 min 100 questions, 90% correct)

Level 9 - All Major, Minor, Perfect and Tritone intervals (5 min 100 questions, 90%)

Scale Identifiers - Every Level Up earns 1 challenge point. Testing on Tenuto Ear Training or with a teacher

Level 1 - Ascending/Descending(1 min 20 questions, 90% correct)

Level 2 - Maj or min (1 min 25 questions, 90% correct)

Level 3 - Maj, natural min, chromatic (3 min 70 questions, 90% correct)

Level 4 - Natural, Harmonic and Melodic Minor (3 min 60 questions, 90% correct)

Level 5 - Dorian, Natural or Harmonic Minor (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 6 - Major, Natural minor or Phrygian Mode (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 7 - Major, Lydian and Whole Tone (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 8 - Major, Mixolydian, Pentatonic and Whole Tone (3 min 75 questions, 90%)

Level 9 - Natural minor, Locrian Mode, Pentatonic, Blues (3 min 75 questions, 90%)

Chord Challengers - Every Level Up earns 1 challenge point. Testing on Tenuto Ear Training.

Level 1 - Maj or min Root(1 min 15 questions, 90% correct)

Level 2 - Maj or min Root(1 min 25 questions, 90% correct)

Level 3 - Maj/min/dim Root(3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 4 - Maj/min/dim/Aug Root (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 5 - Maj/min Root/Inverted (3 min 50 questions, 90% correct)

Level 6 - Dom7/dim7 root (5 min 100 questions, 90% correct)

Level 7 - M7/m7/half dim7 root (5 min 100 questions, 90% correct)

Level 8 - M7/Dom7/m7/dim7 (5 min 100 questions, 90% correct)

Level 9 - Dom 7th Root/Inverted (5 min 100 questions, 90%)

Level 10 - All M/m/7th chords in root and inversions (5 min 100 questions, 90%)

Theta Ear Sensai 2020-2021 - You level up with every Belt increase. Every Level earns 1 challenge point. 


Sight Reading

Note Ninjas - Every Level Up earns 1 challenge point. Testing on Tenuto Ear Training or with teacher

Level 1 - 🎼 Lines (1 min 15 questions, 90% correct)

Level 2 - 🎼 Lines/Spaces (1 min 15 questions, 90% correct)

Level 3 - 𝄢 Lines (1 min 15 questions, 90% correct)

Level 4 - 𝄢 Lines/Spaces (1 min 20 questions, 90% correct)

Level 5 - 🎼𝄢 Lines/Spaces (5 min 75 questions, 90% correct)

Level 6 - 🎼𝄢 2 Ledger Lines Out (5 min 75 questions, 90% correct)

Level 7 - 🎼𝄢 4 Ledger Lines Out (5 min 90 questions, 90% correct)

Level 8 - 🎼𝄢 4 Ledger Lines Out (5 min 100 questions, 90%)

Level 9 - 🎼𝄢 4 Ledger Lines Out (5 min 120 questions, 90%)

Piano Maestro Master 2020-2021 - You level up with every 20 Rank increase. Every Level earns 1 challenge point. 

Rhythm Raiders - Level Up when you have completed a level on Rhythm Lab. Earn a challenge point for every 3 levels past with at least 90% accuracy. Write the levels past off in the box.

SASR SAGES - You level up with every 100 points. Every Level earns 5 challenge points.


Music History

Piano Explorers 2020-2021 - Study the Piano Explorer Magazine. Do the quiz. Listen to the music of the composer. You can find music anywhere or peforkids.net. Identify music for your teacher. You level up with every Composer studied. Every Level earns 1 challenge point. 

Cool Composer Cats - Level up after composing, publishing and performing your own composition or making an arrangement of another song. Each level up must increase in difficulty. Every Level up earns 1 challenge point.

Public Performance Professionals - You level up with every 30 audience members. Every Level earns 1 challenge point.