Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nursery Rhyme Jazz : Baby Loves Jazz

One gem about visiting my mom is all of her awesome teaching materials.  Besides all the things she accumulated from teaching elementary music for years, she's also a book junkie and collects absolute keepers.  Baby Loves Jazz is a part of the Baby Loves Music franchise which also runs the Baby Loves Disco events.  And are held no where near me, humph.

The company has so many books and CDs out it's overwhelming, so I'm just going to go with Nursery Rhyme Jazz for now.  The board book is bright, fun and engaging for even my spastic one year old.  The real treat is the accompanying CD that has jazz versions of Hey Diddle Diddle, the Itsy Bitsy Spider and others - and they are actually really good.;  Not your typical kiddie music that makes us parents slightly nauseous but we play it anyway because our kids enjoy it - this is something all ages can enjoy.  We played it in the car for days and sang along the whole time (so I'm including this under the Living Room Dance Party tag... those can happen in cars too!).  We also especially enjoyed Ella Elephant Scats Like That and I'll get around to a review at some point.  Check out the whole line, and tell me what your favorite is!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Learning spaces

image via
One of Mr. Suzuki's great ideas was the foot chart.  A young student starts by standing on a mat that has their feet outlined in the correct positions for standing and playing the violin - genius!  Not only is it something personalized to them, but it also gives them a clear definition of their learning space.  Have you ever tried to teach your child in your own home and they kept collapsing on the couch or diving away from you for a toy?  Since I teach my WonderGirl in our living room - the same place where she wrestles with her brother, watches TV and builds castles with legos - the concept of the foot chart is essential.

I've modified it a tad to work with her diva nature...

This is a $9.99 piece of Ikea heaven.  When it's time for a lesson, the red carpet comes out.  For the first few lessons, she'd forget and try to wander off, but she knew exactly where to come back to when I reminded her.  It's her special place, our violin place, where she can focus despite the familiar surroundings.

she's kissing a llama.  obviously.
When it comes to piano, she always uses her purple chair.  It's not as exclusive, since she also eats every meal in it, but it's still something she insists on that makes a big difference.

How do you create a learning space in your home?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Things my 12 year-old self approves of

While visiting my hometown, I got the chance to spend a lot of time with one of my best friends who has just become a first time mom.  She's already way more organized than I've ever been as a parent - with tons of materials on raising bilingual children, and a changing table, among other things :)  She played Suzuki piano as a kid and plans on introducing piano to her wee one in a few years.  In the meantime, she is playing through her old sheet music so her baby can have personal concerts.

We talked about her Suzuki days, and she asked me about what I grew up playing.  The things that popped into my head were all things I enjoyed so much then that I actually still play today.  I played fair amount of music I wasn't a fan of (I didn't learn to love Bartok until I played it on the violin :) and this was music that a grouchy school-aged me adored, which I think is probably the most ringing endorsement ever.  Check them out!

Go Tiger Go! by Daniel Carr Glover is officially the coolest song I know how to play.  It's easy enough that I can play it (that means it's super easy) but it still rocks like a tough piece!  It's jazzy.. awesome.... I don't think I can do it justice.  Here's a random stranger playing it for you on youtube.

Modes and Moods by Robert Vandall - Okay, I've played a few of Mr. Vandall's pieces - my brothers played his duet Jubilation which is required to be performed whenever the two are in the same state (it's AWESOME) - and I've loved every one.  Mr. Vandall has a way of making the piano and the pianist sound their absolute best.  Each piece in Modes and Moods is based on one of the 7 modes, and they are all lovely.  My favorite - and the one I can still play (and sound far better than I am when I play it) is the one based on the lydian mode.  Lydian Nocturne is also available on its own and I hiiiiighly recommend it.

Lead Lines and Chord Changes by Ann Collins.  This book taught me more practical technique than any other piano book I have ever used.  I don't enjoy technical jargon and etudes, but Ms. Collins teaches how to play chord changes and be able to improvise your own in a way that I actually liked to play.  And now, I depend on the skills I gained from this book to be able to fake my way through any accompaniment that has guitar chords/chord changes included weekly.  I'm a right brained, can't follow directions kind of person, so when I say this book is good, I mean it's GOOD!

What did you play as a kid that you still love to play now?

Hey there, stranger!

I'm BAAAAAACK!!  We had a fantastic time visiting my family!!
That's Gamma and WonderGirl emoting over grilled cheese sandwiches
Did I forget to mention I left town for 3 weeks?  Ooops!  But I did miss you... and I thought of you often!  We got to do some serious playing, like hanging out with fabulous uncles...

...and equally fabulous aunts...

... and got some hiking in with Papa Bear and Gamma!

We brought WG's piano book along and managed to get some lessons in, as well as some impromptu performances.  My mom hadn't heard of the Faber First Piano Adventures series, and I think we got her hooked.

I do miss my hometown... but it's great to be back.  The only way we got to see Daddy the last few weeks was via webcam, so we're loving being together again.  I have a backlog of ideas and posts, so be prepared!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday inspiration: it's universal, Bobby!

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

We all know of my love for Mr. McFerrin.  This clip from the 2009 World Science Festival has been making the rounds, and never fails to make me smile.  He presents on how the pentatonic scale is universal to our ears, regardless of cultural background.  It's an interesting argument -  and his honest joy at the result of his experiment is just wonderful.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Silent Melody

I'm not going to take credit for this idea, but I will take credit for implementing it vociferously.  The Faber book has a game it calls Silent Melody, inspired by none other than the big B himself.  Ludwig was known for composing music on long walks, silently moving his fingers as if he were playing it out on a piano, so the game it suggests is to close the keyboard and play a melody on the lid, saying the names of the notes or finger numbers as you go.  Since we use an electric keyboard, I just turn it off and WG plays the keys silently.

I do love that my child has a great ear, but sometimes it's nice to watch her fingers working without an ear to help her out.  I've done this also with violin students as well, with an added goal of being able to hear the notes if they press hard enough - and the "air bow," or practicing a bowing without touching the strings. Just file this away as a nifty idea to mix things up when you see your wee one's mind start to wander!
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