Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rockin' the suburbs

Old McDonald Tune by user9552426

This isn't directly Treblemaker related, but it is musical - and hilarious.  I had some evening meetings for church last week so the husband and WonderGirl put this little ditty together.  They were inspired by this fabulous book Aunt Sarah sent us:

Go to the book website http://www.punkfarm.com for free punk farm song downloads.  Thank you Wisconsin (and Aunt Sarah)!!!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Violin hacker

All music teachers have little tricks we use to help our students develop certain areas of technique.  I thought I'd share two things I've been using recently with WonderGirl on the violin.  First, these:
These Dr. Scholls cushions are just perfect for violin teachers, and you can find the at any pharmacy or grocery store.  They are small, soft and have a light adhesive so we can stick them anywhere and they come off easily.  I use one for her left thumb here:

It gives her a tactile reminder of where to move her thumb and keeps it from creeping up over the fingerboard.

I also use it on her bow to keep her pinky in check:

The other thing I'm using lately is a Bow-Right:

It's guides her bow and helps her to notice the difference between using her elbow as opposed to her shoulder.  It's a handy thing to use, and it helps to have it there so I'm not constantly harping on her to use her elbow and I can focus on other things.

Do you have any tricks?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The fabulous Desiree gave me a heads up to this wonderful blog chock full of music teacher helps and theory games.

How amazing is this idea for teaching meter with Duplos??  My mom actually has a game very similar to this that I've been planning on posting since forever, but I haven't taken the time to dig through the basement and find it since our last move.  Using the first Duplo to determine the time signature, you can have your kiddo find proper beats to fill the measure.  And the best part is, on the original post - the author included a free printable with all the notation you'd need!!  The possibilities are endless.  Thanks so much for sharing, Desiree!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

There's a first time for everything...!

I had WonderGirl do something today I've never had her do before...

She practiced violin by herself.


I know, she's been playing for at least 6 months - but I've never had her do it on her own.  Piano, sure, but violin is another beast entirely.  We spend so much time with beginning students playing games to teach the basic techniques that there isn't much they can do on their own - plus it's so easy to slip into bad habits that I like to be there at every step.  And honestly, it's a lovely bonding time for us.  I don't mind it a bit.

But today during the Dude's nap (her usual lesson time) I had to run outside and spray paint some furniture before it gets to cold to go outside (it's getting WAY too close to winter for my liking!) and I didn't have time to practice with her.  So I made her a list of things to practice on piano, then made another short list for violin.  I got the violin out and ready for her and told her to come tell me when she was done.

It went great!  She was thrilled with the novelty of it all, and we got in our daily dose.  I don't think I'll do it again soon, but now that she has at least 4 songs under her belt, she has enough she can review through.  I'm a veteran teacher, but a novice mom, so my official opinion now is that once a student has multiple songs memorized, they are ready for personal practice in moderate doses.

Sniff... she is growing up WAY too fast!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

H A Double-L O W Double-E N spells Halloween!

WonderGirl was drawing October-y pictures the other day and asked me how to spell Halloween.  I immediately started singing this song, shocked that I hadn't remembered to teach it to her before.  Do you remember singing it back in elementary school like I did?  It's catchy lyrics set to Camille Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre that have sat in my brain since Mr. V (only one of the coolest elementary music teachers EVER - mom, you rank right up there with him too:) taught it to our class back in the day.  It's from "Halloween: Games, Songs and Stories" by Wade Denning & Kay Lande (Golden Records, LP-242, 1969).

Play it even just once for your kiddo - I promise they'll never forget how to spell Halloween!


H-A-Double-L-O-Double-U-Double-E-N Spells Halloween,
H-A-Double-L-O-Double-U-Double-E-N Spells Halloween!

Halloween means ghosts and goblins,
Skeletons, monsters and howling cats.
Spooky masks and jack-o-lanterns
Witches and devils and big black bats.

H-A-Double-L-O-Double-U-Double-E-N Spells Halloween,
H-A-Double-L-O-Double-U-Double-E-N Spells Halloween!

Halloween means ringing doorbells,
Scaring the people who open the door.
Trick-or-Treat gets you candy and apples,
Then go to the next house and get some more

Side note:  Back in grad school, I had a listening test where we had to identify the difference between Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre and his Fossils from the Carnival of the Animals.  It's not easy because they are both incredibly similar - but it was easy for me since I knew the Halloween song.  I taught it to the other students in my study group and we all aced it on the test!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Creating a student

One thing that was difficult for me when starting WonderGirl on an instrument was getting rid of my expectations.  It has been almost thirty years since I was a beginning student and I remember ALWAYS standing politely and calmly during lessons.  My mom might beg to differ... ;)  But when I would try to get her to focus on something at the beginning, she'd wiggle and giggle like we were playing around.  She didn't know any different!  But the tricky part was how to turn her into that stands-at-attention kind of student, and not freak out and lose patience when she didn't immediately do it.

The breakthrough came when I decided to teach her how to read using this book:

It doesn't have anything to do with music, but it has everything to do with a super simple way of sitting down with your child and guiding the learning process.  I had heard raves about it for years from all different kinds of parents who swore by it, and it totally lived up to the hype.  It teaches new concepts in tiny spurts and gives the child the chance to use what they already know extensively, so it builds their confidence level as well as teaches them in a simply fantabulous way.  And it gives the parent every single thing to say so it teaches you how to teach.  My confidence level grew too!

After about a third of the book, I introduced piano with our budding teacher/student relationship.  Plus, piano is such a visual instrument that her being able to read really helped her progress and get into playing and learning it herself.  Once we had that structure, adding the violin was a natural step.

Little by little, bit by bit our relationship has grown in ways I am SO thankful for!  I love being her mom, but I never thought I could love being her piano/violin teacher as much as I do.  What a blessing it is!!
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