I had one of those “aha” moments in the middle of a lesson tonight. One of my middle school students is working on a jazz piece for our upcoming studio recital. She’s got the notes and rhythms down, but her playing tonight lacked excitement. She was playing it “safe” by keeping her hands close to the keys, which limited her range of articulation and dynamics.
In the middle of trying to pull more excitement out of her, it hit me – her playing was 2-dimensional, and I the sound I wanted was 3-dimensional. We needed a way to experience this piece in 3D – and there was Playdough in the cabinet calling out to us!!
As I pointed out and played snippets of the piece, I asked her to find a way to model the sound using the Playdough. Was the sound smooth, connected, sharp, pointy, round, bouncy, short, long? As we experimented, we found ways to shape the dough that imitated the action used at the piano – staccatos motions pulled up into a point, accents smashed down. Here’s a sample of the shapes we discovered in her piece:
When I asked her to come back to the piano, we both noticed an immediate difference. Her playing had texture and variety – and now she wasn’t afraid to get her hands off the keys!
I’m really excited to try this with some other students this week. With our studio recitals just around the corner, this will be a fun way to unlock some imaginations and put finishing touches on repertoire!