There are certain necessary parts of music study that can be just plain not fun for young students. Like counting aloud while playing. Or practicing with a metronome. YUK. From a student perspective, those chores are hard and frustrating (if you’ve resorted to using such forms of torture, it probably means something is going wrong in a piece, or at the very least, not coming easily or intuitively). Sometimes, it takes a bit of sugar, or “gimmick” to get that medicine down!
Here are a couple of tricks we’ve discovered in my studio this fall that make these tasks a little more palatable:
Count Out Loud… in a Different Language
This bright idea came from one of my students. She was adamantly opposed to counting out loud as she played. At one lesson, when I insisted that we try it together, she reluctantly told me she’d try… but only if she could count in Spanish. (I think she somehow thought this would get her out of counting. Imagine her dismay when I agreed to let her…) It worked like a charm! Since then, I’ve tried the tactic on some other reluctant counters, with similar results. Many elementary students have already had some exposure to language study at school, and are excited for a chance to show off their knowledge at piano lessons.
I made up a quick reference chart with counting numbers listed in 7 different languages to keep handy by the piano:
A printable version of the chart is available on the Studio Aids page. (Coincidentally, this activity is a great fit for the Mission: Music incentive program that you’ll also find on the Studio Aids page.)
The Barking, Quacking Metronome
Have any of you iPad/iPod users discovered the iBeat metronome app? It just happened to be the first metronome app I downloaded after purchasing an iPad to use in the studio earlier this year, and it’s been a BIG hit with my students!
The app is styled like a pendulum metronome (a novelty in itself for younger students):
Here’s the fun part: users can customize the sound played on each beat. There are 12 different sound options, including a standard metronome click and a number of different drum set components, PLUS a barking dog and quacking duck. Even my students who hate the metronome LOVE that silly duck!
The iBeat metronome is a free app, so it’s easy for students to download if they have access to an iPod, iPhone or iPad at home. We’ve found that the volume levels tend to be a little on the low side, so it’s helpful to have a pair of headphones handy for home practice.