Monster Dance

Monster Dance

Last week, I introduced Jennifer Fink's Monster Dance to an 11-year-old student. It was a sight-readable piece for him - something we could put together in one lesson. The piece is written for left hand solo, though it ventures up into the treble clef partway through. Once we had worked through the key patterns, tricky moves, and looked for repeated material, he wanted to play it all the way through from the beginning.

As he played, I thought about the beloved Disney/Pixar film, Monsters, Inc. (one of my personal favorites!).

"Have you seen Monsters, Inc.?" I asked when he finished playing. "Um, yeah, of course!" he said, with a sparkle in his eye. "Have you seen Monsters University?" he asked. "Um, yeah, of course!" I said, imitating his inflection. "I was thinking - which monster is the best match for the music in Monster Dance?" "Definitely Sullivan," he said without pause. "I was thinking Sully, too," I said. "What about Mike Wazowski? What kind of music would fit his character?"

He immediately went to the high side of the piano and started playing something.

Six Ideas for Fall Piano Lessons


Do your students love Halloween as much as mine do? 

Every week they come to lessons so excited to tell me about their costume plans and the decorations in their classroom or at home so this year, I decided to introduce lots of Halloween and fall-themed music and lesson activities during the months of October and November to celebrate the season.  Here are some of my favorite ideas:

Six Ideas for Fall Piano Lessons

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1. "Trick-or-Treat" warm-ups

A great way to review scales and warm-up patterns!  Have students draw a few technic patterns from a bowl (or perhaps a festive jack-o-lantern!).  Will they stumble (trick) or master the pattern on the first try (treat)?  Of course, some sort of treat will make this challenge all the more fun!

2. Creativity challenge

My younger students LOVE making up their own pieces each week.  This month, I've been assigning Halloween "creativity challenges" and I love hearing the things they come up with during the week!  Here are a few examples of "creativity challenges" for Preparatory B/Level 1 students:

- Make a piece about Halloween using your new warm-up (5-finger scale in A minor).
Make up a song about Halloween using four rhythm patterns (notated on assignment sheet).  Don't forget to write words for your song!

3. Rhythmic speech match-up

I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew it would be a great activity for lessons leading up to Halloween.  Create a list of seasonal phrases (i.e. "acorns falling from the trees" or "pumpkins are round, orange and brown") or use this list of Halloween phrases that match a series of set rhythm patterns.  Have students read the phrases out loud and choose the rhythm pattern that matches.

4. Seasonal pieces

There are so many great pieces out there for fall and my students love having a "special piece" (usually something not from one of their books) to work on in addition to their other assignments!  Here are a few of my favorite pieces for fall for Preparatory B/Level 1 students:

- The Haunted Mouse (Faber & Faber, Level 1, Lesson Book)
- Song for a Scarecrow (Faber & Faber, Level 1, Lesson Book)
- Pumpkin Boogie (Faber & Faber, Level 2B Lesson Book)
- Whirling Leaves (Faber & Faber, Level 2B Lesson Book)

5. Candy corn dictation

Such a cute idea from Emily at The Sweetest Melody!  This is another fun rhythm activity for fall lessons, appropriate for all ages, as the rhythms you choose for dictation can be tailored to the individual student.  For example, I might choose duple rhythms with triplets for one student (to reinforce her understanding of triplets), duple rhythms with quarters and eighths for a first-year student, and patterns with more subdivisions for an intermediate level student.

6. Duet improvisation

I love playing duets with my students during lessons, especially ones that we create together in the moment.  The Haunted House improvisation in The Music Tree, Part 2B has the perfect programmatic title for Halloween-themed lessons!  (Note: Since this is an improvisation activity, it's really suitable for a range of levels, since the musical material provided is just a starting place.)

Happy fall teaching!