What 5 things do you associate with this month?
- Mince pies – I had my first on Tuesday (yum!)
- Christmas tree – mine’s up, thanks to my mom
- Presents – come on guys! I’m organised, but not *that* organised
- Christmas carols – our November Curiosity Box, for members of The Community, featured Christmas music – so the prep for that started at the beginning of October (yes, OCTOBER)
- Christmas crackers – and thanks to Pam Wedgwood, that’s our blog topic for today…
CURIOUS ABOUT CRACKERS…
So what’s your family tradition with Christmas crackers?
As a child, I remember my brother and I using them to decorate the Christmas tree. They were always a fixture on the dinner table on Christmas Day – click here for a 1980’s photo of me! And then I have the childhood memory of – more often than not – being on the ‘losing’ end of the cracker. (Having reached my 30s it’s no longer the traumatic experience it was aged 6 – whew!)
GOT YOUR CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM US YET?
The first piece is The Mistletoe Mystery. Click here to watch Sally play this and give a few teaching ideas
The second is I’m Going Crackers! and right here – in this blog – I’m going to give you 5 teaching ideas for this piece which you can watch me play below.
Now you can’t buy these 2 piano pieces – but you can get them for free (for a limited time). Click here NOW to download your gift
THIS WEEK I STARTED TEACHING ”I’M GOING CRACKERS”
… to 8 year-old Francesca.
Now she’s quite the ‘planner’. Already plans are being made to include this piano piece into her Christmas Day perform-to-the-family programme. (Which will be particularly exciting since, according to Francesca’s mom, a brand new piano will be making its way down the chimney on Christmas Eve – woohoo!)
5 TEACHING IDEAS FOR ”I’M GOING CRACKERS”
DOWNLOAD your free score and check out these 5 teaching ideas. What’s more, I’m going to be doing a few Periscope broadcasts over the next week, demonstrating a few of these ideas – I’d love you to join me for some fun!
Not on Periscope yet? Click here to download the free app, search for curious piano_ and follow us!
#1 WORK OUT THE PHRASES
The phrase structure is really straightforward – featuring 4 bar phrases. Why not get your local office supplies store to produce an extra-large copy of the score (A2 or A3)? Your pupils can draw the phrases using a coloured marker.
Encourage them to compare the second, third and fourth phrases. What do they notice?
#2 OUTLINE THE CHORDS
Play one chord per bar – which will be a semibreve worth 2 beats. “Huh?” I hear you say. Yup, a semibreve worth 2 beats because the time signature is 2/2.
This is a great way for pupils to get the ‘big picture’. To recognise triad shapes. To understand the harmony. To develop a feel for the keyboard geography of the piece – without having to additionally apply the rhythm, the acciaccaturas, the articulation. (Although you might get your pupil to still apply the dynamics).
bar 5 – C major
bar 6 – C major, plus B
bar 7 – C major, plus B flat
bar 9 – D minor
Wondering what to do when you’ve got bars with a step-wise melody? (Which you get in bars 8 and 12). Well, you’ve a choice: either play the melodic steps or just play the first note.
#3 TEACH BY ROTE
The fact that you’re moving a lot – and fast – in bars 17-18 means that teaching this section by rote is probably the best way to go. Again, a pupil can outline these bars: play G and F sharp together for a minim beat.
The secret: get pupils to set a manageable tempo when practising these bars in this ‘outline’ style and look ahead, visually, to where they need to move next.
Another bit to teach by rote is the descending chromatic passage at bar 23. You might even get your pupil to finger this bar on a table top first, calling aloud the finger numbers. Back at the piano pupils might transfer this to the piano keys – just touching the keys – as they navigate their journey through the black and white keys, focusing on how it feels. Maybe still saying the fingering aloud. That way, when they first play it, they’re more likely to play accurately.
#4 HALF THE TIME VALUE
I’m sure we’ve all had pupils who’ve been bamboozled by the idea that a minim is worth one beat. I’m Going Crackers is written in 2/2. (That means pupils *will not* count 4 beats!)
So let’s get pupils to write it out in 2/4.
Start by asking your pupil to identify the rhythms used: semibreve, minim, crotchet and quavers (including rests).
Next up: your pupil will half the value of each – so a minim will become a crotchet.
Then it’s time to re-write the score: in 2/4.
The one thing that will make this more fun – than a pencil and manuscript paper – is NotateMe. This iPad app will allow pupils to handwrite notation, ideally with a Stylus pen, converting it into a ‘proper’ score. Check out this video from Tim Topham to see how it works
#5 BLOW THE RESTS – WITH A PARTY BLOWER!
At the second time bracket Pam says ‘Blow the rests’. And, as it’s Christmas, I reckon that a party blower is in order! I’m off to get some today – so be sure to join me on Periscope over the next week when you’ll get to see this in action!
Available for a limited time only. Download your free copy now.