Since so many students are naturally competitive, I made a chart to track their progress on the Piano is Fun note naming game. Students are not competing against anyone, but it sure does motivate them to do the lessons so they can get a sticker on the square. This chart will print on 2 pages of paper, and I just trimmed and taped them together.
There are so many wonderful computer programs to use with music students, but this one is by far my favorite. Piano is Fun is a program that teaches note reading, and it really is fun! The program is only $29.95 and worth every penny, in my humble opinion.
There are 20 lessons in this game, and notes are gradually introduced. Students first itentify the notes by letter name, then do so on the keyboard as in the picture above. After the lessons have been finished, students then progress to the Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals. In these challenges, the notes go by, and the screen flips randomly from the keyboard to letter names. The Bronze and Silver medals are pretty easy to get, but the Gold medal is pretty hard. I can do it, but I have to concentrate! I am more than satisfied when my students earn the Silver medal. If they do get the Gold, I give them a gift certificate to their favorite restraunt.
You can go to the Piano is Fun website to see a video of the game in action, and to download the game.
This is such an effective tool that I will have students take 5 minutes out of their lesson to complete a level. I don’t do it all the time, but it is a regular part of my note reading arsenol of activities. It also works well for siblings who are waiting for their turn. I don’ t have a computer lab or anything like that yet. Students simply play this one game on my laptop in the piano studio.
A question I get asked a lot is how do I make all of these materials? What programs do I use, and where do I find the notation fonts? Well, I will divulge my secrets. Not that they are anything extraordinary at all. 🙂
My mainstay for everything is Microsoft Publisher. I use it for everything. I have tried using Word, but always end up frustrated. I like the fact the Publisher lets me put things where I want them without the trouble of messing with margins. I have a old version, 2000 I think, and someday I’ll have the money to upgrade. If you don’t have Publisher, don’t worry. Any program such as PrintShop, Photoshop, or program along that vein will work fine. Many people also successfully use Word. I am just not one of those people.
For all of the flashcards and rhythm cards, I use tables. I often do 3 columns and 4 rows, or 1 column and 4 rows, depending on what I need. For the rhythms I will “subdivide” the squares into lots of smaller squares. That makes things neat and straight.
There are some free notation font programs that can be found on-line. John from the Yahoo Piano Teachers forum has kindly put these together into one file. (By the way, John is my inspiration. Without him, most of the stuff here wouldn’t exist. Thanks, John!) You can find these in the Files section of the Yahoo Piano-Teachers list.
The music font program I use now is from www.macmusicfonts.com. They sell a package of two fonts for $41. Staffwriter is a font with the notes, sharps, flats, and such on a staff. Keynotes has notes of various values, signs, and so on without the staff. The fonts also come with a great little keyboard map, showing what key produces what symbol. That little map alone is worth the $40. The program works both on PC and Mac. I love, love, LOVE this program. It is the best money I have ever spent, and would do so again in a heartbeat. Check out their website for lots of examples of worksheets and games made with these fonts.
Now for an important note: when using the notation programs, sometimes the lines of the staff look like they are not straight and even on the computer screen. Don’t worry. It all prints out just fine. Also, you will need to increase the font size, sometimes a great deal, do get the look you want.
I find most of the images on-line. I use Google Images most of the time. Do be careful, though. You can get an eyeful from some very innocent key words. Like the time I wanted a picture of soccer balls, and just typed in balls instead of soccer balls. That wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done!
I have a Photoshop-type program I use if I need to tweak the graphic a bit, or add color to the coloring book images. The only exception is the keyboards. Most of them I drew myself in Publisher using rectangles. When I am happy with the image I will copy and paste it into the document where I want it to go. If I ever took the time to use the Photoshop program sitting on my computer to it’s fullest capabilities, I might even find that I don’t need to use Publisher as my base program.
Primo PDF is a free program I use to convert everything into a PDF format. It is a slick little program. When you go to print the document, you select PrimoPDF as the printer. Push print, and viola, you have a lovely PDF document any computer can read.
So, in a nutshell, I use Microsoft Publisher, MacMusicFonts, Google Images, a Photoshop-type program, and PrimoPDF. Most importantly, though, are the ideas I get from my students and other teachers. Very little of what I do is original – I just tweak things and put on paper the great ideas of others.