Elvira Guillen Piano Studio Blog

I will focus in on different treasures that are in my studio.  It will give you an insight to my day-to-day piano activities.

Dinosaurs Exist in the Piano Studio!

July 29, 2017

Dinosaurs! Yes, dinosaurs. Most young children like the topic of dinosaurs. Why not design activities and games that involve dinosaurs to grab their imagination and apply it in my piano studio? They like their gigantic size and the fact that they existed millions of years ago but somehow they do not exist anymore. The mystery of the dinosaurs intrigues their imagination.

I’ll admit that I don’t have the type of imagination other people in general have; so, it takes a lot of brainwork to come up with these ideas. My students make it a little easier by sharing with me a piece of their imagination. One student loves going to the “Dinosaur Museum.” He comes back and tells me the latest discovery going on at the Natural History Museum or the latest movie involving dinosaurs he saw at the Dynamax Theater. “Did you know that the largest dinosaur was the Brachiosaurus (how can he even pronounce those names)? And he ate mostly plants?” No, I did not know that.

I hang on to those themes that excite my students and apply them in games or activities. Here’s a game that I created using the dinosaur theme: “The Hungry Dinosaur Game”

It helps my students learn about the staff - it consists of five lines, five spaces, and a top and bottom space. As I hear their interaction, they are saying, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Tyrannosaurus came and really ate our notes?” Someone else said,” Yeah, then he’d grab the notes right out of our hands!”

Yes, I love it!

I used the dinosaur theme this summer in my studio by buying plastic dinosaurs and used them as game pieces for board games and as prizes for the winner. In the Fall, I plan to give them as prizes for meeting their lesson goals. I like the excitement it brings to the studio. Just grabbing these little dinosaurs immediately changes the studio setting. Now there is enthusiasm and a will to name the lines and spaces not so much to win but to enter into an imaginary world with dinosaurs and lines and spaces!

Pencils and Pens

Printed music consists of 5 lines, black and white notes, stems, beams, dots, and so much more. Markings are needed to help us interpret the composer’s music. As a piano teacher, what do I use to write notes on their music? I use plain, old, number 2 pencils. Yes, it’s just my preference. So my comments and markings will be in black and white (more like gray and white). No major rules broken if it’s done otherwise but in my studio, this is how the world achieves the final product of beautiful music!

Why don’t I make it colorful? Color will distract from the music notation on the page. Some fingering is written in for tricky passages; gentle reminders of sharps and flats are written along with the circled key signature; circled dynamics are also emphasized with pencil. Short reminders are also recorded on the margin. As the student plays, I have my pencil ready to mark sections with asterisks or parentheses to help them stand out during their home practice. “Practice 6x” or “Practice HS” (abbreviation for hands separate). I’ll write, write, write -but only with pencil. Then we review the comments. “Did it help you with your practice? Did you remember what I meant by this marking? Did you feel 6x was too many times or not enough?” On and on, I evaluate each pencil marking so that it enhances the student’s practice time. Week after week, there are new markings and new marked sections until student plays the piece in its entirety with ease.

Now, time to perform the music! Time to bring out the eraser. The eraser removes the gentle reminders. No more written-in sharps and flats or circled emphases. The accomplished piece of music is now as clear as possible of hand-written pencil notes showing only the printed music just as the composer and editors intended it to be.

Despite my loyalty to the pencil, I LOVE colorful pens – red, green, purple, pink, blue! The brightness of each color makes writing on a clear white sheet of paper come to life! The page is given character and personality. The more I change the colors on the plain white sheet of paper, the brighter all these characteristics develop. It sparkles! So, to add this aspect in my studio, the first thing I grab is a colorful pen! As each one of my students comes to their lesson, I write their name on the assignment sheet with a colorful pen. Then, as the student plays and I finish writing pencil markings, I turn to the assignment notebook with a colorful pen in my hand.

With the combination of pens and pencils, the beauty of musical sounds is created for long lasting musical repertoire to be enjoyed forever and ever!