Episode 036: Getting SMART With Your Music

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The idea for this episode came from a listener in Australia.  

Sue writes: “As a suggestion for a podcast, I would like one on your SMART approach to a music piece in action. Showing how you can change a learnt piece to a different rhythm, style, etc.”

Get SMART with your music resource sheet

Lydia, 7

“King of the Land” from My First Piano Adventures Lesson Book B

Lydia changed the STYLE of her piece simply by moving to lower and higher registers on the piano. I love that she sings along as the plays. This tells me her listening skills are developing right along with her reading skills.

Ashlynn, 13

“Westminster Chimes” from Piano Adventures Lesson Book 3B

Ashlynn also changes the STYLE of her piece by arpeggiating or rolling some of the chords rather than playing them as a block of sound. Ashlynn is a bit self conscious and prefers to read her music. Getting SMART isn’t something she is very comfortable with.  As her teacher, I want to encourage even the smallest creative spark that I see in her playing.

Amelia, 8

“Mixed Up Song” from Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1

Amelia got SMART with the melody of her piece by moving some melody notes in the opposite direction from the notation. She also changed stepping notes into skipping notes.

Quincey, 9

“Are You Sleeping?” (Frere Jacques) from Piano Pronto Movement 1

I’m so proud of Quincey and her mom for making arrangements for her to keep practicing at her grandparent’s home while her mother was out of the country. Not only did she arrange a Skype lesson during her regular lesson time but she also brought a portable keyboard to practice on.

Quincey got SMART with her song by turning some of the melodic phrases “upside down”.

Sadie, 11

“Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” from Piano Adventures Lesson Book 3A

Sadie decided to transpose her piece from A minor to D minor. Transposing a piece is a challenging skill for students to learn because they are reading the notation on the staff while their hands actually play “incorrect” piano keys. They are not playing what they read.  This causes students to need to read the relationship between notes – the intervals – in order to perform in the new key.

Accompanists and church musicians use this skill a great deal to accommodate those they play for.  If a song is not in a comfortable key for a vocalist, being able to transpose to a higher or lower key is an invaluable asset.

Luke, 10

“Rondo Alla Turca” from Famous & Fun Classic Themes Book 3 arranged by Carol Matz

Luke experimented with the Rhythm portion of Get SMART. Rather than playing chords as blocks, he broke the chords into individual notes.

Lexi, 11

“Beach Party” from Piano Adventures Lesson Book 2B

Lexi changed the whole mood of her piece by switching from Major to minor.  I showed her that by flattening the 3rd and 6th notes of the scale, in this case, E and A in C Major, her piece would become C minor. She also adjusted the ending of the piece.

“It sounded more like you were going to have a beach party but then it started raining.” Lexi

William, 10

“Campbells are Coming” from Piano Adventures Lesson Book 3A

William took this assignment very seriously! He incorporated bits from every part of the SMART challenge: he adjusted the Style, Melody, Articulations, Rhythm, and Tempo.  He even added his own introduction as well as a surprise ending! (And don’t you just love his manners!?)

Does your piano kid like to Get SMART and add their own personality to their music? I’d love for you to share a video on our Facebook page.

If you have a suggestion or a request for a podcast topic, please email me at info@pianoparentpodcast.com. I love to hear from you so send an email just to say hello!

Hey there and welcome!

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  • Susan

    Hi Shelly,
    Thanks for acting on my suggestion. I really enjoyed this podcast. It was great to hear the freedom/creativity given to the student using this approach and the student taking ownership of what they are playing. Well done!

    Sue (Australia)

  • Shelly Davis

    Hi Sue,
    Thanks to you for the awesome idea! My students really enjoyed this challenge; so much so that I had to divide their “SMART”s into two episodes!

    Thanks for listening!

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