Friday, August 14, 2015

From Behind the Piano (a Guest Post)

Today I'm happy to share a guest post from my pianist, Carol.  We've been working together in Primary for two years now, and her contributions are invaluable to me!  Here are some of her thoughts about playing piano for Primary.  Beginning pianists--as well as pianists and choristers new to this interactive, purposeful style of teaching--will find Carol's insights especially helpful.  -Michelle

The Plan For the Accompaniment

Often, you only play with one hand.
First off, with this way of teaching the kids, the pianist doesn't have to have both hands of accompaniment learned until later in the year. Michelle does a weekly music plan for each Sunday in which the only songs that I will get to play in full accompaniment are the prelude songs and opening song listed in her plan. 

The prelude music is deliberately chosen so that the kids will hear the song repeated for about 5+ minutes during quiet time, so that when we get to that song in the Singing Time schedule they may be a little more familiar with the song at the start without even realizing it. And when the pianist is playing the 1-2 listed prelude songs, you may try to play the song at an octave higher or lower than is written, just to give a little variety for yourself. (:

For wiggle songs, I tend to play single hand (right hand) with an occasional left hand note so I can play at fast speeds when requested. Not so important to play both hands here. It's just to get the kids moving and wiggles out.

When the singing time starts, the songs are listed in the exact order that the chorister will be doing them. So that part is easy to jump to the next song right away with ease and without announcement of what song they will be doing next. She just moves right into the next activity, and the pianist starts playing the melody right away at the chorister’s cue. 

When playing piano for Singing Time, you will be only playing the melody (top hand), so that the children can focus on the melody and learn it better. You'll play it about 10-20 times per song, while the chorister conducts the activity the kids will do as she sings. Just keep her in your sights, so you know just how much pause before the next repeat, or be ready when she says "freeze" to ask the kids if they are at the same action or beat as her. Then she continues on. 

When it comes to 2 months or less before the Primary Program date, then all the singing will be done with full accompaniment (both hands).

Helpful Tips For Learning Accompaniment:

- I can usually play anything between 1-3 flats or sharps. But still with some struggle. So for me to learn the song quicker and with ease, this is what I do:

- I circle every note that is indicated in the key signature, then I know those notes are the black notes or a special key change. For example, with Children’s Songbook #100 "Baptism," I've never been able to play it all my life until I put this tool to use. Now I can play it well and with the faster speed it is intended to be played at. I have done this with all the music I get to play, and it helps me tremendously.

This is what it looks like before and after. 



Side Note: When we had this song in the program, we felt that the intro was way too long to do on the performance day, so we shortened it by just doing the last line of the song for beginning prelude and for a little interlude between each verse. Even if you played the second beginning prelude line only, that would be fine, too.

Tips For Last Minute Songs

If you are like me, sometimes I forget to practice one of the songs before Sunday and once in a while find one on that day’s plan (whether it be a different birthday song or Article of Faith song) when I feel a flood of regret. But this is when smart phones and headphones come in handy. While the scripture and talk are being given, I quickly plug in my earbuds (iPhone headphones) and discreetly open the "LDS Music" app (found here). I get to the Primary Children's Songbook, hit the play button with the singing and accompaniment, and repeat it as much as I can so I'm familiar with its tune and rhythm. Then I’m good to go, or I'll just play the melody only if I'm still not comfortable with winging it with both hands with full accompaniment. Or I'll play it slower with full accompaniment, and that's usually just fine, too.

Happy Singing!


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