Meri’s Musical Musings

Things to Make to Assist in Music Learning and Teaching

Posted on: July 12, 2009

Over the years I have been a musician and music teacher, I have made a number of things to assist in music learning and teaching, and so I thought I would finally write about them.

Do you ever struggle to find a pencil when practicing or teaching music? A simple way to solve this problem is to tape a pencil to a shoestring at one end, and tape the other end to the piano or music stand.

Instead of buying flashcards, you can make them, and you can customize them to what you need. When I was preparing for a harmony exam, because I couldn’t find flashcards for standard harmonic progressions that I would see on the exam, I made my own. I also made clarinet fingering flashcards that I used with a couple of students who were struggling with learning their notes. And a piano student I teach was having trouble remembering the keys and fingerings for the scales and triads he needed to know for his most recent piano exam, so I made flash cards on my computer so that I could quiz him (and so could his parents); after using these key/fingering flashcards, he ended up getting perfect on his scale portion of his exam.

For clarinetists and oboists that sometimes experience pain in the pad of the right thumb, a makeup sponge, with a small piece of double-sided tape and some sticky tack makes a fine thumb pad and encourages relaxation of the hand.

Practice planners, which set precise goals for the material students need to learn for an exam, audition or competition. I make these on the computer. I type in the scales,arpeggios,studies,and pieces they are to learn for each month, with a review. Another kind of practice planner I have made, because I hate the ones that are on the market, are customized weekly practice planners, one which is a checklist of the elements, and the other is a written summary: I find most of the younger students are better off with the checklist of what they need to do, most of my older students (at least 10 years old) do better with a written summary.

Proportional rhythm cards. If you have a music notation font and Microsoft Publisher, you can make rhythm cards that are in proportional lengths for whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes. (they don’t work too well for 16ths.

A magentic board with foam hands with a magnet attached to the back of each foam hand and a dry-erase marker. I used this with some very young piano students to practice identifying left and right hands, and the correct finger numbers. You can subsitute the dry erase marker with magnetic letters and numbers, which might be practical for students who struggle with writing.

One that I have not made, but I have seen, is a large poster board or two to make a grand staff with black electrical tape and some beanbags to help students learn their notes.

This next one is for all the reed players. You can make a reed water holder with a small container, some sturdy but somewhat flexible wire, and a medium or large clip, and some glue, the clip attaches to the music stand.

Another one for the reed players: cigarette holders, with a thin piece of glass with a very thin absorbent material on the top side and covered elastic to hold the reeds, makes a pretty good reed case at a much lower cost.

For pianists and piano teachers: have you ever had a student who couldn’t keep their heel on the floor while pedalling? With a medium thick sponge or a piece of wood with a carved portion for the heel, and perhaps some padding in the curve for making it out of wood, young or small piano students can pedal better and more easily.

Most woodwind players can make their own swab out of a piece of pillowcase or very thin towel and a shoestring a little longer than the instrument. Sometimes you may need to sew the edges. Double knot the shoe string for greater security.

An instrument stand. Easiest to make for flute, clarinet(s), and oboe. Screw together the number of rods you need cut to the appropriate length  with a medium thin to medium thickness to a rectangular piece of wood with spaces between the rods slightly wider than the thickest part of each instrument. You can add cone shaped pieces of wood to the rods for the clarinets and oboes; you’ll probably have to chop off part of the top of the cone with can be screwed or glued to the rod (use a high quality glue if using the glue). You can also label each of the rods for the different instruments if you like (though I recommend you do)

I’ll try to post samples or pictures of some of these tools. Thanks for reading.

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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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