Guest Post by Alison Mathews
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Reindeer Reading Duets & Games (click to download)
As Christmas approaches, I like to include some festive fun during lessons, usually in the form of duets and games. Each year I try to find something new to do; it’s a wonderful excuse to spend a little extra time being creative and get in touch with my childish sense of fun!
This year I have a reindeer theme. As I have quite a lot of young beginners I decided to write a series of short, very easy pieces all about the eight reindeer who don’t have a song all to themselves, like Rudolph does!
If you are familiar with my book ‘Doodles’ (Pianodao review here), these pieces are all at Level 1 and centered around middle C.
The majority of pupils I am using them with are learning one or two pieces each week, either with my help or independently, depending on their level. For others they are perfect sight-reading pieces, with the added benefit of duet playing, one of my favourite things.
Actually, the benefits are multiple! My pupils are currently keen to read new material, keen to play duets, keen to encourage family members to play too, all with festive music that is entirely new!
Playing the duets
The secondo parts have been written at an early intermediate level or approx. Grade 1 to 2. This is quite deliberate as many of my pupils have a parent who can play piano or a sibling at a more advanced level.
I really do hope to encourage some family music making over the Christmas holiday! It is something my father and I used to do and enjoy every year. Part of the fun was finding new festive music and I will be playing these easy duets with my Mum this year!
Each piece has an illustration of the reindeer – similar again to the approach in ‘Doodles’. I’ve found that the cute, cheery images really do capture my pupil’s imaginations and there are particular favourites amongst them!
As a composer writing for a specific level and therefore within tight boundaries, I found the images inspired my imagination too. I aimed to capture a different character in the music for each reindeer.
I have deliberately kept the fingering to a minimum to allow for either a traditional middle C position, or to avoid the discomfort some pupils feel when both thumbs are placed on middle C. In each piece, only one hand plays the C so that you can choose the hand position most suitable.
Fun and games!
Of course, the fun would not be complete without a few games! All are designed to take no longer than 5 minutes (or even less) during the lesson.
Using the reindeer illustrations, I designed some game pieces that can be made using the minimum creative effort. You can print, cut, fold and be ready to play – as simple as that!
Primarily, the games are for key recognition, but they can be played with note flash cards to increase the difficulty level.
I have made my game pieces more durable by using drink stirrers (the type you find in coffee shops!) and decorating them, almost like reindeer lollipops. I will definitely be able to use them again in the future!
Although I have given three game suggestions, I am sure there are many more. Currently I have three weeks left until the end of term and each week we will play a different game. I expect the most energetic one will be in the final lesson of term.
Included here is a pdf of the game pieces and instructions, all ready to print on a piece of A4 card.
There is also a copy of all of the reindeer pieces with parts for your pupil and full scores for yourself or whoever would like to play along! Wishing you all a playful and enjoyable end of term!
Alison Mathews is a composer, teacher and classically trained pianist. Her recent publications include Doodles, Treasure Trove, Capturing the Spirit of Christmas and Capturing the Joy of Winter.
Alison’s aim is to write music that engages the imagination and provides opportunities for pianists to develop their musicianship.
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