• Diane Hidy

Copy Cats

Charlie was concentrating.

"You play the left hand part, and I'll play the right hand," I said. "I'm not that great at playing quick eighth notes," I fudged. "Please play the quarter notes slow enough to give me a chance, OK?"

She looked skeptical.

"I'll try," she said.

I demonstrated some clunky quarter notes to get them in her ear.

"Now it's your turn," I said, fingers crossed it would work with the craziness of an online lesson.

Charlie played even quarter notes. I played some snappy eighths. She played four more stable quarters. There was a little delay as she finished and I began, yet the delay didn't seem to interfere with her ability to hear my contrasting eighths.

Relief. I'd found a way to teach online that felt normal.

When I first realized I was going to be teaching online, I couldn't imagine how I would use a student's ear to help them. The simplest things weren't going to work. Playing the right hand while they played the left? Nope. Then I remembered that as long as things were alternating, it didn't really matter if there was a small delay. In fact, some kids play with a small delay even when you play with them in person. It is actually the stability of what they hear, not whether or not it begins exactly on time, that gets in their ear.

After we played the first line a few times together, she tried it alone. I held my breath, not sure whether it would have any rhythmic integrity at all.

BAM! She played the entire first line perfectly. No stops, no pauses, eighth notes perfectly timed and quarter notes as stable as my mother's temperament. (It would have been her 100th birthday today. She's on my mind.)

Now the question was, what materials would work with this criteria of alternating phrases? Copy Cats! I'd written two entire books of this exact thing last year! And they were downloadable, so I could send the files to my students and use them immediately.

I'm sending the Copy Cats files today to my younger students. It will make teaching online next week much less stressful. For my students, and for me.

You can find the alternating phrase piece Poultry Prance (and five others) in All Cooped Up, available as an instant download. The two books of Copy Cats are available for download or as hard copies if you prefer to keep one at home as a reference. I hope you'll find them as helpful as I have.

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© 2019 by Diane Hidy

You'll wonder how you ever taught without this 32-page book. I made these cards for my students to give them plenty of opportunities to practice all the different skills they were acquiring. This series starts with the simplest possible rhythmic patterns on the Landmark notes Middle C, Bass F and Treble G. Each set becomes incrementally more difficult.

Here are a few of the many different ways to use these cards:

  • Encourage students to write in their own fingering. This paves the way for making true fingering choices later on

  • Circle the thirds before starting to read the flashcards. This helps the student focus on the difference between steps and skips.

  • Help your student write in their own staccatos and slurs. Try them out. Talk to them about why they do or don't like them. 

  • Help the student add dynamics and phrase marks.

  • Print these in their entirety and use them as a book.

  • Print them on heavy paper or card stock and cut them into separate cards. Trying sending home a set with a student and ask them to become proficient with each one. At the next lesson, mix them up and play them in random order. It’s a nice combination of preparation and reading.