10 Ways to Use Drink Carriers in Piano Lessons


A drink carrier is usually necessary to hold a couple of tasty caffeinated cups of pure indulgence. In just a moment, you will learn how to let go of your guilt for purchasing a 4-pack of your favorite 10524739_790603600990367_3899764365724207624_nStarbucks (or Peet's?) beverages. Before you get the full cup--I mean scoop--let me introduce my guest writer, Heather Nanney. It was a pleasure to meet Heather in person at NCKP 2015. Soon after the conference, I noticed she wrote a truly imaginative post entitled Chord Pong at her blog and I was envious that I hadn't thought of it first. Furthermore, she has a spectacular studio name: Fun Key Music. I mean really, I wish I could do it all over again! Our shared appreciation for repurposing items recently reunited our imaginative spirits and she agreed to write this post. Enjoy!

Guest post by Heather Nanney

I had the opportunity to attend some of Leila’s session at this year’s NCKP (National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy.)  She really made the conference an outstanding experience for me.  I admire her creativity, the way she thinks about introducing and reinforcing musical concepts with her students and how much she inspires other teachers.

Leila mentioned in one of her NCKP sessions that she will stand in the aisle of a store and ask herself “How can I use this in my lessons?”  She had a table full of items on display, like beach balls and jumbo sunglasses that she had repurposed. She even had a cardboard drink carrier (the kind that you would get in a drive-through).  When I got home from the conference I could not, for the life of me, remember what she used that for! So I contacted her, we started talking and eventually she asked if I would be interested in collaborating with her.  Of course! I was so honored! 

Leila is the queen of repurposing and this post is all about using an unexpected item--the drink carrier--into your lessons.

It’s this simple:

Get a drink carrier. Write one thing in each of the five sections. Have student bounce a ping-pong ball or bouncy ball and catch it with the drink carrier.  Whatever section the ball lands in will prompt the student to complete a certain activity. 

Here is a list of 10 ways you can  incorporate this into your lessons.  Below each topic are examples of five things you can write in the 5 section of the drink carrier.  Let these be just a starting point for you.  Feel free to add, change, or customize to your students.  Have fun with it! 

Beneath the list of 5 examples are directions for the student once they have caught the ball in one of the five sections.  Do one, some, or all of these..or again, mix it up and make your own activity. 

1. Reinforcing Chords12077477_10206693267263078_669685590_n

  •  D 
  • Bm
  • G7
  • Adim
  • Faug

Name the root, 3rd, 5th or 7th.

Spell the entire chord.

Play chord on the piano.

2. Transposing

  • D            
  • F#
  • E
  • A flat
  • G

Transpose exercises or excerpts of a piece to given key signature.

Instead of specific key signatures, write +2, +4, -3, +1, -1.  Have students determine which key they are transposing to. 

3. Practicing

Divide a song into 5 sections. Write numbers 1-5 in the drink carrier to decide which section to practice next. 

4. Rhythm Values

  • Quarter note
  • Dotted half note
  • Half rest
  • Whole note
  • Eighth note

Complete a given number of measures using note/rest values.

Use in a partner/group setting or with siblings.  The first person to fill 4 measures of 4/4 rhythm with correct number of beats in each measure wins.

5. Interpretation

  • Elephant
  • Hummingbird
  • Cheetah
  • Frog
  • Whale

Ask student to describe and show you how each animal would  play an exercise/song.

6. Reinforcing key names

  • +3
  • -2
  • +5
  • +1
  • stay

Using a game piece, start at bottom of keyboard and race to the top of the piano or to Middle C. Student must correctly name note they land on.

Instead of racing up the keyboard, race up the grand staff.

7. Technical exercises12077286_10206693267343080_1667420480_n

  • Scale
  • Arpeggio
  • Primary chords
  • I chord with inversions
  • 2 octave scale

Play technical exercise within a given key.

8. Accompaniment patterns

  • Blocked chords
  • Octaves
  • Alberti Bass
  • Basic Boogie
  • Jump Bass

Play given accompaniment style with lead sheet.

Follow this link for a great resource for doing more with lead sheets from Bradley Sowash.

9. Composing

  • I
  • IV
  • V
  • vi
  • iii

Bounce ball 4 times creating a 4-bar pop style accompaniment.  Have student play what they just created.

To further their composition, create extra carriers to determine time signature and rhythm.  Keep going and make another one with 5-finger patterns and scales and you’ve just helped your student create their own piece with chords, rhythm, and a melody!

10. Intervals

  • Up a 6th
  • Up a 3rd
  • Down a 5th 
  • Up a 7th
  • Down a 2nd

Have students start on a given note, then name and play the interval.  

Use with groups or partners by having each student start with a game piece on the Middle C key.  Students then bounce the ball and make their move.  Their game piece will stay on the new key.  Then the next student gets a turn. The first player to land on treble G (or any other key determined at the beginning of the game) wins.

I hope you enjoyed these ideas.  Go order some drinks and get started today! meet-the-teacher-heather-pilla

Heather Nanney is an independent music teacher and runs a successful piano studio in O’Fallon, Missouri. When Heather is not teaching, blogging, or thinking of fun ideas for piano students, you can find her dancing, treasure hunting at thrift stores, and spending time with friends, family, and her husband, Eric.

Can't remember all these ideas? Here's a downloadable PDF for future reference.


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