Puppet Videos

Dorian and Miss Bell: Piano Lessons in the Forest

Introduction

This set of short videos has been produced in order to inspire young children to learn to play the piano. They can be used in conjunction with Dogs and Birds Book 1, and represent an approach to teaching the material. Each video has a maximum length of five minutes and teaches just one particular aspect of a lesson. Elements covered in the videos are Finger Exercises, Improvisation, Rhythm and Pulse, Singing and Playing the Pieces, and Ear-Training.

If you are unable to see these videos in your browser they can be observed directly on the Dogs and Birds Piano Method YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/elzalusher

Credits

Miss Bell and Hanhan's Teacher: Elza Lusher; Dorian and Aeolian: Amy Hewson; Piano Student: Hanhan; Granny and Mummy (voice): Barbara Massey; Daddy (voice): Chris Lusher; Puppet Maker: Carol Lusher; Puppets’ Wardrobe Assistant: Asma;  Original Illustrations: Mark Chambers; Animation: Janos Geng; Background Forest: Davey Baker; Dorian, The Lucky One: written and performed by Caught the Flow; Camera: Eszter Boross; Camera and Video Editing: Janos Geng;

 

Episode 1

Finger Exercise: Finding the Dogs on the Piano

Dorian wants to be a rock star like his big brother Aeolian, so he is going to Miss Bell for piano lessons. There are many notes on the piano and today Dorian learns the positions of all the Dogs (adults call this D). The Dogs always live between two black keys – not between three. Dorian needs to play the Dogs using his whole arm as one unit, moving from the shoulder, and we should do the same.  As you can hear, he always sings the Dog at the pitch closest to the middle of the piano. Try to sing like him, or at least say Dog as you play each note. Hanhan shows us how to play using the “Owl’s Eyes” finger position. The thumb and index fingers form the eyes and the other fingers curve away, forming eyelashes. We strongly recommend this for young children.

Episode 2

Improvisation: Learning the High and Low Notes on the Piano

Dorian is looking forward to his second piano lesson very much. He can now find all the Dogs on the piano. Today he paints pictures using music. This is called improvisation. He draws a picture of a Bird singing at the top of the tree using the HIGH notes and he draws a picture of an Elephant walking around the bottom of the tree using the LOW notes. We should play slow and heavy notes from our shoulders to describe the Elephant, and use fast rotating wrist movements to imitate Birdsong. It is recommended that children draw these pictures on paper as well, using coloured pencils.


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Episode 3

Rhythm and Pulse: Learning the Lengths of the Notes

In this episode Dorian learns to hear the difference between LONG notes and SHORT notes. The note lengths are explained on the back cover of his book. Dorian can play Cars, Big Cars and Very Very Big Buses. He holds the Very Very Big Bus for four woofs, the Big Car for two woofs and the Car for just one woof. When tapping we should move our arms from the shoulders like birds’ wings as we play many notes at once using our palms. This can be practised away from the piano, on any solid surface. We mustn't tap faster than one beat a second.

Episode 4

Finger Exercise: Playing Dogs and Birds on the Piano

Here Dorian learns where the Birds live on the piano. They are two white notes (a skip) lower than Dog. From now onwards, we will play the Dog with our right (RED) hand and the Bird with our left (BLUE) hand, making sure that we use "Owl's Eyes" fingers – just as Hanhan does.  When we practise we should try to find as many Dog – Bird – Dog patterns as possible and sing Dog - Bird - Dog at a pitch close to the middle of the piano as we play the notes. We should play keeping our arms away from our bodies, leaving enough room under our armpits for a hedgehog to hide. If necessary we can put animal tiles behind the keys in order to remind ourselves of their positions.

 
 

Episode 5

Singing and Playing the Pieces: "Playground" and "By the Lake" on Page 3

Dorian’s playing and singing is getting better and better, and he is very excited because today he is ready start to play his first piece. It is very beneficial to sing the musical pieces before playing them. This is called sight-singing. Here we can see how Miss Bell and Dorian do this together. They find the correct pitches before singing, and during the piece they keep an even and slow beat (the white notes last twice as long as the black notes). Hanhan plays beautifully, shaping the “Owl’s Eyes” finger position perfectly in both hands. We should try to copy her. Once we have experimented with “Playground” we can try “By the Lake” as well – singing it first and then playing it. We must always sing the animal names of each note as we play, since this trains our inner-ear.

Episode 6

Rhythm and Pulse: Tapping the Exercises on Page 2, and Marching

Dorian is able to play pieces without the book, which is a big achievement. Today he learns more about the length of the notes through tapping the rhythm exercises on page 2. In music the length of the notes is always measured by counting beats. For example it takes four beats to say “Very Very Big Bus” or it takes two beats to say “Big Car”. If we are ready we can start to count the beats but please do not force this. It will come naturally to children as they practise. The most important message to take from this episode is to keep the slow and steady beat.  To feel the even beat we should try to march as much as possible, similarly to Hanhan.

 
 

Episode 7

Improvisation: Learning to Play Softly and Loudly

In this lesson Dorian will draw another musical picture. Earlier on he learnt the geography of the High notes and Low notes on the piano by playing the Singing Bird and the Walking Elephant. This time the Hunting, Creeping Cat corresponds to Soft and Slow piano playing, and Loud, Quick playing is represented by the Cat catching a Mouse. This type of free and playful piano playing is very valuable. It teaches us the importance of dynamics, the use of different techniques, and it will lead later to more complex improvisation.  It also teaches us how we can express our feelings, and this is part of the art of musical performance.

Episode 8

Ear-Training: Learning to Recognize Dogs and Birds

It is now time to introduce Dorian to an Ear-Training exercise, because it is really important for musicians to have very good ears. In this game Miss Bell plays Dogs and Birds at random on the piano and Dorian needs to lift up the appropriate hands. Playing this game leads to children being able to differentiate between the two pitches. We are not all born with a good musical ear, but all of us have the ability to make it excellent by training, especially if we start at an early age. Please try not to neglect this simple exercise.

 
 

Episode 9

Singing and Playing the Pieces: "Sparklers" and "Wait Until it is Dark" on Page 5

Dorian practised singing Dog and Bird with his Mummy, and he can now recognize which is which when they are played on the piano. There is a fireworks party tonight and Dorian will go there with Granny and Miss Bell. Before they go they sing a fireworks piece, but Dorian is too excited to play it. He promises that he will practise page 5 nicely at home so they go off to the party straight away because Granny has arrived. If you don’t have to rush to a firework’s party tonight then please play these pieces slowly like Dorian. Make sure you sing the animal names as you play and don’t forget to use “Owl’s Eyes” fingers.

Episode 10

Rhythm and Pulse: Tapping the Exercises on Page 4, and Counting

Today Dorian proudly shows Miss Bell the drawing he did at home. Since he understands the length of the vehicles so well, it is maybe time for him to switch to counting. When he taps the exercises on page 4 he learns to give extra stress on the first beat of each bar. We should try to tap similarly, and never faster than Dorian does. Actually his internal pulse is improving because he marches a lot, evenly and steadily like a real soldier.

 
 

Episode 11

Finger Exercise: Using the Tiles and Coloured Staves

Dorian makes up his own finger exercise today and writes out using the Small Animal Tiles and Coloured Staves. This is his first composition. He knows that the Dog goes close to the bottom red line and the Bird goes close to the top blue line – jut as he can see written in his book. Children, with a little help, can maybe start to make up their own finger exercises and play them. When we do this we should sing and use the “Owl’s Eyes” finger position, as was recommended earlier on. Remember that the owl’s eyes are formed from the thumb and first finger and the other fingers curving away form the eyelashes.

Dorian, The Lucky One

Dorian is having piano lessons from Miss Bell and dreams of being a rock star.

Written and Performed by Caught the Flow
Dániel Almásy - bass
Zoltán Bölcsföldi - vocals
Attila Szabó  - guitar
Balázs Szeremi - drums

Dorian the Singer: Amy Hewson
Dorian the Guitarist: Amy Hewson
Aeolian the Drummer: Janos Geng

Puppet Maker: Carol Lusher
Camera: Eszter Boross
Camera and Film Editing: Janos Geng

© 2015 Dogs and Birds

 
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