Game for teaching character and mood of music in piano playing

Music speaks our feeling and emotion. However it’s not an easy task to talk about feeling and emotion in piano learning. Some students are too shy to share their opinions, while some  may not be able to pick up appropriate words fully express their feelings. In recent months I am busy with preparing students for their piano exam and find an interesting way to teach this topic incidentally.

I have a student preparing for grade 5 piano exam in this autumn. He is introvert teenager and always keeps silence during the lessons. He has played the set pieces for so long period of time. But the performance is still not satisfactory. He  keeps playing the pieces rudely with wrong notes and with poor tone colour.  I realize that there is something wrong with my student. I keep asking him what’s happening but he just shakes his shoulder and doesn’t want to say.

Yesterday was his second last lesson before the exam but everything still kept the same. I know I should try another approach to deal with this situation. I sat at the piano bench and played the list A:1. I asked him what’s  the mood of this piece. He still said nothing. Then I brought out a dice ( yes, it’s a really useful tool in teaching 🙂 ) and told  him that there were number 1-6 in this dice. Let’s think about six different character and mood, and assign with different numbers correspondingly. The followings are the mood table created by me and my student:

1 Happy
2 Unhappy
3 Exciting
4 Boring
5 Gracefully
6 Calm

I asked my student to cast the dice. He got number 4. Then I asked him how to change the mood of piece into “boring”. He said by slowing down the tempo. As I was still sitting at the piano bench, I played the piece again with his instruction and kept asking what else can we do. He said playing the piece in lower register and changing the non-legato touching into legato.

Afterwards we changed the role: I cast the dice and he played the piece. I got number 1 and asked him to play the piece happily. This time thank God his playing was much much better!

This game helps us to explore and re-create the music with different character and moods. And the bonus of this game is precious. It lets me know more about my students. Up till that moment I finally know his definition of “boring” music–music in slow tempo. I also know a bit why he loses interest in piano learning–personally I like slow music and unconsciously I guess he likes it also. So maybe I gave him too much music that he dislikes. Another bonus is that the creation of mood table can reveal the mental state of student. I have a kid student. She seems burn-out in her piano learning. But she keeps silence and says nothing. When I ask her to suggest mood ( of course in Chinese), she keeps saying some adjectives with negative mood.

Hope you and your students also enjoy the game!


Copyright © 2016 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved


Music Marathon Performance @ K11 Art Mall

K11 Mus Marathon Group pic

Group photo of me. Ellen, Mabel, Eunice and organizer, Jacky@Art Dreamers with painted piano “marriage of figaro” after the performance


It is marvelous to share music with people. Especially in this function we perform in a shopping mall adjacent  to the train station exit. Unlike recital hall, the venue is surrounded by shops selling jewelry, beauty products and restaurants. There is no stage but only two beautifully painted upright pianos, with microphones and some simple sound engine (sorry I’m idiot of this :)).

People keep walking around like water flowing in and out busily over there. There are different types of people there. Some are families with kids, some are  enjoying their shopping and some are just walking pass to take the train. It is really amazing to play classical music with such “modernized and cosmopolitan” background.

K11 Mus marathon 12 April 2015

K11 Mus marathon 12 April 2015 . I am the pianist in pink 🙂

I play the first two movements of Mozart piano sonata in D, K576 with the “marriage of figaro” piano.

K11 Mus Marathon

"Marriage of Figaro" piano

“Marriage of Figaro” piano

The performance also includes violin duos, piano duets and piano six hands.

K11 Mus Marathon-- piano duet with Ellen

piano duet with Ellen: we played Elgar’s Salute d’ amore and Schubert’s moment musical op 94 no. 3



piano six hands with Ellen and Mabel: we played main theme of Laputa: Castle in the sky and My Neighbor Totoro

piano six hands with Ellen and Mabel: we played main theme of Laputa: Castle in the sky and My Neighbor Totoro


Audience smiles are the biggest appraisal of our performance. Hope to share music again in the near future!

You can find more photos from my friend Ellen ‘s blog post Music Marathon Performance @ k11 Art Mall.


Copyright © 2015 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved