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“Oh! It’s like a cartwheel with my fingers,” she said. Oh, yes she did.

We have been working on learning our penta-scales and chord patterns in all keys. She has them down really well now so we have been improvising together. In a given key, I play a simple bass pattern while she creates a melody and then we switch. This almost 8 year old loves to use my Cat Dice to choose a key for our improvisation. She also loves to call out “Switch” at unexpected moments and surprise me.

The last couple of weeks we have been working on a new repeating broken chord pattern (LH: 5-3-1-5-3-1…  RH: 1-3-5-1-3-5…). This repeated pattern has proved to be trickier than blocked chords or 5ths for her to negotiate. She is hesitant to try because she wants to be perfect the first time.

Why bother to work on this tricky pattern now? First of all, she is ready musically. And, I like to have my students learn to play and use a pattern before they need to read it in a piece—way before. Things aren’t so scary that way, especially for those whose primary learning mode is not visual/reading and those who are perfectionists by nature.

Did I mention this almost 8 year old loves gymnastics? Last week, she was creating an E Major melody and I was playing the chord pattern. I messed up a few times on purpose to show her it was ok to play a few clinkers or get tangled and regroup as long as you came right back in. Suddenly she stopped playing and watched me playing the chord pattern. That’s when the cartwheel thing happened.

The lightbulb came on for her. When it was time to switch places, she figured out how to make the cartwheel turn all on her own. And, she was willing to make mistakes! I let her get started and then began spinning a melody above her. We went on for 3 minutes or so. (I let her be the one to end it.) When it was over she sighed, “It sounds so beautiful when we make music like that.”

Bingo!

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