How to Make Summertime “Piano Time”

Summertime Piano

Hello Kids and Keys Readers! Today’s post is coming to you from Doug Hanvey, an accomplished piano teacher in Portland, OR. Doug also writes his own blog at

Read on for some helpful tips for getting over the summer piano slump!

Summertime is here! But that’s not good news for every piano teacher. Some students may take a break from lessons, and parents may have to be reminded to start up again as fall approaches. How can you continue to engage your students and their parents during the summer so that the dreaded lapse in practicing – and the possibility that some students might end up leaving your studio, having lost momentum – can be avoided?

Have you ever noticed that the way you ask a question determines the possible answers to it? We could take that question as is, or we could go deeper and ask: How could you make your summer lessons so exciting and fulfilling that they’re not only competitive with all the other fun activities kids can choose, but rise to the top?

If you were a kid, and a long, lazy summer were beckoning in front of you, what would keep you excited about continuing your lessons, and even have you bugging your parents to make sure they’d let you keep going?

Every piano studio is different, and every teacher will come up with ideas that reflect the unique qualities of their students, the area they live in, and other factors. Here are a few ideas to use as starting points for your brainstorming.

Take Your Studio Outside

Summertime is outside time. Why not throw a party in your backyard for your students (no parents allowed) with a digital piano or two, and a long extension cord? Include lots of games, both musical and not, yummy food, and let the students play for each other (but no pressure – only if they want to). Suggest they invite their friends. Once their friends see how fun and cool it is to make music under the summer skies, you may gain a new student – or two or three.

Go on a Field Trip

Take your students on a field trip. Their parents will love you for getting them out of their hair for a day or two. Promise lots of fun – this should be more of a social occasion. They will have a blast hanging out with each other (take a couple of parents along to help you out!) while you visit a nearby city to see a concert or other cultural attraction. Along the way of course, keep them entertained with activities, games and surprises that will make the trip a highlight of their summer.

Get Creative

If you were a kid, what would keep you excited and involved with music during the summer? I think it has to do with the way a child relates to music. Is music something they do or is it something they are?

If music is something we do (like homework) and not something that is part of us – that helps define us – how likely is it we’ll stay motivated to play or study during the summer, or even at all? For better or worse, by the time I was 12 music had become a major part of my identity. Playing the piano, but even more so, being creative with music, was a therapeutic and enjoyable way for me to express my individuality. I taught myself how to improvise and compose (formal instruction came later). But what if my music teachers had actually encouraged me to do so and given me direction?

Baseball is fun, and so is camping, but neither is very creative. If you haven’t brought improvising or composing into your studio, why not develop a summer creative group program? Your students meet together each week to learn about improvising and composing and to play creative music games. (You could even combine this with outside activities like the above.)

Towards the end of the summer you could bring in students from a couple other studios – such as a voice studio or percussion studio – for a fun, creative jam. Students who have written their own pieces can perform them. The kids will have a blast, they’ll make new friends, and they will be dying to continue their piano lessons. They may even be the ones nagging their parents about signing up for the fall, so you don’t have to.

These are just a few ideas for making your studio so dynamic and exciting that the idea of quitting lessons during the summer is simply inconceivable.

How do you keep your students enthusiastic about summer lessons? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Doug Hanvey

Doug Hanvey is a piano teacher in Portland, Oregon. His Piano Lab Blog offers cutting-edge tips and ideas for piano teachers and students.

You may also be interested in reading: 

The Music Store Field Trip

Piano Outside

Summer Piano Shorts: Cool Chords

Summer Piano Shorts: Octaves

The Ultimate Music Theory Worksheet Guide


In the world of apps, apps, and more apps, a lot of teachers have decided to stop using worksheets altogether. If you are one of those teachers or if you are thinking about joining them, WAIT!!! As one of my music mentors always says, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”!  While I love using apps with my students, I find that the act of writing things down often solidifies learning more than interacting with material on a touch screen alone.

Of course, you have to have some VERY GOOD worksheets to even get your students interested. That is where today’s resource tip comes in. Kristin at has done a LOT of work to make our lives as piano teachers easier! Not only has she compiled the ultimate guide to music theory worksheets, she has also posted a video index of the worksheets on her site with links to the FREE PRINTABLES.


I know you will be able to find some worksheets that will fit exactly into what you are teaching. In preparation, here are 3 ideas on how to give worksheets a fighting chance with your app-addicted students:

1. Worksheet Relay Race for group classes:

Have students work in groups of where students complete a series of worksheets as a group. The catch is that each student must complete a worksheet one at a time and the next student cannot begin until the previous student finishes. The group that completes the most worksheets in the designated time wins!

2. End of Lesson Challenge: Have your student complete a worksheet or series of worksheets during the last minute of lessons. Yes, only 60 seconds. If they are able to complete the whole worksheet or series of worksheets before time is up they get extra time with an app during the next lesson. The more worksheets they complete the more time they get to spend on the app.

3.Beginning of Lesson Challenge: Just like the End of Lesson Challenge except it comes in the FIRST minute of the lesson. The student would then get extra time with app during today’s lesson based on how many worksheets they were able to complete. Note: This version will also give you an idea of concepts that may need to be worked on during the lesson.

So, head on over to and get yourself some FREE WORKSHEETS!

New FREE Printable: A Piano Project Kids Love


Piano Bears CoverIn yesterday’s post I shared some pictures and video from our Piano Bears Spring Project where the students made bears at Build A Bear Workshop that have a recording of them playing the piano. The picture above is one of the bears a student made.

My students and I enjoyed working on this project because it gave the students a chance to do something fun and memorable with their music. Every time they squeeze their bear they get to hear how their hard work all year has paid off!

If you are interested in doing this project in your studio, download my eBook, A Piano Project Kids Love: Piano Bears, for FREE by clicking here!

I’d love to hear about what kinds of special projects you do with your students as well!

Printable Listening Sheet

Today I ran across a Listening Sheet that I designed a while back for my students. You can use it to encourage your piano students to actively listen to recorded music. Active listening has always been a skill that must be developed, but have you noticed that we are teaching the first generation of students who have never really listened to music without video? This makes it even more challenging for them to listen to the music itself.

This listening sheet allows the student to listen for what instruments are playing, what the tempo is, and what the time signature is. Notice that the space to write this information is located on the Bass Clef Staff. I did this to draw attention to the Bass Clef Staff since piano students often seem to not notice it. Here is just another opportunity for them to see it. There is also a spot where they can indicate whether or not they would like to learn to play the song – great info for a teacher to know!

You can download the file by clicking here or on the picture above. For more FREE PRINTABLES, click here.