Make Practice Fun: Piano Play Dates

Do you have students or kids of your own who HATE piano practice? There are so many reasons why kids hate practicing piano, but one of the main reasons is that it can be LONELY. With a little imagination and planning, though, piano practice can be a social event! Watch the short video below to see how…

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4 Ways To Turn This Puzzle Into A Piano Teaching Tool

unnamed-21

With a creative mindset, The Dollar Tree can be a piano teacher’s greatest resource! Here is my latest find and how you can use it to make your piano teaching life easier – and more fun!

With 5 minutes and a sharpie, you can transform this simple wooden puzzle into a visual tool for:

1. Teaching Whole Note, Half Note and Quarter Note recognition and their matching rests.

2. Help students understand the concept of REST in music by asking – What side of the house is quite?

3. Help students understand the concept of Symbols representing sound in music by asking – What side of the house do you think is noisy?

4. Reinforce the concepts above by sending an unopened puzzle home with your student (You can afford it – remember it only costs $1). Have your student draw the symbols on the  puzzle and take a picture of it at home to show you their creation at the next lesson.

Bonus: Use the back of the puzzle to write steps 1-4 down (with a sharpie) to help you remember for the next time you use this!

Here is what your final creation will look like – unnamed-22

I found a few other cool things at my last trip to The Dollar Tree which I’ll be sharing in my next post! In the meantime, what everyday things have you transformed into piano teaching tools? Share in a comment below to help other teachers make piano lessons fun!

 

Speed Up Music Learning By Getting Your Students To Do This!

In a recent post I shared one of my secrets to keeping students motivated AFTER the performance season. Today I’ll give you another way to get students excited about piano learning by making learning faster!

If you haven’t watched the YouTube video above, click on it NOW to be inspired! Daniel Menendez’s unique talent as a piano juggler can help you motivate your piano learners who might be having trouble settling down to do the most necessary task of learning to play music: LISTENING!!!

Too often students just want to get to the playing part and leave out the listening to music part of music learning. Many piano students struggle to learn new tunes simply because they don’t KNOW the tunes. By this I mean they can’t hum or sing the melody and they can’t feel the rhythm. This is because they are attempting to learn to play a song you’ve never heard is like trying to learn how to play the piano in the dark. Why do that when we’ve got lights?!

YouTube is a gold mine of fun listening visuals! The video linked above is a great example of this. If you’re teaching beginning piano, The Can Can is probably one of the songs on your list. Use this video to capture the young student’s attention. Point out things like the differences in tempo, the direction the melody is moving AND get your student to listen to the song over and over again without it being boring! I’m sure you will find that the learning will happen much faster and “funner”!

 

 

Keeping Piano Students Excited: Piano World Records

World

After the excitement of Holiday concerts what can a piano teacher do to keep up the enthusiasm? Well, for the last two weeks I have been presenting the idea of setting world records in piano to my students! Kids LOVE seeing who is the fastest at something or who can do something the longest. And who wouldn’t want the title of World’s Greatest?! Piano offers endless possibilities for this type of goal from scales (ascending and descending) to age (youngest, only 8 year old to ever, etc).

One thing you want to be intentional about is helping students set goals. I explained to students that we have to train like an athlete to break a world record. For younger kids it is also helpful to set a short time frame. For example – the most songs learned in 1 week. You can even expand the contest to have Studio Records. These will be easier for students to conquer and just might spur them on to beating one of the world records like this one:

Fastest descending chromatic world record.

I will confess that when I tried to do the fastest descending chromatic scale it took me twice as long as the world record! So, I will be training right alongside my students this semester. We will be sure to post our results and pics of all the fun we had!

In the meantime, I’d like to extend the invitation for YOU to join us in trying to set or break a piano world record. You can get all the information by visiting Recordsetter.com

Stay tuned tomorrow for more inspiration on how to use Piano World Records to boost learning in your studio.

 

Food For The Music Teacher’s Soul: Performing Live

As music teachers we spend hours preparing lessons, music learning games, and performances for our students. After doing an adequate amount of scouring music teaching blogs and piano teaching blogs, and attending student concerts and recitals there is little time left to devote to our own musical development. The interesting thing is that the missing ingredient in most music teachers’ studio marketing plans is consistent performance by the teacher!  I will speak specifically as a piano teacher, but what I am saying is true no matter what instrument the teacher teaches. The same thing we tell our students applies to us – in order to get better at playing your instrument, you have to PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT!

I know from my own personal experience how difficult it can be to carve out time to flex your performance muscles when you are a music teacher. I also know that carving this time out is absolutely essential. It is also life-giving! The video about is proof of that.

Last weekend I was blessed with the opportunity and challenge to play in the faculty concert for the music camp where I taught. Getting to this point took a couple of years of trying to find time to collaborate with the other teachers because our schedules are so varied. Thankfully one of the faculty members, Russell Ferrara (fabulous guitarist who is fluid in numerous genres) never gave up and simply insisted that we make it happen. Oddly enough it took his persistence to get me and fellow teacher Derwyn Browne playing together for the first time although we work together often and live near each other. Russell lives a thousand miles away!

I can definitely say that it was well worth the wait and that we should have done this sooner. If you haven’t played in a while, please let me suggest that you get out there and go for it! Why should our students be the only ones who get to play? Why should they be the only ones who experience the rush that comes from an audience erupting with applause? Why should they be the only ones who get that undeniable sense of satisfaction from having done their best onstage?

If you haven’t done so already, watch the video. I hope it will inspire you to go out and play!

10 Surprising Ways Piano Lessons Literally Pay Off

Piano Pays Off

Parents all over the United States are spending countless hours driving their kids to and from sports activities and in many cases juggling football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and soccer all at once. These dutiful parents are working hard to insure that their children have the brightest futures possible. Many dedicate endless hours and make quite a financial investment in hopes that their child will qualify for and earn an athletic scholarship to college. They schedule their lives around their child’s sport. They even ask others to schedule their lives around it as well. When the coach calls an unplanned practice or when a game is rescheduled, they ask music teachers and tutors to make accommodations. Maybe YOU are one of these parents. As the parent of a high schooler that is involved in 2 sports I can totally relate. It’s not easy being a parent and certainly not cheap! That is why I want to give you some information that you may not have considered or been aware of when it comes to the real VALUE of an activity that is often not perceived to be as valuable as sports – PIANO.

I am about to tell you from personal experience that YOUR CHILD can earn money with music even while he/she is learning to play the piano. I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I started making money with music when I was 12 years old. Here is a list of 10 ways your child can do the same thing.

1. Get paid to play at parties and weddings

2. Play or sing in a band with REAL music professionals

3. Get paid to play for a church choir or children’s choir (Churches are ALWAYS looking for good musicians)

4. Write songs for YouTube video backgrounds

5. Teach music at a summer camp

6. Teach music at VBS

7. Enter contests (Some contests pay thousands of dollars)

8. Apply for music scholarships

9. Earn a 4 year scholarship to study music in college (Did you know that athletic scholarships are only guaranteed 1 year at a time? On the other hand, true 4-year scholarships are available for Music!)

10. Provide rehearsal accompaniment for musical theater

This is just a sample of how Piano Lessons Literally Pay Off. I am in no way saying or suggesting that your child will get rich by taking piano lessons. I am saying that there is more value to piano lessons than many realize.

Feel free to leave a comment, especially if there are other ways you are aware of that piano lessons literally pay off.

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 www.portlandpianolab.com.

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