Adding Some Social To Private Piano Lessons

Who says private lessons have to be lonely lessons? With YouTube and a little creativity, the private lesson can become a great social experience for young students. When students are working on a common goal like learning scales or a certain number of songs each month, etc., they can record quick update/challenge videos to their piano friends. I’ve been doing this with my younger students the past few weeks, and they are getting a kick out of it! They look forward to watching the messages they received from other students and then recording a new message at the end of their lesson. As you can see from the video, the students have really picked up speed in learning their scales for the scales challenge.

How do you use video in your studio? Share your ideas in a comment below!

Scary Scales – An Unfortunate Musical Analogy

Scary Scales

The frenetic scales loop race is heating up in my piano studio! Several weeks ago we began a quest to learn as many scales as we can before the end of the school year. As students have begun to complete the major scales we’ve started learning how to change them into minor scales. To help the kids hear the difference between the two I describe the minor scales as the sad sounding ones or scary ones and the major ones as the happy ones. Well, yesterday after showing a student how to figure out the minor scales on his own

I heard myself say,

“Let’s play some more scary scales”.

I immediately realized that this analogy went against everything I’ve done to try to help kids NOT see scales as scary, evil things!

Oh well, my bad!

Picture Pentascales!

picture pentascales

Helping kids learn and remember what notes go with each pentascale is easy with stickers and a printed piano keyboard! This is one that one of my boys made.

He is a big Spider Man fan!

Visual Motivation For Learning Scales

Scales Links

Do you remember learning scales as a piano student? Well I do, and there was nothing exciting about it. As a student I couldn’t see how learning scales would improve my playing or what in the world they had to do with playing songs. Of course that way of thinking is exactly why it is so important to have a piano teacher! Piano teachers know that learning scales improves technical facility at the keyboard and understanding of how music works, how songs are built, and provides us with a wealth of tools for improvisation.

What piano teachers sometimes don’t know is how to make the process fun and interesting for students. So today I’m sharing a tool from my piano teacher bag of magic – Scale Links. Each time a student masters a particular scale, he or she gets to write out the notes of that scale on a colored strip of paper. Then the student glues the ends of the paper together to form a loop. As more scales are learned more loops are added and linked together. The scale links are hung up in the studio so that students get a visual picture of their progress. They also get to see how quickly other students are progressing which of course leads to more practice!

 

DIY Music Theory Manipulatives!

I found this bucket of dominoes on a recent trip to Tuesday Morning for around $5! If your local store doesn’t have it you can get it on Amazon.com for $14.99. The bucket comes with 250 blank dominoes in 5 different colors. I am using the dominoes to help piano students learn to spell scales and build chords.

Using a sharpie, I wrote the letters of the music alphabet on individual dominoes. Then I drew sharps and flats on the dominoes as well. You will notice that I chose to use orange for all the sharps and blue for all the flats. There are more than enough dominoes to make a complete set of each of the 12 major scales without even using all of them. I ended up having a whole set of red dominoes left over to use for something else. I might use one side for numbers 1-7 and the other side for Roman Numerals to help students learn the scale degrees.

It took me about an hour to draw all the letter names and symbols, so if you’ve got an hour to spare now for this project it could save you several hours in the future because you can surely use this for teaching lots of theory concepts. An added bonus is that it is self – containing. The bucket easily stores all the pieces in one place!

Why Teach?

I had an awesome teaching moment tonight during a piano lesson and I just had to share it here. A young student of mine who has learned all the pentascales but had not yet been introduced to the entire major scale, was previewing a piece where the C scale is used throughout. Now before I tell you what happened next I must tell you that when he was learning the pentascales I never referred to them as pentascales, only scales.

So as we previewed the piece for tonight I pointed out that for these passages he would have to figure out how to get 3 more fingers on his hand since his other scales only used 5 fingers. That’s when his mind went into super thinking mode and he said, “hmmm if it has 5 notes we should call it a pentascale because penta means 5!” Then he proceeded to play the whole major scale with correct fingering and everything!

All I could do was ask, “What do you need me for?”

And with a big Kool-Aid smile he said, “to encourage me.”

At the end of the day, that’s really what teaching is all about.  I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be an encourager in the lives of the kids I teach.

What’s the greatest compliment a student has given you? Share it here and you’ll be encouraging everyone who reads this post.