Dear MTH blog readers,

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It has been a while since I last posted! I hope everyone is doing well. My life has changed tremendously since last October – I gave birth to my first child! I have been enjoying the joy of motherhood 🙂

As music teachers, I am sure we all agree that music education is one of the greatest gifts we can give to children. My daughter is almost 7 months old now. I first sat her down in front of the piano when she was 4 months old. We do a lot of singing, sometimes she listens to me play while I wear her in a baby carrier, and sometimes I hold her tiny hands and we play simple tunes.

Many of you probably have experience teaching your own children. What were your challenges? I have taught some students whose parents are music teachers themselves, and I often wonder if I would send my daughter to another teacher when she is old enough for formal lessons. What about those movement classes? I know there are Music For Young Children, Kindermusik, MusikGarten, etc. Anyone has any experience with those? As a busy private studio teacher, I never explored those programs, but now that I have a little one, I am contemplating becoming a teacher for one of these early childhood music systems.

I welcome your suggestions and advice! If you are interested, I have set up a Facebook page where I am sharing my experience as a new mother teaching her daughter to appreciate music and play the piano. I hope to hear your feedback!

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Posted in Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Summer Music Lessons

April 26th, 2016 by

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Summer lessons…

Do you lose students (and income) over the summer? Are you tired of the same old same old? Would you like to infuse new life into your summer lessons? Would you like to keep your income and promote your studio?

Here are 15 options to consider:

  • Break it up into three month-long “semesters” and let families choose one, two or three months of summer lessons.
  • Teach piano students to play by chord symbol.
  • Zero in on a specific genre (folk, country, pop, blues, classical…)
  • Immerse the studio in theory. Use games.
  • Teach students a new instrument (guitar and vocal students could learn some piano, while piano students could learn to match pitches vocally, or learn some guitar chords/teach them all to play recorder…).
  • Use a video series, such as Mark Almond’s Piano for Life. or see Reuben Vincent‘s article in Music Teachers Helper blog.
  • Use an online series such as podcasts from James Dering.
  • Show them how to create their own arrangements.
  • Teach composition. Have them put a favorite poem to music.
  • Choose a theme and songs to go with it (oceans, animals, bugs, space, summer fun…).
  • Have a duet summer, and pair up students for lessons. Or just bring them together near the end.
  • Have an ensemble summer and teach them their own parts alone, then bring them together for a few weeks before they perform as a group. Add other instruments.
  • Teach every student one or more songs on several instruments (piano, guitar, recorder, voice,percussion,  bass…).
  • Many churches look for special music in the summer–teach them appropriate songs. Take on an older student as an apprentice—let them teach with your supervision.
  • Put on one-week camps, emphasizing rhythm, technique, note-reading… Ideas from TeachPianoToday.com,

More camp ideas from Sara’sMusicStudio.com

How do you change it up after the school year ends?

Have a stupendous time teaching summer lessons!

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

It’s a common problem among parents and music teachers; sometimes kids just don’t want to practice! So when your old methods aren’t working, it’s time to try some new tactics to encourage a child student to practice. TakeLessons put together an infographic that includes tips from bloggers, music teachers, and experts.

Use some of these tips to assist parents with home practice. What are your proven tips for practice motivation? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted in Practicing, Teaching Tips

MTH has the wonderful option to send Lesson Notes after each lesson. Although designed to simply let parents know what’s assigned or happening at lessons, this is an opportunity to save yourself time and keep your customers informed!

Answering ten unnecessary emails = wasted time!

How many emails do you get asking  questions about schedules or upcoming events, even though you previously sent emails or other correspondence with that exact information? Read more…

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Posted in MTH 101, Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Groove website-3

“Here’s my top tip for musicians interested in becoming better improvisers: Forget the metronome. Practice with backing tracks, those auto-accompaniment loops that inspire, keep you on the beat, and mesmerize you into practice loops.” -Bradley Sowash, jazz improv specialist.

If you aren’t sure how to find or create backing tracks, I’d like to personally invite you to a webinar called “Groove Your Theory. The idea stems from Bradley’s regular use of backing tracks in his lessons and his own practice. We also use them at our 88 Creative Keys keyboard improvisation workshops that Bradley and I co-founded four years ago.

The webinar will be packed full of ideas that will help you save practice (or lesson) time as you compress theory, timing and technique and creativity into one activity. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Practicing, Teaching Tips

The first time I introduce a chord to my piano students, it’s at the keyboard.

Playing Chords

The problem most younger kids (3 to 7 year olds) have with chords is they just can’t seem to get their fingers coordinated enough to make this sound clear.  So, I usually present it on it’s own as a separate activity weeks before I actually have them use it in a song.

So I show them a C major root position chord first as the outside notes – making a fifth, and then the inner third.  Then putting it all together.  This takes longer than you would think!

After a few weeks of practicing the chord daily so that they can play it 10 times in a row bouncing up and down, we can now move to playing the song Mary Had A Little Lamb.

Reading Chords

Playing piano and reading music are separate skills.  Yes they are interrelated but much less that you would think.  So, weeks later, after the students are playing chords easily, I begin to address chords on the staff.   To do this I tell them a little story and show them a drawing.  I actually draw it right in their notebook in front of them.

There’s always magic seeing something come from nothing!

I tell them that in this magic world of music there are snowmen.  Each note can be stacked on top of each other and this is what they look like.

Root position chords look like a snowman.

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Illustration by Andrew Ingkavet

Play It On the Keys

We then play the chord and notice how our fingers correspond to each ball of the snowman.

Find All The Snowmen In This Piece

I will usually have them look at song and start circling all the “snowmen” they can find.

Chord Inversions

Then later, when we learn other chords, we have other versions of snowmen.

This snowman is stretching his legs!

First inversion (3rd in the bass)

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Play this one.

This snowman is lifting his head and shoulders up!

Second inversion (5th in the bass)

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Play this one too.

The kids think it is very funny and funny is memorable!

And now that Disney has made Olaf a famous snowman (from Frozen), I even can tell them

“Hey look, it’s Olaf!”

What do you use to teach chords?

Any fun stories?  I’d love to hear!

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Posted in Teaching Tips

Microphone

So you are heading off to your first recording session. What tips can help you achieve a great recording? Even if you are just having fun recording yourself in your bedroom, hopefully, the following tips will help.

Before the recording session
•  If this is your first time being recorded, if you can, visit the studio so as to get familiar with the vocal booth setup to help you relax. Even just looking at the photos on the studio website will help.

•  If you are recording a vocal, get familiar with the words, ideally, memorise them and bring a copy to help the producer follow for accuracy as you record.

•  When you rehearse, check that you only take breaths at the end of sentences to avoid spoiling the flow of the phrases.

•  Focus on your performance. What does the song mean to you? Can you “feel” the emotion as you perform?

•  Head to the session wearing Read more…

photo by:

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Posted in Music & Technology, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Create Make-up Credits & Set Make-up Credit Expiration

Sometimes students can’t attend a lesson. With Music Teacher’s Helper, you can choose whether to offer a make-up lesson, issue a cash credit, or continue charging for the lesson. If you offer make-up lessons, here’s how you issue, track and now set make-up lesson credits that expire. 

Instructions:

  1. Set the Make-up Lesson Credit expiration in the Settings page. Click the Drop down arrow in the upper right hand corner, and go to “Settings”.

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  1. Click on the Studio Settings tab.

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  1. You can set a time limit for which a make-up lesson credit is valid. If a student doesn’t use the make-up lesson by then, it will expire. Choose the number of days you would like make-up credits to be valid for. If you don’t want the make-up lesson to expire, you can leave this field blank, or enter 0. Click “Submit” on the bottom right to save your changes.        
  2. Click on an event on the calendar that needs a make-up.
  3. Click “Set Attendance”  & check “Issue Credit for this lesson (refund or make-up)”.

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  1. Check either Issue Make-up Credit or Issue Cash Credit(Refund).
  2. Enter any notes about why you’re issuing this credit.
  3. Click Submit to save your changes.

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Manage Your Existing Make-up Credits

  1. To see a list of all your make-up credits, in the main menu, click “Calendar”, then “Make-up Lesson Credits. The expiration date (if there is one) is shown in the results.
  2. You should see an expiry date when you view the make-up lesson credit in the Make-up Lesson Credits page. If you do not see an expiry date, then you have your settings at no expiration.

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

When a Group Class Goes Off Course

By Robin Setinweg

What do you do when a group class goes off course?

“It couldn’t. It wouldn’t!” you say. Well, after successful group classes for years, it happened. And it was probably all my fault.

What was I thinking? Spring weather had just begun. That makes squirrely kids. It was right before spring break. That makes kids mega-squirrely. I made it a pizza party. That brings in higher numbers. And—here’s the biggie—I did not recruit help. I didn’t make sure any older students were attending. So I had oodles of young ones, and no older ones with whom to pair them up. Yikes.

It started great. I had three pizzas cooked ahead. I cut them to give my young learners a visual of whole notes, half notes, quarters, and eighths. They had to ask for the number of eighths they wanted to eat, and tell me how many quarter notes they took, or dotted quarter, etc. (nobody got a whole note!). But then the fun started.

Without supervision.

I was kept busy putting pizzas in, taking them out, cutting them and pouring beverages. So the party became quite noisy and full of high spirits. They weren’t naughty or ill-behaved—these are good kids! Just over-the-top energy and behavior. Which meant it was nearly impossible to get them back.

I had learning games planned. I swapped one in to quiet them down. I played a CD, and they were to draw how it made them feel. I spent the next 10 minutes answering questions like, “Can I draw the London Bridge?” and comments like, “Did you know the London Bridge was moved to (some city here in the States) in (some year I missed)?”

When the quiet music time became noisy due to high spirits, and I astutely realized this was not accomplishing the quiet mood I’d thought it would, I moved on to another game.

I think, by the final game, some music facts sank in. I had four chairs set up, with students on them. Each was a quarter note. We counted them. Remove one or more, the counting stays the same, because after all, rests take as much space up as notes (the chair is still there, simply unoccupied). They needed to decide how to make a half note, whole note, dotted half. Only one student was tall enough to lie across all four chairs to make that whole note.

I know they had fun, and they got the point through some games. But I also know I was done-in. I should have had help. I hope to help you avoid “when a group class goes off course.”

Have you ever had a group go amiss? Can you laugh about it now? Comments welcome!

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

I tried a new way of organizing my lesson planning this year which has kept me more on track. It involves just three basic pieces: a small plastic box, 8×5 index cards, and tab dividers. (I have included links for similar items on Amazon.com, but I got all my supplies at Walmart.)Lesson Box, cards

Here are ways you can use your box:

Student Lesson Plans Tabs:

Put each student’s name on a tab divider. You can organize them alphabetically, or by lesson schedule. Write each student’s lesson plan on a new 8×5 card each week. I also include the date, the time of their lesson, and any unusual circumstances, such as a makeup lesson. Keep the most current card in the front, right behind their name tab.

You can write the next lesson plan out on a new card right after a lesson, any time during the intervening week, or the day of the next lesson, using the previous week’s card and notes as a guide. Writing out a plan doesn’t mean that you will stick to it exactly, but it gives you an overview of what you should try to cover. During the lesson, you can also jot notes to yourself on this card, and check off things you covered in the lesson. I review the lesson plans at the beginning of the day and get out any games and props I will need that afternoon.Lindas card

It can also be helpful to put a “master list” card in the very front of each student’s tab, with a list of general things you would like to teach the student this year. Check this list every so often as you make your lesson plans to be sure you are meeting your big goals for the student. This is a great place to write down the student’s goals too.

Teaching Tips Tabs:

Add teaching tips tabs behind the students’ tabs for skills such as scales, arm weight, posture, phrasing, and such. You could have just one tab that says Teaching Tips for all your ideas, or you can have a tab for each separate skill area. Write out any helpful hints you come across for teaching these skills on an index card. You could have cards for scales, blues chords, jazz scales, modes, historical eras, improvisation, one-hand ideas, performance prep, and so on. The possibilities are endless. Make these very concise—just notes that will help you remember all the important points. This would be a great project to expand upon after attending a conference, so you don’t lose all those new ideas in a folder somewhere at the bottom of a closet. You can also fold an 81/2 x 11 paper in half and trim two edges so it will fit in the with 8 x 10 cards. This can save recopying information. I also trim card stock to fit the box on which I have printed out helpful hints or graphics. I love having teaching notes and tips available right by the piano, instead of having to run to the other room and look in my file cabinet.Practice Box

“Wing It” Days Tabs:

Use this section when a student shows up with no books, or is having a bad day. Make cards full of ideas for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students that can be done with no preparation, but will be educational and fun. If you have a lot of ideas, put one idea on each card. If you need less to go on, just make three cards, one for each level. Be sure to include directions to games, and where to locate the supplies quickly.

Extra Cards and Tabs:

Keep extra tabs and index cards in the back of the box so you can access them quickly. With a full studio and lots of teaching tips, you may need to give students and teaching tips each their own box.

If this sounds interesting, give it a try! I would love to hear your comments below about how you organize your lesson planning.

 

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Posted in Studio Management