Music Teacher's Helper Blog

The ABC’s for Sizzling Summer Lessons

A is for Appdecide_now

My most recent favorite app is called Decide Now–only 99 cents!  Although it’s not a music-related app it is so easy to customize that you won’t be able to stop using it. A game of Piano Charades is just one example of how I implement this versatile app to reinforce music terminology by students acting out Italian terms at the keys. Here are the steps:

1) Call out words such as: piano, forte, fermata, ritardando, presto, largo, etc. and nudge students to act them out physically. This means YOU need to do it, too. For example: piano could be walking on tip toes while ritardando could be jogging in place and gradually slowing down the pace–like a train approaching a station.

decidenow-22) After all terms are physically re-enacted, have the students jot down each term to review the spelling and the definition. If they are youngsters, have them draw a picture instead of writing out the definition. Ex: ritardando could be represented with a train engine.

3) Ask a volunteer to play one phrase of a well-prepared piece as the composer intended.

4) The performer must spin the wheel featuring all the terms just reviewed without letting the others see where the Wheel-of-Fortune-like spinner stops.

5) The pianist at the bench must then play the same phrase but this time change the performance to “portray” the term.

6) The audience guesses the word and if they guess correctly, everyone wins a “fabulous prize” as the performer was successful in communicating the music term through a performance and the audience demonstrated excellent listening skills.

For five more ideas using Decide Now, check out my article in the upcoming Clavier Companion Magazine.

B is for Book

Let’s face it, which one of YOUR students is headed to Carnegie Hall? Let’s go further and ask the question: how toolkit-small-png1many parents who contact you about lessons are hoping their budding musician masters a Bach fugue–especially those who begin a little later? One more: how many of your students around the age of 12 or so decide to stop lessons because they have lost interest?

Digging even deeper, although you would love to have students willingly practice everything you assign, teaching piano is not always that easy. In addition, if you hope to develop a thriving studio, it’s not always about your desires and tastes but more about pleasing the local customer base. This may require an adjustment from your past lesson experience and pedigree. A typical, traditional approach may not match those who warm your bench–especially during those long hot summer months. I dare say that if you want to be profitable and run a successful business, it may be necessary to make some changes, take time to understand the motivation behind teens (and really any age) at the keys and carry additional strategies up your sleeve.

Tim Topham has recognized this deficit between the training of most piano teachers and the expectations of today’s potential students–especially those in the teen years. His practical e-book called Teen Teaching Toolkit provides tips that promise to help you deal with the delicate teen psyche.

“Teenagers don’t quit piano because they don’t like music, it’s much more likely to be due to ineffective teaching and/or a lack of connection with their teacher.”

p16khr7kpb194d1vi44n5g1or7j3– Tim Topham

Make sure to order your free copy by clicking here!

One more thing, Topham recognizes that to provide relevant instruction to teens, it must be enhanced with, among other things, the latest technology–someone after my own heart! He shares his thoughts about this in his e-book and his savvy blog.  When asked to choose just one app he uses with his students, Tim immediately chose NoteStar.  Learn more about this stunning app here.

C is for Cups

If you are unaware of Wendy Steven’s hot seller Rhythm Cup Explorations then I am extremely pleased to share itrce-sample-1 with you now. The gist: students must master rhythms by tapping favorite beverage cups on the table, with their hands and even on their foreheads. In addition, all rhythm maestros must pass and pick up the cups while maintaining the meter and the tempo.

Below is a video of my students mastering rhythms with Wendy’s expertly sequenced drills and some beverage cups found at your local grocery store. To help them stay together, I turned on some various styles and accompaniment patterns on my Clavinova.

Don’t own a Clavinova? Check out Garage Band or SuperMetronome Groove Box for excellent alternatives for upbeat backing tracks.

unnamedExtra Tip: Once the Pdf is purchased, create a note for the document in Evernote. With its premium level, Evernote is capable of presenting notes similar to Power Point and Keynote. This comes in handy for zooming in on specific pages and rhythm lines.

Need more ideas (A-Z!) to add more spice to your summer lessons? Why not hold a Piano Olympics camp? Here’s a past post that explains more.


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  1. Lauren Bateman

    I need to look into more music apps for younger students. I don’t teach a lot of kids, I leave that to my other teachers. I mostly work with adult, but apps are always a good fun element to add to lessons.


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