Robin Steinweg

Robin Steinweg

Robin Steinweg has found music to be like the creamy filling of a sandwich cookie--sweet in the middle--especially making music with family. A great joy is seeing her students excited to make music for themselves. From her studio in Sauk-Prairie, Wisconsin, she teaches ages 4-84 piano, guitar, voice, woodwinds, ukulele and recorder. Musically, she composes, arranges, performs, directs, consults and teaches. She enjoys one musical husband, two musical sons, a musical daughter-in-law and a 2-yr-old granddaughter who lives life dolce and fortissimo. Robin also writes articles, devotions and books for adults and the kids in their lives.

What do you do when a student shows up for the lesson with a friend in tow, and says (with wide, hopeful eyes and a big smile), “Can _____ stay for the lesson?”

It’s smart to prepare for these times. In fact, it can be a huge plus for your business to schedule a friend week or allow students to bring one friend per school year (or semester, if you like). This helps limit potentially disruptive visits and turn them into a positive.

If you need ideas for what to do with a friend at piano lessons, I have some here!

Get Acquainted

This may be the first time you’ve met this friend. To help both of you feel more comfortable, try this.

Ask a few questions from a list of possibilities:

  • what is your name (or age or grade)?
  • do you have a pet?
  • do you play an instrument?
  • are you married (ha!)?
  • what is your favorite (or most despised) food or restaurant, and why?
  • where would you like to visit?
  • what’s your favorite book?
  • what kind of music do you enjoy most/least?

Piano Bring-a-Friend Ideas

Your student could teach the friend a rote piece or a pentascale.

If the friend plays piano, choose an easy piece for them to play together, one reading treble staff, one reading bass staff. Switch parts.

If the friend plays piano, invite him/her to play a piece by heart.

Play a game together:

Give the friend a choice of rhythm instruments to accompany your student’s playing. Have him/her keep a steady beat, play only on beats two and four, only on the rest, etc.

Teach the friend an easy ostinato. Your student can improvise with it. Add a small stuffed critter to keep on the tops of their heads as they play, to illustrate posture. Now add a coin to the backs of their hands. Can they do this with a straight face?

Two improv pieces for the friends to try:

“Game On” by Robin Steinweg

The lower hand plays four 8th notes on each of these: A down to F, down to D, up to E.

The upper hand improvs on an A minor pentascale to create a video game sound.

“Mandarin Oranges” by Alyssa Hawkins

The lower hand plays a pentatonic scale repeatedly up and down (3 black keys, then the 2 black keys, up and back down). The upper hand plunks black keys to improvise a melody. Use the damper pedal.

Improvise a trio!

“Triumvirate” Put the friend on a repeating bass pattern in A minor and the student on an upper A minor pentascale. You, the teacher, improvise in the middle. Make sure the students know what triumvirate means. From the Cambridge English Dictionary: “a group of three people who are in control of an activity or organization.”

If improvisation seems scary, read this.

To make a week-long event of friend visits, check out Teach Piano Today’s “Bring a Buddy Day” package.

You can make this a Promo Opportunity for your Studio!

Photograph the visit. Post pictures on your Music Teachers Helper website. Consider videoing or audio-recording the friends making music or playing a game together. Send it to your student’s parents, and ask them to pass it along to the friend. Let them decide whether to post it on social media, but be sure to ask them to tag you and/or your studio if they do!

If something the friends tried sounded pretty good, you might want to invite them to perform together in your next recital.

Create buzz for your studio, and give your students even more fun– making music with their friends.

If you need ideas for bring-a-friend to guitar or voice lessons, see my article from August 21st at Music Teachers Helper.


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“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” Proverb 25:11. –Holy Bible

How true!

Here are 35 quotes in 5 categories to chew on, memorize, or frame for your music studio. Or if you’re like me, plaster them all over the house on sticky notes.

Some of them are good reminders. Others lift me up when I need it. They encourage me to be the best teacher of music students I can be. I enjoy others’ favorite quotes, or  ideas  about how to use them with students.

Your studio website is a great place to include a quote. Don’t have one? You get one when you use Music Teachers Helper!

Quotes to Facilitate Teaching

  1. “We’ve been given two ears and two eyes but only one tongue, so we should hear and see more than we speak.” –Greek proverb
  2. “I never teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” –Socrates
  3. “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” –Albert Einstein
  4. “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” –Mark VanDoren
  5. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” –William Butler Yeats
  6. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” –William Ward
  7. “Spoon feeding, in the long run, teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” –E. M. Forster
  8. “The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” –Maria Montessori
  9. “You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” –Clay P. Bedford
  10. “What a child digs for becomes his own possession.” –Charlotte Mason
  11. “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” –Bob Talbert
  12. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” –Aristotle
  13. “I’m not a teacher, but an awakener.” –Robert Frost
  14. “Speak less. Listen more. Ask more.” –Robin Steinweg

Quotes on Caring and Kindness

  1. “Be a little kinder than you have to.” –E. Lockhart
  2. “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” –Plato
  3. “Everything you don’t know is something you can learn.” –Anonymous
  4. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” –Aesop
  5. “The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.” –Anonymous

Quotes of Inspiration and Art

  1. “A great work of art is made out of a combination of obedience and liberty.” –Nadia Boulanger
  2. “If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing.” –Sir James Barrie
  3. “Music is not hard. Climbing Mount Everest is hard. Music merely makes you think.” –Patti Coxwell
  4. “Conflict resolution is only a half-step away.” –Anonymous
  5. “Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” –Plato

Quotes on Creativity

  1. “A painter paints on canvas. Musicians paint their pictures on silence.” –Leopold Stokowski
  2. “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” –Jack London
  3. “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.” –Voltaire (for more on this subject–Steal Like an Artist )
  4. “Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind.” –Charlotte Mason
  5. “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if you only try!” –Dr. Seuss

Quotes to Help the Musician-in-Progress

  1. “It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.” –Ella Fitzgerald
  2. “Lemonade comes from lemons. Take that mistake and make something brilliant of it!” –Robin Steinweg
  3. “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” –John Wooden
  4. “Young people can learn from my example that something can come from nothing. What I have become is the result of my hard efforts.” –Franz Joseph Haydn
  5. “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” –Napoleon Hill
  6. “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” –Salvadore Dali
  7. “Accentuate the positive.” –Harold Arlen
  8. “I’d far rather hear a student make music with mistakes than hear a perfect rendition of notes on a page.” –Robin Steinweg

What quotes inspire you? We’d love to hear them!

Music Teachers Helper

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Have you had students bring-a-friend to lessons? Whether a friend showing up for a lesson is planned or a (yikes!) surprise, the wise teacher is prepared. Here are ideas for voice/guitar.

Vocal students might require more warming up than other types of students (in more ways than vocally!). The voice is so much a part of the person it can be intimidating to share it.

For Bring-a-Friend-to-Voice-Lessons, try ice-breaker questions first:

  • What is the funniest word you know?
  • What movie would it be hilarious to see made into a musical?
  • If animals could talk, which would be the most rude?
  • Toothpaste tube: squeeze middle or end?
  • What fictional character is amazing but would be a pill to endure in everyday life?
  • If someone asked to be your apprentice and learn everything you know, what would you teach them?
  • What’s one of your favorite memories?
  • Have you ever done anything really embarrassing?

Now that you’ve got them giggling…

Spend a few minutes warming up their voices. Bring on the most entertaining ones you have. Be silly with them. Sirens are fun.

Have them flop over from the waist and do lip buzzes.

Say tongue-twisters. Then sing them on a pitch.

Try these silly vocal warmups from Patel Conservatory. Be sure to stick around for the finale, “Johnny’s got a head like a ping pong ball!”

Pull out a pop song your student loves and accompany them or sing along with a YouTube video.

Sing a goofy song.

Sing a Broadway song.

Teach them a two-part round.

On a well-known children’s song, have them each sing every other word. Try “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for starters.

On “Home On the Range” or other well-known song (if all else fails, try either a Christmas song or nursery rhyme), have them leave out the words or syllables on the downbeats. This one’s tougher, but should create some fun.

Have them sing “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music. Explain what the scale is and demonstrate at the piano. Next, have them sing the scale with numbers one through eight. The following exercise will prepare them for basic harmony: sing 1, 1-2-1, 1-3-1,-1-4-1, 1-5-1. If they do well, continue on with the whole scale. If they’re shaky, you could stop at 1-3-1.

Now make a first try at harmony. They can sing the 1 note together, and while the friend holds it, your student can go on to 2 and 3, and hold 3. If one of them has trouble, play along on the piano. Perhaps your student is ready now to add a harmony note on the final note of a simple song like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” a third above the melody note.

Assuming they were able to sing harmony together on the last pitch of the song, let them try to sing thirds apart like this: Student one sings 1, 2, 3, 2, 1 as the other sings 3, 4, 5, 4, 3 simultaneously.

If that last activity went well, teach one of them the harmony to a whole song (keep it simple, sweetie!) and see if they can stay on pitch.

Here’s one for students who can both hold a pitch. My sister and I used to do this. Drove my dad up the wall. Your student sings a pitch and holds it no matter what. The friend sings a half step higher or lower. Grow louder and softer. Switch parts. If they are good at this, take a simple song like “Jingle Bells” or “Three Blind Mice” and have them try to sing it all a half step apart from each other. You might need to play one part on the piano while singing the other part.

Guitar Bring-a-Friend Ideas

Try to find out ahead of time if the visiting friends play guitar or another instrument. If so, have them bring their instrument.

Again, questions can help set a fun tone. Choose one or more:

  • What’s your middle name?
  • What career do you dream of having?
  • What mode of transportation do you wish you could use?
  • What’s something about you that surprises people?
  • If you could hang out with any musician for a month, who would it be?
  • Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
  • If you had to eat one thing every day from now on, what would you choose?
  • What is something coming up this year that you’re excited about?

What can you do with a friend at the lesson?

If the friend plays guitar:

  • have them play a three-chord song together. See if one can strum while the other finger-picks.
  • If the friend plays guitar, see if the two can play a song by each playing every other chord. Make a game of it. Or one could strum on beats one and three while the other strums beats two and four.
  • You can find a Simon Says game here.

If the friend plays recorder, have him/her play something simple in a key your student is familiar with and can accompany. Try “Merrily We Roll Along” or “Hot Cross Buns.”

If the friend does not play guitar:

  • let your student teach The one-finger chords Easy C and Easy G or Easy G7 and a simple down-stroke strum. Play a2-chord song.
  • If you own a ukulele, you could teach the friend two chords and have them play a duet.
  • Let the friend play a rhythm instrument along with your student.
  • The friend might enjoy singing while your student plays.
  • Find a pop song (a cool song, ya know?) with three chords and let the friend see how relatively easy it can be.
  • Show the friend how to play a simple bit of melody. Let your student accompany, or vice-versa.
  • Teach the friend to play Easy G and Easy Em (each with only one finger, and strum only the first four strings: D, G, B and E). Set a slow, steady beat (you might want to find a drum rhythm app for fun) and have the students see if they can make it to the next chord on time. Eight beats gives them a better chance to think and move fingers. If your student has some experience, (s)he should finger the full chord instead of the easy version.
  • Your student can show the friend how to read first string and second string notes. With flash cards of those six notes, give the friend a fun-shaped fly swatter, call out a note name and have him/her swat the correct note. At the same time, your student could play that note on the guitar. Who can get the note first?

Hey, Bring-a-Friend-to-Lessons is Promo-Worthy!

Be sure to photograph the visit. Put the picture on your Music Teachers Helper website. Consider videoing or audio-recording the friends making music together. Send it to your student’s parents, and ask them to pass it along to the friend. Let them decide whether to post it on social media, but be sure to ask them to tag you and/or your studio if they do!

If something the friends tried sounded pretty good, you might want to invite them to perform together in your next recital.

This is a great way to create buzz for your studio, and more fun making music for your students–and their friends!

Be sure and watch for my article on piano bring-a-friend-to-lessons ideas October 27. See you then!



photo by: ljguitar
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