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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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The sound of your kid banging on the drums might not be your favorite, but once you find out about the numerous physical, emotional, social, and even mental health benefits drum playing actually bring, you won’t mind the noise anymore. All kids love making a racket and the drums allow them to do so while learning to have rhythm, but the benefits go beyond just musical skills.

If you still need more reasons to convince you to enroll your kid in those drum lessons at Red Drum Music, then refer to this list of advantages little drum players have over their peers.

They Develop Wonderful Musical Skills

Being exposed to music, especially the drums, can truly develop your child’s musical skills and at the same time spark their interest in playing instruments. The first step is to learn about rhythm and to learn this, playing the drums, cymbals, tambourine, or any other percussion instrument is the best way. Once your child has mastered playing rhythmically, then you can move on to more complex musical lessons like note lengths.

They Learn To Coordinate The Hands And The Feet

Even adults who learn how to play the drums struggle to coordinate the hands and the feet at the same time and in the right order. Drum lessons for kids are, of course, much simpler. Very little ones will simply start with playing randomly until they learn to follow a rhythm and eventually drum with both hands. Through practice and as they progress in their drumming skills if they decide to continue lessons, they get to develop their motor skills more than other children in their age group. For them, learning other skills that require hand-and-feet coordination will be much easier, thanks to their drum lessons.

They Can Focus Extremely Well

Focus is something that is tough to learn nowadays because there is simply too much stimulation all around. Children who do not learn a skill that requires focus and concentration will not learn how to tune out the rest of the world and will be easily distracted and overwhelmed.

Drum lessons are a good way to learn focus, as your child’s mind needs to concentrate on the sound and the pattern they need to play. This can be quite tricky especially for little kids and the only way they can do it is to fully concentrate on the task at hand. Moreover, you will find your little one improving his or her attention span as well, as they can become engrossed in perfecting the routine that they keep practicing. Just make sure you invest in those sound-reducing headsets.

They Learn To Cooperate And Be Part Of A Group

Drum players either play with others as a group or play in a band. In both situations, they will need to cooperate with fellow musicians in order to be harmonized. They will learn how to wait for their turn and seeing how they contribute to the whole group. It goes without saying that one drum player out of tune or timing can easily ruin the whole performance.

They Develop And Express Their Creativity

Drums are a good example of musical instruments that allow players to be creative. Little drum players can explore and experiment with different sounds and combinations, encouraging them to be more creative as well.

Their Brains Benefit From The Exercise

While music is normally associated with being a creative or right-brain activity, drumming can actually also stimulate the left side of the brain, which is associated with logic and math, learning sequences, and understanding time. Signing your child up for drum classes can then have an unintended but not unwanted outcome of better grades in school.

Drumming Is Actually Therapeutic

If you think the drums have already enough benefits, you will be happy to hear that it is also therapeutic. Children with disabilities like autism, ADHD, and cerebral palsy are soothed by the act of playing drums. This is why therapists and schools are incorporating lessons into their programs but most of all, banging on the drums is simply fun. Despite their disabilities, these kids can actually master the drums and even stage awe-inspiring performances.

If you are now convinced that drumming is something for your kid, then enroll your child in the next drum lessons. The benefits will definitely make all the ear-splitting noise worthwhile.


About the author:

Darren Perkins is a drummer, teacher, and the owner of Red Drum Music Studio, a studio in Melbourne that teaches kids – and kids at heart – how to play drums. During his spare time, he’s usually online researching the coolest drums and other music topics. Visit to learn more about drums.

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It has been a year since I created an amazing opportunity for my students – paid gigs! 

Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon (except Christmas, Easter, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day), one of my private students performs at a local restaurant for two hours. They get a small stipend, a free meal, and whatever tips they happen to receive from customers! This program has been so successful, and I will share with our dear MusicTeachersHelper blog readers on how you can create a similar one for your students!

  1. Find a restaurant with a piano. The one I work with has a baby brand. It is a very nice, upscale restaurant, and has a newly opened wine tasting lounge – perfect for live entertainment. 
  2. Talk to the owner. My program started because the restaurant was looking for a classical pianist who can perform for two hours every Saturday and Sunday. Someone gave them my number, I said I could not do it myself, since I have a baby and weekends are precious time, but I offered my students. Based on my studio reputation and student success, they accepted. (This is why you absolutely must have a studio website and Facebook page to showcase your students!) 
  3. Negotiate the terms. How much will the students get paid, if any? Can they expect tips? What else? Perhaps a free meal? My students and I are very lucky that the restaurant we deal with is very generous. Obviously the students should not expect professional fees, but some sort of stipend should be negotiated. It really motivates the students!

Benefits for the students

This program has greatly benefited my students. It gives them real life, professional performance experience. As mentioned before, they also get paid and a free meal, and many have made handsome tips. Kids love money, and food! It really motivates them to practice harder so they can be ready for their next paid gig. Many students, after having performed once, tell me they realize they don’t have enough repertoire (two hours solo playing is not a short time!), so they are motivated to learn new pieces. It is also good to send those that have a major exam or competition coming up so they can test-drive their program. I also use it as an incentive – “if you finish learning all these pieces you will be ready to perform at the restaurant and make some money!” Many of my students are very seasoned performers now because of this program. Their sight reading skills have also improved dramatically, as I tell them to sight read some easy classics so they can fill their two hours. They have gained confidence (for many it was the first time they ever got paid), learned the value of hard work, responsibility, and time management skills. The restaurant was so impressed with one particular student, that he got his own gig deal! One door opens another. 

Benefits for me

It is a lot of work to coordinate. The restaurant does not contact the students. All they know is that someone will show up every Saturday and Sunday. I do all the communication. I book who is to perform when, and I use Music Teachers Helper to help me keep track. I do it for free, and my students get all the stipends and tips. Every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm I expect a text from whoever should be there to let me know they showed up. At 5pm I expect another text to let me know things went well. Every now and then something unexpected can happen – for example one time the restaurant had a private party and forgot to tell me not to send someone, or the manager is away and no one is in charge, so I have to chase down the payment on behalf of the student, or the student has an emergency or is sick so I have to quickly find a replacement, etc. It is extra work for me. But all of this is giving me publicity as well, as I ask that my students put my business cards on the piano. Mostly, knowing that my students are greatly benefiting from this experience is why I do it. The parents really appreciate it, too, and they know this program is unique, no other teachers offer it.

Benefits for the restaurant

The restaurant gets new customers. Parents go, grandparents go, friends go, to support the students. They find out the restaurant exists. It is now on their list of dine out options. I also tell everyone I know how wonderful it is that they support live classical music. It truly is amazing that a business would do this, and I convey my appreciation to them often. 

What unique opportunities do you offer your students?

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