Music games

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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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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well played... and next a bow!

well played… and next a bow!

Life-after-music for teachers might be full of family, work, caregiving, education, etc. For stressful times I recommend a bare-to-the-bones group (master) class rather than anything prep-intensive. I couldn’t have been more pleased with my latest. I use these classes partly to prepare students for a recital, partly to take advantage of teaching in a different setting, and partly to allow them to spend time with others in private instruction (let them know they’re not alone J).

Ahead of Time:

I searched for possible games and found or invented four.

Printed out or gathered materials for games.

Purchased ingredients for snacks and put them together (cookie frosted snowmen and crackers & cream cheese snowmen).

Wrote a list of my goals for the class.

Entered the group/master class into the MTH calendar.

Tasty snowmen

Tasty snowmen

What I Brought:

Four games contained in Ziplock bags (we had time for only two of them, but it’s best to be prepared).

Snack bags for each student (again, I made four extra just in case).

What We Did:

1. Brief discussion of recital etiquette.

I asked for an example of bad etiquette, and my cell phone rang.

Unplanned. Sure, it was funny. But as it turns out, my mother had fallen and

broken a vertebra. My husband was calling from ER.  A neighbor had shown up

as my students were arriving, to tell me about her fall. That’s when I turned on

the phone. It turned out to be a great teaching moment—when is it acceptable to

have a cell phone on?

2. How to bow.

A couple of students demonstrated a simple bow. Then we had a few examples of outrageously bad bows.

3. Mini-recital.

Each student played a piece for the others, and they made positive, specific comments about each performance. One student faltered pretty badly, and someone highlighted what a great bow he’d done!

**Did you notice that up to this time there were no props? Only the piano, which was already in the room.

Around the Clock in 4/4 Time

Around the Clock in 4/4 Time

4. Two group games.

One game to practice reading rhythms, the other to practice naming keys (Most

of those who came were young beginners). They had a blast!

Say 'em, then play 'em

Say ’em, then play ’em

How it Ended:

I handed out the snack bags. The students not only thanked me for them and for the class, but most told me they’d pray for my mom. How sweet.

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How Long the Class Took:

1 hour, 5 minutes.

 

Afterward:

This is when I became really grateful for the simplicity of the event…

I put game materials back in baggies, grabbed my purse and coat.

Closed the piano lid, turned off the piano light.

Turned down the thermostat.

Turned off lights and locked up.

Drove to the hospital.

Ten minutes!

Follow-up:

Mom had an MRI. We’ll see the surgeon later, so all I can report now is that we are thankful for the care she’s receiving at the hospital.

I’m grateful that I didn’t serve snacks and beverages in the fellowship hall afterward. No vacuuming, no washing floor, dishes and tables, no dozen trips back and forth to load up the car.

Keep It Simple, Sweetie! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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