teach piano today

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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I need help to stay organized. I need inspiration to stay creative. To that end, I keep three binders near. My Command Central binder (studio administration) and Student Files binder (information) help with efficiency. But this one is pure fun. Educational, of course. But fun! My Games/Activities binder.

Games/Activities Binder

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When a student needs help with rhythm or note identification, there it is. When I want group games, it’s there. A wiggly youngster in need of off-seat time? There.

I tend to live in the moment. If an item is out of sight, it can cease to exist. The binder nudges my memory.

The Games/Activities binder has a 3-ring pouch of colorful dry-erase markers. Plastic sheet protectors make activity sheets reusable. Write on and wipe off. Pages can be swapped quarterly.

highlighters kept in the games/activities binder

Activities may include:

  • Mazes
  • Search-and-Find (like Where’s Waldo?)
  • Flash card games
  • Card games
  • Color-by-Code
  • Note-identification word games
  • Word searches
  • Crossword and other puzzles
  • Trace the symbols
  • Match the ______________
  • Find the patterns (snatches of music)

screammatchboxnew              game, music 1

Categories:

  • Notes
  • Rhythm
  • Intervals
  • Ear Training
  • Symbols
  • Assignment Sheet masters for piano, voice and guitar
  • Theory
  • Scales & arpeggios
  • Sight-reading
  • Key identification
  • Improvisation
  • Composition
  • Famous composers & their creative friends (authors, artists…)
  • Music history
  • Ideas (for future group classes/games)
  • Snacks (for group classes/recitals)
  • Resources and wish list

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I use an Excel spreadsheet as an index. At a glance, I have the title, supplies needed and location of each, skills/areas covered, age and level, season, and number of players.

Bulky games might be on a shelf or in a drawer.

Twister

Certain game pieces are stored separately. Then they can be used for several games. Some games are on iPad.

A number of music teacher bloggers include games and activities on their sites. My resource page includes their links. I highlight games I’d like for my studio.

Here are just a few:

Wendy Stevens                                       www.ComposeCreate.com

Three Cranky Women                            http://tcwresources.com/about.php

Joy Morin—Color in my Piano               http://ow.ly/TvUbW

Office Playground (desk toys, etc)        http://ow.ly/Twnfy

Teach Piano Today (Piano Game Club) http://pianogameclub.com/

Diane Hidy’s Toolbox                             http://dianehidy.com/my-toolbox/

What methods help you manage your studio? How do you keep the creativity in your teaching? Leave a comment!

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