Category Archives: Piano Lesson Ideas

The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing Prospective Students.

With the start of the new year, now is a great time to fill open slots in your studio and student interviews are an excellent tool to use with prospective students. .

Once someone contacts you for lessons and you gather some initial information it’s now time to schedule a meet and greet or “interview”. I call these trial lessons.

Here are some tips I have found very helpful in holding trial lessons.

 

Don’t:

Don’t overwhelm prospective students with questions. Instead help the child feel comfortable and welcome. No one is themselves when being asked too many questions. For now keep your questions to a few basic introductions.

Don’t start with the importance or the demands of practice.

Instead Emphasize the fun and possibilities first. You can discuss practice at the end. Starting with the hard part can deter even the most serious students by making them feel overwhelmed and give you as the teacher the appearance of being overly harsh and strict. Practice standars are good and can easily be covered at the end of the trial lesson.

DO:

Have a mini lesson:

Have a mini lesson so you can get to know the potential student better and they can get to know you. During the lesson you can learn a simple song by rote, learn the layout of the keyboard, talk about the musical alphabet, do some simple ear-training, or do some interactive rhythm games. Don’t do too many activities. Try picking 3 of the above activities such as learning high and low, learning a simple song by rote, and introducing rhythm.

Note: I find having students learn a simple song by rote helps inspire them and show them all the possibilities of taking piano lessons. You want students to leave a trial lesson excited and this is a great way to do that.

At the end of a trial lesson answer any questions and then use this time to highlight your studio, cover your studio policy and show them any resources you give new students.

Highlight your studio:

Try to pick 3 things that makes your studio stand out from others to share with families. This could be your amazing recitals, exciting duet opportunities, or group classes. Or if you have a more serious and competitive minded studio, the performance opportunities, masterclasses, and exceptional opportunities to participate in high caliber competitions could be some of your unique attributes.

If you include any practice incentives or reward programs now is a great time to explain them and/or practice expectations.

If you give new students any resources such as flash cards, notebooks, and practice materials in addition to their music books now is a great time to go over these.

Your Studio Policy:

Lastly do make sure you cover the major points of your studio policy and give the full policy to the parent to read.

Before they go, DO make sure you know these things:

Do they have an instrument at home and any other necessary materials such as a foot rest for very small children, adjustable bench (or cushions), or any other materials that you may require.

Go over pertinent information in the studio policy and answer questions. Do make sure they understand the process you choose for payment etc.

And lastly before they leave ask for a commitment to lessons. I like to ask for a registration and materials fee so I can send them home with materials and hold a specific time slot they would like.

 

Teaching Complex Rhythm to Preschoolers: Preschool Camp Part 3

In part one and two of the preschool summer camp posts, I focused how I introduced the staff and middle C to preschool students. Now I would like to explore the rhythms games we played to reinforce the complex rhythms I find it important to have preschool students learn.

For preschoolers to understand challenging rhythms these rhythms need to be associated with something all student’s can connect with. Wondering what all student’s can connect with that helps rhythm? Stay tuned for next week’s post with a resource all kids absolutely love!  

Once children have been introduced to complicated rhythm they need to practice this skill many times. Because rhythm is such as important skill in learning piano, I spent part of each day at the camp working on rhythm with fun games. 

Planning a Preschool Camp Part 3. Three fun games to teach advanced rhythm to preschool students.

 

Below are three games for working with students on learning complex rhythms.

 Little Lost Duck Rhythms:

I purchased small rubber ducks from the party store and with a permanent marker I drew a rhythm on the bottom. I asked the students to close their eyes while I hid all the ducks around the room. I then told the students that the ducks were lost and needed help getting back to the pond (a plastic bucket). To return the ducks to the pond students need to find each duck and clap the rhythm on the bottom. The students thought this was so much fun and loved the little ducks so much they kept asking to take one home!

Clap and Listen:

On colorful card stock I drew different rhythmic combinations such as sixteenth notes, two sixteenth notes and an eight note, and other challenging rhythms. (Curious how I teach preschooler’s challenging rhythms? then you will want to check out next week’s post with a super cool resource.) I then clapped each of the rhythms showing students what each card sounded like. After demonstrating each card to the students I again clapped one of the cards and asked them to figure out which card I had clapped and run to stand by the corresponding card.

Though this was such a simple game, it was a great game for students to move around and get their wiggles out while also learning to listen and identify rhythm.

Drums and Cards:

One of the crafts we made at the camp was drums for use in our class. I made these drums out of empty oat meal containers and allowed the students to spend a few minutes decorating their drums. After students were finished with their drums, we returned to the floor and practiced beating rhythms. I had students copy the rhythms I beat on my drum and use preschool rhythm cards to create and beat their own rhythms. Curious about preschool rhythm cards and how to add a ton of fun to any rhythmic practice? Then check back next week!  

 

5 Fun Ways to use Popsicle Sticks in the Piano Studio

This summer I had a large number of leftover popsicle sticks, so I began to hunt for more activities that I could popsicle sticks for in my studio. Here are five creative I ideas that I successfully used with my students.

Piano Popsicle Stick Game

1. Popsicle sticks are a great way to divide measures! Create a rhythm for each student but without the measure lines. Have the student place measure lines after the proper number of beats. When the student has completed the activity, have them clap the rhythm.

2. Popsicle Stick Draw. This is a great game for beginners that takes very little prep time. On each popsicle stick draw a letter of the musical alphabet. Place the popsicle sticks in a plastic cup or other container. Have the student pick a stick and play the corresponding key on the piano. Once all the sticks have been drawn students can enjoy creating their own melodies by arranging the sticks and playing them in their chosen order. This game can also be modified to introduce and practice finding groups of two and three black keys by putting either the number two or three on each popsicle stick.

3. Give a student 10 popcicle sticks and ask them to arrange the sticks to look like the music staff. One can even add miniature treble and bass clef pictures and a black dot made out of black construction paper and quiz students on the names of their notes.

4. Use popsicle sticks to teach students about stem direction. On a large piece of staff paper draw black dots to represent quarter notes. Ask students to place the popsicles sticks as the note stems going in the correct direction.

5. On each popsicle stick write a simple activity that can be accomplished while repeating a piece or section. (I am a huge believer in quality repetition at the piano. Check out this post here on why.) Have the student draw and complete the designated activity while repeating their piece. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

a. Cross your feet
b. Close your eyes
c. Stand up, turn a circle three times, sit down then play your piece.
d. Play just the right hand with left hand on your head
e. Play with a smile

Remember learning is so much more fun and students learn better when games and manipulative are added!

Add Some Easter Fun to your Piano Lessons this Week

As of recently the blog has been very quite. Blogging has been a new adventure for me this year and I am still learning to balance teaching, life, and posting regularly. In addition, not only did I double my studio the spring but my husband and I also recently moved. Now that all the boxes are unpacked and things have fallen into a bit of a routine I feel I can finally start devoting more time to the blog.  I have some great posts coming in the next few weeks I hope you will enjoy and a regular posting schedule!

Around the holidays I often enjoyed incorporating holiday themed games for the concepts my students are working on. For Easter I was specifically looking for a simple game idea to use with my preschool piano students. A few weeks ago I picked up some plastic Easter eggs knowing that somehow I could use them with my students. I knew I needed something simple to prepare and I wanted to provide students with an opportunity to review what we have been learning. I decided to send my preschool students on a simple egg hunt. Inside each egg is either an activity, a song, or name of a key they are learning on the piano.Add some Easter Fun to Piano Lessons This week

For example, my preschool students are working on naming the white keys and finding two or three groups of black keys. I cut several index cards in half and either put a song they are working on, a letter from the musical alphabet, or a picture of two or three black keys. I placed the index cards in about eight eggs with a surprise sticker or temporary tattoo in one egg. I am planning to start each lesson with the review game, by having them find all the eggs and then go through each egg completing each assignment.

I am looking forward to trying this game with my young preschool beginners this week. For older students working on note recognition I have put note flashcards in each egg. I will be having these students name the note and play the correct key on the piano. There are endless options for using Easter eggs in lessons this week by putting different cards in each egg. You could review songs in preparation for recital time, practice rhythm, sight reading and much more.  If you need a quick inexpensive way to add some fun to lessons this week I hope this gives you some ideas.

Teaching Little Hands Piano Teachnique Part 2

Teaching technique to little hands part 2 One of the major issues that needs to be addressed in young piano students is hand shape. I can’t even count the number of students who have come to me playing with “flat” hands. So I thought I would share some of the philosopy I follow when correcting hand shape and some fun tricks to use with younger students.

First off, I don’t necessary believe that a student should have curved fingers. So I don’t follow the idea of giving them a ball to hold or visualize. Why? Well research has shown that for some students curving their fingers is unnatural and causes more piano playing injuries. Students instead should learn to use their hand naturally as they will be less likely to struggle with playing injuries.

How do you know what is natural? Have your student place their relaxed hand in their lap or hanging down by their side. Tell them to put their hand by their side just like they do when the walk. What shape is their hand in? Are their fingers more curved or less curved. Each student will be unique. Now take their hand, and without changing the shape, place it on the piano. This is the shape you are striving for.

That said, all students will have some gentle curve to their hands, no one can play with a completely flat hands.  Here are some ideas to help students develop a natural hand shape that is perfect for them.

My favorite is having them pretend their hand is a cave. Let them pick their animal and pretend to “place” it in their cave. Then the goal is for them not to squash their animal by letting the “roof fall down”. I have also seen this modified to be a cage with a butterfly or bird inside.

The second idea is a bridge. A student’s hand is the bridge and underneath is the road. You can even get a toy car to go under their hand. This is a great one just be aware that some student’s bridges will be shorter, smaller etc.

So if you are looking for a fresh way to introduce proper hand position then give these ideas a try.

What are your favorite ideas to introduce technique with young students? I would love to hear what you do!