Summer Piano Practice
Summer is almost here for many of us! It’s hard to believe, right?
The summer season means a couple of different things to piano teachers like you and me:
- Students take a break and our paychecks feel a bit lighter than usual… and/or
- Students begrudgingly come to lessons unprepared and uninspired (they’d much rather be outside playing, right?).
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Now, I’m not going to discuss point number one today.
In fact, it was actually recently dealt with in this blog post: 5 Piano Teaching Expert Share Their Summer Income Tips
Today we’re talking about increasing summer practice. More specifically, six creative and engaging lesson ideas to help increase summer piano practice.
I’ve got some brilliant tips for you, so let’s dive in.
Read more: 20 Creative Ways to Start A Piano Lesson
1. Help Your Student Plan a Family Concert or Other Event
A fantastic way to increase summer piano practice among your students is to encourage them to plan their own summer event.
Now this could look like a couple of different things depending on your student and her unique passions.
Not all students will want to plan a family concert, but many will. Those who don’t wish to plan a fun family concert may be interested in other opportunities, such as recording projects (we’ll chat about this in a moment).
Planning events such as family concerts gives students the unique opportunity to do it ALL – plan, prepare, and perform!
From a planning perspective, they get to set the date (with their parent’s help, of course), invite their friends and family members to the big event, and post flyers around the house. They also get to decide what pieces they wish to play at the concert.
Preparing for the event involves practice, for sure!
Keeping track of the pieces they’re playing and the practice it takes to get them in shape is essential (FYI, the Summer Practice Planner in the freebie below is great for helping students keep track of their event details).
And finally, they get to perform!
All that hard work in planning and preparing culminates with a beautiful performance for others to enjoy!
And that’s what it’s all about, right? Sharing the gift of music with others is a wonderful thing.
Now, if your students don’t get too excited about the whole family concert idea, consider having them plan and prepare pieces to record on an album. The recording software GarageBand makes it super simple to assemble projects like this. Tim even has some free training available on the topic!
2. Incorporate Film Scores
Now, I love movies. Don’t you? And guess what, your students do to! Focussing on film scores is a brilliant way to increase practice during the summer months.
Start out by asking your students about their favorite films and film scores.
You’ll be delighted to see their faces light up when you ask them these questions. And they’ll shine even brighter when you tell them your plan to focus on music from their favorite movies during the summer months.
Film music is dramatic, exciting, and best of all fun!
Related: Repertoire Rap | How to teach cool film music to your students
Focussing on film music affords you the unique opportunity to talk about drama in music and get your students thinking about what makes certain pieces sound exciting, happy, or sad.
Consider planning a “night at the cinema” themed concert where students play their favorite film scores and accompany the actual films. iMovie and other comparable software makes stringing video a simple task.
You may even ask them to dress up as their favorite movie characters for the big event!
Fun stuff, right?
3. Create Some Lead Sheets Together
I’m a huge proponent of improvisation in the lesson room. It provides a unique opportunity for students to get creative within a certain set of parameters.
Lead sheets are a great place to begin studying improvisation because they combine note reading and improvisation.
Read more: What’s the difference between chord charts and lead sheets?
The tune is notated (typically in the treble clef) and chord symbols, such as C, F, G, etc., are placed above certain melody notes as needed.
I will often open up my notation software and notate a lead sheet with a student in the lesson. It doesn’t take much time, and it’s a great way to change things up, work on some ear training, teach students to notate, and learn how to improvise.
(I use Finale, but there’s other notation software available, such as Sibelius and the free software Musescore.)
Here’s what my process looks like –
- Decide on a tune together (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is a great place to start).
- Guide the student through “picking out” the melody by ear, perhaps start on the note “C.”
- Once the student can play the tune, lay the foundation for chord structure (talk about the primary chords, I, IV, and V, and have the student play these chords).
- Work through harmonizing the tune together.
- Now, guide the student on how to notate the simple tune in your favorite notation software.
- Notate the chords above the melody notes.
- Play and enjoy!
- Rinse, wash, and repeat with other tunes.
4. Host a Scale-A-Thon
Now this one gets the whole studio involved.
Imagine this utopian scenario – Students practicing their scales, chords, AND arpeggios with enthusiasm and gusto!
Sound to good to be true? Well, it’s not! Especially when you host a Scale-A-Thon.
Think big competition with kids of all ages divided into their age/developmental groups, preparing their major and minor scales, chords, and arpeggios for the upcoming Scale-A-Thon event.
Related: How to make piano scales fun!
At this event, everyone will enjoy music games, fun and educational presentations, and prizes! Those who’ve worked the hardest and learned the most over the summer will be rewarded with the biggest prizes of all!
This event works really well with larger numbers, so it’s best to get your entire studio involved or partner with another studio to foster maximum energy and excitement!
I’m excited just typing about it! Are you excited reading about it??
5. Incorporate Student Duets
This one seems pretty obvious, and in a way it is. But I’m surprised at just how many teachers don’t play duets with their students, let alone have their students play with other students.
The latter is the best approach as it gives students the opportunity to play and grow with their peers. And all of this is facilitated by you, their piano teacher.
Sure, it will take a bit of work to schedule practice time for the students, but I promise it’s well worth the effort. Students really rise to the occasion when playing duets with one another because they don’t want to let one another down.
6. Create a Summer Story Challenge
Now, this one is a new one that I’m experimenting with. And so far it’s a hit with my students!
Everyone loves a good story, right?
But what if the only way to find out the next chapter in the story is to pass a certain obstacle or number of obstacles?
Introducing, Billy the Space Kid and his adventures on planet Treble (not to be confused with planet, trouble, of course).
Throughout his adventures, Billy is confronted with obstacles that he must conquer to continue his journey toward the prize, which will be revealed the last week of summer.
You see where I’m going with this?
Essentially, a student must pass a piece or set of pieces, or perhaps some scale exercises, before moving on to the next chapter in the story.
You can make up the story along the way, or use a preexisting story that’s unfamiliar to your student. Either way, your students will practice because they want to know what’s coming next!
Summertime affords us the opportunity to think outside the box and engage our students in unique ways.
I’m confident that if implemented, one or a combination of some of these ideas will increase practice among your students this summer.
Enjoy and keep up the important work you’re doing because it really does matter!
Piano Practice Package – five valuable piano teacher resources to help you inspire practice all summer long and beyond!
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