If the weekly online piano lesson is the one time in the week your students are getting primary instruction, the main focus of the lesson will be progression (as well as fun!)
Suggestions for if all students are working on the same piece:
Demonstrate the piece. Point out any tricky areas they’ll need to look out for. If there’s a challenging rhythm, clap it while the students follow along with the music. Get them to clap it back, taking it in turns. Bonus points are given to any student who can turn an item in their room into a drum. I once had a student pick up a flower pot and tap the rhythm with a pencil!
Mute all your students and tell them to work on the piece independently. Unmute each student in turn and listen and give feedback.
If any students are racing ahead, you can provide extra activities. One activity Melanie Bowers from KeyNotes Music suggests is challenging students to play through the piece while balancing an eraser on the back of their hand. You can see visually how well everyone’s doing without needing to hear them. Another suggestion is to get them to play the piece in different octaves, with different dynamics, or at different tempos.
When you’ve listened to all students separately, you can ask if anyone would like to perform in front of the group
Suggestions for if all students are working on different pieces:
Use breakout rooms to listen to individual students and give them feedback and things to work on
Have opportunities where students can perform to each other to show what they’re working on. You can also encourage them to all share compliments and feedback
One activity that students enjoy is guessing the title of the piece another student is playing. This leads to discussions as to why they thought that would be a fitting title, and what the title actually is!
“Okay, that’s pieces covered. But what else can we do to have fun?” I hear you asking. Keep reading, or jump down to the section What Else Can We Do?
Monthly/ Termly Online Group Piano Lessons
This is how online group lessons run in my studio. At the end of each term, I schedule students in pairs or small groups. They then perform to each other what they’ve been working on the past few weeks, make music together, and play music games.
The main focus of these group lessons is to perform and have fun.
Students work hard throughout the term knowing that they’ll be performing their piece to another student or students. They also look forward to the social aspect of joining up with another student.
Special One-Off Events
These can be super fun themed events where students learn a piece together and play themed games.
The other year I had a pirate-themed online group lesson where students learned a short sea shanty, worked together to complete a pirate-themed escape room puzzle, and played a pirate-themed music game. A couple of students even dressed up in pirate costumes,and one had an inflatable parrot!
What Else Can We Do In Online Group Piano Lessons?
Unless your sole focus is to work on pieces, you’re probably wanting to add more fun and activities into your online group piano lessons.
Using screen share, you can engage your students with a listening activity.
Here are two that I’ve used – you can do the exact same thing, or use these as inspiration!
I found the theme for the movie ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ on YouTube
I didn’t screen share straight away – I simply played the piece
I then paused it and asked the students to tell me what they thought the music was from. I had answers ranging from a car advert, film music, something from a game, and even “The start of that song my dad always plays but I don’t knowwhat it is”
I then shared the screen and they were met with the image of Clint Eastwood as a cowboy. “Ohhhhh, a cowboy movie!”
I then carried on playing, then paused it again. This time I asked them to share more of their thoughts on the music. What does it suggest the movie is going to be like?
I then repeated with different film themes, TV show themes, and video game music.
Before the lesson, I told everyone to have a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.
At the start of this activity, I asked everyone to write down five musical words. These could be dynamics, tempo, articulation, instrument families, specific instruments, mood… Anything.
They then held up their five words so everyone could see.
I then played the piece ‘Danse Macabre’ and told them to shout out if they could cross off one of their words. As the piece progressed we heard shouts of, “I got strings! That’s strings, right?” “Would you say this is creepy?” “Ahh I wrote down largo, I should have gone with presto!” “Nooo, I need drums to appear and then I’ve got all five of my words!”
After a couple of minutes, I paused the piece and everyone held up their words so we could see who had crossed off the most.
We repeated this with a few different songs and pieces, with everyone writing different words down each time.
These two listening activities were carried out with older more advanced students, but you can always simplify them for younger students.
Speaking of younger students, we have three super simple games that require very little (or no) setup or resources. These are perfect for online group piano lessons with beginner students.
I Went To The Shops…
This game is a take on the classic memory game, and all the students need are their pianos and their memory!
How To Play
The teacher goes first. They say, “I went to the shops and I bought a…” They then say an object that begins with a letter of the musical alphabet. They then play that note on the piano For example, “I went to the shops and I bought a carrot” *play a C*
The first student then repeats that object, plays the note, and then adds another object and matching note For example, “I went to the shop and I bought a carrot*plays a C* and a frog *plays an F*”
This goes on with each student adding a word and a note to the list and pattern
The game finishes when someone can’t remember the list and gives up! (Normally me!)
Bonus: You can get your students to play the rhythm of the objects. For example, ‘caterpillar’ would be four quick ‘C’s. Bonus 2: Add a description to each object so each player adds two words and two notes at a time. For example Blue Dress, B and D.
What Am I Playing?
For this activity, you need to have either a collection of pictures (you can Google pictures of whatever you want and print them off) and ask your students to bring two toys/cuddly toys to the lesson
How To Play
Hold up two pictures(or toys. You could even use ornaments or anything you have laying around the house. Be creative!)
Tell your students you’re going to improvise a short piece inspired by one of the pictures / objects
At the end of the piece hold up one of the pictures/toys and say, “Hands up who thinks I chose this one!” Then hold up the other and say, “Hands up who thinks I chose this one!”
Reveal the correct answer
Give your students a couple of minutes to find two items (put on a timer and shout a countdown, telling anyone who’s not back that the game will start without them!)
Choose a student to hold up their items, improvise a piece based on one of them, and have everyone guess and explain their answers.
Repeat for each student.
This is always a winner with my younger students because they love showing their toys and any ‘cool’ things they have in their room. I’ve been shown Lego, Squishmallows, and even kitchen utensils (and the improvised piece based on the fork was surprisingly good – “I played stabby notes ’cause you stab with the fork”!)
The teacher needs cards with the letters of the musical alphabet on them.
Students all need two small playing pieces that will sit on the piano keys – one to move and one to mark the end.
How To Play
All students place their moving playing piece on the C two octaves below middle C. They place their end mark piece on the C three octaves above middle C.
Starting with the first student, hold up an alphabet card.
The student moves their moving playing piece up to the nearest piano key that matches the letter. For example, if the letter on the card is D they move up one key.
Repeat, with students moving in turn. The first student to reach their end mark is the winner!
Take Into Consideration…
A few things to note about online group piano lessons:
The mute button is your best friend. If you’re needing everyone to listen to you and you only, tell them you’re putting them on mute to cut out any distracting background noises. If anyone needs to say anything or get your attention, they can simply put their hand up or wave!
When you’re playing games, choose the order students take their turns in based on alphabetical order. This means there are no grounds for argument and you can easily remember the order!
Send anything you need your students to print off in advance of the lesson, then double-check they’ve got everything before the lesson (this will minimize anyone disappearing to print things off!)
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