Welcome to Part Two of this series. In Part One, we explored how to name your event and the importance of finding the right musicians for your rhythm section. We also discussed getting students singing and what music to play and provide to your band.
If you haven’t read it yet, click here: How to Plan and Run a Pop Piano Recital Part One.
In this post, we’re going to look at:
Also, at the end of this post you’ll find a checklist for preparing and running your first Pop Piano Recital. You can download this as a PDF so you can refer back to it in the future.
Doing things differently in your studio sets you apart from others in your area. Differentiation can be the best source of marketing.
Unless all the other studios are running this kind of event, then you have a distinct point of difference in your studio which you can leverage in your studio marketing.
Here are some ideas of how to capitalise on this:
There are lots of options for venues. The most obvious one is your own studio or home. If you have space, this is a great way to start.
Other options include:
You need to consider whether the venue has a piano or if you’ll bring a digital piano. You might like to keep your first one fairly intimate to get started.
Whichever way you go, the best way of preparing a student to play with a rhythm section is to play with a rhythm section! But, as we’ve learnt above, this can be expensive and difficult to organise.
Luckily, technology has the solution in the form of backing track apps.
The ones I recommend you use are iReal Pro or Notestar and even YouTube if you’ve not got an iPad. The apps allow the student to hear what it’s like to play along with a rhythm section (and a singer in the case of Notestar). This is important for keeping them in time and understanding balance.
Looking for backing tracks that students can play along to? NoteStar by Yamaha has lots of recent pop music and has been a hit with my teen students in particular. While the app is free, you pay to download the songs you want (you get a free 30 second preview of any song you choose from the catalog so you can instantly see how hard the music is). You then get access to on-screen auto-scrolling music, plus backing from a band and, the best part: vocals. You can change the key instantly, and slow the music down to suit your level. Brilliant app! Click here to download.
If you’re looking for simple drum/bass/rhythm section backing tracks that you can create yourself, look no further than iReal Pro. Works on iPad, iPhone and Android/Tablets, this app converts a chord chart into a rhythm section. Great for pop, jazz and rock playing. There are thousands of downloadable charts for most of the famous tunes from the 1930s onwards and they are all free. Great for exercises: scales, chord drills, pentascales, etc. Your only limitation in how you use this app is your own imagination. Click here to download.
Start the process of playing with backing instruments on these apps as early as possible. Help the students work out their arrangement – how many sections are they playing, what’s the intro/ending etc. These are all important aspects your student will need when they work with the band for the first time.
Aim for two rehearsals with the rhythm section of around 10-15 minutes per student. The first one is likely to be a bit of a mess as the students get used to it. You might have to work out intros and outros and your band may need to adjust things. If you’re short of time or cash to pay your musicians, then the absolute minimum is one rehearsal, but I’d schedule around 20 minutes per student.
Students need to annotate the Chord Charts, work out the sections, intro, ending, etc. They need to communicate this to the band (with your help). One of the hardest things for piano students to realise is that musicians performing in a band take a lot of non-verbal cues from each other. Head nods, arm gestures and just eye-balling other members are how musicians keep in time in a band, so let your student know about this.
They’ll need to get used to counting in (if required). They may need to be taught how to indicate when a solo is over or how to return to the beginning. This is all great learning for students and a vital part of the pop piano recital rehearsal process.
Here’s John rehearsing his track by Avicii:
Here’s Lucas rehearsing a dance track by Kygo:
As long as the preparation has been done by the student prior to meeting the rhythm section, the rehearsal process should be an exciting and fun experience for your students.
Luckily, as a member of a school music faculty, when I did my pop concert I already had a venue, sound system and rhythm section (other teachers). If you’re in an independent studio, you might not have these resources readily available, so I hope the above suggestions (and those in Part One) have been helpful.
Now I thought I’d summarise some of the main milestones in creating your first Pop Piano Recital.
You can download a PDF of this document below.
I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if you have any questions!
I thought I’d give it a go as well.
So at the end of our pop piano recital, I thought I should have a sing as well. This Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way it is”.
A little under-rehearsed and I’d never call myself a ‘singer’, but it sure was fun to play some great music with professionals. It reminded me of how much fun this kind of concert is for students and teachers – no matter how it sounds! I encourage you to also play along, even if you’re not 100% sure!
Running a Pop Piano Recital can be a huge motivator for students.
Yes, it will take some work, but the benefits, in student happiness and success, student retention, marketing buzz and learning, will pay off big-time.
I’ll also be running a webinar on running your first Pop Piano Recital in the lead-up to December concerts.
Have any question? Let me know in the comments section below.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.