If adults weren’t afraid to “run like kids”, I am certain the world would be a healthier place. I came to this conclusion after Lexi decided to join me on a run this afternoon.
As we trotted down the trail chatting about long recess, lunch, library and other school activities, Lexi would occasionally burst from the path to leap over a log, hurdle a small fence, or catch invisible butterflies. A little later on down the path she started to do a little karate kick with every third or fourth step.
And I started to think… wow…her running style seems a lot more fun! So off the two of us went, karate chopping trees, cutting corners, and catching invisible butterflies.
Before you know it, our run was over and Lexi, without even knowing it, had just polished off a cool 3K and my eyes were opened to a brand new running style :).
Running is a lot more fun when you “run like a kid”! And so is playing the piano… retention rates among teenage piano students are always much lower than pre-teen players. And I often wonder if it is because piano lessons stopped being “silly”… stopped being “fun”?
Teenagers Aren’t Always “Too Cool!”
Despite the cool and laid-back demeanor of most teenage students, deep, deep down, there is still a little piano kid begging to have a blast. And in our quest to keep piano lessons relevant to teens we often err on the side of treating them like adults… and the “fun factor” diminishes.
But this week, join us in changing that! We’re about to bring the fun back teen-style. You may get a few eyebrows raised in suspicion but they will quickly disappear if they see you enjoying it too. So dive in and try the following 3 activities with your teens this week:
Why do we stop playing music theory games with teens? I love board games and I am (much) older than 13! There’s no reason that teenage piano students can’t learn theory using games. Take the ones you use with your younger students, change the levelling to be appropriate for your more advanced students and play!
Have you ever played that game where you create a story with someone else… one person says one sentence and then the next person in line continues the story with their own sentence and so on? One of my favourite activities to do with my teen students is collaborative composing. They create one phrase – I create the next (and so on). The learning really comes into play when we also each need to notate (on staff paper) what the other created. It’s fun because the more crazy your phrase, the more difficult it is for the other person to notate. You can create rules to reign in the creativity… or you can let anything fly. It’s a ton of fun.
Mary Had a Little… Punk
Surprise your teen with a lead sheet to a simple “baby” song like Twinkle Twinkle, Mary Had a Little Lamb, London Bridge etc. Have them play through it… and then encourage them to “mess it up”. What they will be doing is creating a theme and variation of sorts… but you don’t need to tell them that!
See if they can come up with seven different ways to “funk up” their song. This is a great opportunity for your teen’s personality to shine through. The more of a sense of humor you have with this activity the better! Can Mary Had a Little Lamb be played like a funeral march? Like a Coldplay song? Like a Mozart Sonatina? In the style of Nirvana? Like a Video Game soundtrack? If you have a student who is reluctant to come up with their own ideas, write variation ideas on slips of paper and put the in a hat for them to pull out.
Add some good old-fashioned kid-like fun to your teens piano lessons and you’ll find their enjoyment level – and their skill level – will blossom. We all need to take life less seriously… so let’s start with piano lessons!
Injecting fun into piano lessons for children of all ages is what we at Teach Piano Today do best! If you give teens permission to “play” in their piano lessons and during their home practice you’ll increase retention rates and increase their enjoyment level. I regularly send my teens home with activities from our book “Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice”. They appreciate the humor in the activities and they love being given permission to just have fun with their piano. Check it out!