The sun was streaming in the windows of my studio last week and everything was nice and warm and daffo-dilly outside. I took one look at my piano student and knew he wanted to be outside just as much as I did. Darn those guitar teachers who can just pick up their instruments and have a lesson under a shade tree in the blink of an eye!
While thoughts of rolling my piano out the french doors did surface, I instead decided to shake things up inside and bring some of the freshness of spring into my lesson.
Take a Spring Vacation From Lessons
While the thought has crossed my mind and probably yours, we can’t always pack our bags and hit the airport bound for spring time in Paris, but what we can do is change up the way we approach our lessons.
So the next time you’re feeling like you need a vacation… or the next time your student looks at you and you just know they’d rather be anywhere else… try my “vacation from piano lessons”.
1. Head Outside for Piano Games
I didn’t wheel my piano outside, but we did hit the patio for some theory games. My student was so surprised to hear me say “Let’s take this outside!”. If you have a floor keyboard (DIY idea here) this is something easy to drag onto the grass…. or if you don’t have one (like me) then use sidewalk chalk. We drew a staff and my little guy hopped around on the lines and spaces as I called out note names and then “double-footed” it for intervals. We threw rocks a la hopscotch, naming the note where the rock landed, and we placed flower pots on the staff to “draw” out the tricky measure in his current piece.
2. Toss the Method Book
Back inside, my student got his books out of his music bag and I winked and plunked them back in. It’s a freeing feeling to toss the method books once in awhile (it almost feels like a vacation in itself!) and we focused only on supplementary repertoire (which, handily enough had a spring-ish bug theme!) He took home a brand-new, never-before-seen piece with the instructions to let his method books “snooze” in his bag for the week, but with the goal of having his new piece both perfected and memorized.
3. Improv a Spring Tune
We didn’t have quite enough time to get into some composing that day as we’d had so much fun outside, but we did have time to improv a spring song. Come up with a chirpy little motive together (check this out if you don’t know how) and then while your student plays his motive, you fill in all of the measures in-between. It goes a little something like this (M means motive and is played by your student, those with the same color are the same material). M – 1 measure answer – M – 1 measure answer – M – 1 measure answer – M – cadence. If you have a more advanced student you can then change keys, make it minor, change octaves etc. to create a “B” section; but keep it casual with fun as the #1 goal. Give the tune a spring-like name and promise to play it together again next week.
4. Sight Read With Sunglasses
This was the simplest change I made and he’s still talking about it according to his mom. I gave him a pair of sunglasses to wear before we started sight-reading and 2 rules: Instead of the “cool dude thumbs-up” that kids love to give when wearing sun-glasses (what is that about anyway?!) he had to give me the “first fingers you use to play this piece… up” with rock-star attitude, secondly, and for every measure he played correctly, he’d stop and we’d high-five. I’ve never seen such enthusiastic sight reading 😉
Don’t Check-Out… But Do Take A Break
We all have those days where a coffee jolt just doesn’t cut it. We’d rather be out in the garden, or reading a book, or laying on a lawn chair… really anything but sitting in a piano studio. It’s fairly simple to just zone out and go through the motions to get through the day. But instead of checking-out and just putting in time, take a break from the norm and have some spring time fun. I’m betting your day will fly by!