Summer is such a fun time of the year! There are camps, vacations, trips to the pool, longer days, looser schedules, more time with friends and family and generally less work and more play. All of these things are great for kids and so necessary for them to unwind from a school year and recharge for the next. But, it’s still important to keep a bit of structure in their lives!
I always encourage students to take a break from piano if they need it, but taking too much time off can make it really difficult to return to lessons in the fall. All of that hard work from the previous year can easily slip away if we don’t make any effort to maintain it.
Here are a some ways you can help your kids keep some piano going while still letting them relax and enjoy their time off.
1. Review old songs – Chances are, your student has quite a list of songs that he or she worked on in the previous school year. Have them go back and play through them again and polish them back up. Kids generally have a few favorites that they play over and over and move on past the other songs, but it’s always good to keep playing everything!
2. Sightread new songs – A lot of my students are working through the Faber Piano Adventure series. One of the reasons why I love this method is because of all of the supplemental repertoire. At every level, there are tons of books with a huge variety of styles. These books are great for students that want more music at their current level. For example, this Level 1 Popular Book is a favorite among my beginning students! If you search Amazon for Faber + your students level you should be able to find all of the different options.
3. Take a trip to the music store – I highly recommend taking students to a music store and just letting them browse. They are sure to find something that looks interesting to them and that might be just the motivation they need to keep up a little practice over the summer.
4. Piano Maestro – This is an excellent iPad App that is a great practice resource for students! This app is kind of like karaoke for piano. There is a huge variety of music to choose from and it is all set to instrumental back tracks. Students have to play the notes on their piano as they pass across the screen. The iPad’s microphone picks up the sound from the piano and students are graded on the accuracy of their playing. This is a really easy and fun way to keep your student playing and, most importantly, it is very effective for helping them sightread more efficiently!
5. Find Music Education Apps – There are tons of music related apps out there! Here is a list of the 9 apps we use most in my studio. I suggest just browsing and letting your student try a few out!
6. Learn with flowkey – Flowkey is an awesome interactive piano tutorial app. There are hundreds of songs that students can learn. Flowkey combines notated music, audio and a birds-eye-view of someone playing the piano to quickly and effectively teach students music. You can read all about how my students use it here. This is something that students can do with our without the help of a teacher, and curious parents might even learn a thing or two!
7. Watch YouTube tutorials – While this isn’t always the most pedagogically sound approach to learning the piano, I definitely support students learning through YouTube! Many of my students have very successfully learned music by watching videos. I recommend searching the name of a song that interests your student along with the words “piano tutorial”. Keep in mind that the person teaching the song doesn’t always demonstrate proper technique or may not use exactly the right terminology.
8. Create a composition – Any time I’ve encouraged my students to compose, I’ve been blown away by their creativity! The freedom of time that we have in summer is the perfect time for students to explore and create at the piano. An important thing to remember when composing is that limitations = freedom. If you just send your student to the piano and say “make up a song!” it is unlikely that you’ll hear anything productive. However if you give your student just a few guidelines you’ll be surprised by how easily and freely they can create. You don’t even need any musical experience for this!
For example, you could suggest to your student to make up a song about splashing in the pool. Encourage them to play around until they find some sounds that remind them of splashing water. You might just need to ask them a few questions, such as: Do high or low notes sound more like splashing? Are the splashes loud or soft? What position do you want to start your hands in? (Or for an older student, what key do you want to play in?)
9. Theory workbooks – Some students might groan at the thought of working out of a work book in the summer, but other students really thrive on the structure of having a something so concrete to work with. Theory Time is a good series to start with!
10. Learn a song by ear – This is a great skill and one that we don’t always have time for in piano lessons. Challenge your student to figure out the melody of a song. Start with something simple like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Happy Birthday. Once they have the melody, see if they can add some left hand chords or notes. If these songs are too easy branch out to their favorite popular songs, songs from musicals, hymns, or anything else familiar.
11. Find a challenging piece to get started on – I absolutely love it when my students think big and try things a little beyond their comfort level. Summer is a great time to pull out music that they’ve always wanted to try but looked too hard or to get started on something they have their eye on for next year. Figuring out challenging music can lead to a lot of light bulb moments that might make everything click! It doesn’t have to be perfect; this part of the process of learning music is so important! Sheetmusicplus.com is a good place to look new music. You can buy, download and print music instantly!
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