An essential part of learning to play music on an instrument (as opposed to singing!) is having an instrument on which to play. Owning or renting an instrument and having the necessary accessories are important for learning but are not something teachers may be prepared to handle. And yet, without the right equipment it’s hard for a student to get very far. How can the teacher help? What do you do to help your students? (Please add a comment at the end to share your perspective!)
Some teachers might simply accept whatever the student has for equipment. Others direct their students to local or online stores to purchase recommended items. Still others select and rent or sell instruments and accessories themselves.
I’ve done all three. Lately, I’ve taken to making things available myself, especially for beginners. This post is about why and how I’ve gone about it. Read more…
I was in for a shock when I looked up the price of karate and dance lessons in the town where my studio is located. My mind was totally blown! I hadn’t raised prices since 2010 because I thought parents would revolt and pull their kids out of my programs. Little did I know, my competitors in the “after-school-club” market were getting almost double for comparable programs, based on the number of instructional hours per week. That’s just leaving money on the table! It’s irresponsible as a business owner to not know your market, AND lost profit. After all, as much as music teachers love our jobs, we are in business to make a profit. Read more…
Group classes are a great way to reach more students, multiply your time and promote your studio. I taught a group vocal class over the summer (Group Classes) and a group guitar class. Find the first two guitar class posts here (Group Guitar part 1 ) and here (Group Guitar part 2).
What I cover in weeks 5-8:
-how to tell the key of a song
-transposing, review how to make your own chord charts, and the 3/4 strum
-the “Happy Birthday” song. You’d be surprised how many accompanists I’ve met who can’t play it!
-another parody I wrote for this class, with only 2 chords, to the tune of “Clementine”. This one I personalized with their names and some positive traits:
1. In a church one sultry summer, round a table sat The Six: sore fingers, sore brains, but they strummed their acoustics.
2. Guitars ready, keep it steady, press your fingers till they bleed. Making music is so fun! What more in life could you need?
3. Play the 2/4, play it over and over again. “Almost got it,” says the teacher, “Take a little rest.” But then…
4. …comes another even harder, will we ever get it right? Now the strings are out of tune, but do I loosen or turn it tight?
5. There is Jerry, always ready, and Malea’s cheerful grin, Leslie’s great dry sense of humor; Robin says, “Play it again.”
6. Asia strums and Doris hums and Gavin, fearless, forward goes. By the end of this guitar class, every one of them will be pros!
What I choose to review and for how long depends on how they did at the last lesson, and what I think they need:
-the 4/4 strum and appropriate songs
-a demonstration that 2/4 and 4/4 strums can be interchangeable
Note: whenever I introduce new chords or strum, I choose songs with as few chord changes as possible. I aim for a good mix of musical styles and tempos.
I sing the melodies until they can. Sometimes I say the strum aloud: DOWN, downup downup downup—and we pause at the chord changes until they have their fingers in place. Once most have the hang of it, I make sure to do parts of the songs slowly and parts quickly to accommodate all class members. It’s equally frustrating whether you can’t keep up, or you’re being kept from going as fast as you are able, so I do some for both.
Student workbook and assignment book to coordinate with game board.
It is so exciting to start a new school year. I usually take August off to give myself time to get ready for a new direction in the fall. In my never-ending attempt to keep kids engaged in the study of piano and music, I create a different theme and activity set each year. This year my theme is World Music, and I’d like to share with you how I have put this to work.
Game pieces to move around the board; little superheros.
Game board. Students move a space for each day of practice.
As the basis for my activities I chose to use an assignment book and game board from Keys to Imagination, created by Michelle Sisler. (http://www.keystoimagination.com/) There are several themes available, and I am using “Where in the World is Mr. Arpeggio” to coordinate with my world music theme. Each student gets a
workbook that includes assignment pages, along with activity pages at the beginning of the book which correlate with the game board. I purchase these books for the students out of their fall deposit money. A vinyl game board is pinned to my bulletin board and games pieces depicting superheros are added. The game board depicts a map of the world with a trail for students to follow as they track down clue cards to find Mr. Arpeggio, who has been stealing musical symbols. The clue cards also include interesting history and composer facts. Students progress on the board according to the number of days they have practiced the previous week.
In order to add a competitive element to the game, I also hung an even larger world map (under $15 at Hobby Lobby) on another wall and marked out a route for the students to race around the world. Students will choose a cute paper luggage tag on which to put their name, and then move the tag along the route as they accumulate points. In order to get on the map they need 15 points to get to Denver International Airport. From there they work their way to New York City, on to Paris, then Shanghai, and eventually end up in Los Angeles. Their prize reward increases at each destination. They will earn points by collecting the previously-mentioned clue cards, bringing their books, playing their scales cleanly, writing compositions, completing theory pages, playing at recitals, and other activities and goals.
Large map I added to have a race around the world.
During weekly media lab time I will add in world music activities on the computer. I may also use some of Keys to Imagination’s “Are We There Yet” studio series. This curriculum provides many activities related to studying world music. I will incorporate the world music theme into my group lesson activities and any special concerts or field trips we attend this year.
Multicultural activities for group lessons and media lab time.
Media room decorations.
Students will also be choosing a piano piece to study from a foreign country. I usually have a theme-specific recital sometime during the winter so the students can share these pieces with family and friends. I’ll encourage them to write a report about the country and/or the composer and maybe share some of those facts before they play.
This long banner ties it all together.
To set the mood, I ordered very inexpensive decorations from www.PartyCheap.com in the world theme—lots of flags! I may leave these up all year, or move some of them around from time to time. I have little cards to send out before lessons begin letting students know about the “world wide search” and how I need their help to find the thieving Mr. Arpeggio!
I’d love to hear from other teachers who use a theme each year for motivation!
Setting up an independent piano studio, I worked alone to make it a vibrant learning environment for budding musicians of all ages. Although I cherish my students and their families and never feel isolated while teaching, they do not provide a sounding board for the administrative side of the business.
My church position requires me to work alongside the choir director, the choir members, a few colleagues when we play duets, professional musicians for seasonal cantatas and the like but, I’m not required to attend staff meetings. I choose my own music and practice a number of times each week by myself.
Writing a blog post or article requires time and space alone with my thoughts AND my computer. Sadly, I look at my computer screen more frequently than anyone or anything else and it offers no human interaction beyond its service as an electronic communication conduit.
As timing would have it, over the past year, I’ve worked with more colleagues than ever before.
Co-publishing a book, planning a conference, and running a camp completely and dramatically changed my connectivity with fellow colleagues. Now, there’s not a day that goes by without a text, a call or email about an upcoming deadline or project that requires team work.
This led me to wonder why it is that so many of us set up our OWN studio, independent of others, in our OWN homes or rented space. We seem to dwell in our OWN silo with only limited social pipelines to the outside world like Facebook, blogs, etc. Why were most of us never encouraged to seek a mentor or partner who could offer advice, tips, an exchange of ideas, and even share a studio or business together upon earning a music degree? Or maybe I just speak for myself? Read more…
I’ve seen great success with group guitar classes in the past—this was no exception. Here’s how I went about it. You may have excellent ideas, too. We’d love to read about them, if you’d share them below!
*How many in a group? Six students signed up. I’ve had as few as three and as many as thirteen. I’ve been in larger groups myself, so I’d go up as high as twenty. The toughest part of that is tuning. I have them come early for that.
*What ages? Ten to adult. This group had three children (10+) and three adults. Though I enjoy groups of similar ages, I think the ones with adults and kids together are the most fun. The generations encourage and enrich one another, and the adults tend to remove the need-to-be-cool factor. We can get silly or serious. It makes the youngsters more open to songs of a variety of genres and decades.
*How long are classes? I aimed for forty-five minutes, but we usually ended up going over.
*Materials used? This class was for absolute beginners. I came up with my own instructional materials and compiled appropriate songs, which has given me complete freedom to tweak as I go for the particular group. I also have future group guitar class materials for advanced beginners, intermediate, advanced intermediate, and advanced. I’ve often had students stay with me through all five groups, and then enroll in private lessons.
I present most songs as chord/lyric sheets. I decorate with copyright-free clipart.
Each student must have an acoustic guitar to play. No electrics—I don’t like to mess with cords and amps in a group. I’d get hoarse talking over them!
*Where to hold the class? I’ve taught in my home studio, in my living room, and at two different churches in town, depending on the size of the classes. They all work well.
*Is a group an advantage or a hindrance?Read more…
When that waiting list grows out of proportion, how do you multiply your time? With group lessons!
Part I: Vocal Group Lessons
To multiply my time this summer, I’m conducting two 8-week group classes. I’ll write about the other (a group guitar class) next month.
Normally I’d advertise. But due to circumstances, I emailed my present students and posted a note on facebook. Word-of-mouth proved sufficient, and I have enough students for a pleasant group.
A great thing about group lessons is that I can charge a lower tuition fee per student, but still earn a good deal more money per hour. Also, my time of preparation is once for all the students in the class. This tends to create more of a buzz about my studio, too.
Here’s how I’ve gone about it—you may have wonderful ideas of your own—please share them in the comments below!
*This group is for 8-12-year-old girls. Classes are 45 minutes long. If they are successful, I will try to offer a follow-up 6-8 weeks this fall.
*To help them get to know each other, I had them share birthdates, family, nicknames, pets, hobbies, musical experiences—they had fun with it. I wrote a curriculum with lots of flexibility in it until I could get to know their strengths/areas of growth.
*I found and created warm-ups. Physical movement (asked them to reach up as if for something on a high shelf that they want badly (a sugar glider, an American doll…), easy descending patterns, pulses, vowel formation, diction, ear training… done with as much humor as I can. Tongue twisters come in handy. Whining like a puppy and meowing like a cat on different pitches turned out to be surprisingly effective warm-ups!
*Familiar songs in appropriate keys followed. I played just the melody and listened for who can match pitches and how much confidence they might have, and I began to get clues as to their vocal ranges. From this I can plan the rest of the group lessons.
*Rounds—I had nearly forgotten the benefits of learning to sing rounds! For beginning singers, not an easy feat. Some benefits: Social—you know how kids often walk together or sit together, but are in their own worlds with their phones, texting or playing games? Rounds are a bit like that. The kids are standing in close proximity, but each concentrating on their own thing—separately but together! If you have enough students, they can divide into groups or even just two on a part. Singing rounds requires much concentration, and tuning out the other parts while focusing on their own. Ear training—singing a melody and singing harmony.
Maria von Trapp (Sound of Music—the real woman, not Julie Andrews) said that singing rounds teaches you “to mind your own business.”
Surplus benefit: since rounds are based on mathematical relationships, students are learning math concepts while singing.
I’ve been using The Round Book: Rounds Kids Love to Sing, by Margaret Read MacDonald and Winifred Jaeger (80 songs).
*In addition to rounds, I included a couple of very funny (and obscure) songs to keep them laughing. And I remind them that laughing is great for feeling where the support happens. Talk about pulses!
*Real energy occurred when I asked the girls which musicals they would love to sing something from. As each girl mentioned a musical, the others exclaimed how they love that one too. Contagious. I promised them at least one piece they all love. They can hardly wait for the next group lesson. Win!
Even though the group represents abilities from not being able to match pitches to start with, all the way to one girl who does so unconsciously and has sung in public for years, they are working together, being challenged to progress, learning note-reading, intervals, solfege, blending, listening, focusing, and cooperating. In just a few weeks their improvement has impressed me.
This is the first time I’ve taught more than one vocal student at once. I’m liking the way I can multiply my time with group lessons!
I’ll share about the mixed-gender-mixed-age group guitar class on July 27th.
General bookkeeping tools that operate as one size fit all for any industry can sometimes fall short. Here are three reasons scheduling and billing softwares made specifically for private lesson music studios are advantageous over generic accounting tools and spreadsheets:
The financial features within Music Teacher’s Helper have all the proper terminology for a music lesson studio. That decreases the learning curve. QuickBooks and FreshBooks can make you feel like you need an accounting degree in order use properly.
Music Teacher’s Helper also makes family-based billing and adding recital or book fees easy.
Student facing invoicing features provide a professional touch for your studio. Students or their parents can receive custom invoices, text message payment confirmations, all with your branding and music lesson terminology.
2) Simplified Reporting:
For a teaching studio with just one teacher, a full fledged suite of financial reporting is generally not necessary. For most, a music studio needs to track income and expenses, how much students owe, mileage, and student account summary.
3) Support From Knowledgable Peers:
With 24/7 email, chat and weekday phone support, Music Teacher’s Helper users have access to excellent support staff – many of them private music teachers and experienced users that understand a studio’s needs.
Industry specific softwares tend to understand the needs of their users better than generic financial tools. In addition, these softwares (like Music Teacher’s Helper) come with scheduling, website, and many others features.
If Music Teachers Helper(MTH)allows you togain or retain just ONE student, the way I figure it, you will earn double the cost of the service. In addition, ifMTH helps youavoid losing moneythrough better payments and accounting, you might actually be saving the equivalent ofMTH‘s cost each month you use it.
But let’s take a look at the details. Read on for 10 reasons why I thinkMTH pays for itself–