Monthly Archives: December 2011

Ten Ways to Improve Your Music Studio

A new year is starting, so it is a good time to reflect on your music studio and business practices. Here are 10 suggestions to professionally manage your studio with less stress and more satisfaction.

1. Have a great policy sheet. Every music studio needs a policy sheet to avoid misunderstandings. If you don’t have one, start working on one now. If you already have one, take a look at it from a “new parent” perspective. Don’t try to avoid every potential problem in your policy. Keep it friendly and positive so it will not come across as harsh or punitive. One page is long enough. Remember, your policy reflects you and your studio.

2. Divide your teaching year into semesters, with an ending date for the year. For example, your registration sheet can show first semester from September x to January x and second semester from February x to June x. If you teach year round, make a schedule to show when your semesters begin and end so there is closure and a fresh start. Having semesters also gives parents an opportunity to pay a semester rate.

3. Plan your fall lesson schedule early. Start planning for the fall semester in the spring. Have a well-publicized deadline for the deposit for fall lessons, such as April 30. Be sure to state your policy for refunding the deposit, such as a month notice, in the event something happens.

4. Do not ask parents to choose new lessons times each fall semester. Let parents know that their time slot is theirs for the next year. If they want a new day or time, they can tell you when they give you the deposit in the spring. This is a great help for parents because they can schedule their children’s activities around piano lessons. If there is a conflict that comes up before school starts, you can make minor adjustments.

5. Set up the days and and hours when your studio is open. No one is on the job 24 hours a day. If you are a teacher who makes up missed lessons, state in your policy when your studio is open to accommodate them. Some teachers will make up a lesson any day or time and find themselves never having a free day. This is not fair to you or your family.

6. Consider ending the policy of rescheduling lessons that students miss. Instead, implement a policy with a swap list. Other alternatives are lessons on Google Video Chat or Skype, or one makeup week at the end of the semester or year. However, do not change the rules in the middle of the game. Send a letter to parents explaining changes with plenty of advance notice. As long as parents know your policy before they sign up and choose to take lessons with you fully aware of your policy, you have made your best effort to minimize future conflicts.

7. Do not violate copyright laws. It is against the law to photocopy piano music to avoid purchasing copies. Some teachers illegally and unknowingly photocopy music, thinking if they own it they can do whatever they wish with it. These are the same teachers who would never cheat on their taxes or shoplift from a store. But when you copy music for your students in place of buying the music without permission, it is the same as shoplifting.

8. Be true to yourself, and honest with others. Know what you can do and not do. If you don’t want to teach a certain way or a certain age, that’s fine! In fact, private teachers need to know their philosophy and objectives. Gently suggest to parents to look further if they are not a good fit for your studio.

9. Find a balance between the old and the new. It’s hard not to jump on the bandwagon of every new idea that you read about. This is especially true of teachers who love new ideas. Educational trends come and go, and then come back again. There are teachers who think every new idea is the best idea and dismiss anything else. Then there are the teachers who have not changed since they started teaching. Be open to new ideas, new music, and new methods. Will they realistically fit in with your teaching style? However, don’t dismiss legacy music and teaching ideas with real value.

10. Keep professional records. This includes records for income tax and student assignments. Record your mileage, starting January 1. Retain and store all your receipts in a designated place. Write down everything you give a student. Keep a record of what your students have covered in their books and music you have assigned. Then you will avoid the embarrassing scenario of your high school student telling you in a puzzled voice, “But I played Für Elise in the recital last year. Don’t you remember?”

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Filed under Teaching Business

Snowmen and Reindeer Game-Notes

Student playing the game with Bastien flash cards, sand timer, and a magnetic wand

I’ve had a lot of fun playing my new games with my students. But more importantly, it has been such a good way to evaluate what my younger students remember, and how quickly they know the answer.

Reading music is more than just knowing note names. However, students have to learn notes or how can they do theory or move their hands around the keyboard?

As I evaluated my younger students, I noticed some  were  counting up the staff or saying sentences (All Cows Eat Grass and so on.) All my careful teaching of guide notes seemed to be a flop. I want students to know notes instantly. But it takes  time, maybe more than 4 years (gasp!) for many students to be able to remember from week to week the  notes on the staff. So new teachers, if you are frustrated that your students cannot identify notes quickly, or knows them at one lesson and forgets the next, don’t give up on them. Keep at it, don’t push too hard, and eventually it will happen.

As a matter of fact, I have decided that I need to work more on guide notes, so after Christmas I’m going to get out my 3 C’s activity, (a free download that you tape together) plus make a game just for guide notes. Does anyone think that guide notes are not as great for learning notes as maybe they first thought? I’m starting to wonder.

Snowmen and Reindeer Games

Well, that was a long introduction to get us to this last game in my series of Snowmen and Reindeer Games. I like this game because I am able to choose just the 7 cards I want to work on. You can throw in ledger lines if your student is far enough along. I even have a beginner who used keyboard flashcards since he hasn’t learned notes yet.

I don’t have flash cards made to go with this game because I have posted so many flash cards already, and besides, what teacher doesn’t have flash cards. If you have commercial flash cards, use them face up, since the answers are on the back of the cards!

Snowmen and Reindeer Games – Notes

Objective

  • learn to identify notes on a grand staff quickly by sight
  • practice fine motor speed and coordination
  • develop confidence by knowing note names
  • quickly identify notes under pressure
  • play a fun seasonal game in less than 3 minutes at an individual music lesson

Ages

  • Children, ages 6-10  who like cartoon graphics

Materials Needed

  • Printed game board
  • 7 flash note cards,  A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, in any clef
  • Sand timer or stop watch
  • Bingo chips

Directions

Give the student a set of  flash cards, placed face up if the answer is on the back. Let the student turn over the sand timer, as they think it’s fun.  The student quickly draws a flash card and places a bingo chip on the corresponding note name.   The object is to cover all the note names on the  game board in the fastest time possible. Repeat if you have time.

Free metronome app

Metronome Plus, the very nice metronome iPhone app for music teachers (because it is simple and well designed,) is FREE through this weekend in the Apple app store.  Joe, the designer, sent me this info and asked me to share. Now’s a great time to try it out. [Ed: this offer has expired, but check out the app anyway if you're looking for a metronome.]]

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Filed under Christmas, Games, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Note Identification

Snowmen and Reindeer Games – Intervals

Here is the second game in a set of 3 Christmas games. This one is a review of intervals, thanks to a suggestion from another teacher.

Snowmen and Reindeer Interval Game

You will need at least 7 interval flash cards for this game. Below is the set I use,  but you can make your own set if you want to modify the game. Many commercial flash card sets include intervals, so check and see if you already have some.

Snowman and  Reindeer Interval Game Flash Cards

Students should be familiar with intervals from seconds to octaves or know how to count up the lines and spaces to identify intervals. The best way to learn intervals is to recognize the patterns of lines to spaces.  However, young children often forget this so I let them count the more difficult intervals until they can remember the patterns.

Sometimes I use this rhyme for 3rds: Line to line,  everything is fine. Space to space, everything is in its place.

Objective

  •  learn to identify intervals quickly by sight
  • review intervals from 2nds to octaves if the student already knows them
  • learn how to count lines and spaces to identify intervals
  • practice fine motor speed and coordination
  • quickly identify intervals under pressure
  • play a fun seasonal game in less than 3 minutes at an individual music lesson

Ages

  • Children, ages 7-10  who like cartoon graphics
  • Some younger children can play if given lots of time

Materials Needed

  • Printed game board
  • Interval flash cards from 2nd to octave.
  • Sand timer or stop watch
  • Bingo chips

Directions

Give the student a set of interval flash cards. Set the timer.  The student quickly draws a flash card and places a bingo chip on the corresponding interval degree.  The object is to cover all the interval degrees on the game board in the fastest time possible. Beginning students might enjoy a non-timed game better.

Tomorrow I will post the note version of this game.

I have a large set of interval flash cards (3 pages) that I made some years back. I was going to leave a link for these cards, but I discovered that I have never posted them! So I  made this smaller file instead.

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Filed under Christmas, Games, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Theory

Snowmen and Reindeer Games – Rhythm

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Every Christmas WordPress lets a little snow fall on their blogs. Hover over the picture at the top of the slide show and you will see snow begin to fall.

I designed these 3 Christmas games as timed games because students like to play against the clock and I haven’t done that lately.  Today I am posting the rhythm version of this set.

Students should be familiar with the rhythm values of notes and rests. Be sure to mention these are the values in 4/4 time.

Snowmen and Reindeer Rhythm Game

I have tested these games with students in grades 1-4 and they have liked them. As a matter of fact, we test  every game before I post it!

I have an inexpensive 1 minute sand timer  that I bought from a school supply store, but I also have been using the stop watch timer on my phone. Most of the time  we  use both,  because they love the novelty factor of the sand timer. In fact, I think that’s one reason they like this game so much!

You will need at least 7 rhythm flash cards for this game. I am posting the set I use, but you can make your own set if you want to modify the game.

Cards for Snowmen and Reindeer Rhythm Game

Students should be familiar with the rhythm values of notes and rests. Since note valued change depending on the meter, be sure to mention these are the values in 4/4 time.

Objective

  •  review rhythm values in 4/4 time
  • practice fine motor speed and coordination
  • quickly identify rhythm values under pressure
  • to play a fun seasonal game in less than 3 minutes at an individual music lesson

Ages

  • Younger children, ages 5-9  who like cartoon graphics

Materials Needed

  • Printed game board
  • Flash cards with individual rhythm values to match the numbers on the game board
  • Sand timer or stop watch
  • Bingo chips

Directions

Give the student a set of rhythm flash cards. Set the timer.  The student quickly draws a flash card and places a bingo chip on the corresponding number of beats the note gets in 4/4 meter. The object is to cover all the numbers on the game board in the fastest time possible. Using a stop watch, let the student try 3 times to increase their speed.

The game is more challenging if there are more flash cards than there are spaces on the board. I’ve tried it both ways and for the younger children  I settled on 7 cards, enough cards to cover the board. My students wanted to play it several times as I timed them on my phone stopwatch. One of my students said he liked it because it was “different.” Sometimes my older students see my games and want to play, too, especially in a private lesson when they don’t have to act older than they are. I try to think of ways to make the game harder for them.

Tomorrow I will post the interval version of this game.

As a music educator, I know how important it is to know the objectives of educational games and activities. That is why I am going to try to post the objectives of each game from now on, if I have time. If you find this useful, please leave some feedback in the comment section.

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Filed under Christmas, Games, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Rhythm

Silent Night Level 2

Silent Night

Each year I buy my students a Christmas book at their level or maybe just a little below their level. I want them to be able to learn them quickly, except for my older students who want to work on something longer.

One of my students had a book without Silent Night, so I made this for him. He was hesitant about the dotted quarter notes, but I told him to play like he sings it, and then it was fine. I have this little ditty that I sing, “The rhythm is the way the words go, yeah.”

Actually, I have plenty of time to teach him how to count, but for now I just want him to enjoy the seasonal music we all love.

When I made the art work, it had interesting textures that didn’t show up when I made it so tiny.  But at least it adds a little color.

I have a Primer/Level 1  version on my website, if this one is too hard.

Enjoy the season!

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Filed under Christmas, Holiday Music