Generally, we play with the melody in the treble clef and leave the accompaniment to the bass clef. This improv is a good one to show that it doesn’t have to be like that.
How to Use:
- Demonstrate the pattern.
- Teach it by rote. Advanced students should do it with just the right hand, but even beginners can learn it using two hands. Repeat until the student is confident.
- Have the student play the pattern while you make up a melody below it using the notes of the C major scale.
- Switch parts.
- Change the key signature. The pattern is essentially just a scale, so students who have learned scales should be able to figure it out. Try it in minor for a very different effect.
- Change the articulation. If you play it staccato, does it still remind you of gently falling snow? Or is it more like hail?
- Change the octave. Which octave sounds the best?
- Instead of making up the melody, try it with a lead sheet.
I don’t generally hand out candy at lessons. But for the occasional holiday I will make an exception. This year it was Valentine’s Day, since the kids around here no longer get any candy at school. But there is no reason why this has to be a Valentine’s Day game.
What You Need:
- Flashcards for whatever you want to drill
- I did it with cards with the note names on them. Depending on the student’s level, they either had to find the note on the keyboard or on the staff or play a major chord based on that note or play a major scale based on that note.
- A handful of extra flashcards that say “Be careful! Answer the next one right to earn a treat!”
- It is important that these cards feel the same as the original flashcards: same size, same paper weight, etc.
- If you are using pre-made, laminated flashcards, you could even use a whiteboard marker to write it on a few of the cards.
- An opaque bag or box to hold your flashcards.
- A bowl of small treats.
- Shuffle your flashcards (all of them) and place them in the bag or bowl.
How to Play:
- The student draws a card.
- If it’s a regular card, they answer the question. If it’s a treat card, keep it in hand, but draw another card and answer that one. If they get it wrong, toss the treat card back in the bag. If they get it right, set the treat card to the side.
- When all the cards in the box are gone (or you run out of time), count up the number of treat cards you have on the side. Choose that many small treats out of the bowl.
Everyone loves Christmas music enough that even sight reading can become bearable. This is not a game, but most of my students found it fun anyway.
What You Need:
- Books of Christmas music at various levels.
- I find that choosing a book two levels below where the student is works best.
- That’s not possible if your student is in the first two levels, but it may still be possible to go to the beginning of the book, or have them sight read just one line or measure while you play the rest. If worst comes to worst, learn it by rote instead of sight reading.
What to Do:
- Open up the book and just have them start playing!
- If they are doing well enough, play a duet part along with them.
Everybody loves Christmas music, but some of the students just aren’t ready for reading them. Here’s a fun way to incorporate a lot of Christmas music into a lesson, regardless of the student’s level. Naturally, you could do this at any time of year with other lead sheets.
What You Need:
- Christmas lead sheets, such as:
- Angels We Have Heard on High in C, G, D, F
- Deck the Halls in C, G, D, and F
- Jingle Bells in C, G, D, or F
- Oh, Come All Ye Faithful in C, G, D, and F
- Silent Night in C, G, D, F
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas in C, G, D, and F
- A bottle
- Lay the lead sheets out on the floor in a circle, with the bottle in the middle.
- I put out a stack for each song, with all key signatures in the stack, but that’s optional.
How to Play:
- Have the student spin the bottle. Whichever page it points to is your lead sheet for the round.
- Depending on the level, you can do one of the following:
- Student plays root note only. Teacher plays the melody.
- Teacher may need to point to each measure to keep the student on track.
- Student plays root chord only. Teacher plays the melody.
- Student plays a basic pattern, such as oom-pa-pa or Alberti bass. Teacher plays the melody.
- Student makes up their own accompaniment pattern. Teacher plays the melody.
- Student sight reads the melody. Teacher plays an accompaniment.
- Student plays the melody with root chords below.
- Student plays the melody with an accompaniment pattern below.
- When you’ve gone through the song, spin again for another one.
- Most of the variation comes in what part you have the student play, but you can also make it harder or easier by controlling the key signature. My beginners played only in C major. My more advanced started in C major, but if they spun the same song twice, the second time I changed the key.
I’m using an outside resource this week. It involves more cutting and laminating than I usually like, but all these little circles with notes on them could be reused in other games, which is why I was willing to do it.
The resource is Trim the Tree from Pianimation. Since I teach private lessons only, I had to adapt the rules slightly.
For my version, I first gave the students 1 minute and 30 seconds to see how many ornaments they could correctly get on the tree. That establishes a baseline. Then they try again to see if they can beat their own score.
- To make it easier, sort out the notes the student should know and use only them. Or separate out treble from bass clef.
- To make it harder, don’t have them match the note itself. Specify an interval (such as a 3rd) and have them match the ornament to a spot that is a 3rd above the note.
- To cheat and make sure the student does actually improve their score, sneakily pause the timer while they are working to give them extra time.