Archive | April 2014

April 2014 Group Piano Lesson: The Classical Period

Franz Joseph Haydn

The Classical Period


This month’s group lesson was themed around the Classical Period of music history.  The lesson lasted roughly 40 minutes and it was nice to see two parents attend the lesson and get a taste of what their children’s piano lessons are like during the week.

Performances were the first part of the group lesson, so each child played one or two of their pieces. After the performances, I handed out a colorful sheet about the Classical Period: Handout about the Classical Period (see page 3). The students who came to this group lesson hadn’t attended the lesson on the Baroque Era, so I showed them a video clip of a harpsichord, explaining that in the Baroque Period the harpsichord was popular while in the Classical Period the piano was popular.

After talking about some of the aspects of the Classical Period I played parts of the following clips:
Beethoven’s 5th Symphony Musical Clip (Beethoven, 5th symphony)
Mozart String Quartet Musical Clip (Mozart – String Quartet No. 17 in B flat, K. 458)

Next came a worksheet about the composer Haydn, whom I chose to highlight today (Haydn Fill-in-the-Blank Worksheet). I used the following biographies as helps for talking about Haydn’s life: Haydn Short Biography & Haydn Biography 2Haydn is one of my favorite composers and I really enjoy the surprises and happiness in his songs. I played a bit of a Haydn sonata for the students, sometimes telling them, “there’s a surprise coming up soon!” so they could listen for it.

We talked about how the I  and V7 chord were prominent in Classical music and I did a short quiz, asking which chord I’d played. Afterwards I added an extra challenge by playing the chords in a pattern and asking which patten I’d played (for example, I, I, V7, V7, I).

We also briefly listened to a music clip which demonstrates the ABA pattern which was so popular during the Classical Period. A few of the resources I used while preparing to teach the ABA pattern are found by following these two links: Lesson Plan & Listening GuideTo give an example of music with repeating themes I played some of the video of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra (link: I like that the performers are wearing period clothing. The ABA pattern can be a whole lesson plan in itself, but after listening to the beginning of the piece I asked the students to listen if they heard anything repeat itself. Fortunately the “A” pattern is quite memorable.

We played a game after this, which was a nice change especially for the youngest student. I used the same game from the last lesson which involves finding note flashcards around the room and playing them (see March 2014 Group Lesson Plan: The Baroque Period). Since my students have a range of musical knowledge (varying from a student who is reading pre-staff notation to a student who can read ledger lines) I had the younger students find notes in the scale of C major and the older student find flashcards with ledger line notes so that it was good practice for everyone. Although the youngest student doesn’t know many notes, it was good for him to get more exposure to music notation.

The students had a final taste of a Classical composer when I played some bits of Clementi sonatinas. I noted the left hand patterns which involve a lot of broken chords (I and V7). We concluded the lesson by replaying the note flashcard game once more. I changed up the ledger line notes for the older student to give her an extra challenge and had the older student hide the C scale notes on the other side of the room.

Feel free to use this lesson plan, whether to teach students or just to learn more about the Classical Era for personal study!


Advertising Home-Based Piano Studio Lessons

Advertising piano lessons from a home-based studio

Advertising home-based piano lessons

When my husband and I moved to Dublin last August I soon after began a home-based piano studio. Since students do not automatically show up the doorstep, one of the first things to consider was advertising. When moving into a new neighborhood and setting up a private piano studio, a few advertising venues can be very effective in letting people know about the new studio. It takes time to spread the word but the work put into advertising is well worth it.

I’ve found the internet to be a very effective way to advertise for piano lessons. A great benefit to internet advertising is that those who are specifically searching for piano lessons many times use internet searches to find piano teachers. Another benefit of advertising via the internet is that the ads can be posted with little effort. Some websites allow people to post free ads (don’t forget to find sites that advertise activities for children!). I chose to advertise on one website which charges a yearly fee, but the fee has been more than recovered from the lessons I gained through inquiries from that particular website (for those who live in Ireland, the name of the website is: Also, a Facebook studio page is another way to advertise through the internet. Place ads in various sites to reach a varied audience.

Another method of advertising is to leave fliers in shops or other public places. This is particularly effective if the ads are placed in shops right near the piano studio. Be sure to include the location of lessons in the flier so that local people will know that they don’t have to travel far to reach the studio. Schools or other public places that offer after-school activities may allow teachers to put up ads on a bulletin board. If there isn’t a public advertising board another option is printing out small, loose leaflets that people can pick up and read.

If your country allows it, as Ireland does, put fliers in mailboxes. This method is quite time consuming but it reaches individuals, including those who may not have previously thought of taking lessons. I have printed out and delivered quite a few fliers and have found that the best place to put them is in houses near my piano studio. Another option is going door-to-door and telling people about the piano studio. Though I have not done this to advertise for piano lessons it is an alternative to placing fliers in mailboxes.

It’s best to use a mixture of several advertising venues. If one method works particularly well, use it several times throughout the year. Ultimately living in an area for many years and building a good rapport with students and their families will be the best way to keep a piano studio up and running, but these are some ideas for the beginnings of a piano studio.

If you are a private piano teacher, how do you advertise piano lessons? If you are a piano student taking lessons from a home-based studio, how did you find your teacher?

Boredom during Piano Lessons: Some Remedies

Tips for alleviating boredom during piano lessons

Tips for alleviating boredom during piano lessons

Learning the piano takes a lot of patience, but nonetheless piano lessons should should be interesting for a student. There are ways to help students who seem bored or apathetic towards piano lessons.

Certain piano students get excited about all sorts of pieces but others have less motivation. I find that to increase motivation it helps students to play songs which have words associated to them. They do not necessarily need to be well-known songs. If there’s a story to go along with a composition students may enjoy playing it better than practicing a piece that only has notes on the page. Some examples are songs with information about a composer (the Faber series has songs like this) or songs talking about animals. These can be a remarkable help when a student seems apathetic towards playing the piano.

As a teacher I am more fully learning that I should be interested in the class and paying attention myself. Sometimes I wonder why a student is lagging behind and then I realize that if I stop writing or looking ahead in another music book that the student will probably pay better attention! With some students it helps to sit close to the keyboard and to show them that I am paying attention to their playing from up close, particularly for young students. Encourage as much playing as possible during lessons. Students will ultimately enjoy it better than wishing lesson time away.

Making sure that students understand their assignments is so important. Sometimes a student may dislike a song simply because they don’t know how to read the notes, are confused about the fingering, etc.. Their frustration may seem like apathy and boredom but they may just be confused and needing help. Taking time to fix these problems means not simply giving students an answer but also eliciting the “why” of their answer. It’s very encouraging to see students go from guessing, to comprehending, to progressing and ultimately to enjoying their pieces better.

Teachers can help their students enjoy lessons better by finding pedagogical yet fun songs to teach. It may mean skipping ahead a few songs in the method book and finding something that a student likes. The students’ choices might be surprising! No matter what pieces the student ends up enjoying, review and ask many comprehension questions to prepare students for their next pieces. Parents have a lot to do with a child’s attitude and those who teach that life is a mixture of exciting and mundane moments will prepare their children to become better pianists. Although it’s appropriate to find interesting songs for students, piano pupils should remember that who will shine most brightly are those who are diligent even when they don’t feel like practicing or paying attention.