If you’re a piano teacher, you might be feeling frustrated that you can’t accommodate as many students as you’d like. Perhaps you have a waiting list and phone calls from parents eager to get their children started on lessons but there are no time-slots available.
Maybe you’ve been teaching piano lessons one-on-one for a while and you’re curious about how group piano lessons work.
Here, we look at some really good reasons to consider group piano lessons, not just for children, but also for adults. We’ll also look at how to set up and run those group piano lessons.
Reasons to Give Group Piano Lessons
Group Lessons are Social
Both adults and children love social situations with a chance to find new friends who have common interests. Teaching piano in groups offers your students the possibility to make these contacts and establish “piano buddies”, enabling them to practice together, duet together, and even get a bit of healthy competition going. Just like having a “gym buddy”, they may keep each other coming back to class and continue learning the piano when they might have given up if they went to one-on-one lessons.
Students Immediately Learn to Play in Front of Others
When you teach one-on-one, your students often go for months without playing in front of anybody but you, their teacher, and maybe their parents. Group piano lessons mean that right from the first lesson, they are playing in front of others, getting a jump on overcoming stage-fright.
Playing in a Group is Much More Fun Than Playing Alone
One of the best things about playing an instrument is playing in a group. Pianists often don’t get this chance as the piano is not part of a standard orchestra. Learning in group piano lessons means that right from the outset, they get the feeling of camaraderie - of being part of a team with a united goal.
Listening to Each Other Builds Aural Skills
When a student has one-on-one lessons, keeping time will often involve working with a metronome, or having their teacher clap in time along with them. Group piano lessons offer the wonderful opportunity to play in time together, meaning that each student has to listen to everybody else as they play. This also highlights when another student is playing particularly well or even playing incorrectly where they might not otherwise have noticed. If each student has a different part to play, this can be especially challenging and further their playing skills considerably.
As you can see, there are many positives for your students when teaching piano in groups. So now, let’s look at how to go about setting up and running these group piano lessons.
How to Run Group Piano Lessons
Set Up Your Classroom
There are several ways you can set up your group piano lesson classroom and this will of course mainly depend on how large your room is, and how many students you have. The crucial thing is that every student is able to see you and make eye contact easily.
Most group piano lessons use electronic pianos as they are affordable and easy to move around. Invest in the best you can and also invest in adjustable height piano benches so that whatever age your students, you can get them sitting comfortably at the right height and distance from their piano. It’s also a good idea to get a generous size piano bench so that if you need to sit beside a student to demonstrate or perform a duet, you can do so without wasting time finding another seat.
You can go for a traditional classroom set-up, where the pianos are set out facing the front of the class. But it might be better to place the pianos back to back so the students are looking towards each other, with the teacher at the head of a rectangular layout. This way everybody feels included and can communicate easily.
Be aware of cables and wires when you set up multiple pianos - they can be a safety hazard. It’s best to tape them down, keeping them out of the way of foot traffic and avoid anyone tripping.
Plan your Lessons and Have Your Resources Ready
Decide what book you will teach from, and what pages of the book you’re going to teach in your group piano lessons several weeks ahead of time. Build up a catalog of lesson plans and resources as you go and you’ll find you can use them again the following year when you have an intake of new students.
Break your lesson plan into stages of listening, singing, and playing games that involve reading music and theory. Keep it moving along quite briskly so that the students have no time to lose interest or get distracted. Here is a great idea of how to structure a lesson plan, which is very detailed and well laid out.
Involve Singing in Your Group Lessons
Children love singing and especially enjoy singing in groups with friends. Have them sing along to a piece they are learning as this will aid their memory of the tune. If it doesn’t have any words, have fun with the group making up some words to go along with the music. This is a good way to teach rhythm and learn how words have strong beats and weaker beats, just like music.
Get the Little Ones Up and Moving!
Music naturally makes us want to move - especially when we are kids! Small children find it difficult to sit still for an entire lesson, so encourage them to get up on their feet and feel the music. Play a piece that they are going to learn and ask them to stomp their feet on the strong beats. Follow with clapping, and then see if they can alternate a stomp and a clap - this can lead to a lot of laughter. Playing the piece over several times will help them remember it and make learning it on the piano much easier.
If you’re not aware of Dalcroze Eurythmics, do check it out - it has been around for about 100 years and has been proven as a great way to learn about music, and most importantly, link movement to music. Check it out and get some inspiration for how it can be included in your group piano lessons.
Build up a Positive and Supportive Vibe in the Classroom
Build up a vocabulary of positive talk during lesson times. Using lots of positive feedback for both children and adults sets an example and boosts confidence. This can have the added benefit of carrying over to other areas of their lives in school or at work and even at home. For instance, children are more likely to use supportive language with their siblings if they’ve witnessed it in lessons.
Encourage a Bit of Competition
Let’s say that you have taught your students eight measures of a piece and now it’s time to work on another piece. Try saying “I have a prize for anyone who comes back to the next lesson knowing the next eight measures of that piece”. It makes it optional but gives them a little challenge.
Dangle Some Incentives
It always amazing how driven children become when showing them a selection of stickers that they can earn and collect! Stickers will always work with younger children. Around the age of nine, they are too cool for stickers, so you might have to up the ante to a special pencil or eraser. You can use these as prizes for best concentration, best teamwork, best performance, best practice between lessons, or anything else you find will motivate them.
You can certainly use this with adults as well, but it might cost you a bottle of wine or tickets to a concert!
Include Some Games
Rhythm games with small percussion instruments can be great fun and increase understanding of how rhythm works, especially if you use notation flash cards.
During your group piano lesson, have students find notes you call out on the piano. This can strengthen students’ knowledge of the layout of the piano keyboard. Using a well-known tune with a simple rhythm, such as Twinkle Twinkle, gives each student a note to find one right after the other and see if they recognize the tune.
Flashcards are a time-tested favorite for any education. Hold up a note on a flashcard and the first student to play the exact right note on the piano scores a point.
Any piece of music can be broken up into phrases, or into left-hand and right-hand parts. Use a piece that all your students know well, give each student instructions to play certain parts at certain times during the piece. It’s a lot of fun and increases their responsibility for playing in a group more than if everyone just plays the same thing all the time. They need to stay engaged to come in at the right moment with the right note!
Games are limited only by your imagination. They are easy to come up with and kids are great at coming up with ideas too. For more ideas along with free printables to help with games, check out “My Fun Piano Studio”
Involve the Parents
Finally, bring parents into children’s group piano lessons now and then so they can see what their child is doing. They are far more likely to encourage practice if they see and hear what’s going on. Parents absolutely love hearing their children perform whether it’s alone or within a group. So asking the parents to come in and hear the class perform a piece of music is a really nice idea.
It’s been found that many parents end up coming to take lessons themselves, which is an added benefit for you, the teacher. You could even ask all the parents if they’d be interested in forming their own group piano class!