Piano is the perfect instrument to start youngsters on! Piano is the gateway instrument, exposing students to the fundamentals of music and preparing them to explore other instruments over time. The best thing a teacher can do in beginner piano lessons is to make them fun. In this article, I suggest a number of piano lesson activities that are designed to keep the fun in playing piano — and ensuring that your students will look forward to their lessons week after week.
Play “Find the Note” to teach note identification.
There are an endless number of games a good piano teachers can introduce when teaching kids beginning piano lessons. I particularly like to play “Find the Note.” The student and I will stand with our backs to the keyboard. We take turns calling out a certain note and then racing to turn around and play that note. This is fun and helps teach the most fundamental of piano playing skills: note identification. I’ll always start with the natural notes (the white keys). As the student gets better, you can move on to the black notes by calling out a sharp or flat. Even before you start teaching your students to read sharps and flats in music, you can still play the game by showing them how G# means the black key right above the G.
Play “Go Fish” with musical flash cards to promote note reading.
Flashcards can be fun, too! You can play a game of “Go Fish” with flashcards. You can purchase musical flash cards made specifically for this, or you can make and use your own cards. In fact, making the cards with your students is a great learning exercise itself.
Just as in the classic “Go Fish” game, the student has to be able to identify the note on the staff in order to take the matching note from your hand of cards. This game is a perfect introduction to learning notes on the staff, and it works particularly well in conjunction with “Find the Note”.
Use water balloons to promote proper habits.
In beginner piano lessons for kids, you have a great opportunity to start them out with proper habits.
Curving the fingers is one of those habits that is essential to develop early. Kids are building muscles that they probably haven’t used in this way before, so considerable patience is needed.
What I tell my beginner piano students is to shape their hands as if they were holding a water balloon in each hand. (Some times I’ve even used real water balloons!) This usually gets the students’ hands in proper position. Once they have their hands in the proper position, I tell them to turn their hands upside down and place them on the piano keys.
Water balloons are fun. All kids like water balloons. So this exercise evokes a memorable mental picture of something that is enjoyable. What’s more, if (more like when) a student forgets to curve his fingers, I can just say “Water balloons!” — which is so much nicer than “Curve your fingers!”
Singing along is a natural and fun activity in piano lessons.
In beginner piano lessons for kids, we are teaching the complete experience of music. Kids are sponges and are developing so much more than just piano skills.
Many children have a natural ear for singing. It’s never too early to have your beginner piano students sing along with the song they are playing.
Of course, you need to be prepared for something that falls short of perfection. But it’s surprising how well many kids adapt to this dual use of the brain. And singing is the natural accompaniment to piano.
People — especially kids — improve at things they enjoy.
The skills and habits you are helping beginner piano students acquire form the foundation of their musical development for years to come. Make those lessons fun, and you’ll have students who enjoy playing and practicing. And if they enjoy playing and practicing, they’ll get better faster.