About 6 months ago, I decided to offer a group music theory class to my studio. There were two reasons for this. I’ll admit, it was originally inspired by a desire to bring more income. As I was brainstorming how to do this, I asked myself, “What could my studio really use?” It took no time at all for me to think “Music Theory classes!”
How often are you in a private lesson, you look at the clock, and realize there’s no time to teach Theory? It happens way too often to me. Because of that, I have so many students who play well, but hesitate when asked a basic theory question. I’m about to finish my second round of music theory, so let me share with you what I’ve learned so far. Obviously there will be readers who have already been doing this a while and will have different approaches. If that’s you, please share in the comments below. I know I would love to learn from you! This article is simply meant to share what’s worked for me so far.
First, I sent an email to my families. I wasn’t about to spend any time planning a class that may not even get anyone interested. So I would suggest you do the same. Let your families know how important music theory is and WHY it’s not always possible to fit it into a private music lesson. They may wonder why you don’t just fit it in every week. Explain to them what you focus on instead and explain that you would love to get one whole hour a week with them to go over the bones of music.
When you have a few interested kids, start planning! My first group was only four, and it turned out to be a perfect size group! I would have preferred five to reach my financial goal, but I priced it so that four kids would at least pay my hourly rate for a private lesson.
Then decide on the length of the course. I chose seven. Dividing the course into seven “chapters” helped me organize. You might choose a longer length, but this number worked for me.
Next I worked on my structure. I tried to find the perfect music theory book, but nothing seemed right. All the music theory books out there are meant to be used over a much longer period of time and at a slower pace. I really wanted my kids to be totally confident with basic rhythm, intervals, and notes on the staff by the end of seven weeks. So I started with notes on the staff. Since all of the kids had been studying with me for at least 2 years, I worried they would be bored by this rehashing of the basics. But they weren’t! All of them needed to go over it in detail and they felt so much more confident after.
After that, we worked on half steps/whole steps, melodic and harmonic intervals, rhythms using quarter, half, dotted half, whole, eighth, sixteenth notes, and we even threw in a little composing. Each class had two theory games to illustrate the lesson of the day as well as worksheets. Using treats like MnMs in some of the games didn’t hurt either. I highly recommend games you can buy and print online from the ColourInMyPiano.com blog. Her games are genius!! Here’s another fun game for scale building.
The results after the seven weeks were up really surprised me. Not only were the kids excited about theory, they became better in their piano playing! I could see a huge improvement in their reading skills. The other thing I loved is how confident they became. They were no longer just taking piano lessons as a casual after school activity. They were serious about piano. 🙂
It was such a wonderful experience, I decided to take the same group and create a second level of music theory. We’re almost done with that course, and it’s been awesome. Next year, I will definitely continue to teach theory classes in my studio.
Have you done this? What has it been like for you?