Art Matthews teaches piano, keyboard and music theory in the ZOEN. He enjoys jazz, pop, blues, rock and classical music and is always thinking of new ways to have fun with his students!
After teaching music for 42 years I've found that nearly all of my students, regardless of their age, learn and perform much better when they're having fun. I feel that since it is fun to listen to music and it's fun to play music, it should be fun to learn it too! Here are 7 tips to help you make your lessons fun and enjoyable. They're presented in the order of notes 1 through 7 of the C major scale:
C - Create and Compose
Create some new melodies to existing well known songs and Compose some songs of your own. In creating new melodies for existing songs, you might keep the existing chord progression intact, strip away the original melody and replace it with your own. Share your creations with your teacher. Compose something of your own from scratch - a melody only, or a chord progression only, or a song with both. Don't be shy! Teachers love creativity.
D - Duets
Duets are lots of fun and they can be done with your teacher, a friend, or your computer. I remember having fun playing "Heart and Soul" as a duet with my friends when I was a kid. I still play it with some of my current students too! In the video clip below, I've simulated a duet between a beginner student and teacher (both played by me) playing "Down at Papa Joe's".
E - Ear
Playing by Ear is learning and playing songs by listening to them only. No sheet music. What do you do if you don't have the sheet music for a song you want to learn? You get an audio file or a YouTube link for it, then learn to play it by ear! This is a huge source of fun when you learn how to do it. Ask your music teacher to include some type of organized ear training studies in your music lessons.
F - Fake Books
G - Games
Games by definition almost guarantee that some fun is going to be had. I love it when my students bring a game to class or give me a link to a cool game they've found. Here are some links to a few games and activities I enjoy: Piano Pooch / Frere Jacques / Rhythms in the House / Don't Worry, Be Happy / Just Enough. A Google search string like "online music education games" will return so many results that you won't be able to play them all. It would be great if you'd come back and share some of your game discoveries with us here in the ZOEN community.
A - Apps and Applets
Applets are great learning tools that combine learning and fun in very innovative ways. Just like games, applets will bring fun to your class and at-home study too! Here are some direct links to three of my favorite applet pages Music Theory / Teoria / E Music Theory.
B - B.Y.O.S.
Bring your own songs - Ask your teacher to help you play your favorite songs. It's always fun to work on and learn songs you know and like. You might consider focusing on learning the melody of only one song at a time before you move on to adding things like the bass and harmony.
Now at this point, you have 7 tips on how to make music lessons fun but I can't stop there - I feel compelled to resolve the B to a C and include one more tip:
C - Clapping Rhythms
Clapping rhythms is a fun way to work on your music reading skills. I teach a class that I call "Rhythm-a-ning" - clapping and tapping rhythms is the only thing we do in that class. Many of my students say they love that class because it's so effective and fun! Try it!
If you've got more ideas to make music lessons fun, I'd love to hear them. Please post your ideas in the comments below!