Monday Mailbag – Starting a Beginning Student Without a Method Book

I hear about a lot of instrumental teachers just opening the method book and getting right down to the nitty-gritty, if you will, but I’ve begun to think about what might happen if a piano teacher began a bit like a general music teacher would begin; with singing simple songs with students, having them echo tonal and rhythm patterns, keep steady beats with small rhythm instruments, exploring the piano by ear, doing their best to plunk out the little songs we’ve sung… and then open up the method book. What do you think of this idea?

I love it! When I first started teaching (and had no clue what I was doing!), I was a strictly by-the-book teacher. If it wasn’t on the page, I didn’t know what else to do. Now, thanks to some excellent training and many wonderful workshops at state and national conferences, I have gained many practical ideas that can be used with beginning students. I use many of the ideas that I shared in this interview on Fun and Easy Musical Activities for Young Children. And I’m always on the lookout for other new ideas to use to help beginning students get off to a good musical start! Here are a few fun activities that are great for working with students outside of a method book:

It’s so much fun to enjoy music activities together without feeling chained to a method book. There are some fabulous method books on the market today that are wonderful tools, but in and of themselves they will not turn out a well-rounded musical student. As I mentioned in my interview with Easy Ear Training, students usually begin lessons because they love music and they are very aurally aware of the sounds. An over-emphasis by us teachers on reading music in the beginning stages can often knock this out of them. I know I have often been guilty of this! So, we have to be constantly looking for and developing creative activities and approaches to keep students in touch with the music itself – not just the visual representation of it on a piece of paper.

This can be a challenge, so I would love to compile a better list of musical activities to use with my beginning students. If you have any suggestions, please share! Do you have any favorite activities that you use with beginning students that are done apart from a method book?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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