Same Song for All

Posted on Oct 30, 2019 in Class Routine, Featured, Methods, Planning

What? Really?

There is no variety in your studio?

What do you mean “they all play the same song”?

Aren’t your students bored?

What about siblings? Won’t they be upset they are playing the same song?

It is one of the best things I have done for my studio.

I Simplified my repertoire choices.

Why?

Last school year I spent a lot of time and money choosing repertoire for each level of group piano, feeling frustrated and mentally exhausted working on different songs and different levels during each class.

I was doing this mostly because students were not finishing the piano book during the 36 weeks of piano, learning only a total of 9 songs. So assigning a method book and then having to continue work in the same book the following year was creating a negative vibe in my students.

Group Piano – Mixed Ages and Levels

As a reminder, my classes combine students ages 7-12. Beginners and early intermediates learning together at different levels. Not everyone was using the same book or playing the same songs.

There are excellent teachers in the group piano world that are able to teach mixed ages and each student has a different book. I tried it. But it was stressful for the way my mind operates.

However, I knew that the value in teaching in a group setting was too great for me to give up just because it had not worked out they way I expected. I began experimenting with only working on ensembles and took note of what worked well for my students and for me.

Playing the Same Song

I like think of my piano groups as an orchestra. Everyone is playing the same song – but different parts. The difference is that my group pianists may choose to play their part as a solo and it still sounds good!

Here is how I answer the above questions:

  • Variety – Yes, there is variety. In one group I may have between 2 and 5 different levels of learning. Each arrangement of the piece is unique with the goal of creating a beautiful ensemble.
  • Same Song – Everyone receives the new song during the same week. Everyone learns the new song together.
  • Boredom – I have yet to receive notice that a student is bored because they are all playing the same pieces. What truly has happened is that small communities of piano students are being created. There is that “something” that happens when we make music together and it is a beautiful experience for all.
  • Siblings – I have three sets of siblings in different classes. I have only received a report from a family of 3 – each student is in a different level. Instead of each of them wanting to show off their songs, they are trying to figure out how to share the piano and play the same song together! Observing the other two pairs of siblings I see a change in attitude towards playing their songs and I attribute it to the bond that is created. There is no longer piano sibling rivalry, but piano sibling friendship. (Click for short video a parent shared with me)

It Works!

It’s been 10 weeks since I started teaching in this fashion. And this is what I have discovered:

  • I am more focused on what I want my students to accomplish each week.
  • Teaching everyone at the same time is not as difficult as I once thought it would be.
  • I can plan for ALL of my group piano classes ONCE a week. We all play the same game, we all learn or review the same concepts in theory and they all have the same songs to check off on their chart.
  • The layers of learning that are taking place are a dream come true. Students are humming the tunes, harmonizing, focusing on their own rhythmic patterns and joining in ensemble.

Repertoire

There are different ways to find repertoire for mixed ages. I have taken the time to write my own arrangements for my students and share them with you here.

I would love to hear how you teach your mixed age piano classes!

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