Years ago I began to notice a problem with some of my students: Some of them would only retain the last one or two songs we were working on in the music lessons.
No matter how many times I tried to explain that it was important to retain a “repertoire” of pieces they could play at any time, (say when Grandma came for a surprise visit, or an audition, or even just a family concert) nothing seemed to work. As soon as we moved on to a new piece, the old ones went right out the window. This was hardly a good thing when someone says, “So I hear you’ve been taking piano lessons for 2 years now, can you play me something?” And then, they only play half the piece that they’re currently working on and can’t remember anything else. Not good for student self-esteem or proof of your teaching skills! After all, your students are the shining example of your teaching services.
Good students beget more students.
I started to think how could I “game-ify” a solution to this problem. How could I make going back and playing these old songs fun?
Here’s two games that really are variations on the same idea and for some reason are considered so much fun by my students, they don’t want to stop!
The Hat Game
To play this:
- Write a number on the top corner of each piece of music you want them to review in a repertoire
- Write corresponding numbers on slips of paper
- Put the slips in a hat (or box or other container)
- Have them close their eyes and pick out a slip
- Whatever number is drawn, they have to play it now from memory.
- If they can’t remember, you can take the time now to review it
Variation: you can have a family member like parent or sibling or grandparent do the drawing of the numbers.
The Dice Game
To play this:
- Number all the pieces you want them to review in their repertoire
- Choose either a single die (1 to 6) or two dice (2 to 12) to roll. Younger kids should use one die to start.
- Let the student roll the die or dice.
- Whatever number comes up on top they have to play.
- Review the piece if necessary.
Again, involving family or friends is a great way to keep this fresh.
This game can reinvigorate practicing the repertoire for a while. It won’t last forever, but for a while, you will get them interested because it’s a game.
I’ll cover more practice tricks and tips in future articles.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any favorite tricks or questions about these games in the comments below. And feel free to forward or share with your music teacher friends and colleagues.