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6 Tips to Brighten your Holiday Music Lessons

6 holiday music lesson tips

Oh no! The Grinch stole... your music students? This may be heralded as "the most wonderful time of the year" – and it certainly is a magical time for music lessons – but this season also leads to distracted students with less time to practice music. At our school, we've found that the winter holidays are the second biggest dropout time of the year (with summer being the number one). With a little planning and creativity, however, ornamented with some mini-successes, music students can avoid the Grinch Who Stole Progress and head into the new year excited and inspired.

Try these simple tips to make the most of the magical, musical holiday season and keep students engaged all winter long!

Tip #1: Pick out and play easy holiday songs that are below your student's level

This season has a built-in catalog of songs that kids both recognize and love. Keeping music lessons interesting during this season can be as simple as bringing in a book of easy holiday songs as a sight reading exercise, or as fun as playing simple chords and singing the melody of a favorite holiday tune. The key to this time of year is that not everything needs to be a challenge. Give students successful, memorable moments by letting them pick a few easy songs to master. Once they can play them fairly solidly, try playing a duet part or sing along yourself! (We can't encourage duets enough – they fill out the songs, help with rhythm, and let kids experience the joy of playing music with others.)

Tip #2: Chords for the holidays

This time of year is perfect for learning or practicing chords with a tune students know and love. A lot of classic holiday songs are written in or can be played the (easy!) key of C with basic I, IV, V progressions (Jingle bells, The Dreidel Song, Away in a Manger, Deck the Halls, The First Noel, Frosty the Snowman, Silent Night… the list goes on and on!) Younger students can play root position block chords and sing along, while slightly more advanced students can play the right hand melody and add left hand root position chords. More advanced students can add root position arpeggios or use it as an exercise to learn inversions. The most advanced students can add inversions, transpose and more. Playing chords will empower students well beyond the holiday season by allowing them to play their favorite hit songs or write their own pieces. Meridee Winters Chord Crash Course can help teach chords step by step (even for those who can't read music!), and includes many easy-to-learn accompaniment patterns to use with any tune. We'll also help get you started with your holiday tunes – download a free version of Jingle Bells, including chord symbols and bonus duet parts, here!

Tip #3: Compose a brand new holiday tune

This time of year is brimming with songwriting inspiration. From swirling snowflakes to roaring fires to cranky grandmas, there will always be something that can be turned into a song. Brainstorm ideas with your students, come up with a chord progression, add some patterns and voila! A new holiday classic will be born. (Check out this free Chord Crash Course exercise for an easy tool to build your progression). Then check out these great examples of seasonally-themed, self-composed tunes from some of our own MW Method Students to get you started with ideas:

Tip #4: Host an in-home holiday concert

Did you know that every performance opportunity increases a student’s chances of sticking with and succeeding at their instrument? In-home concerts can be a simple gathering in the living room for the last lesson of the season or a full production: working out a set list and inviting people over for a big event. Holiday family gatherings that have built-in audiences are a great time for this. You can have invitations, programs, sibling duets, elaborate wardrobes — the sky is the limit. Take it from us — formal concerts at big halls are GREAT, but take a lot of planning. In-home concerts will still have all that joy, but with some great perks. The space will already be decorated, you don’t need to worry about transporting any gear and you know the audience will be supportive!

Tip #5: Reward diligent practicing with an end-of-the-year, musical treat!

Everyone loves rewards! Keep students on track with their practicing this month with the promise of a fun reward during the last lesson of the season. Set a simple goal for the last few weeks of the year and if they meet their practicing goals, maybe that last lesson of the year can include you bringing some fun percussion (shakers, small drums, tamborine and more), playing along on a portable keyboard with some crazy sounds, participating in a family sing-along or wearing fancy holiday costumes. The only limit is your imagination!

Tip #6: Set your New Year goals early

Some students need to look ahead to keep them going through the more distractible times. For these students, start setting your musical new year goals now. Our MW Music Journals: Homework Book and Practice Trackers include goal-setting pages, a weekly practice tracker and more to help you set up and keep track of your goals. Take advantage of this mid-point in your school year to asses how far you've come since September and write down your plans from now until June!

As you can see, there are fa-la-la-la-LOTS of ways you can spice up your holiday season! Here’s hoping your holiday lessons are full of winter fun and . great songs. (That's enough to keep that old Grinch away.) Enjoy this special time of year, and happy music making from Meridee and everyone at the Meridee Winters Music Method!

About Meridee Winters: Meridee Winters is a professional educator, musician, author and director/owner of a successful Philadelphia area music school. Meridee began her journey as an educator teaching elementary students in a Florida public school, where she discovered the curriculum and school system left little room for divergence and creativity. She made the bold decision to leave and attend graduate school to study Music Composition, eventually starting her own private music school. Today, that school has spent two decades introducing thousands of students to not just music, but to Meridee’s trailblazing method that encourages creativity, play and higher-level thinking with each lesson. As a composer and professional musician, Meridee has instructed at all levels ­– from professional recording artists working on albums to computer music classes in the recording studio, and from young beginners taking their first steps on their musical path to intermediate students writing their first songs. Meridee is a dedicated advocate of creative intelligence whose foremost passion is empowering creative and authentic self-expression in each individual. She now spends her time developing new materials and books to nurture these. She does her work as an author, as well as director of the school, from her home in Delaware County, PA.


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