Shorter days, gray skies, months to go until popsicle season… the winter blues (and “blahs!”) are real, and can find their gloomy way into your music lessons. Some students may think that they want to quit during this time, but giving them an outlet for their feelings and adding some fresh fun can turn around even the most hum-drum of lessons. Check out these five tips to escape the winter “blahs” and create some great music while you do!
Tip #1: Fight the “blahs” with the blues!
While many people associate February with Valentine’s Day and love, it’s refreshing and fun to take a different approach in your lessons. Students can get tired of all of the love-dovey stuff or frustrated with being cooped up inside. Rather than navigating around their emotions, dig in and use them as inspiration for a fabulous blues song – a lament about a tough time at school, a country blues tune about the chalky cardboard taste of candy hearts, or a heartfelt song about love lost.
Did you know you can play the blues with students of all levels? Even tiny beginners can participate with this easy beginner blues duet from our Meridee Winters Piano Castle Book. For other students, take a lesson book song or a popular, easy-to-play tune and change the lyrics to fit your bluesy winter mood. Students with some basic chord theory (like those using Chord Crash Course!) can learn about the twelve bar blues and write a true blues tune. (Psst! Chord Crash Course 2 will be out soon and has a unit on this!)
Click here to print out a "Write out your own blues lyrics” sheet.
Tip #2: Dream ahead.
If your students have had enough of winter altogether, now is a fantastic time to think ahead. You’ve heard of Christmas in July, how about July in… February?! Plan a special “summer” lesson complete with shorts and sunglasses. Learn some Beach Boys tunes or write a song about spring break or the summer sun. For younger students, playing more advanced seasonal pieces for them like selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons allows them to hear more complex music than they are capable of playing. Students can sketch their summery ideas while you play them some tunes, then segue that into writing their own piece about warmer weather and sunshine. For older students, create chord progressions and choose patterns to come up with their own sunny tune. Meridee Winters Chord Crash Course has many fun patterns and ideas to get you started.
For some inspiration, here’s a great summer tune composed by a MW Method Student!
Tip #3: Play games!
Music can always be a game! Flash cards can be used for so much more than just drills. Put four note name cards in a row to create a chord progression. Assemble a series of rhythm patterns to make a rhythm challenge, and so on! Or make it easy, and turn to a fun book. Play through a page or two of Meridee Winters Note Quest and time yourself. Then continue trying to beat your own score week after (cold, slushy) week! You can even create your own game and make your entire lesson or practice assignment a board game, from warmups to lesson book songs to theory work. Click here for a free “Create Your Own Winter Game” template to get you started!
Tip #4: Start working on performance pieces.
This time of year might seem little early to be thinking about your spring recital, but the more lead time you give students, the more successful they will be. Starting a piece early can be a great motivator for students who are up for a more challenging song. For less experienced or less motivated students, starting an easier piece now can give you time to add your own creative spins along the way. Try writing new lyrics, adding background vocals, or composing a new section. For some students, giving them more creative freedom as they go through the learning process is just what they need to keep them in the game (and showing up to lessons!).
Tip #5: Build snowmen and learn a new skill!
The “chords are like snowmen” analogy is one that is often used by music teachers. Do a quick image search for “snowman chords” and you’ll come up with many fun variations of the concept to address root chords and inversions. You can take this idea a step further by bringing white pom pom “snowman parts” to lessons and stacking them to really get the point across. If you’re REALLY feeling adventurous, (and if parents are ok with it!) you can even take the lesson outside and use REAL snow balls! We can guarantee that will be a lesson that students remember for years to come.
Whether you are a music parent or a music teacher, the most important thing to remember this time of year is that the occasional thought of quitting is a normal, predictable part of the learning process. The best thing you can do is shift gears, exercise your own creativity and help your musical maestros through the slush. Remind your musician that just like the season, this slump is temporary, and sticking with it brings a much better shot at musical success than giving up!
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.
© 2019 Meridee Winters. All Rights Reserved.
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