5 Sizzlin’ Summer Piano Ideas – Without A Lot of Work!

Summer lesson ideas without a lot of work! For piano and music teachers | composecreate.com

Not feeling up to a piano or music camp this summer, but still know that you need to “change it up” a bit? That’s the way I feel this year. So I thought you might enjoy hearing my own brainstorming process…I’m planning as I write this post! Here are my ideas for summer piano ideas that don’t require a lot of work.

Summer Piano Ideas

Arresting Arrangements

Do you remember the Jingle Bells variations that my students did a few years ago (and many of you have done since then)? Well, why not make this summer a special time where students arrange their own music or your whole studio can do a Theme and Variations project like the Jingle Bells variations were. You could choose a simple folk song that’s fun for the summer like:

  • Yankee Doodle
  • My Country Tis of Thee
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • Amazing Grace (timeless, though not summery)

Then, whether in private or group lessons, you can brainstorm about all the different ways to play:

  • Left hand accompaniment patterns
  • Right hand embellishments
  • Introductions
  • Endings
  • Unique harmonizations

Helping your students arrange music is much easier than teaching them to compose an entire piece on their own and even the most composophobic student (did I just create a new term?) can find enjoyment in arranging music!

Even Better Cup Tapping – Book 2!

Rhythm Cup Explorations 1 and 2 bundle ThumbailYou knew I was going to say this, right? Well, I’m done trying to be modest about Rhythm Cup Explorations because I have 3 whole pages of unsolicited reviews from people about how WILD their students are about this and how motivated they are to practice these fun rhythms! Yes, these are public comments that people are making on Facebook and Twitter as well as comments teachers have emailed me (and from which I have permission to share).

The 2nd book in the series, Rhythm Cup Explorations 2  is now available and it’s full of brand new cup tapping techniques and features units on dotted quarter notes, compound time (complete with hemiola), eighth note syncopation, sixteenth note syncopation, easy triple meter, and more!

Why is cup tapping so popular and why are kids so crazy about it? Well, take a look at this video. It’s just one of many, many videos and arrangements of the cup tapping “When I’m Gone” song. This amazing fun can be yours (I sound like a game show host now!) for your entire life (because it’s reproducible). Watch this short video:

You can order, see samples, and more here: Rhythm Cup Explorations.

How do you use these in lessons? Well you can:

  • Do the cup tapping with you and the student (as is shown in the video) and send them home to practice it and come back to play it lightning fast.
  • Schedule adjacent students so that their lessons overlap by 10 or more minutes (one student comes 5 minutes early, the other stay 5 minutes late) and do it together.
  • Use it in a group lesson (see below).
  • Assign it to a student to teach their parents (by rote) and then video and send you the video…kids love to be the “teacher” of their parents. It’s a rare opportunity they get.
  • Assign it to your student to do with a friend. Make the student learn it by the rhythm and then encourage them to teach it to their friend by rote.

If you want to focus more systematically (and still funly–not a word, I know), then you could also use Rhythm Menagerie and Rhythm Manipulations. See below for the rhythm challenge in Rhythm Manipulations!

World-wide Rhythm Challenge

5 Summer Piano Ideas | Rhythm Manipulations Challenge | composecreate.comAnother great summer piano idea is to have a competition! Kids and teenagers love competitions, especially ones where they actually have a chance be the best! There’s a whole page devoted to this world wide challenge and all ages of students are participating in The Rhythm Manipulations World Wide Challenge and anyone whose teacher owns Rhythm Manipulations can issue or raise a challenge! [NOTE: We are no longer “hosting” this challenge, but you can do one yourself quite easily so I’m leaving it here so you can get a taste.]

My students will be competing this summer and they’d love to have even more competition! Wouldn’t it be fun students to share in the excitement of summer lessons by competing with other students over the same skills? Here’s a sample of one of the challenges (your video doesn’t have to be elaborate at all…you can see all the other videos here):


Just Plain Fun Hybrid Group Lessons

Students love group lessons and summer is the perfect time to start giving a few or throw in a few extra for the year! You could have a summer kick off party with lots of theory games, rhythm activities, cup tapping, boomwhackers, etc. as well as a summer end party! Each of these could take the place of all private lessons for the week. There are lot of ideas all over the place for games that you can play outside and even with water to stay cool! Here are some great ideas that Charlene Shelzi has written about:

A “Summer of George”

Okay, maybe you don’t know the Seinfeld reference (you can google it for fun), but you could easily declare this to be the “Summer of Sue” (or whatever your student’s name is) and allow them to put their own creative flairs in each piece of new music that they learn. Students love to add their own little flairs to pieces, but often don’t feel the freedom to do so because they are trying to get everything right in a piece and “pass” it. Why not allow them to add their own special ending, intro, embellishments, left hand patterns, etc. to any new piece they learn this summer? This is a great way to encourage them to learn new music over the summer as well as encourage them to be creative!

Okay, that’s my brainstorming for the year. I’m so glad I wrote this post, because I know exactly what I’m going to do this summer! But I really want to hear from you:

What other summer piano ideas do you have? What are you going to do to spice up summer lessons?