Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Benefits of Piano Lab with Private Lessons

One of the best tips I received from a friend after relocating and starting up my piano studio was to incorporate a lab in conjunction with private instruction each week. I am so glad I followed her advice. Following are a few of the benefits I've seen from utilizing this approach.
  • Students receive extra reinforcement of theory, ear training, note reading, sight reading, music history and analysis to solidify concepts introduced by the teacher.
  • Learning music concepts in game format is more fun and engaging for children than the "study your flashcards at home" approach that I received as a child.
  • The teacher receives continuous feedback about how well the student has mastered concepts being taught during private instruction. Its easier to catch "gaps" in the students understanding quickly when you can assess them through multiple modalities.
  • Students have more time for technical and artistry instruction with the teacher. Often I find it a challenge to squeeze in all of the elements of piano playing (like ear training, theory and music history) in just a 30 minute weekly instruction setting. Having a lab provides students with the structured time to solidify their knowledge of previously covered material while freeing up more time during private instruction for elements best learned through imitation/feedback.
  • Overlapping instruction time provides opportunity for ensemble/collaborative work with students. Students scheduled during the same time block can practice duets or play interactive games during the first few minutes of lesson from time to time.
  • Including a lab is an extra benefit that sets my studio apart from many of the other teachers in the area. For now, I only take a very limited # of students so I can focus on raising my family so "filling" my studio has never been a problem - but for teachers seeking more students, this could be one more "selling" point for your studio.
  • My 30 minute lab/30 minute private instruction approach provides for flexibility in scheduling for me as a teacher when needed. Balancing my roles of mother of 5 (soon to be 6) children and piano instructor can be a bit tricky - especially with the unpredictable needs of infants. When a new baby comes to our family, rather than taking a long break from teaching for the adjustment(which could create some regression in student skills), I stagger my piano teaching schedule for a time. When necessary the student can do their lab activities first or last depending on the unexpected diaper blowouts/feeding needs of my newborn. I can still fulfill both of the roles that I love of mother and piano teacher without feeling like my children or students are being short-handed.

Look for more posts in the future on how to structure a lab, planning lab time lessons and links to my favorite online piano lab resources.


  1. I am looking forward to your continuing ideas about piano labs. Is your computer in the same room as your teaching?

  2. My computer is fairly close to my piano - but not in the same room. The piano is at the top of the stairs and the computer at the bottom, so my students in the lab can quickly access me if they have a question (and I can faintly hear the lessons they are doing). I considered putting them in the same room as the piano with headphones, but my daughter went to a teacher with this setup and it was very hard for her to hear and focus on the computer lab games even with the volume turned up while another student was playing the piano for the teacher in the same room.