Take It Outside! Easy Outdoor Music Lesson Ideas For Your Studio.

Take It Outside! Easy Outdoor Music Lesson Ideas For Your Studio

How many times do you catch your students (or maybe even yourself) gazing out the window wishing they weren’t stuck at the piano?  Let’s stop fighting a losing battle and give our students what they want with easy outdoor music lesson ideas!

Towards the end of a semester, it’s all about keeping our students engaged until the very last lesson.  What if I told you that you could have an educationally sound, music filled lesson … outside?  Yes!

Concepts for Great Outdoor Music Lessons

Almost anything can be done outside with a little creativity.  Some of the general concepts that can be practiced are:

  • Ear training
  • Composing/Improv … at least the beginning part
  • Rhythm
  • Sight Reading
  • Technique
  • Theory

And, imagine how excited your students will be to FINALLY be outside, rather than waiting until the end of lesson to get there! Which is why I’m sharing my studio’s favourite outdoor music lesson ideas with you.

The Oldies, but Goodies

No one wants to be putting in a lot of prep time these days for lessons.  Between recitals and end of year activities, you’re wanting quick wins with your students without giving up on the educational value. And, if you can cut back on planning or admin time … even better.

It is super easy to use these ideas for in-person outdoor music lessons (whether your studio, travel teaching or group):

  • Grab a music game and play it out on the deck
  • Listen to a song and have the student complete a listening activity
  • Complete theory worksheets outside (instead of at the bench)
  • Have a student ‘air play’ their scales or a small section of music
  • Grab flashcards to drill notes/rests/symbols.

If the internet connection is good, digital escape rooms cover both active listening and music theory. They can even go into music history (a topic many of us struggle to include on a regular basis).

Tips for Online Outdoor Music Lessons

This is an idea that intrigued me.  Could you do an online outdoor music lesson?  After all, students (and teachers) are still looking longingly outside so the same goal is there.

There are some concerns though.  The main one being, will the wifi extend enough to do something with your students?  Or, will you both be forced indoors again?

Success Tips

There are some inherent challenges with moving music lessons outside. Which means there are a few things that will need to happen.

  • Let parents know we are going to test out the idea and they will need a device that can be moved and something to set the device on.
  • Test it out during lesson time.  Keep the device closer to the house than the student so you can maximize the wifi range.
  • Make sure to have a backup plan in case this doesn’t work out. (Always a good rule of thumb when dealing with technology.)
  • Use a program that won’t pull on the bandwidth as much (i.e. FaceTime) and keep programs that need to be open to a minimum.
  • Keep any supplies simple and ones students are likely to have on hand.  Text/email the list before the lesson.
  • Keep it active with no screen sharing (at least on your student’s side of things).

What if you can only get just outside the front or back door?  At least you’re outside! 

While you might not use sidewalk chalk, there are still plenty of ways to get the wiggles out and learn while you’re at it!  And, while this will take some lesson time to figure out … it also means it will be easy to set up for the rest of the summer when you see your students just needs some outside time.

A Few Ideas

While almost any of the ideas for in-person lesson will work with online lesson (at least with some tweaking), here are a few that could be fun for online.

One of the easiest … Listen for “found sounds” on a short walk together. For younger students, have parents join you. I would recommend using something like FaceTime or another option that doesn’t use a lot of data.

If you have an older student that is stressed out with final exams, they may or may not want to go for a walk. Instead, you can use SharePlay in a FaceTime call to listen to music together. Some students would love to hang out in the backyard during lesson! To keep it educational, talk about:

  • Tempo
  • Mood
  • Mode
  • Lyrics
  • Patterns
  • And, more!

You can also play musical version of games, like:

  • Taboo: Take turns getting the other person to guess the musical word without saying it.
  • Scattergories: Better for late elementary/intermediate students that know many musical words.

The musical versions of games will take a bit of admin time on your side of things, but the nice part is there are ways to speed up the process. Use music symbol flashcards for Taboo. And, write out categories from any method book to create levelled topics for Scattergories in minutes. AND, you can use the lists over and over!

Getting Students Moving and Engaged

Remember that not every lesson needs to be at your instrument.  Taking a break to explore and review concepts in a different way strengthens those neuropathways!  While students may think they’ve pulled the wool over our eyes, the truth is that pedagogically sound activities away from the piano (or any instrument) are an important part of making those skills stick for the long term!

What are your favourite outdoor music lesson activities?

Share your ideas below. And, if you teach online, will you be moving outside at all for lessons?

NOTE: This article was originally published on June 15, 2017.  It’s been updated multiple times since then to include more fun ideas for your studio, including ideas for moving online lessons outside!

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