Combined violin and piano group classes?

Trish said: Sep 19, 2014
Trish Clair (Horrocks)
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Nanaimo, BC
25 posts

Hello colleagues!
I am about to start up my season of group classes, and I’m hoping that some of you have some experience with shared group classes.

A local Suzuki piano teacher and I will be co-teaching a biweekly group class with both piano and violin students in the room. The string players are largely pre-Twinkle and Twinklers, and the piano students are early book 1.

We plan to incorporate a lot of general music games as well as finding opportunities for some duets. Obviously we both want to be sure that the inevitable compromise involved in such a class makes for a better experience for everyone.

Does anyone have some proven gems for this situation that you would be willing to share?


Mengwei said: Sep 19, 2014
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
119 posts

Singing is good for musical foundation and is an “equalizer” when the physical/instrument skills are at a very beginning level. You could sing circle/dance/game/folk songs so that the kids learn how to listen and move together, keep a beat, use their bodies musically, etc. You also could sing the common repertoire using do, re, mi (make sure you sing in a key comfortable for children, not necessarily the violin or piano key). In addition to the actual melodies, they can learn phrasing through breathing and transfer this to the instrument later. It’s also a good time for practicing solo performing (although maybe you wouldn’t have everyone play every class) and for others to practice being good audience members.

I think the key is to set the expectation of what the level/mix of kids can and can’t do and make sure that everyone understands the purpose of group—to develop other musical aspects without always having the instrument in hand.

Teresa Barton said: Sep 20, 2014
Suzuki Association Member
Manchester, NH
2 posts

When I have group classes that have students with different instruments, I often use basic music principles for games: “Let’s see if we can all keep a steady beat” Let one child beat a drum at a moderate tempo, and the others move in step on the beats. He/she “stops” the drum, the children “freeze”, the he/she, or another student takes over at a different tempo.
Other ideas: Listening games: Can they hear if the sounds (which the teacher produces on an instrument) go up, down, or stay the same.
Rhythm games: Use rhythm cards (different notes like quarter, half, whole, two eighths): Have students clap or say the rhythms, create 4 measures of four beats each, put students in teams. Also, using rhythm cards Teacher makes 3 different rhythms and students clap/ say them. Or, teacher claps one of those, and students must say which one it was……Then, let a student clap one, and the others identify which of the three patterns he/she was clapping

Laura said: Sep 21, 2014
Laura Appert SpringhamViolin, Viola
33 posts

Using Music Mind Games is a great way to involve everyone!

Heather Figi said: Sep 21, 2014
Heather FigiViolin
Eugene, OR
97 posts

I wanted to second the Music Mind Games suggestion. Blue Jello cards are incredible! They will bring everyone together, teach ensemble and help all involved fall in love with learning.

Best wishes,

Trish said: Sep 29, 2014
Trish Clair (Horrocks)
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Nanaimo, BC
25 posts

Thanks, everyone! I agree, Music Mind Games is great and I have used it for over a year with my violin/viola groups. My biggest concern with a mixed class is being sensitive to the pianists …. I’ve been teaching group classes on my own for so long that I have pretty ingrained habits when it comes to cue words, and often those key phrases are violin/viola-specific.

We start up on Thursday, with lots of singing games and movement games to become familiar with each other and the space we are in. I’m looking forward to learning alongside the kids!

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