Music theory is SUPER important to the beginning piano student. However, I think that sometimes it is easy to slack off and either 1) not leave enough time for it, or forget about it entirely, or 2) make it the most boring part of the lesson.
I'd like to briefly address these two problems with theory in our lessons (at least in my experience - I know a lot of you already are great at teaching theory in a fun, exciting way! Share your secrets with us!;)):
1) Forgetting to do theory, or not leaving enough time for it
Sometimes it can be so hard to find the time to open up that theory book during the lesson. I truly hope that as teachers we don't really forget to teach theory (because honestly, how could you? As I mentioned in an earlier post, there should be a technique reason and a theory reason for everything you teach.) - but it truly can be a challenge to fit everything your student needs to know to be a well-rounded musician into one weekly half-hour lesson.
A few options (just off the top of my head) to help remedy this:
-set up a computer in your studio and purchase some fun music theory software for your students to use for 15-20 minutes prior to their lesson. Definitely would help fit more into the lesson!
-assign your student to use some online theory resources at home - there really are a ton of great ones available
-do theory FIRST at the lesson, even if it's just for a few minutes. That way you'll keep right on track!
-whether you have the time to go over theory a lot or not, make sure the student always has some type of theory assignment to work on each week
-address the NEXT issue (theory is boring) and you won't WANT to leave it out of the lesson because it is the best part of the lesson!.....
2) Theory is boring
Well then something has got to change! I am just as guilty at this as the next person. It's so easy to just open up that theory book, see which concept should be taught next, go over the page with the student (in a non-exciting way) and assign them the page to do at home. Sure this works, they usually get the concepts alright. But seriously, it can be very boring. And non-memorable. And did I mention boring?
I am not pretending to be some super resource for theory games - because honestly, I could use just as many ideas as the next teacher! My list of "theory games" would be rather short...and maybe a little boring....here is one idea (hey at least it's something!)....
-flashcard games: actually this would probably be my one fun game that really sticks out in my mind as something that the students get into and enjoy, and that is really helpful. It is nothing too fancy, but we make it fun by using a stopwatch. I time the student to see how long it takes to go through the stack and name and play each note on the cards. I think it is helpful to have the student first name the note without looking at the keyboard (to avoid counting up keys and other shortcuts, to make sure they really know the note by sight), then turn to the keyboard and play the key in the correct octave. Any flashcards that the student does not get right, I put in a separate stack and we go through those again at the end. We count up how many cards they got right on the first try, and see how long it took. The students love trying to beat their time each week, and get really into it. It's great to make them go for speed because it forces them to name the notes as quickly as possible.
Ok, enough of my ideas (or lack thereof).....let's turn to some AWESOME online resources! And please, if you know of other great resources, we'd love to hear about them to add to the list!
Online Theory Trainers, Games, and Quizzes
Free online music theory drills & theory concepts to explore
Music Education Lesson Plans: Music Theory
Piano & Music Theory Software Reviews
Review of Alfred's Theory Games
Have fun with music composition!