Teaching

Planning Music Lab Activities in 5 Easy Steps!

5 Steps to Plan Music Lab Activities

Planning music lab activities is what keeps lab relevant in your studio.  The initial purchase of the iPad feels great.  Which is quickly followed by “Now what?”  This is why it’s important to have a strategy for music lab that fits within your prep time.

You have limited time to find or create resources.  Whether these resources are used at the piano or during lab, there are only so many hours to get everything done.

When starting out it can feel overwhelming planning music lab activities for each lesson.   Not only were you worrying about AT the piano, but now there is a technology component.  

Time is a concern for every teacher.  But, so is creating a studio that students & clients love.

You shouldn’t have to spend hours searching for resources in order to have a creative studio.

So, how do you go about planning music lab activities that rock?

1. Make a plan & schedule it

When I first added a music lab to my studio in 2016, I’ll admit I was pretty clueless.  Not only was I learning how to use new apps, but there was the logistics of how to introduce these apps to students while teaching 2 students at the same time.  No pressure, right?

Added to that, I didn’t necessarily have a clear overarching idea of what lab would bring to my studio over the course of the year.

There are many different ways you can plan for lab.  But, first repeat after me.

I will NOT plan lab every week.

Why?  You are busy.  If your to-do list is like mine, it never gets shorter because there is always something that needs to get done.

I love listening to jazz while working in my office late at night.  Know what I love more?  Spending quality time with all 3 of my men (our twins & my husband) before getting a good night’s sleep.

You need a plan & schedule time to make it happen.  Otherwise something else WILL come up last minute.

Choose the best way of planning music lab activities that works for YOU.

2. Choose your tech

Not only are you thinking about the device your students will use, but the apps as well.

Will your students use:

  • An iPad?
  • Pencil & paper?
  • Digital piano?
  • Or combination of all of these?

As a travel teacher, I chose the option that would require the least amount of bags to carry.  (Click here to see what this used to look like.)

As you are planning music lab activities, you may need apps for:

  • Ear training
  • Listening skills/ Music appreciation
  • Music history
  • Note & interval recognition
  • Composing/improvising
  • Sight reading
  • Technique
  • Theory

This step can feel really overwhelming.  Especially with the sheer number of apps out there.  The key is to choose ONLY the apps that help you with your plan from step 1.

For a complete list of apps that are student-approved (divided by category), click below.

Apps I Just Can't Live Without

3. Batch your planning

This is the step every productivity expert will tell you.  And for good reason.

It is essential so you avoid scrambling to prep labs last minute.

And, here is the best advice I can give you.

Planning does NOT require you to create everything from scratch. 

Planning is pulling together the best resources for your students.

Avoid the rabbit hole

As much as you love reading ideas online (like this article, wink), you want to make the most of your time.

Set a timer & be specific in your research.  Only look at the resources that fit what you will be doing in lab (either that unit or year).

When the timer goes off, you are done your research for the day.

And yes, this advice is much harder to follow than say.  But, it’s the only way you can keep your prep time to a reasonable time limit while still getting everything else done.

4. Purchase the resources you need

Whether you are purchasing apps or ready made lab assignments, everything goes back to the plan you made in step 1.

When I first started planning music lab activities, I used ready-made resources.  Not only did they help me keep my sanity, but they also provided structure in a way that I hadn’t realized my students needed.

So before you attempt to create everything from scratch, use your prep time researching the resources that will work best for you.

And when your clients rave about how creative you are?  Smile & say thank you!

They will be impressed you know of so many amazing teaching resources!  (I can say this from experience.)

5. Market to your clients

Part of planning music lab activities is thinking about how to market this to your clients. 

Music lab is a great way to add additional tuition income to your studio.  But, your clients don’t care about this.  They care about whether this helps, inspires or builds up their child.

One of the items that is always included in my studio monthly newsletter is “What is happening in our studio this month”.  Parents find out what their child(ren) are learning in lab … rather than potentially assuming it’s a free-for-all screen time.  Why pay extra for that?

The other place my clients find out about lab is on our studio Facebook page.  Whether it is images with reminders or questions or student pictures/videos, clients should SEE what that extra time & tuition means for students.

Marketing can be as simple as:

  • A few sentences in the studio newsletter
  • Pictures/videos from lesson time
  • Telling parents milestones at the end of lesson

As you are planning your music labs, make a quick note of how you will let students AND parents know what is coming up.  Whether it is a teaser of “Guess what we are doing next month!?!” or quick notice, build up excitement for what is happening in your studio!

5 steps for planning music lab activities

Follow these 5 steps & I promise, your lab time prep will be so much easier.  While it’s easy to get distracted (Squirrel!), making a plan ahead of time takes the guess work out of prep.  Because let’s face it, the times when we scramble are not our most productive or creative times.  Right?

What do you find the easiest … or the most challenging about planning lab activities?  Let us know in the comments below!

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