5 Fun & Creative ways to Teach harmony in the First Month of Music Lesson
Yes yes! You’ve read it right. We are talking about teaching harmony to beginners in this blog. or You can’t expect them to start harmonizing from day one, but they can understand it conceptually at the very least.
As a pianist at least, we start teaching a single line of music to our students in a single hand and move all the way up to 4 voices (at least) as they keep progressing. Now instruments that don’t harmonize as much on their own, need to play with backing tracks. That’s the equivalent situation for them when it comes to, isn’t it?
Every time the student adds an extra layer to their music or is asked to play with a backing track, their brain is thinking, it’s too difficult, I can’t do it. Now that is the thought process we are trying to break here. Teaching our students about harmony from the very beginning helps them get excited when we start adding these extra layers. They start looking forward to the day they’ll start doing that.
So here are my top 5 tips on how you can include teaching harmony to beginner students right from the first month of music lessons. If you do not prefer to read, We’ve got you covered. You can scroll down all the way to the end and check out our quick and short YouTube video about the same.
In the first lesson, I always ask the students to sing something. To understand what you’re playing or listening to, it is extremely important to sing it. I like to do a lot of singing in class with the students in the form of games. So getting them to sing in the first lesson, sets the tone for the lessons coming ahead. Students often come to us with the perspective of learning an instrument. It may get hard for them to understand that singing has to be a part of it as well.
Coming back to our task at hand – teaching harmony. Get your students to sing as you play the chords (or just the tonic note) on your instrument. Accompany them in whatever way you are comfortable.
To get them excited, listen to it on YouTube or sing along to a karaoke track with them!
You can introduce the word harmony, and briefly explain what it is. But at this stage, the idea is not to make them memorize or deeply understand anything. The purpose here is to tell them about different elements of music that make it so amazing to listen to.
Play the beat
We often start teaching our students melodies when they begin with very little or no exposure to playing harmony. It is time to change that. This is a very simple activity when the student plays a fixed note constantly repeating it on the beat. Your task is to improvise a short melody using that as the tonic of the key that you’re improvising in.
Look at their eyes shine as a simple task makes the music magical!
Demonstrate the difference in sound when the student is playing with you and when you’re playing alone. This makes them understand the importance of their activity and take it more seriously.
If you’re comfortable with improvising, you can ask them to change the fixed note they are playing after 8 counts and you adjust what you’re playing accordingly. This will give them a sense of being the challenger in this game and make it more serious and more fun.
Teach your students the notes of any chord. Explain how to play them on their instrument. Now the next step is getting them to improvise using just those three or 4 notes you have taught them. Just tell them to play these in random order and play them steadily. Two simple instructions. Now you improvise along with them on your instrument. What are we doing? Harmonizing, of course!
Impress your students by demonstrating more than playing just those three notes in your improvisation.
While you start out by following the rules you made for the students yourself, somewhere in the middle instruct them to keep doing what they are doing while you change it up. Here you can add more rhythms, other notes from the scale family, and maybe even some chords. This helps them get excited about what they will be doing in the future while still feeling cool about what they are already doing.
Play a tune
Now by the end of the first month, you would have definitely taught them to play something! Maybe a short tune that’s just two bars long. USE THAT! Ask them to play that while you harmonize along with it. Whatever way you can and want to!
Even something simple can sound amazing!
I often even play some chords while teaching my students scales or finger exercises. I’ve myself had very conventional lessons as a student – very by the book. So when I started off teaching, I have to admit, my purpose for these accompaniments was to entertain myself during those repetitive sections of the lesson. But slowly I realised how it was helping the students as well! The students started getting excited by the accompaniment and even trying to recreate the sounds they were hearing.
Introducing harmony to the students from the beginning makes them inquisitive. You may not tell them what it is, may not introduce the word, but just add it in your lessons and see the short-term and long-term effects as the lessons progress.
SING A DUET
If you’re not really into singing, this can get a little tricky but try giving it a shot anyway. Maybe with your friends and family first before trying it with your students. Ask your students to sing a simple song. Even something as simple as twinkle twinkle. Then assign them a single syllable and ask them to sing the whole tune using that. You can go for La or Du or Zu, anything! Finally, you improvise a melody line to sing with them using the same syllable and see how it works together.
This is definitely going to get your students excited!
This will especially work well for voice students! Singing is something everybody can relate to. A concept that can be taught through singing, often in the student’s mind, starts with the assumption that it’s understandable. It is easy to think of learning an instrument as difficult when the truth is that it’s not necessarily difficult, rather it is new.
So these are my 5 fun and creative ways to teach HARMONY in the first month of music lessons. If you liked it and used it, I’d love to hear about it in the comments of the YouTube video below. I’d also love to know if there are some other ways you introduce harmony in the music lessons!