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Music Theory Lab Activities

Including a music theory lab in piano lessons has had a lot of benefits for my students. The dedicated theory time means they’ll be working on their theory every week, with a bit of planning I can make sure we’re covering all the important topics, and having a range of different activities is great for student engagement. If you’re thinking of adding a theory lab to your studio but want some ideas of activities and format, here’s my current set up.

Music Theory Lab Activities

During Rotating Lessons students spend twenty minutes working independently on theory activities I’ve assigned (plus twenty minutes doing a one-on-one lesson, and twenty minutes completing assigned practice tasks). I have three different stations set up for students to work through during their music theory lab, which usually include:

  • A laptop with a music theory video to watch
  • A worksheet to complete
  • An iPad loaded with music apps

Following this same format (nearly) every week makes planning a lot easier, and means that students know exactly which tasks they need to complete each lesson.

Music Theory Video

The first activity is watching a music theory video saved from YouTube. These are usually between five and fifteen minutes long, or sometimes students will watch a couple of shorter ones. I like using Video Link for viewing rather than YouTube, which is great for avoiding ads and other distractions.

I’ve set up a laptop with headphones for students to use to watch the videos, and added a custom background and links on the desktop to make it simple to navigate (here’s how to add a shortcut on your desktop that will open a link):

Music Theory Videos

The three videos are aimed at different levels, and sometimes I’ll have more than one video in each group. It’s easy to let students know at the beginning of the lesson which video(s) I’d like them to watch.

If you’d like to instantly download these free desktop backgrounds, then click on the image below:

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Some of my favourite YouTube channels for music theory:

Music Theory Worksheet

Getting students to complete a music theory worksheet is perfect for applying the theory concepts they’ve been learning. It’s also useful for me to see if there’s any concepts or areas that need further work, so we can cover these during the one-on-one part of the lesson.

I’ll often print out a worksheet for each student, use a laminated worksheet that can be erased, or have a digital copy that can be completed on the iPad (click here for instructions plus some free beginner worksheets).

Theory resources I use with my students:

Plus the theory worksheets in the Free Resource Library of course 😉

Free Resource Library

Music Theory Apps

This is the last activity I assign, and students are only able to play on the iPad (which is loaded exclusively with music apps!) once they’ve finished their other theory work. Check out this post for instructions on setting up an iPad for your students.

Plus here are some round-ups of music theory apps your students will love:

Best Rhythm Apps
Best Apps for Practicing Scales
Best Note Reading Apps for iPad

Have you tried theory labs in your studio before? Do you have any activities or resources to recommend?

Music Theory Lab Activities
Music Theory Lab Activities
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