Friday, December 4, 2020

Tricks for Teaching Sharp Key Signatures

 Identifying Sharp Key Signatures, #Music Teaching, image of sharp key signature with arrow from last sharp to name of the key.

Identifying Sharp Key Signatures on the Staff

Most music students have probably seen this simple strategy for identifying sharp key signatures. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Major and Minor Scale Pattern Free Printable Posters

This month the focus is on technique in my piano studio so I created these piano scale pattern mnemonic posters to display on my music studio bulletin board.

Memory Aid for the Teaching the Whole and Half Step Pattern of the Major Scale in Piano Lessons, We Were Happy When We Were Home 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Teaching 4 Types of Staccato: Piano Lab Tutorial and Free Printable

Staccato and Legato are two basic articulations that most piano students learn.  What if you were only allowed to play piano and forte, with no crescendos  or variations?  Instead dynamics in music have many different levels (pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff).  Staccato articulation has several different levels as well.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Piano Keyboard Skills Contests

 Tonic Tutor Keyboard Skills Games

Our studio contest focus this month emphasizes technique/keyboard skills.  Students who earn the highest score in their lesson (AIM High Contest) and students who complete the most keyboard skills games (Overachiever Contest) in freeplay mode after their assigned lessons will be recognized at the next group lesson.

Friday, October 30, 2020

"I Am Thankful" Piano Composing Project Steps

I Am Thankful Piano Composing Project, Thanksgiving Piano Composing

Composing at the piano can seem like a daunting task for beginners, but with small and simple guided steps, it can be a success for even young beginners. For November piano lessons, students in my studio are creating an "I am Thankful" Composition using the step by step approach below.

Thanksgiving and Fall Themed Free Piano Teaching Resources

Thanksgiving Free Piano Teaching Resources
While planning for my Thanksgiving Themed Piano Group Lesson, I revisited many of the fun Thanksgiving Piano Activities my piano students have enjoyed in the past and was grateful to discover a few new ones listed below as well.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

UVMTA Piano Festival Self Evaluation Checklist

This simple checklist is a great way to help beginning piano students evaluate their own preparedness  for piano festival. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Easy Way to Merge Creativity with a Piano Method Book

One of my favorite ways to introduce composition and improvisation in piano lessons is to pair it with the concepts that are already being introduced in the student's method books.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Musical Plot Twist

I love authenticity.  As I read Lindsey Stirling's biography recently her openness drew me in and gave me an added measure of respect for her. Her description of her grueling experience of being kicked out of violin lessons by her raging teacher who threw the music stand and ordered her to get out and never return to lessons reenacted a flashback in my mind of my own music lessons where my dreams felt dashed.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Piano Festival Music Samples Later Elementary/Early Intermediate Level 4

Piano Festival Samples Late Elementary Early Intermediate

This post includes Piano Music Festival Samples Later Elementary/Early Intermediate (Piano Adventures 3A, Green Hal Leonard Book 4, NFMC P3)

Piano Festival Listening Assignment

Choose at least 6 pieces to listen to. Write the name of the piece, then click the link to hear it and answer the following questions on your Festival Samples Listening Assignment Sheet:

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

How Multiple Choice can guide Beginners in the Composition Process

Freedom to Choose

Choice is usually a good thing, but when it comes to composing, some students have a difficult time sorting through all of the options.  This short questionnaire can help them narrow down their choices and provide a step by step path to help them go through the composition process one step at a time without getting overwhelmed.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Composing Variation Cards Free Printable

Teaching composition and improvisation can be a tricky task for teachers who have the typical classical piano training background.  But with Variation Cards, you can easily guide students along in the process of creativity by having them "borrow" elements from their pieces and change them up to create new compositions with a similar style but added flair.

Here's a sample of a quick variation I created using the theme from Hot Cross Buns.  The Haunted House, Beetle Bug, Backwards and Scrambled Eggs variation cards that I use definitely add more interest, and starting with something familiar adds a safety net for the student to begin with if they are a bit timid about composing from scratch.

Teaching Composing and Improvisation with Variation Cards

Having students create impromptu variations of folk tunes like Mary Had a Little Lamb or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star can be a fun way to spark interest at the beginning of lessons, but I also like to have students choose a few variation cards to apply to the pieces in their method books on a regular basis once they have learned the piece. 

Songs in Disguise: A Music Lesson Activity

Songs in Disguise Music Lesson Activity

How do you spookify a piece?

Name that Tune is a classic game that most kids enjoy, but this month at our Halloween Group Lesson I'll be doing a spooky twist by having my students try this "Songs in Disguise" activity.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Ode to Sugar: A Happier Halloween Song Free Printable

Happy Halloween Free Composition!

My daughter composed this "Ode to Sugar" a few years ago for a composition festival.  I just love her creative lyrics as they reveal my own sentiments!  Some students don't like the creepy sad sounding Halloween songs of the season, so I thought I'd share this happy melody in case others kids out there share her sweet tooth as well.

"I know I have a sweet tooth.
It's something I can't hide.
Without my precious sugar, 
I'm empty inside!

From donuts to choc'late
And choc'late fondue.
I really can not help myself,
Delicious sweets I love you!

Oh precious sugar
Your luscious smooth soft feel, 
Not one crumb I could waste
I want you every meal."

 Ode to Sugar Free Printable

Halloween Pattern Pieces

Piano Teaching Halloween Pattern Pieces, #Rote Piano

Rote Teaching Enhances Learning and Fun!

Each year as Halloween rolls around there are a few highly patterned pieces that I love to introduce to new students again and again. Students love the impressive sounds that become accessible to them even if some of the things printed on the page haven't been introduced to them in their method books.

Cat Prowl from Piano Adventures Gold Star 2B can easily be played by students who are a level or 2 below in the the method books if you introduce it as a rote piece. The expressive orchestrated audio sample has fun sound effects that entice students to want to learn this fun piece.

Zoom Zoom Witches Broom from Piano Adventures Gold Star Primer surprisingly only contains the 3 notes from the a minor chord, but sounds so expressive and exciting because of the added pedal, dynamics and leaps from octave to octave. 

Spooky Town composed by Chris Owenby is full of hand over hand arpeggios so I prefer to introduce this piece by rote as well and then later point them to the written page.

Toccata in D Minor - Most students have heard are familiar with the introduction of this famous haunting melody and if they are not this cartoon is a fun way to introduce it.  There are several free printable versions online, but I like to begin with this simple short version from by first having students identify the rhythm bugs they find in the piece.  Because most of my students are Let's Play Music graduates, they are familiar with sixteenth/eighth note patterns and having them dictate the rhythm with bug cards really facilitates their learning of the piece partly by rote.

"Butterfly___Caterpillar Bug Slug, Butterfly______ Bug Bug Bug Slug."

Big Bad Goblin Blues  Although this rhythmic piece is quite long, the repetitive bass line and repeating melodies allow students to learn it rather quickly and sometimes I have to issue a "speeding ticket" because they love to see how fast they can race through the half step passages at twice the speed like this!

Do you have any other fall favorite rote pieces that your students love?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Halloween Piano Challenge: Don't Scare Me... Surprise Me!

Halloween Piano Challenge, Music Studio Halloween Activities

Each October in my piano studio, I give my students a challenge full of choices.  There are so many fun Halloween-themed resources to use in piano lessons, but rather than just choose one for my students, I let them select from a list of "tricks" to "treat" me with at their October music lessons.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Piano Festival Samples Elementary Level 1 & 2

This post includes Piano Festival Samples for the Elementary Level 

(Piano Adventures 1, Blue Hal Leonard 1,  NFMC PP) BassF-Treble G 
(Piano Adventures 1, Purple Hal Leonard 2, NFMC P1) Bass C- Treble G, sharps or flats, some hands together

Choose at least 6 pieces to listen to. Write the name of the piece, then click the link to hear it and answer the following questions on your Festival Samples Listening Assignment Sheet:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Piano Festival Music Samples Late Elementary Level 3 Yellow

Piano Festival Piece Choices, Piano Festival Samples Late Elementary, heidispianonotes

This post includes Piano Festival Music Samples for Late Elementary (Piano Adventures 2A/2B, Yellow Hal Leonard 3/ NFMC P2/Rastall 2)

Choose at least 6 pieces to listen to. Write the name of the piece, then click the link to hear it and answer the following questions on your Festival Samples Listening Assignment Sheet:

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Free Online Piano Teaching Training Links

I'm a multi tasking music teacher and these are just a few of the resources that I love to tap into to get through my morning workout walking the neighborhood or folding laundry on my exercise bike while I jot down notes from time to time, or prop up my phone to wash one more sink full of dishes that didn't get done the night before. Since covid prevents me from weight lifting at the gym and attending music teacher workshops at least I can exercise my mind and body at the same time as pursuing my piano passion!

Music Teacher Videos

2020 MTNA Virtual Conference

Music Teaching Podcasts

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Piano Teaching Tips for Beginners - Book of Mormon Stories

Book of Mormon Stories and Beyond with Beginning Piano Students

Playing Familiar Music is Fun

The upbeat rhythmic drumbeat of the bass in this song makes it a requested favorite for young children who often follow along with hand motions representing the words as they sing this song. This is typically a song that my students who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints are eager to learn because they've grown up singing it often.
Early intermediate students can handle the traditional version of this song, but I also make this accessible to my younger students who are more likely to appreciate it by using these simpler versions. Following are a few ideas on how to introduce the simplified version highlighting various concepts in the song with success.
Traditional Music for Book of Mormon Stories

I Spy Intervals

For a student who is still new to the concept of skips on the staff, I like to hand over the pencil and have students spy all of the skips in this song and connect them with colored lines to make them extra salient.

Major vs Minor

Often too many beginning songs center around middle C and can encourage the faulty notion in beginning students that finger numbers correlate to specific keys on the piano (C is 1, D is 2, E is 3 etc.)  This song in the key of d minor shifts students away from the erroneous "C-centric" thinking and can also make a great introduction to recognizing the difference between  the major and minor pentascale patterns and most students love the steady drum beat sounds in the bass.

Buddy Bass Duet

For buddy lessons with beginners, having one student play the split hand melody in the treble clef and another student (or teacher) play the bass "drumming" part an octave lower than notated encourages better listening skills and allows them to enjoy the rich harmony of the song even if they aren't physically coordinated enough to play both parts together yet. 

Borrow with Rhythmic Improvisation

The rhythmic simplicity of this song provides a perfect palette for further exploration.  In addition to learning the song, students could use the structure as a springboard to improvise their own melody that mimics the rhythm of the song as they change up the order of the notes of the d minor scale.  For a little more challenge, students could use the Bass Harmony pattern as their backdrop instead and then just add a d minor pentascale melody with the right hand. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tonic Tutor Melody Game Tips

The studio contest for for May is Melody.  Here are some quick game instructions with a few hints.


Stick People- Choose the picture that matches the shape of the melody you heard. Hint: Steps look like a staircase.
Mystery Note-Click the 2 notes at the top and listen for the note in the pattern that is the same pitch as the single note played.
Mushrooms-As you listen to the melody choose the last note your hear.  Hint: Follow along with by pointing to the first note played and moving your finger in the direction you hear the notes played.
Robot- Challenge! Listen to the melody and play the key that you hear last. The first note is colored on the keyboard.  Hint: Hover your finger or mouse over the first note as you hear the melody and then move in the direction you hear it move (left lower, right higher).

Aural-Melodic Dictation

Eggs - Listen to the melody and choose the egg that is not in the write place on the staff. Hint: It helps to follow along with your cursor or finger as the notes are being played.
Magnets - Move the notes up or down with the magnets above or below the staff to match the melody you hear. Hint: Check to make sure notes on the staff that repeat later sound the same before clicking "Done." Remember to check the direction (up and down) and distance (how far up or down) of the notes that change.

Related Posts:
Tonic Tutor Rhythm Game Tips
Tonic Tutor Review and Discount Code

Unforgettable Tempo Term Songs

Singing is a fabulous mnemonic device.  After discovering these helpful Tempo Term Posters from the Colourful Keys blog that I display on my music bulletin board I added these new lyrics to familiar folk songs to make the tempo terms stick even more.

A Pecking Fun Rote Piece for Teaching Staccato

You've probably heard this famous piece before... but not quite in this way!
1. Watch Beethoven's Wig My Little Chicken as you tap your hand to the beat on a closed piano fallboard with a hen pecking motion.

2. Watch as teacher demonstrates on the keyboard  What are the first 2 repeating intervals played?
(As I demonstrate this song I sing memory cues to help students remember the patterns)
Start play- ing sec-onds then
Step to the thirds then you
Leap peck peck peck, to the C's
Back to the
2nds then
3rds then
Leap  peck peck peck to the C's
Step down down down then
Leap up then Leap up then Leap up, etc.

Free Sheet Music for Chopsticks

Monday, April 27, 2020

An Engaging Way to Start Online Music Lessons for Kids

This week I'm trying something different to start out online piano lessons.  While I typically start out with a game from my piano game resource list or a quick duet improvisation, those activities don't work as well for virtual lessons.  So instead I'm screen sharing some of these music concept videos from Plank Road Publishings Music Theory Concept Video Playlist.
Zoom Instructions
1. Before lessons begin, navigate to Youtube Plank Road Publishing Music Theory Concept Video Playlist.
2. Open Zoom, click share screen and be sure to select share computer audio at the bottom.

Do you have any other favorite music teaching video clips that would make great lesson starters? 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 1 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

Lesson Plans for Teaching Staccato and Legato Articulation

Now that I am teaching piano online, I've been streamlining my lesson plans by sending customized lesson assignment instructions via google docs to my students.  I like how this new format allows me to embed links with videos and supplementary activities for flipped learning at home that were previously done during lab time.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Creating Customized Piano Lesson Assignments

Adapting to Online Lesson Assignments

One thing I love about teaching private piano lessons vs. group teaching is the way I can customize the experience based on each students individual needs and progress.  For this reason I've hesitated to shift to a set rigid curriculum with preset assignments, even though that might make lesson planning easier. But the temporary social distancing measures have required me to switch from my handwritten, fluid lesson assignments to something a bit more structured.  The notes and ideas I've jotted down through the years in my copy of piano books for planning are now being compiled into Google Docs for each method/technique book including supplementary links to activities. 
UPDATE: The Piano Lesson Plans are now available for free for students or teachers.
Free Piano Lesson Plans, Piano Adventures, Piano Pronto,

Quick Music Games for Online Piano Lesson Teaching Starters

Has switching to online piano lessons due to social distancing gotten you scrambling for games and activities that will work with virtual lessons?  In the past I've used off bench games and activities for nearly every lesson from my Piano Game Resource List.  Here are just a few that could be adapted to  work well to keep your online music students engaged in a fun way.

Note Naming

Grand Staff Battleship - Screen share some short Music Alphabet Words.  Teacher and student draw a treble of bass staff on a piece of paper and then guess specific notes (Treble Line G, Treble Space C, etc.) until they can guess their opponent's word.

Flashcard Bingo -Ask student to draw a 9 square grid on a paper and fill with letters from the music alphabet. Then the teacher displays music staff flashcards and students identify the letter name and cover their board until they get 3 in a row.


Fast Hands (adapted on the keys)- With a little variation the concept from this fast hands game can be played on the piano keys.  Teacher calls out the starting note (Middle C) and then gives a series of directions for the student to move up/down the keys (Step up a 3rd, Down a 4th, Up a 2nd,) What key did you land on?

Crazy Keys Students could print the cards from home or you can place the cards in 2 piles and they select which pile they want to draw from "virtually"and then they place their marker on their piano keys, while you move on yours up towards a designated "end key." 

Terms and Signs

Silly Sentences (In the Manner of the Music Term)- Say a silly sentence "in the manner of the music term" (piano, staccato, accelerando, etc.) and have your student guess the term. Then trade roles.
Musical Twenty Questions - Adapt by just playing with teacher and student.

Group Activities (via Zoom or Marco Polo)

Music Scattergories- Students race for 2 minutes to write one musical term or symbol that fits in each of the designated categories and hope their answers are different from the other players.

Music Cloodle (from Piano Cranium)- Players take turns sculpting music symbols from play dough as the other players race to write or call out the name of the symbol they see.

Call It
Have your student look at a piece of their music or the music dictionary at the beginning or end of their method books and choose a symbol.  Both the teacher and student draw a picture of a symbol and then try to guess what the other person was trying to represent.

Virtual Piano Lesson Game: Music Scattergories

When I was pondering some type of fun to have for date night amid social distancing due to the corona virus, this was one game that came to mind.  This twist on the classic game of Scattergories can be fun at a group piano lesson and could even be played virtually via zoom for an online music gathering.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Simplified "Come Follow Me" Songs April

Easter Hosanna -I Can Play It

Beginner- Following the chord letters written above the music, play the root note in the bass clef as you listen or sing the melody.
Late Beginner- Draw a flat sign in front of all of the Bs in your music. Play just the highest notes (melody line) as you practice following the finger carefully for all of the finger crosses.  Many of them "feel" like the fingering crosses you use to play one octave scales.
Intermediate - Start by learning the right hand, then add the left hand in as you practice one section at at time.

When We're Helping- Layton p. 91

Beginner - Most of this song is just steps and skips.  Can you spot the 4th (leap) and circle it?
Late Beginner - After playing the melody, can you choose I, IV or V chords to accompany the melody line?

Love One Another- Layton p.20

Beginner - Circle all of the commas and periods in the lyrics and draw a "wrist-float off" up arrow above them in your music to mark the end of each phrase (musical sentence). Can you play legato keeping your fingers close to the keys and float your wrist up gently at the end of each phrase? 

Tonic Tutor Rhythm Game Tips

The studio contest for this month in Tonic is Rhythm.
Here are some quick game instructions with a few hints.


Dancing Jelly Bean - Choose the rhythm pattern that does not have a match.
Rhythm Zoo - Choose the card with the rhythm matching the first card.


Blocks- Listen to the rhythm pattern and rotate the colored block to display the correct missing note. Hint: After you listen once, echo tap or clap the rhythm you just heard to help you determine the correct note(s).
Piggybank- Choose the correct name of the symbol from the multiple choice list
Trains- Listen to the rhythm pattern and determine the last note played.  Hint: Track the music with your finger as it plays.
Pizza- Choose the correct duration of notes in different time signatures.  Hint: The bottom number in the time signature tells us what type of note gets one beat (2/4 -quarter note=1, 6/8 - eighth note =1)

Related Posts:
Tonic Tutor Review and Discount Code

Slow Down

I loved the profound calming message from this song that I discovered as I went to my gospel library app to browse some suggested activities to prepare my family for Easter this week. The lyrics are a perfect reminder in this time when troubles seem to be brewing all around.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Online Piano Learning Activities Organized by Concept and Level

Free Online Piano Teaching Activities Organized by Concept and Level for the Piano Teaching Lab or Piano Lesson Assignment
The online piano activity list includes a variety of links to online games, listening activities, theory/technique videos,

AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Videos Levels 1-5

Scales, chords, and arpeggios are the key ingredients used to make music. Although I encourage my students to learn to play their keyboard skills in all keys on their scale level charts, these videos provide a demonstration in just a few keys that students can play to pass off to move up levels on the leader board for "Advancement in Music." For more fun try playing your scales along with a fun backing tracking from Bensound.comClick here for a list of  tracks to choose from in the key in of your scale.

AIM Level 1 Keyboard Skills- Pentascale + Chord  in C, G, D, A and E Major
For more details see this post.

AIM Level 2 Keyboard Skills-  Pentascale, Chord, Hand over Hand Arpeggios

AIM Level 3 Keyboard Skills One Octave Scales, I-V-I Chord, Hand over Hand Arpeggios 

AIM Level 4 Keyboard Skills One Octave Scale, I-IV-I-V7-I Chords, 1 Octave Arpeggio + Inversions

AIM Level 5 Keyboard Skills 1 Octave Scales, I-IV-I-V7-I Chords, 1 Octave Arpeggio, Primary Inversions, V7-I6/4

Related Posts:

Piano Technique Warmups Caterpillar Crawl Video

How do you prepare beginning piano students to play with proper technique?

Teaching proper piano technique is not a "one and done" activity, but instead something that requires repetition and frequent reminders to master.  

I posted this unique piano warm-up exercise a few years ago that introduces the various movements necessary to play the piano with proper technique as students listen to excerpts from a Mozart favorite, Rondo alla Turca. Written directions and lyrics are included on this post, and the video also includes lyrics .

 I have used it periodically at group lessons, but with this new video, students can also warm up regularly at home as they follow along with the motions demonstrated in the video.  

Frequent repetition prepares students to use the motions with automaticity early on as the brain pathways are already paved before they actually encounter frequent scale thumb tucks, phrase end float-offs and other technical motions in their music. After a brief explanation the exercise begins at 1:06.
This Free Printable Caterpillar Crawl Music Map can help students visualize the form of the music with it's repeating patterns.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Split Second Music Theory Game

 One of my favorite things to browse at the thrift store is the games.  I'm always on the lookout for game that I can tweak for my music instruction purposes and this game of Split Second is a real winner!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Theory Choice Challenge

Theory Challenge Options

This month  my piano studio focus is music theory. Students can select from the following challenges to earn a prize at their lesson for each challenge they complete. Winners of the Tonic Tutor Aim High (highest overall game scores) and Overachiever (most extra achievements earned after finishing lesson) contests will be announced at next month's group lesson
  • Complete a written theory test and pass with at least 90% during piano lab.
  • Complete a written terms and signs test with at least 90% during piano lab.
  • Choose at least 3 music terms or signs and draw a poster to help teach others what it means in a memorable way. Click Here to See Sample Posters
  • Watch a Thinking Theory Playlist on YouTube and draw and label at least 10 of the music signs/terms that you learned about as you watched.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Simplified Piano "Come Follow Me" Songs for March

The Holy Ghost (I Can Play It) (Layton Music pg 81)

When I am Baptized (I Can Play It) (Layton Music pg 90) (Sing-a-long video)

Layton Music Melody OnlyVersion: Listen to the sing-a-long video and tap the rhythm using the correct hand.

Concepts: Fermata, 4ths, alternating hands melody, upbeat
When you look at the fermata sign from a bird's eye view it looks like a music conductor with their arms stretched out (the dot is the head, the curve is the arms and body of the person). Imagine she is holding up her arms to let you know to sing that note longer fer mater (for mother) until she finally gives a cut off cue with her hand telling you to stop.
I Can Play it Version:
Concepts: Fermata, Alignment with Arcs and Swoops
1. Divide the piece into 5 practice phrases, using punctuation as a guide.
2. Play an F Major Scale.  Mark the B flats throughout the piece.
3. Prep: Watch the Hanon-Faber Swoop Gesture 1 & 2 Videos and use the same swoop  motion when the melody goes up and arc when it goes down as you play the first 2 lines of the right hand of "When I am Baptized"
4. Learn the right hand paying close attention to fingering.
5. Play the left hand paying close attention to fingering.
6. Play the left hand as you sing the melody.
7. Play hands together slowly one section at a time and then the entire piece hands together.

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (I Can Play It) (Sing-a-long-video)

Dare to do Right  (I Can Play It) (Sing-a-long video)

I Can Play It Version Concepts: Accompanying by Reading Primary Chord Symbols
1. Listen to the Sing-a-long video and color the  primary chord symbols
 (C-Red, F-BlueG-Yellow) written above the music.
2. If a measure doesn't have a chord written above it, add in the last chord from the previous measure.
See Teaching Chords in Color

A Child's Prayer (Layton Music pg 16 & 17)

Related Posts:
Simplified Piano "Come Follow Me" Songs for January
Simplified Piano "Come Follow Me" Songs for February

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Simplified Piano "Come Follow Me" Songs for February

Playing Chords Lead Sheet Style

As I've watched my son progress each year in his Let's Play Music class, I've been surprised at how even 5 year old students can learn to play their primary chords with ease as an accompaniment to their own singing.  I encourage my students to learn chords much earlier than they are introduced in most method books and use this process to help them play songs they are familiar with "lead sheet style."  

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Teaching Piano Keyboard Skills Creatively

Teaching Piano Keyboard Skills Creatively, #Piano Teaching Scales
For this month keyboard skills is the focus in my music studio so I've rounded up a lot of games and activities relating to chords and scales to share in this post.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

4 Types of Scales Video and Free Printable

Teaching Piano Major and Minor Scales in a Memorable Way

Teaching Scales Sad Natural Minor Mad Harmonic Minor Bad Melodic Minor Glad Major
I've been telling the Story of the Scale Sisters for several years to introduce my students to the 4 types of scales (major, natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor), but I recently compiled this video to illustrate the concept and my students had a great time wearing wigs and mimicking moods as we watched it at group lessons.

I also prepared this printable for them to color as they watched each segment of the video to solidify their knowledge of the scale patterns and encouraged them to improvise melodies using the notes from each scale to form their own melodies. Sometimes it takes silly to make things stick!
 4 Types of Scales Free Printable

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Tonic Tutor Review and Discount Code

How can TonicTutor boost your music student's skills?

I've been using for several years as part of the curriculum my piano students complete during piano lab in addition to other apps and online activities. The game platform is comprehensive, customizable, developmentally appropriate, affordable and accessible and my students find it fun and motivating.

Tonic Tutor Discount: To receive 50% off your first month of Tonic Tutor enter this code when you subscribe at


Friday, January 31, 2020

AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 3

Teaching One Octave Scales on the Piano

The transition from pentascales to one octave scales is a big leap that is more successfully taught with some preparatory activities.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When is "Best" not "Better?"

Better or Best?

A picture of a refinished "shabby"upright piano captivated my attention this morning when I visited a website that I frequent often, and I was drawn to click on the link that led me to this insightful  article "Come As You Are; Bring What You Have."  The author compared the merits of having a live pianist vs. a piece played with recorded perfection, and her description of pianistic inadequacy captured the emotion most pianists have experienced at some point in their lifetime.  But despite the author's imperfect playing, she was preferred as the "best" accompaniment source.
When is Best not Better, Image of Old Piano Keys

The image of the shabby upright made me think of the old player piano that I learned to play the piano on, and it brought back memories from the past filled with the emotion tied to music that spilled from the keys.  From the perspective of the experts, it wasn't the ideal instrument.  It was usually not in tune, and has gotten worse through the years, and yet when I sit down to play it in my parent's home, it can evoke even more powerful emotions than my nicer, newer Kawaii.  It's melancholy tone reminds me of harder times in my teen years, when my dad was diagnosed with debilitating polymyositis that made it difficult for him to dress, walk, and work for a period of time.  As a result the piano lessons that I loved, ceased for a time until a generous teacher in my area offered to teach me in exchange for some work that I'm sure did not fully equate to her usual typical compensation rate.  

It was at this piano where my mom listened with tears rolling down her cheeks as she looked over my shoulder and read these lyrics from "Memory" (from Cats) and wondered if my dad would ever recover, or if she would be left a widow with 6 children. 

"I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life

And I mustn''t give in.

When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin."

I found solace each Sunday at my piano as I played and sang words like
"I know God lives.  I know he loves me.  I know he hears me and he answers when I pray." (Testimony, by Janice Kapp Perry) and was soothed by one of my favorite arrangements by Marvin Goldstein, "My Heavenly Father Loves Me."   I derived some much joy from mastering measures at a time and having the satisfaction of feeling I was getting better when I eventually began to play some of the melodies from the masters that I had heard on my dad's old vinyl records for years.
So although my piano playing skills are still not perfect and my old piano could barely pass as good from a bystanders view, I'm grateful that the melodies that come from its keys still bring me back to a time in my life with some of the best memories, when the dream of someday becoming a piano teacher started to form and the emotive melodies touched my heart in an unforgettable way.  I love these closing lines from the article that inspired this post and remind me that my best efforts are enough because life is more about being better every day, than just being the best.

 "...even though I would prefer to do everything perfectly, God simply asks me to be there and do my best. He wants me. As I am."

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Primary Chord Songs I IV and V

Once piano students are proficient in their Level 2 Keyboard Skills that include the V and I chord progression, I add in the IV chord which allows them to harmonize with a wider range of  familiar songs.
Teaching Piano Chords I and V Tonic and Dominant Chord Songs Primary Songs

I listed the songs with only I and V chords on this previous post and this list includes Primary Songs with I, IV and V chords with links to some of my favorites.

Key of C

Away in a Manger 92
6th Article of Faith 126
Choose the Right Way 161
Called to Serve 174 (omit some mid bar chords)
Family Night 195 (omit some mid chords)
Church of Jesus Christ
We are Different
Happy Song 264
Little Purple Pansies

Key of G

Saturday 196
Quickly I'll Obey 197
Mother Tell Me a Story 204
It's Autumn Time 246
I Wiggle 271

Key of F

If You're Happy  266 (omit)
I Hope They Call Me on a Mission
Mother Dear
The Dearest Names208 +vi
Daddy's Homecoming 210 +vi
Little Pioneer Children 216
Once There Was a Snowman 249
Rolling Hands 274
My Hands 273

Key of D

I Want to Give the Lord My Tenth
Dare to Do Right 158
Stand for the Right 159
Teach Me To Walk 177 +vi
Home 192
Give Said the Little Stream 236

Key of A Minor

The Oxcart 219 (omit some midbar chords)

Related Posts:

Friday, January 10, 2020

Good Better Best Composing with Chord Harmony

Musical Snow Boots and Tuxedos?!

I introduced these Good Better Best Activities (Good Better Best Rhythmic Dictation Good Better Best Melodic DictationGood Better Best Dice Composing) in our monthly piano group lesson but wanted to explore a bit further with some students in private lessons by teaching them how to choose primary chords that would sound good with the melody they created using this Good Better Best Composing Sheet and Good Better Best Chant.

Dice Composing Game: Good Better Best

What is the first step to composing a melody?

This question has multiple answers depending on which avenue you decide to take. For example you can make a motif, launch with lyrics, start from the ground up, let rhythm set you in motion or borrow from the experts (See 5 Avenues to Begin Composing). 
This Dice Composing Game inspired by Mozart (the expert!) is a blended approach that provides a comfortable framework for beginning composers as they let the die decide their melodic pathway.
In Finale I stumbled on a hidden Mozart's Dice game and decided to put a "Good Better Best" spin on it to use with my beginning piano students.
Good Better Best Piano Teaching Activity and Free Printable to teach composing skills

Dice Composing Game

Materials Needed:
The first page provides a rhythmic framework of the completed piece with lyrics, but all the notes are Middle C with chords.... pretty boring!

Cut apart the measures from pages 2-3 and stack the measures with the same letters/lyrics into piles.
Roll the die to determine which melody card from each pile you will use as you play your composition one piece at a time.
If you roll a 1,2,3 or 4 play the card with that number.
If you roll a 5- choose a card of your choice.
If you roll a 6- create your own melody to match the rhythm of the measure using notes from the C pentascale.

Related Posts:
Fun Tools for Teaching Composition
Halloween Composing Free Printable
Scale Practice and Composition with BenSound
Do-Re-Mi Ice Cream Improv Free Printable
Valentine's Composing Piano Group Lessons

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Go and Do" Chorus Simplified Piano Sheet Music

Lately I've been starting out my mornings listening to "I Will Go and Do" sung by David Archuleta which I referred to in this earlier post.   

It's available for free (along with a lot of other sacred music) on the Sacred Music app under Youth Theme, and printable sheet music is available on the Youth Theme 2020 website.
This free simplified excerpt of the chorus allows beginning piano students to enjoy learning to play a portion of the chorus (transposed into the key of C with simpler rhythms).

Friday, January 3, 2020

AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 2

AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Level 2

Pentascales, Chords and Hand over Hand Arpeggios

Once students have learned their pentascales and chords around the circle of 5ths (see AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Level 1) , we add hand over hand arpeggios into the mix. 
Sing (Do-Mi-So, Do-Mi-So,   Do,  So-Mi-Do,  So-Mi-Do)
The "float-off" motion for the hand over hand arpeggios and movement of navigating higher on the keys can be tricky for some beginners, so I often have them first practice the motion of leaping left over right and aiming for the tonic note of the scale several times first before actually having them play the broken chord notes.
The 3 step (ALL practice steps) soldify keyboard skills as students focus on the pattern, technical motions and sounds as they practice.  While playing eyes closed during the scales and chords is encouraged so they can focus on tone, I reassure them its ok to open their eyes for the arpeggio leaps.

Related Posts:

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Good, Better, Best Rhythmic Dictation

Good, Better, Best

As the new year rolls in and I visit new year's resolutions once again, the words to this "Good, Better, Best" chant that I heard at 4H camp as a teenager provided the inspiration for my January piano group lesson themed activities for this month.