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

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

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

This month in my piano studio, I'm giving 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, this year I decided to 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

Festival Samples for 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:

1. Write 2 or more words to describe the mood of this piece.
2. What is the tempo (speed) of this piece (Adagio, Andante, Allegro, Presto, etc.)?
3. What articulation do you hear in this piece (staccato, legato, accents, pedaling etc.)?
4. Choose your personal rating for this piece from the following: 
1- I have no interest in learning to play this.
2 - This piece is okay
3 - Nice, but not my favorite
4 - I would like to play this piece.
5. I would love to learn to play this.


 Festival Music Samples Piano Lab Listening Free Printable

Slower/Expressive Level 1
The Leaf and the Bird  by June C. Montgomery - (Sheet Music)
Eternally Music by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
Waltzing Butterflies by Timothy Brown- (Composers in Focus: The Butterfly Garden)
Papillons by Timothy Brown- (Composers in Focus: The Butterfly Garden)
King of the Jungle by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)
Medieval Castle by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)

Faster/Exciting Level 1
Pterodactyls, Really Neat by Nancy Faber  - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
Zoom Zoom, Witch's Broom by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
A Rainbow is a Smile by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
Pony Express by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
A Particularly Pleasing Piano Piece by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
Squinchy-Pinchy Shoes by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
Irish Celebration by Wendy Stevens - (Sheet Music)
Dancing Drums by Joyce L Grill - (Sheet Music)
Magic Pony - (Sheet Music)
Taco Fiesta by Martha Mier - (Sheet Music)
Cookies by Carolyn Miller - (Sheet Music)

Slower/Expressive Level 2
Nothin' to Do Blues by Martha Mier (Sheet Music)
One Scary Night by Kim Williams - (Sheet Music)
Rainbow Song by Timothy Brown (Sheet Music)
Swingin' and Swayin' by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)
Bumblebee Blues by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)
Bullfrog Blues by by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Monster's Midnight March by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Colorful Sonatina: Dreamy Sky Blue by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Dance of Two Seahorses by Carl Czerny - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Mouses or Meese by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)

Faster/Exciting Level 2
Hello to the Drum by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
Roller Skate Ride by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
Chugging Choo-Choo by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance Primer)
The Run-Around Rag by Jason Sifford -(In Recital with Jazz, Blues and Rags Book 1)
Swingin' Cats by Christopher Goldston - (In Recital with Jazz, Blues and Rags Book 1)
Most of All I Like Rainbows by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Colorful Sonatina: Sunshine Yellow by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Colorful Sonatina: Happy Red by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Three Pirates by Nancy Faber - (Faber Gold Star Performance 1)
Please Stay, Chihuahua (DogGoneIt! by Tom Gerou)
March of the Monarchs by Timothy Brown- (Composers in Focus: The Butterfly Garden)
Dalmations! (DogGoneIt! by Tom Gerou)
Late to the Races (DogGoneIt! by Tom Gerou)
DogGoneIt! by Tom Gerou (DogGoneIt! by Tom Gerou)
The Butterfly Garden by Timothy Brown - (Composers in Focus: The Butterfly Garden)
Pretend by Timothy Brown- (Composers in Focus: The Butterfly Garden)
Flutter By by Timothy Brown- (Composers in Focus: The Butterfly Garden)
Mariposa by Timothy Brown- (Composers in Focus: The Butterfly Garden)
Charlie's Adventure by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)
The Hiccup Song by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)
Katie Cricket by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)
Bumblebee Blues by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk1)
Prima Sonatina by Kevin Olson

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Piano Festival Music Samples Late Elementary Level 3 Yellow

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

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

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:
1. Write 2 or more words to describe the mood of this piece.
2. What is the tempo (speed) of this piece (Adagio, Andante, Allegro, Presto, etc.)?
3. What articulation do you hear in this piece (staccato, legato, accents, pedaling etc.)?
4. Choose your personal rating for this piece from the following: 
1- I have no interest in learning to play this.
2 - This piece is okay
3 - Nice, but not my favorite
4 - I would like to play this piece.
5. I would love to learn to play this.


Ogg (The Caveman) by Edwin McLean
Hurricane Hannah by W.T Skye Garcia (A Pirate's Life) pedal
Romance by Heinrich Wohlfahrt
Northwest Passage - legato (Melody Bober Solos in Style)
Astronaut March by Nancy Faber (ChordTime:Ragtime and Marches2B)
Lakeside Dream (Melody Bober Solos in Style)
Make a Wish (Melody Bober Solos in Style)
Waltz in the Wind (Melody Bober Solos in Style)

Taco Rock by Martha Mier (Best of Martha Mier Bk 2)
Frog on a Log by Martha Mier (Favorite Solos Bk 1)
Stomping Dance by Christopher Goldston (Fantastic Fingers Bk3)
The Acrobat by Carolyn Miller (Sheet Music)
A Pirate Jig by W.T. Skye Garcia (A Pirate's Life)
Pirate Gold by W.T. Skye Garcia (A Pirate's Life)
Traffic Jam Blues by Elizabeth Greenleaf  (FJH Federation Favorites Book 2)
Mischievous Monkeys by Elizabeth Greenleaf (FJH Federation Favorites Book 2)
Thundering Drums by Anita Brandon (FJH Federation Favorites Book 2) pedal
Whoop-de-do! (Sheet Music)
Punch and Judy by Eric Baumgartner (Sheet Music)
Prima Sonatina by Kevin Olson
Spooks in Step (Melody Bober Solos in Style)
Street Cat Strut (Melody Bober Solos in Style)
Siesta Song (Melody Bober Solos in Style)


Awesome by Lee Evans (Color Me Jazz Bk1)
Un Poco Espanol by Lee Evans (Color Me Jazz Bk1)
Jazzy by Kevin Costley (FJH Federation Favorites Book 2)
Dalmation Rag by Nancy Faber (ChordTime:Ragtime and Marches2B)
Raincoat Rag by Nancy Faber (ChordTime:Ragtime and Marches2B)
Jam Session by Lee Evans (Color Me Jazz Bk1)


Bright Red by Jane Smisor Bastien 3 Movements (Sonatinas in Color)
Ancient Dance by Michael Praetorious - (Faber Prep Piano Lit)
The Hero's March by Moritz Vogel - (Faber Prep Piano Lit)
Melody by Ferdinand Beyer - (Faber Prep Piano Lit)
Circle Dance by Ferdinand Beyer - (Faber Prep Piano Lit)
Melodic Tune by Louis Kohler (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Andantino by Louis Kohler (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Waltz of the Young by Louis Kohler (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Dance by Cornelius Gurlitt  (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Brave Knight by Moritz Vogel (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Light and Dark by Dmitri Kabalevsky (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
A Little Porcupine by  Dmitri Kabalevsky (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Anyone Home by Cornelius Gurlitt  (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
A Little Dance by Dmitri Kabalevsky (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Russian Dance by Alexander Goedicke (Jane Magrath Masterwork Classics 1&2)
Little Waltz by Cornelius Gurlitt (Nancy Bachus Prep Classics)
Country Dance by Heinrich Wolhfahrt (Nancy Bachus Prep Classics)
Romance by Heinrich Wohlfahrt (Nancy Bachus Prep Classics)

Not in Library Yet:
Twister by Wendy Stevens
Mystery at Blackwater Creek by Martha Mier
Unicorn Ride by K. Polhamus
Medieval Pageant by Mary Hauber

Related Posts:

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.

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 for the Corona Virus Concerned

Free Online Piano Teaching Activities Organized by Concept and Level for the Piano Teaching Lab or Piano Lesson Assignment
While I've been using online piano activities during lab time with my students for years I've been visiting my list of piano online activities organized by concept and level a lot more this week as I adapt my piano lessons temporarily to a more remote learning model due to the corona virus. The online piano activity list includes a variety of links to online games, listening activities, theory/technique videos, but I just wanted to highlight some of my favorite options for piano students to expand their learning at home if they choose not to have face to face lessons during the corona virus craze.

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

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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.

Written Music Theory Test Prep Activities

You can practice your skills by clicking on the Compose Create Web Rewards Link for your level and complete online games/printable worksheets to sharpen your skills.

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
The number of beats for quarter notes and rests, half and whole notes
The number of beats for Quarter, Half, Dotted Half and Whole Notes & Rests 
Write in the counting for rhythm examples in 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4 w/ level 3 rhythms 
Write in the counting for rhythm examples in 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4 w/ level 4 rhythms 
Write in the counting for rhythm examples in 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4 w/ level 5 rhythms 
Treble and bass clefs, forte and piano symbols
Write in the counting for rhythm examples in 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4
Identify ties and slurs
Define, pp, p, mp, mf, f ,f, accent, 8va & D.C. al Fine
Write the order of sharps and flats
The direction of notes on the staff: up, down or repeating
Recognize and/or define forte, piano, legato and staccato symbols
Recognize and/or define piano, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, forte
Write the meaning of numbers in a time signature
Write the major key signatures
Steps and skips up and down on the staff and keyboard+
Identify white or black keys on a pictured keyboard
Explain the meaning of numbers in the time signature
Identify distance only of white keys 2nds-octaves on keyboard and staff
Identify distance and quality of white key intervals 2nds-octaves on the staff
Whole and half steps on the keyboard
Draw a sharp, flat and natural sign
Draw stems for notes on the staff in the proper direction
Write the pattern of whole and half steps for major and harmonic minor scales
Identify white key major or minor triads on a keyboard
Letter names of white keys on a keyboard  
Identify 2nds, 3rd, 4ths, 5ths on a pictured keyboard and staff, white keys only 
Draw sharp, flat and natural symbols on the staff in proper placement
Draw sharp, flat and natural symbols on the staff in proper placement
Identify white key major or minor triads on a staff
Letter names of notes on the staff from Bass F to Treble G
Letter names of notes on the staff from Bass C to Treble C
Letter names of notes on the staff from Bass G to Treble F (all lines and spaces)
Letter names of notes on the staff from 2 ledger lines above and below the staff
Add accidentals to form major, natural minor or harmonic minor white key scales

Identify 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths and 6ths by distance only on a keyboard and staff
Complete white key major triads by marking the middle note with an x

Identify whole and half steps on the staff

Music Terms and Signs

Can you identify and/or define these music terms and signs?
Review the terms and signs on by clicking the link to your level below.  Then select the way you want to review them.
  • Flashcard- Flip the virtual note cards to learn/check your answers.
  • Learn- Answer multiple choice/fill in the blank prompts to help your master your terms.
  • Write- Type the precise definition of the term.
  • Spell- Type the word you hear. It's definition appears below.
  • Test- Written, matching, multiple choice and fill in the blank questions
  • Match(Memory)- Drag and drop the term on top of its definition.
  • Gravity - Type the precise definition of the term before it hits the asteroid hits ground.
Level 1    Level 2   Level 3   Level 4   Level 5
Terms and Signs by Level (Free Printable)
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
Quarter Rest
Whole Rest
Eighth Note
Eight Rest
Sixteenth Note
Half Rest
Whole Step
Major scale pattern
Sixteenth Rest
Quarter Note
Half Step
Half Note
2/4 Time Signature
Dotted Half Note
Intervals of 6,7,8
Diminished Triad
Whole Note
⅜ Time Signature
Augmented Triad
Cut Time
Primary Triad
D.S. al Fine
Common Time
Secondary Triad
Leger lines
D.S. al Coda
Grace Note
Pedal sign
Con moto
Root Position
Bass Clef
1st inversion
Treble Clef
2nd inversion
Grand Staff
Parallel Key
Chromatic Scale
Bar Lines
15 ma
¾ Time Signature
Major Triad
4/4 Time Signature
Minor Triad
6/8 Time Signature
Repeat Sign
1st/2nd Ending


Intervals 2,3,4,5
Key Signature
Poco a Poco

5 Finger Pattern