Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Free Printable Music Theory Poster and Games: Teaching Chord Qualities

Chord Qualities Major minor augmented diminished

Seeing Chord Shapes 

A picture is worth a thousand words... at least if you are a visual learner like me!  This poster for teaching chord qualities in my music studio makes the differences between chords stand out a bit more.  
We've been playing several games this past month to review the half step patterns in chords.  At first glance when students see 3 skipping notes on the piano, it may look like the notes are the same distance apart, but counting the half steps between the keys helps them determine the chord quality. 
  • Major (4+3), 
  • Minor (3+4), 
  • Diminished (3+3) 
  • Augmented (4+4).

Hearing Chord Qualities

Chords have a distinct sound or mood. 
  • Major sounds Happy
  • Minor sounds Sad or Spooky
  • Diminished sounds Creepy because of the "devil's interval" or tritone
  • Augmented sounds Tense or Suspenseful

Ear Training Activity: Snowman Interval

Listen to the root chord played by your teacher (or on teoria) and strike a pose for the chord you heard.
  • Major=Stand Up Happily
  • Minor-Crouch Down with a Sad Face
  • Diminished - Melt to the Ground
  • Augmented - Stand on Your Tippy Toes with a Crazy Face

More Online Chord ID Practice

For more practice hearing and identifying chords choose from the following activities on

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Free Resources for Teaching 7th Chord Inversions

V7 chords can be a bit tricky for students because they are often introduced in many different ways.  Most method books start with an easier first inversion of  V7 chords that omits a few chord tones for easier playing. 

This 7th chord poster makes it easier to spot the roots and intervals to identify 7th chords and their inversions.

Quick Tips for Identifying V7 Chords

Look for the interval of the 2nd.  My teacher always called these the "bumps" because one note is bumped to the side. The top "bump"  is the letter name or root of the chord.

To identify the inversion, imagine the notes are running a race to the top of the staff. 
  • In first inversion the "root bump" is in 1st place. 
  • For 2nd inversion the "bump" falls to 2nd place.
  • For 3rd inversion the "bump" is in 3rd place.

V7 chords are often followed by a I chord in music. The interval of a 2nd in the V7 chord provides the tension and I chord feels like you are returning home to peace.

V7-Root Position 7th Chord

7th chords can also be identified by the intervals of the "bump notes."

7th chords in root position are easy to spot because they look like a tall snowman with four snowballs instead of the three you see stacked up in a triad.  The root is on the bottom and with the highest note a 7th above it.

V6/5-1st Inversion 7th Chord

 The root jumps up to the top of the chord in first inversion.

The resulting intervals are a 3rd, 5th and 6th.  

The abbreviated chord symbol is V6/5

V4/3-2nd Inversion 7th Chord

Intervals above the lowest note include a 3rd, 4th and 6th. 
The abbreviated chord symbol is V4/3

V2-3rd Inversion 7th Chord

Intervals above the lowest note include a 2nd, 4th and 6th
The abbreviated chord symbol is V2

Additional Resources for Learning About 7th chords

Music Inversion Images

7th Chord Inversion Video Tutorial Inversion ID game

Monday, November 1, 2021

Easy Free Printable Christmas Sheet Music from Piano Maestro

This month I'm challenging my piano students to learn a song to accompany their peers with at our December group lesson.  Accompanying takes piano playing to the next level because students must play with continuity (no starting and stopping).

Piano Maestro Christmas Songs for Accompanying

The Piano Maestro app is an excellent tool to promote accompanist skills.

  • It gives automatic feedback for note accuracy as incorrectly played notes turn red.
  • It gives feedback about rhythmic accuracy.
  • The scrolling music forces you to continually look ahead in the music.
  • Some music focuses on the harmony instead of melody so you can't just lean on your ear to pick out the music. This also promotes audiation for students.
  • The practice mode allows students to practice in smaller phrases and isolate left or right hand parts for more focused practice sessions.
  • The instrumental backing tracks make music more enjoyable to play.
While the scrolling music feature is great for continuity, faster pieces may be easier to learn at first with printable music.  Click this link to access free printable Christmas sheet music that you can also play on the Piano Maestro App. The tips below help you play with more expression instead of robotic feel.

Piano Practice Tips

  • Greensleeves (What Child is This) Elementary Harmony Only 
    • Can you sing the melody as you play the harmony?
  • Greensleeves (What Child is This) Intermediate Hands Together
    • Color the melody notes red and harmony notes yellow.  Notice the melody switches between the left and right hand frequently.
    • Play the melody as you ghost play (only touch the key surface) of the harmony notes. Watch this sample video of "ghost playing."

    • Play hands together with balanced singing melody louder than the soft harmony.
  • Jingle Bells
    • Play as written or choose I, IV or V chords for each measure in the left hand to change the harmony to blocked, marching or broken chords.
  • We Three Kings
    • Add slurs to mark each musical sentence.
    • Float off at the end of each phrase (measures 8,12, 19, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40, 44 and 51).
    • Shape the melody with small crescendos as the melody rises and decrescendos as it falls.
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
    • Measures 15 and 16 have a different rhythm than the traditional song.  Can you fix it to match the words "[We] wish you a Merry Christmas and a.."?
  • Joy to the World
    • Use scale fingering to create a legato melody line. 
    • Write finger 3 below the first "E" in measures 4,11, 13 and 19. 
More links to free Christmas Piano Music can be found on my Christmas Piano Resource Roundup Post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Steps for Playing from a Lead Sheet- Christmas Piano Music

Playing music from a lead sheet opens up a new world of possibilities so that you can make familiar tunes have their own special flare.

Free Christmas Lead Sheets

These free Christmas lead sheets from Michael Kravchuk allow pianists to practice chords or prep to accompany a Christmas sing a long. Starting with the key of C is definitely easier for a beginner pianist, but playing in other keys can sometimes make it easier to sing along. Here are a few familiar favorites I like to star with but there are over 30 to choose from on with options to select from multiple keys for each song.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Piano Festival Music Samples Intermediate


Piano Festival Pieces, Piano Festival Music Intermediate
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:

Friday, September 24, 2021

Free Piano Resources for Halloween Composing and Improvisation

 Every year I love to revisit student favorite Halloween Piano Resources.  I was delighted today to discover and add several new spooky composing and improvisation resources to the list that I am eager to try out with my students.

Halloween Piano Composing Printables

Teach Piano Today just posted this Mummy Music Free Printable that is a  perfect quick win for beginning students.  It centers around middle C hands separate.  I love how students can gain confidence composing by just having to create a short motif to "fill in the blanks." Its the perfect activity for hesitant composers because of the guided process.

Halloween Piano Improvisation Tutorial Videos

I love these leveled tutorial videos for creating spooky music  at for more experienced elementary, intermediate or advanced students. They are perfect for piano lab or at home exploration because Rebecca gives specific step by step tips and instructions for success with musical samples throughout.

Level 1 introduces interval qualities including minor and tritones to be used in a hands separate "conversation" style spooky improv.

Level 2 includes more hands together playing including minor alberti bass style chords.

Level 3 describes the process of adding more expressive details including dynamics, tempo changes, pitch, etc.

Although Forrest Kinney's Create First Improvisation was not created specifically for Halloween, these improvisation video can be used to create music with a spooky Halloween flavor.

Related Posts: 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Online Note Naming and Interval Piano Practice Games

Two important skills for reading new music quickly include identifying notes and intervals with speed and accuracy. This month's group lesson focus and piano studio challenge is for student's to level up their note naming and/or interval id skills by earning a new 60 second challenge badge.

In addition to practicing with or racing to say and play the note naming sheets in their folders, students can try some of these online games to sharpen their skills.

Games to Practice Note ID and Intervals

Music Piano Key Names

Classics for Kids Note Names  Interval ID (Choose, Major and Perfect, Ascending, No Accidentals)  Grand Staff Note ID   Note ID w/ Ledger Lines  Note ID  Note ID on Keyboard  Interval ID Note ID (Piano Keys, Seeds, Lasers, Note Bird, Note Snap and Stars) Interval ID (Jungle Journey, Mini Monster, Interval Memory, Lollipops, Baseball)

Challenge Badge Levels

  • Letter names of white keys on the piano (ABCDEFG)
Level 1

  • Letter names of notes on the staff from Bass F to Treble G (Bronze)

Level 2 

  • Letter names of notes on the staff from Bass C to Treble C (Silver)

Level 3

  • Letter names of notes on the staff from Bass G to Treble F (Gold)

Level 4 

  • Letter names of notes on the staff from 2 ledger lines above and below the staff (Master)
  • Identify distance only of white keys 2nds-octaves on keyboard and staff

Level 5

  • Letter names of notes on the staff from 4 ledger lines above and below the staff (Doctorate)
  • Identify distance and quality of white key intervals 2nds-octaves on the staff

Helpful Videos:

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Steps for Choosing Piano Fingering to Create Legato Lines

 Steps for Selecting Appropriate Piano Fingering

Choosing correct fingering can help you play legato phrases without awkward finger twists, leaps or tension. These steps are helpful in playing Simplified Hymns but can apply to other piano music as well.

1. Identify and mark the melodic phrases in the song. 

  • Use the words and punctuation as your clues.
  • Most phrases for hymns are 2-4 measures in length.

2. "Block" the Left Hand notes one phrase at a time.

3. Identify phrases including notes larger than a 5 finger span.

4. Write in the fingering at the beginning of each phrase.

5.  Decide which fingering technique works the best.

  •  Expansion- open hand wider than 5 finger position
  •  Contraction- close hand smaller than 5 finger position
  •  Finger Crossing - tuck thumb under or cross fingers over as in scale playing
  •  Finger Substitution- replace one finger with another while playing repeated notes

Listen carefully as you play with your selected fingering to make sure it doesn't have create awkward accented notes. Write in the fingering you have chosen and follow it consistently as you practice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Elementary Music Theory Terms and Signs Videos

Following are a few of my favorite videos for introducing piano students to new concepts using a flipped learning approach during piano lab.

 Elementary Music Theory Terms and Signs Videos

PR Tempo - animated video defining tempo 

PR Forte Piano- animated video illustrating piano and forte dynamics

Mr. H Legato  - tutorial with example of legato and staccato piano excerpts

PR Crescendo Decrescendo - animated video illustrating crescendo and decrescendo

PR Presto Largo- animated video illustrating tempo terms Presto and Largo

CK Tempo Marks - brief definitions and memory aids for Allegro, Allegretto, Moderato, Andante

CK Dynamics- brief definitions of pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff

Pianote What are Dynamics - musical examples of how adding dynamics adds musicality

What are the 3 P's? 

Monday, April 5, 2021

How Quizlet Can Help You Master Piano Theory Terms and Signs

Using Quizlet in the Music Studio 

Learn Piano Terms and Signs with Quizlet,, #Music Theory, #Teach Piano Theory

Music Flashcards have a been a familiar tool in piano lessons for me since I was a child.  I loved the satisfaction of beating my personal record time identifying note names chords and music terms. Quizlet allows you to create free flashcard sets to learn almost any topic from Spanish vocabulary to human anatomy.  You can also tap into the existing sets others have created. There are several different ways to study that make this online flashcard tool even more effective than traditional paper flashcard sets.  I love how the various options allow you to study in the way that works best for you including starring a small number of cards to review, playing in flashcard, game or quiz mode with varying formats (multiple choice, match, type answer, etc.).

Friday, April 2, 2021

A Fun Way to Get Piano Students "Hooked" on Chords

Playing piano chord progressions may be considered a necessary evil for some music students, but with the aid of the mundane becomes marvelous!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Ferris Wheel Piano Improvisation Tutorial


When piano students improvise using familiar method book songs, it reinforces concepts in a fun way while allowing them the freedom of expression at the piano within comfortable parameters. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Worldwide Youth Music Festival

The snow coats my driveway on the first day of spring when I am so ready for sunshine instead of gray skies and more snow shoveling.  My mood lifts when I turn on one of my favorite songs  "Good Day" by Nik Day. 

I was happy to discover more inspiring music at last week's 2021 Worldwide Youth Music Festival.  Free Printable Sheet Music is available for many of the inspirational Christian songs that appeal to teens. Some of my favorites include "A Great Work" by Nik Day,  If You Believe by Patch Crowe and "Come to the Well" by Elyse Alexander.

Friday, March 19, 2021

One Minute Club

 For our March Group Lessons the studio challenge is for students to level up their note naming skills "One Minute Club" style. Each time they earn an award, students get to add their name to the studio challenge board and select a prize. 
Fluent music reading involves more than just naming the letter names of notes on staff flashcards.  When students make a connection to the keys and also can quickly identify intervals they can more easily sight read new music. 

One Minute Club Awards

Bronze- Bass F to Treble G
Silver - Bass C to Treble C
Gold - Bass G to Treble F (All lines and space on grand staff)
Master -Low Ledger Line C to High Ledger Line C
Doctorate- Master + Speedy Interval ID (30 in one minute)

In my studio I use the Flashnote Derby and NoteRush Apps,  Susan Paradis Notes in the Fast Lane pages  to assess note recognition. Here are a few tools to help students practice at home as well
Susan Paradis's Free Mini Staff Flashcards - How many can you name and play in 1 minute Clef Reading Exercise (Bass and Treble, Spaces and Lines, Visual Keyboard, No Tempo)
For a challenge add leger lines or accidentals!

Interval Games Over the Edge Interval Game- This game is great for groups or a buddy lesson starter or for a fast paced Slapinterval variation, but students can also use the cards solo for a minute to win it challenge practice.

Slapinterval Music Game

This week  I repurposed Jen Fink's  Pianimation Over The Edge interval flashcards in my music studio to play this quick group game that helps music students to increase their speed at identifying intervals in a  fun way.

This game is played similar to slapjack.  Select a target interval to slap for each round (6th, 4th, etc.).  The goal is to win the most cards by being the first to slap each target interval as it is played in the center. 
Deal cards to the players.  Players take turns placing their card face up in the center. If they are first to slap their hand down on the target interval, they get to take the pile of cards.  If they slap an incorrect interval they give one of their cards to the player of that card.  Once all the cards have been turned, the winner is the player with the most cards.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Can Can Cup Tap

Here's a fun music and movement activity to go along with the Can Can Theme by Jacques Offenbach in Piano Pronto Movement 1.  I like to add in this B Section in between the first and second pages of the music. I intentionally chose movements that reinforce the direction of the melody line or feeling the beat of the music.

Lyrics and Movement for the Can Can

A Section (in Piano Pronto)
Can, Can you do the cup tap? Can you do the cup tap?
Tap cup on table to the beat of the music or tap-slide with a partner Rhythm Cups Style

Now it's time to slide Do-Ti-La-So-Fa-Mi-Re...
Make a slide with your left arm and slide the cup down like a descending scale on piano keys..

Can, Can you do the cup tap? Can you do the cup tap?

Sounds like it's the end. Is it the end? No!
Down up cup taps  with a loud downward tap on No

B Section Free Printable
I'm not done yet!

Can you do a loop di loop?
Tap and loop cup to the left

I'm not done yet!

Climb up for another loop.
Tap and loop cup to the right

Challenge: Listen for the A and B Themes as you watch a can-can video and do the actions.

Animated Seal Can Can Video or  Dancing Chicken Can Can Video

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Piano Festival Preparation Free Resources

Students are more likely to practice music that they love, so piano festival preparation in my studio begins with listening activities during piano lab where student's can hone in on a piece they are excited to learn.

Piano Festival Piece Selection

These leveled playlists of the music in my piano library to allow students to select a piece that they are excited about playing.  Although there are a variety of leveling systems, I leveled the pieces based on the concepts covered in the Piano Adventures and Hal Leonard Method Books. 

I preselect a few contrasting pieces I think a particular student might enjoy to listen to during piano lab while filling out the Listening sheet, but they are also free to browse the songs at home to choose music they would love to learn to play in the future.

Piano Practice Strategy Cards

There are many different piano practice strategies that help students have effective and focused practice sessions at home.  Beat the Dealer, The Lap and Back Track are some of my favorites to use with Performance Prep.  I've gleaned some amazing tips from master teacher's at UVMTA workshops including Paula Clark's Strategies for Fostering Musicality  and Stephen Thomas's BAPDARP approach.

Piano Festival Self-Evaluation Checklist

This Festival Checklist can help students to actively assess their readiness for festival after they have learned the basics of their piece. I ask them to identify areas they are prepared in and areas to improve as they watch a video of their practice performance.

Piano Festival Sample Judging Sheet

I like to do a "mock festival" at private or group lessons a few weeks prior and use this Performance Evaluation Form to provide feedback for students.  For some students it can also be a great exercise for them to record themselves and then evaluate their own performances using the evaluation form as a guide. 

Related Posts:

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Love Somebody Piano Teaching Activities

With Valentine's Day coming up this week I wanted to incorporate a few love themed activities into piano lessons.  The traditional melody of Love Somebody is perfect for teaching multiple music concepts because it uses only notes from the pentascale with a simple chord progression and plenty of repeating patterns.  Here are just a few ideas of activities plus a free printable to boost ear training, keyboard skills and transposition in piano lessons.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Piano Practice Incentive - Strive for Five in February!

Piano Practice Incentive

Progress in piano lessons starts and soars with consistent practice.  For this month I'm encouraging students to track their practice on the Strive for Five Post it Note. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Tips for Teaching Tempo Terms in Music Lessons

Creative Ways to Teach Music Tempo Terms

Last year I posted a few tricks for helping students remember musical tempo terms with Unforgettable Tempo Term Songs. Today I'm sharing these free printable tempo posters that I'll be using at our Tempo Themed group lesson for this month. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 10 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

Piano Teaching Lesson Plans: G Pentascales

This post includes specific instructions for pieces in the Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1 but many of the activities could also be used with other pieces for landmark notes and scale patterns.

Concept: G Pentascales

UNIT 10: Three G’s on the Grand Staff

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 9 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

 Piano Teaching Lesson Plans: V7 Chord

Teaching Piano V7 Chords, Piano Adventures Lesson Plans, Image of V7 chord on keyboard inverted

 Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1 introduces the V7 chord with a simplified 2 note version.  I have students analyze their music before playing and color I and  V7 "chord pieces" in different colors so they quickly become adept at spotting chord shapes and patterns in their music. (See Teaching Chords in Color).

Friday, January 15, 2021

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 8 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

 Piano Teaching Lesson Plans: The I Chord

I typically introduce chords and scales by rote earlier than they are introduced in method books using a hear-see-feel approach that appeals to all of the student's senses. As they associate them with color and spot patterns in their music consistently, they can sightread and learn new pieces more quickly. The lesson assignment instructions below are specifically for pieces in the Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1, but the supplementary activities could also be used with any method book when introducing  chords.  Scroll to the bottom to view lesson plan links for other concepts.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 7 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

Piano Teaching Lesson Plans: Tonic and Dominant

The lesson assignment instructions below are specifically for pieces in the Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1, but the supplementary activities could also be used with any method book when introducing Tonic and Dominant.  Scroll to the bottom to view lesson plan links for other concepts.

UNIT 7: Tonic and Dominant

Lesson: Red LB 46 Two Note March

  • Sing the words of the song and then sing and sign the solfa (So, So, So, So, So, Do, Do, etc. )

  • *Define Tonic and Dominant at your next lesson without looking at your book.

  • Game: VMT Sidestep Solfa

Focus Goal/New Concepts:Tonic and Dominant

on: Red LB47 Girl/Boy on a Bicycle

  • *Can you play the melody notes louder than the harmony?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 6 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

Piano Teaching Lesson Plans: Sharps and Flats

#Piano Teaching Lesson Plans, #Teaching Sharps and Flats

This post includes specific lesson assignment instructions for pieces in the Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1 but many of the activities could also be used with other pieces for introducing sharps and flats.  I like to introduce the Rote Piece "I Love Coffee"  (The Half Step Song) in Piano Safari very early on to my students so they become comfortable with the feeling of playing half steps all over the keyboard long before reading sharps and flats in written notation.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 4 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

Piano Teaching Lesson Plans: Introducing Intervals

Using online piano lesson assignments including virtual links allows my students easy access to learning videos and song samples all in one place.  By sharing a google doc with the parents and students, students can access the document from week to week as I add their newest assignment to the top of the page. This post includes specific instructions for pieces in the Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1 but many of the activities could also be used with other pieces for introducing intervals.  Scroll to the bottom to view lesson plan links for other concepts.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Piano Adventures Lesson Book Level 1 Unit 3 Assignments and Supplementary Activities

Piano Lesson Plans: Teaching Landmark C's on the Grand Staff

Streamlining my piano lesson assignment plans to online documents including virtual links allows my students easy access to learning videos and song samples all in one place. This post includes specific instructions for pieces in the Piano Adventures Lesson Book 1 but many of the activities could also be used with any method book to introduce the 3 C's on the Grand Staff.  I like to use the names Leila Viss suggests for the different Cs on the grand staff. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Miracles and Music of Comfort

 As I attended the funeral of a dear friend and neighbor earlier this week, the music brought me profound comfort.  It also gave me the opportunity to witness the miracle that occurred in another piano teacher's life. The tears were spilling over as I witnessed Ranae McKee walk up to accompany on the piano beautifully as her talents brought peace and comfort to the family.

Several years ago she lay on the brink of death in a coma after suffering from a stroke, heart attack and brain surgery. The following excerpt from her story was later related in this "Miracle Recovery" news article.

"They kept music playing in her room and sometimes placed a keyboard in her lap, guiding her fingers to perform scales, hoping some connection with her brain would take place.

One day, Bill caught a glimpse of her blinking an eye: The medical staff attributed his observation to wishful thinking. The next day, however, she started moving her little finger."

The words of "He will heal those who trust him," took on additional meaning as I witnessed the miracle of her full recovery as she played "Consider the Lilies of the Field" at the funeral service.

Although my friend Kim did not receive the same miraculous healing miracle of being restored to physical health, I know she is experiencing peace.  The last post she made on facebook was this music video which I had stumbled on earlier in the week. As I watched it, I was so inspired by the different depictions of Jesus Christ and the role he plays as he heals, comforts, judges, creates, and acts with compassion. I contemplated the many moments when music has provided healing and comfort and joy for me.

My greatest passion as a piano teacher is not to train up future concert pianists, but to help my students find the joy and peace that music can bring in everyday life to lift and heal and inspire.