Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Resources for Teaching Piano Arpeggios

This month my piano students will be completing an Arpeggio Challenge to boost their skills and understanding of this fundamental pattern that comes up in music over and over. 

While prepping for our piano arpeggio-themed group lesson I discovered some new arpeggio resources and revisited some of my favorites from the past.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Piano Accompaniment Patterns for Left Hand

 Playing with a lead sheet gives you the power of choice to stylize songs however you like.

And there are so many options! Listen to a few below. Then choose some of your favorites to use as you accompany the melodies of simple folk or Christmas songs you already know.

Block Chords: Stacked up Like a Snowman

Hey Ho Nobody Home 

Block Chords with Syncopated Rhythm: Bop di Bop

Broken Chords: Oom-Pah

Jingle Bells

Alberti Bass: Bottom Top Middle Top

Alberti Bass Two Minute Tip

Broken Intervals: Chord Pieces

Piano Guys All Good (sheet music in Lullaby book)

Forrest Gump Style: Interrupting Eighths

Piano Guys Ode to Joy (sheet music in Lullaby book)

Alberti + Broken Intervals + Forrest Gump

Row Your Boat Piano Guys (sheet music in Lullaby book)

Bluesy 5-6 Swing Beetles

Bluesy Swayin' 1-5-6

Going Further:

Watch the following videos if you'd like to learn more left-hand styles and see them in action.

Pianonote 3 Easy Left Hand Patterns (Broken Intervals, 1 8va Arpeggio Variations)
Tutorial with sample at the end (8:20).

100 Left-Hand Patterns Book by Gerald Simon shows so many different ways left-hand patterns can stylize your music. 
Watch the  Left-Hand Patterns Workshop by Gerald Simon to see a few in action.

Some of the products linked in my posts may be affiliate links, earning me a small commission on any products purchased via that link.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

12 Days of Halloween Piano Free Printable Rhythm Dictation Activity

Listen to the 12 Days of Halloween.

12 Days of Halloween with Lyrics

12 Days of Halloween Piano Version

Print the 12 Days of Halloween Free Printable.

Can you dictate rhythm patterns below each picture? Hint: 3 Black Cats= 3 Quarter Notes

1-Owl in a Rotten Oak Tree

2-Two Trick or Treaters

3-Three Black Cats

4- Four Skeletons

5- Five Scary Spooks

6- Six Goblins Gobbling

7- Seven Pumpkins Glowing

8- Eight Monsters Shrieking

9- Nine Ghosts a Booing

10- Ten Ghouls a Groaning

11- 'leven Caskets Creaking

12 Bats a Flying

Challenge: Can you change the "12 Days of Christmas" into the "12 Days of Halloween" by transposing it to the Relative Minor key? (Music on "Making Music Fun")

1- Add a flat to the 3rd and 6th notes of the scale.  Remember to check the key signature!

2-Change the melody rhythms to match the Halloween lyrics. For example "Halloween" has more syllables than "Christmas" so change the quarter note in the first measure to an eighth note.

3-For an easier version add primary chord symbols (i, iv or V) above each measure and play as a lead sheet instead of playing the left hand as written. 

Hint: Owl in a Rotten Oak Tree= i-iv-i-V-I

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Free Piano Improvisation Printable: Who Can Sail Without Wind?

If your piano lessons are focused on just reading music from the method books, improvisation can feel a bit scary. Some students are so stuck to the printed page they are scared to make mistakes.

This is similar to reading a speech from a script. But with a little guidance, exploring improvisation can be much more exciting than a speech read just like hearing a speech given from the heart can be more engaging than a recited speech from memory.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Review of "I Want to do What Jesus Taught" by Jerald Simon

"I Want to Do What Jesus Taught" by Jerald Simon

I was first introduced to Jerald Simon's music over ten years ago when I reviewed his "Cool Songs for Cools Kids" books.   This energetic series has a lot of appeal for the teens and boys in my studio because of the video game, new age and fast-paced songs with repeating patterns. 

He recently released a book of Christian primary songs, "I Want to do What Jesus Taught".  This is definitely a different genre and style compared to the "Cool Songs" series.  

I love that the central theme of the song lyrics focuses on basic Christian principles and values of prayer, kindness, and reliance on God and family. 

 It includes a good mix of slower calm songs and more upbeat energetic styles.  Some songs are very short with just one or two lines that children could learn to sing easily in just a few minutes.  Most songs are about 1 page in length with a single verse although a few include multiple pages and verses.

 The melodies are easy to sing and I like that he chose lyrics that are understandable to children without complicated vocabulary words that would need explanations. 

What pianist level is the book suitable for?

The difficulty level of the accompaniment of the majority of the songs is intermediate level.  As a piano teacher, I like the wide variety of left-hand patterns found in the music including alberti bass, 2 8va arpeggios with finger crossings, 7th chords,  and some simple intervals or chords.  

Some of the large leaps and finger crossings may be more difficult for students with small hands to play, but I love that chord symbols are included in the music so accompaniments could be adapted if needed.  The songs could also be played as lead sheets for additional chord variation practice. 

There are a few songs limited to 5 finger position that a late elementary piano student could play, and others that are more advanced with 7 sharps or 4 flats that typical piano students wouldn't encounter until at an advanced level in method books.

If you are interested in learning more about how to improvise or compose using a variety of left hand patterns, check out this free YouTube video of Jerald's workshop "100 Left Hand Patterns Every Piano Player Should Know."  

It definitely inspired me to want to experiment more with arranging!

Jerald Simon is the founder of Music Motivation® and focuses on helping piano students and piano teachers learn music theory, improvisation, and composition. He refers to these areas as: Theory Therapy, Innovative Improvisation, and Creative Composition. Simon is an author and composer and has written 28 music books featuring almost 300 original compositions, 14 albums, three motivational poetry books featuring over 400 original poems (https://www.poetrythatmotivates.com), and is the creator of the best-selling Cool Songs Series (https://musicmotivation.com/coolsongs), the best-selling Essential Piano Exercises Series (https://www.essentialpianoexercises.com) and Essential Piano Lessons for piano students (https://www.essentialpianolessons.com) and also Essential Piano Teachers for piano teachers (https://www.essentialpianoteachers.com). You can watch Jerald’s videos on his YouTube channel at this link: https://www.youtube.com/jeraldsimon. Listen to Jerald’s music on all streaming sites and his podcast, Music, Motivation, and More – The Positivity Podcast with Jerald Simon on all podcast platforms.


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Free Piano Teaching Game: Chord Match

Piano Chord Match Game with Triad Chord Qualities and Seventh Chords
I love to start piano lessons with short games to introduce or review theory concepts.  I find there are a lot of free piano games for beginners but not as many options that review intermediate level concepts. 

Since I could not find a game covering the concept of  identifying 7th chords and different chord qualities, I designed this memory game on canva.com and created free printable flashcards.  

This quick game helps intermediate piano students to learn about triads and 7th chords with visual reminders of the intervals used to build various chord qualities

Major Triad Picture Major 3rd + Minor 3rd, Image for teaching Major chord pattern

A few tips can help students quickly identify various chord qualities

Friday, February 11, 2022

Learn Piano Chord Progressions with Pop Songs: Try Every Key Challenge

Practicing chords doesn't have to be boring.  I love to pair chord practice with pop songs since the majority of pop songs are limited to just 3 or 4 chords. 

Although pop songs can have some pretty complicated rhythms for beginning piano students, they can enjoy accompanying YouTube videos with an understanding of chord symbols.  Or they can sing along as they play the accompaniment. Choosing songs that they are familiar with really ups their ambition to practice and helps with audiation.  

I've compiled a list of familiar primary songs from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints with just 2 or 3 chords for my younger students, but having some fun pop songs in the makes chord practice more appealing for my older students.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Motivate and Track Piano Student Progress with Free Printable Piano Challenge Sheets

With so many different elements to teach in music lessons, it can be challenging to fit it all in.  This year I've invited my piano students to complete a challenge each month that goes along with our monthly group lesson focus. 

Although these concepts are woven into lessons throughout the year, having a focus theme and deadline makes it more likely for them to boost their skills.  And it makes lesson planning simpler as the teacher! 

If they successfully complete at least 10 challenges a year from this Piano Challenge Chart they get a surprise reward at the last Spring Group Lesson.

Monthly Piano Challenge Focus Topics

Notenaming/Interval ID

  • Pass off a new level for the One Minute Club Challenge by naming and playing notes quickly.
    • Bronze: Bass F-Treble G
    • Silver: Bass C- Treble C
    • Gold: Bass G- Treble F
    • Master: Grand Staff + Ledger Lines
  • Susan Paradis Notes in the Fast Lane Sheets are gradually leveled and easier than flipping flashcards for this activity.

Seasonal Composing/Improvisation

Accompanist Skills 

  • Prepare to accompany a hymn or Christmas song at the group lesson sing a long.

The "Teaching Basic Accompanist Skills" post and Accompanist Tips Free Printable include helpful tips for beginners.


  • Can you play arpeggios in 12 keys?  

The Arpeggio Challenge Free Printable  includes fingering visuals for multiple levels.

Ear Training - Choose 1 challenge to complete

  • Earn 90% or Higher on Listening Test
  • Complete 30 levels on the bubble tones app
  • Finish 10 Aural Games on TonicTutor.com free play mode.

The Expert Ears Challenge Free Printable includes links to activities students can try at home or during piano lab to prepare for their listening tests.


  • Earn 90% or Higher on Theory Test

Use online practice links like Web Rewards, Teoria.com, Tonic Tutor.com, Heidispiano Quizlet to practice/prepare.

Terms and Signs

  • Earn 90% or Higher on Terms and Signs Test

This Free Printable Terms and Signs Study Sheets includes terms and signs definitions and symbols for various levels.

Scales/Chords and  Chord Progressions

I love to use the scale level charts from Colourful Keys that help students track their progress of playing chord progressions and scales in various keys throughout the year.
This Keyboard Skills Challenge Free Printable includes a variety of options to boost students chord and scale skills including some fun creative improv examples. 



Demonstrate the technique wizard skills on your level at piano lessons.

What other skills would you add to challenge your students?

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Easy Piano Improvisation inspiration from YouTube

When I discovered this energetic new music video from the Truman Brothers this morning I had the itch to play along on the piano.  While I don't have the music, I found it perfect as a "backing track" for a little A-flat improvisation.  It could even be used for scale practice although I find improvising much more exciting!

Steps for Pop Song Style Piano Improvisation

Identify the Key.  

This often can be done by matching the first or last pitch of the song on the piano.  "Higher"is in A-flat. To improvise, start simply by creating melodies using the notes from the Aflat pentascale (A flat, Bflat, C, Dflat, Eflat).  Later expand to include any note from the 1 octave scale.

Listen for repetitive elements in the song that you can incorporate in your own music.  

I love the frequent bass  IV-I Pattern from this song played in the intro.  The simplicity of primary chords (I, IV, and V) with an occasional vi chord is common for pop style songs. You could simply play a Db followed by Ab in the bass or play octaves for a richer sound. Add in a few V chords or octaves for variety. To create a pop or rock feel, play repetitive measure quarter notes in the left hand.

For example. Ab-Ab-Ab-Ab then Db Db Db Db or Eb Eb Eb Eb.

Match the mood.  

This pop style song has a steady drumming pulse that can be imitated by repetitive I, IV or V notes in the bass line with syncopated rhythms in the melody line. Choose a few of your favorite rhythm patterns in the song and imitate them as you improvise. 

In the key of A flat the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of scale are all you need in the bass line.

  • I-Aflat
  • IV=Dflat 
  • V= Eflat

Here's my brief unrehearsed piano improv in A flat Major... still in my pjs! Improvisation doesn't have to be perfect, but it can definitely be fun!

Monday, January 10, 2022

Valentine's Day Piano Teaching Resource Roundup


Love one Another Valentines Piano Teaching Resource Roundup heidispianonotes.blogspot.com

Valentine's Piano Teaching Games/Activities

Susan Paradis Steal-a-Heart- I downloaded this game years ago and keep coming back to it every Valentine's Season because its a student favorite at piano group lessons. They love the "steal-a-heart" cards!  It's a great game to review notes on the staff.  I add colored stars to the back of my cards so I can easily separate them into levels.  That way students of varying levels can play together and review the notes they need.  To speed things up a bit I have everyone pick a card at the same time, flip it, name it to a partner for fast paced fun.

Love Somebody Chords, Dictation and Ear Training  Anytime piano students can find the fun in playing chords through practical application is a win for me!  The lyric sheet with chord symbols and solfa versions facilitates easier transposition.  The ear training activities are ideal for either group or private piano teaching settings.

Love Somebody  Solfa Ear Training Tutorial  This piano teaching video tutorial includes solfa, dictation and would make a great take home or lab activity for students to try independently.

TPT No Rest for Cupid  This beginner level Free Printable Rest Value Game from Teach Piano Today is a simple lesson starter to review quarter and half rests. I love how their various version of coin uncover games provide a quick and effective no review that takes the pressure off because it's disguised in a game.

Pianimation Heart Beat Dictation  I actually use these heart beat boards all through the year for rhythm activities.  Since Valentine's season is full of hearts, this year I thought a focus on beat and tempo would pair perfectly for February group lessons.

Love One Another Simplified Primary Songs page 20 (Layton Music)- This simple melody involves mainly steps and is simplified for Thumbs Share Middle C position.

Love One Another Hymns Made Easy - This version of Love One Another in the Key of G in 6/8 Time requires some finger substitution, expansion and contraction, but the slow pace and relatively easy left hand

Perfect by Ed Sheeran Chords- For the teen or student choosing a pop song and having them play the chords using Ultimate Guitar Tabs can really solidify their keyboard skills.  So many pop songs have a love theme, but this is one of my favorites and the repetitive I-vi- IV-V chord progressions makes it easy to play.  For a challenge transpose it to the key of the original song (A-flat Major) and play along with youtube using variations of the chords.  It works great with 1 octave arpeggios!

Strive for Five Piano Practice Free Printable - This adaptable piano practice incentive includes a free printable poster and post-it note heart practice trackers and could really be used any time of year, because who doesn't love to see their students practice?