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 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,, Tonic, 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

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?