Circle of Fifths Poster a Hit!

I was curious to see if any of my students would notice the new Circle of Fifths poster adorning our studio wall this week (surprisingly, it arrived just two days after I ordered it!).

Sure enough, the observant ones among the bunch mentioned it as soon as they walked into the studio! A couple of others didn’t notice it above the adjacent Clavinova until part of the way through their lesson. And then I couldn’t resist pointing it out to the others. 🙂 Happily, they all offered instant approval and I’m excited to use it as a handy reference throughout the year as we work on scales, key signatures, and even proper notation of various musical symbols.

I’m having all of my students complete these Scale to Key Signature worksheets each week for the keys corresponding to their scales to reinforce their understanding of scales on the piano keys, on the staff, and related to the appropriate key signatures. It’s been very revealing so far, and I’m hopeful that the weekly repetition of completing these worksheets will go a long way toward improving their grasp of music theory!

A New Piano Teacher Resource for Rote Teaching

I recently came across composer Dennis Alexander’s website and was perusing his page of new compositions. (I love that he has free pdf samples from all of his piano books so that you can get a glimpse of the material before purchasing!) I was looking for a collection of Nocturnes recently reviewed in the American Music Teacher magazine, but noticed at the top of the page a brand new book by Dennis Alexander and Amy Greer called Repertoire by Rote. This is a fabulous-looking collection of simple songs that can be taught by rote to students. Even better, for those teachers who are just beginning to explore the world of teaching by rote or who want to improve their approach to this teaching method, the authors have included step-by-step instructions on how to present each piece so that the student receives the maximum learning benefit from this rote teaching approach.

In her introductory remarks on “Why Teach by Rote” Amy makes the point,

While rote teaching did not substitute for the all-important task of learning to read music traditionally, it was not long before I made this a standard part of my lessons, teaching beginning students colorful pieces that sounded more complicated than they were.

I wholeheartedly concur!


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Changes Coming November 1st!

Thirteen years and one month ago, I launched Music Matters Blog after having meticulously planned out the first 30 days of posts in my idea notebook. I was a little nervous about Day 31. Would I run out of things to say? 1,650 subsequent posts would suggest that I had nothing to worry about. 🙂 For those of you who haven’t been around since the beginning, here’s the only screenshot I seem to have salvaged from the first blog design:


It’s rather atrocious to look at now, but I was sure proud of it back then! I had gotten my feet wet doing some web design for my studio website (which has also undergone a major overhaul since its first design!), and was excited to employ some of those skills to launch into the relatively new world of blogging. Since it appeared that I would be sticking around the blogosphere indefinitely, in January of 2012, I was thrilled to welcome the New Year with a completely updated look and organizational structure to the blog thanks to the professional design work of my good friend, Tiffany. She incorporated my then-established studio colors and created an inviting and playful virtual ambiance with the music symbols dancing across the screen:

Well, six years must be the number for revamping because after tossing around the idea for about a year, I finally decided to call on Tiffany again and see if she could help me with the new blog look and structure that I was envisioning. She has been working hard behind the scenes for weeks now, and we are aiming for a November 1 launch date of the new Music Matters Blog! Hopefully everything will continue to progress smoothly, but I wanted to give you all a heads up just in case there are any technical glitches here in the final few weeks. Stay tuned for new announcements and special deals to celebrate the exciting changes!

And the Winners Are…

#16 – Marcia

#14 – Jennifer

#6 – Angela

#4 – Diana

#11 – Sandy

#1 – Anna

Congrats! Each of you will receive one of William Minter’s Journeys series piano books. You should have received an email from me so that we can collect your mailing information and William can get your free piano book shipping to you. Hope you and your students enjoy playing the music!

New Circle of Fifths Poster!

At one of my piano lessons earlier this week, I made a reference to the Circle of Fifths with one of my students. As I debated whether to quickly sketch out what I was talking about on a dry erase board or pull a printed worksheet from one of my theory worksheet binders, I had the thought that it would be wonderful to have a Circle of Fifths poster on the wall in the studio. I envisioned a poster that would serve as both an educational tool and a piece of art. So I jotted myself a quick note to search for such a poster or print. After spending the last several days searching in vain, I decided to try creating one.

I wanted something visually appealing, but not cluttered or distracting. The Circle of Fifths had to remain the focal point. Plenty of white space was important for a clean and elegant look. And as for the content, one of my pet peeves is displaying the key signature in only one clef, so I included a grand staff depicting the key signature for each key in both the treble and bass clefs! After many hours of fine-tuning (and working with my incredible husband to figure out the mathematical formula for measuring and drawing equal segments of the circle for each key!), I am thrilled that the Circle of Fifths poster design is complete and my print from VivyxPrinting is on the way. I’ll be sure to post a picture of it in the studio once I have it up on the wall. And just in case anyone else has run into the same dilemma of not being able to find an artistic, wall-worthy rendering of the Circle of Fifths, I’ve made the design available in the Music Matters Blog store at a special introductory rate until the end of next week.

“Saturate the environment with what you want your students to absorb and remember.” ~Andrew Pudewa

Journeys Series by William Minter – A Review and Giveaway

One of my favorite things about teaching piano is playing through new repertoire to find just the right selections that will ignite each student’s interest and imagination. It’s especially fun to discover a new or lesser-known composer whose music is fresh and engaging! That’s why I jumped at the chance to review William Minter’s inaugural Journeys series as a published composer. Several hours of playing through the collection of six books was truly delightful! From the covers to the vast array of inspired styles within, William’s books are artistic and a great addition to any studio.

Each book contains an introduction and a brief synopsis of the pieces with notes from the composer about the inspiration behind them and/or performance notes. Book 5 was my favorite with tributes to various composers, reflecting their styles in a fun and clever way! My students have started learning a few of the pieces in the last couple of weeks, so I’m looking forward to hearing their impressions of them as well.

If you want to get a taste of William’s compositions for yourself, there is a whole section of free piano sheet music that you can download, print, and use for yourself or your students. Perhaps most helpfully, the composer has recorded himself playing every piano piece and made the audio files available on the website so that you can listen to all of his compositions! What a tremendous resource for us and our students in becoming acquainted with this new music and understanding how the composer himself intends the pieces to sound.

Now, the part you’ve all been waiting for. 🙂 William has generously offered to giveaway one of EACH piano book in his Journeys series. That’s right, there will be six winners! All you have to do is leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing to win. Six winners will be selected using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Friday, October 5, 2018. In the meantime, enjoy checking out those downloadable freebies on his website and listening to recordings of your favorites!

Giveaway of Little Gems for Piano Primer Level

Last week I posted about Little Gems for Piano: Recital and Rote Pieces for the Primary Stage. Author Paula Dreyer has kindly offered to giveaway one copy of this fabulous book to a special Music Matters Blog reader!

All you have to do is leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing to win. One winner will be selected using a random number generator on Friday, September 21, at noon CST. I know this will be a fun addition to any studio!

September Surprise – Always a Favorite!

This past week marked our annual September Surprise! – the kickoff to our studio year, named so because the students all surprise me by playing any piece of their choice. It’s always fun to hear what they’ve continued playing through the summer or what new pieces they’ve learned on their own. Here are a few highlights from the evening:


We all gathered in our library outside the studio to kickoff the night!


First up, and then throughout the evening, was a Name That Character from the Carnival of the Animals game/listening activity.


Even the younger siblings enjoyed participating in this game!


Next up were the student surprise performances…


…including the appearance of the caped Phantom for a duet rendition of the theme from The Phantom of the Opera!


The moment that all the students have been anticipating since last spring…the announcement of the new practice incentive theme!


And last (but certainly not least!) a time of refreshments and visiting.

I’m so grateful for a wonderful group of students and looking forward to a productive year ahead!

How Playing a Musical Instrument Benefits Your Brain

I enjoyed this engaging TEDEd animated video about How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain. Info that we music teachers have heard before, but it’s always a great reminder – and always worth sharing with our studio families and prospective students!