Music Exchange Program

This Music Exchange Program sounds like a great concept! You can send in sacred piano arrangment books to Brio Music Shop and they will credit 25% of the cover price to your store account. You can then use this credit to purchase from the many products they offer, particularly sacred music books. They’re also running a special right now where first time customers placing an order will receive an A Mighty Fortress Is Our God CD with 10 hymn arrangements by Marilynn Hamm for free!

I have a bunch of sacred piano arrangement books that came from my church. This might be the perfect way to trade them in for some newer books.

To the music files I go!

Instant Updates with Feedreader

Have you heard the term RSS? There are a number of different definitions for RSS, but in a nutshell, RSS allows you to receive instant updates from sites as new posts are added. This is a great way to stay up to date with new information without having to visit numerous sites repeatedly to see if posts have been added or not. It has saved me tons of time and increased my ability to keep up with what’s going on literally around the world!

There are many options available, but here are step-by-step instructions for the RSS aggregator I use and really like:

1. Go to the Feedreader website.
2. Click on “download the latest version.”
3. Click on “Download FeedReader290Setup.exe.”
4. Click on the download button in the row for the location closest to your own location.
5. Once finished downloading, follow the instructions to install Feedreader on your computer.

Once Feedreader is installed, follow these few simple instructions to start receiving updates right away:

1. Click on the icon for “add new feed.”
2. Go to Music Matters Blog.
3. Click on the link “rss” under the “Meta” category in the left hand column. (This will open up a new web page.)
4. Copy the url from the address window at the top of the page.
5. Go back to Feedreader and paste the url into the “location of feed” space in the window that came up when you clicked on “add new feed.”
6. Select a name for the feed and then click “Finish.”

That’s it! You can add the comments feed from this site as well, if you’d like to receive an update with comments that are submittted for various posts. You can repeat this same process on any web page that offers an rss feed.

Have fun! But be forewarned…this can become addicting! 🙂

Running a Successful Studio

Dane Carlson, of Dane Carlson’s Business Opportunities Weblog, makes a helpful observation:

I think to be a successful entrepreneur only 3 things matter:

1. A clear vision of where your company is going.
2. Genuine desire and passion to create amazingly great products/services.
3. Strong conviction that your product/service is going to make a positive difference in your customer’s life.

It is interesting to consider how these points relate to running a music studio. As independent music teachers we face the responsibilities not only associated with teaching our students but of running a successful business as well.

Questions to consider:
Do you have a long-term business plan?
Are you aware of the ever-advancing technologies and how they will impact your studio in the years to come?
Are you thinking of ways to create great products and services so that your students get more for their money?
Do you know what kinds of products and services students and parents want?
Do you provide real life outlets for your students so that they can experience the effect that music has on daily life?
How do you convey your passion for music in your daily teaching so that your students are aware of it?

Definitely some food for thought!

Instrument Riddles

Here are some cleverly written instrument riddles I came across on this website. (The website has a bunch of useable ideas related to instruments of the orchestra, but you have to sift through a pretty random layout to find specific ideas.)

#1 We come as a pair, you could say that we’re twins.
We’re shiny and crash when you play us, my friend.
If you like to make noise and to march in a band,
You’ll love us ’cause we make those marches sound grand!
I’m a ____________________.

#2 Sometimes I’m acoustic and sometimes electric.
Those rock stars, they love me and act energetic.
They strum me or pick me and play lots of songs,
Then put me in a case and take me along.
I’m a _________________.

#3 You can beat me and I won’t get red in the face.
I come in all sizes from snare down to bass.
All bands like to use me to keep a good beat.
As you march me along on your two little feet.
I’m a _________________.

#4 I sit on the floor and you sit in a chair.
You play with a bow that’s made of horse hair.
I’m played in a orchestra, a nice wooden fellow.
My name is five letters, they call me a ____________.

#5 If you ask for keys you won’t get a car.
But they are black and white,
on the bench sits a star.
I’m a _________________.

#6 I’m bright and colorful and something that’s new.
I’m hit on the floor or maybe your shoe.
And when you want a really good sound,
Hit me on your head, that’s the best sound around!
I’m a _________________.

#7 I’m played with a mallet, that’s easy to see.
And there are bars that are big and small across me.
I’m made of wood and come in different sizes.
My music makes lots of terrific surprises!
I’m a _______________.

#8 I have four short strings,
but you can’t tie a knot.
I do have a bow so you can play me a lot!
I’m ___________________.

#9 I’m held in your hand, and sometimes I’m round.
I need you to shake me or I won’t make a sound.
I jingle and jangle with small metal pieces.
When you leave me alone, my melody ceases.
I’m a ________________.

#10 I’m silver and narrow and held in your hands.
Just blow across me for you woodwind fans.
A piccolo’s my cousin, but I’m just a bit longer.
I bet you know now, or do you still have to wonder?
I’m a ________________.

I think I’ve got almost all of these figured out – seeing as how there was no answer list with them! I’m still stuck on #6. Help? 😀

Here are the ones I did get (at least I think!):

#1: Cymbals

#2: Guitar

#3: Drum

#4: Cello

#5: Piano

#6: ?

#7: Xylophone

#8: Violin

#9: Tambourine

#10: Flute

Classics for Kids

If you haven’t already done so, you have to go check out the Classics for Kids website. What an amazing resource this is! Each week, they feature a short (approximately 6 minutes) radio program about a composer or some other music subject. I have to admit, I was hesitant to even click on the program link because I didn’t want to have to wait forever to listen to the program (I’m still using a slow internet connection). I was shocked when it started playing immediately! There was no download time at all! With my excitement renewed, I listened to several programs that included narration mixed with background music that was being referenced in the narration. Be sure to check out the archives with all their past programs!

Additionally, there is a downloadable activity sheet that corresponds to each program that is very well done!

Every area on the site is so well done – the music dictionary even has sound files illustrating each term. I’m having so much fun at this site – I think it’s my new favorite! I know I will be utilizing this for some of my upcoming group classes.

Definitely a must-see and must-use for every music teacher!

The First Noel Piano Duet

You know you’re a piano teacher when you’re playing Christmas music in October! (And I even feel like I’m behind in getting ready for the recital this year!)

Our annual studio Christmas recital is a favorite for students, parents, family, friends and myself! Each year I try to do something a little different. This year I’m encouraging families to work together to come up with some sort of ensemble. My students should plan to play the piano, but other than that they can be as creative as they want!

I’m going to be digging through my files of Christmas music this week to help come up with music for the students and families. I spent part of this afternoon arranging a simple piano duet for a girl and her brother. The brother just started lessons this fall and wants to play a duet of The First Noel. I plan to teach him his part (the melody) mostly by rote and by ear, so I put it in the position one would use if they were playing a D scale with the tetrachords split between the hands. His sister has been taking lessons for about a year now and has played through all the Major pentascales and chords, so I wrote her part using mostly chord patterns that she can learn fairly easily.

Here’s a recording of The First Noel duet that I made using the Audacity recording software I posted about in this previous post. (It was kind of tricky because I recorded each part separately and then had to align them just right so that they played in sinc with each other!)

Here is a downloadable file of The First Noel primo part.
Here is a downloadable file of The First Noel secondo part.

Because of the nature of what I’m asking families to do this year, I think I may end up doing more arranging than I usually do. I love little projects like that and just wish I was more skilled in this area so I could arrange more advanced duets and solos as well. Anyone know of good resources for learning arranging skills?

Make a Fun Rhythm Chart!

This summer I attended a Melody Bober workshop at our local music store. It was a wonderful workshop, and among the practical ideas Melody shared was the idea for this rhythm chart. I made one on my own a couple of weeks later and have already used it numerous times in my lessons.

Side one contains easier rhythm patterns:

Side two contains harder rhythm patterns:

I made this by printing out these rhythm patterns, cutting them into 8.5″ squares and taking them to our local teacher resource center and laminating them on a 40″ wide laminating machine. I reinforced the top with a strip of posterboard glued to each side of the lamination. Then I punched two holes in the top and placed a metal ring in each hole. These rings can hang from thumbtacks I stuck in the wall at the appropriate width until I get a permanent chart hanger in place.

The primary way I’ve used the chart so far is by pulling out two rhythm instruments – one for the student and one for myself. I give a 4 beat count-in (since all the rhythms are in 4/4) and then play one of the rhythm patterns. The student has to determine which rhythm pattern I played. Then we play and count it together. The student then chooses a rhythm pattern, gives me a count-in, and plays the pattern. I have to guess which pattern he/she played. Then, we play and count it together. If the student is doing well with this, or is already more advanced, I do two or three rhythm patterns in a row and they have to determine which patterns I played in the correct order.

I’m sure there are many other uses for this chart, so I need to take some time to think of some other ideas for individual lessons and group classes. But for now we’re having a fun time just playing this simple game!

How to Inspire Students to Do Better?

Here’s a funny little quip I ran across recently that made me think in terms of how I teach my students.

“There is no such thing as an attention span. People have infinite attention as long as you are entertaining them!”

I know several students might say I’m too entertaining on occasion… 🙂 But, in general, I have to wonder – if a student is bored, is it a reflection of my teaching style? One of my goals this year is for each student to leave their lesson feeling excited and empowered for the coming week of practice. This is much easier said than done! My logic, however, is that a frustrated, nagging criticism of lack of practice or progress is not very motivating, whereas, genuine praise and encouragement will inspire the student to do better and to meet the expectations set forth. Of course, those students who are practicing and progressing are easy to praise and encourage, but what about those who are slacking off?

How to balance the two aspects of demanding more effort while maintaining an encouraging attitude? I wish I knew! How do you let a student know if you don’t think they’re accomplishing what they should be without crushing their spirit and their desire to learn?

Counting Rhythms with Pennies

One of my students was having difficulty understanding 16th note rhythm patterns today, so I pulled out my penny jar. I remember hearing about this idea a number of years ago and was just reminded of it the other day. Every penny represents a 16th note. Therefore, every set of four pennies represents one beat in any time signature with the quarter note getting the beat.

I started out by placing four stacks of four pennies each on the piano fallboard. These represented a quarter note and my student had to count “1-e-&-a-2-e-&-a, etc.” touching her finger to the top of each stack as she said the syllables for that beat. Then, I separated the pennies out so that there was a line of sixteen pennies. She counted in the same manner, touching each penny as she said the appropriate syllable. We learned different 16th note/8th note patterns that are frequently used in music and practiced laying out the pennies and counting them accurately. I rearranged the pennies in different orders and had her practice counting out various combinations of rhythms.

Once she had the hang of it and really understood the concept, I grabbed this rhythm worksheet that I got from Wendy’s Piano Studio website from my newly organized rhythm binder and assigned her to write in all the counts and practice clapping or playing the rhythm patterns this week.

This may be kind of hard to understand so I took a couple of pictures to illustrate what we did:

Here are some of the individual patterns that each represented one beat:



Here is a four beat pattern with the pennies laid out to represent what is on the cards:

Click here to download the file with the rhythm cards. I made these in a couple of minutes this evening using the Bach Musicological Font I posted about in this previous post. (The 8.5 x 11″ paper can be cut into equal card sizes by cutting it at 5.5,” then 2.75″ on the longer side and at 4.25″ on the shorter side.)

This is a great way to explain the mathematical aspect of rhythm in a tactile way that is especially helpful for kinesthetic learners. I say “mathematical” because this doesn’t address the importance of maintaing a steady pulse in music, but rather focuses on helping the student understand mentally how the beats are subdivided and should be played.

Catalog Your CDs Using Readerware


What an amazing organizational tool! Have you ever wanted to let a student listen to a CD recording of a certain piece and spent a great deal of time looking at the back of each CD cover, only to discover that you must not have it after all? You absolutely must check out the Readerware software! Several months ago I purchased it with the intent of using it to catalog all of my books. Just a couple of weeks ago, I recalled that there was an audio cataloging capability as well. So, I opened it up on my computer and was overjoyed to find that it worked like a charm!

Here’s the amazing part…all you have to do is scan the bar code on the back of the CD case and all the data will be retrieved and entered automatically! (A few of my CDs have had unrecognizable bar codes, so I entered those in manually, but the rest have been scanning in automatically just fine!)

Here’s a screen shot of how the collection is organized once the data has been entered:

Here’s a screen shot of how the info for each CD is organized:

If you want only the CD cataloging software, it’s $40. But if you are also interested in the book and DVD/VHS cataloging software, you can get the whole bundle of three for $75. I love to be organized and to have ready access to information, so this has been a very worthy investment for me! Now if only they had such a software for piano music… 🙂