Multimedia Music Dictionary

Check out this amazing Multimedia Music Dictionary that I was recently referred to by another teacher. It was developed by students at Virginia Tech last year.

Thousands of words include not only the definition, but also a pronunciation guide and an audio clip so you can hear what the word sounds like. (I’m sure I could have avoided a number of embarassing mispronunciations if I had been able to utilize such a resource several years ago!)

Each word also references suggested listening examples, all of which may be found on one of four “Musical Example Bank” CDs. What a tremendous resource!

Fun Practice Record!

Here’s a fun-looking Practice Record that you can download for free from the Piano At Pepper website and print out to use with your students.

For about the past six years or so, I’ve made my own student assignment books and practice records, but I always like to get ideas from the designs of others that I can incorporate into my future designs. This one has a clear, easy-to-follow layout that I think would be great for younger students. Plus, I keep realizing that the less time I have to spend writing things out during lessons the better! It’s so much more effective to use lesson time to work directly with the student, rather than taking time to write out extensive instructions that tend to be more for my own sake than of any real benefit for the student, who is most apt to focus on practicing what he has already experienced in his lesson, not whatever I happened to scribble down that week.

Scale and Chord Progress Chart

Several years ago, I developed this progress chart to include in each student’s practice journal so that we could easily track which chords and scales they had mastered at various tempi. Although I haven’t used the chart for a while now, I still get comments from other teachers who are using it successfully in their studios, so I thought I would post it here and make it available as a download. I may just have to pull it back out and start using it again!


Download the Scale and Chord Progress Chart here or by clicking on the image above.

Are You Registered Yet?

It’s less than a week until the early registration deadline for the MTNA 2006 National Conference. It only takes a few minutes to register on-line. Make plans now to attend!

Check out more details here. The conference is such a great way to meet other teachers, glean tips from some of the most creative teachers and savvy music business owners in the field, carry home hundreds of dollars in free music from the exhibitors, find out what’s new in the music world, listen (live!) to some of the best musicians and so much more!

Dealing With Parental Misconceptions

One of the frustrations Independent Music Teachers often deal with is requests from parents that seem unreasonable and outside of what is allowed in our studio policy. The importance of communicating openly and clearly with parents became clear to me in a recent situation I encountered.

A student showed up at my studio for her lessons even though I had scheduled that week off, as I was out of town. (There was a phone message waiting for me when I got back home alerting me to this.) In addition, the student was going to be unable to attend another lesson that month, thus reducing the number of lessons she would receive that month to two. Her Grandma (the one who pays for and brings her to lessons) called me and expressed concern that her granddaughter would only be receiving two lessons that month and that she was paying more for lessons now since I raised my rate the first of the year. I acknowledged her concern, but also tried to let her know my perspective on the situation. Later that day I decided to send her an e-mail explaining things more clearly. This is what I wrote,

Because you expressed some concern over the cost of lessons, I wanted to let you know that once you spread out the cost over the spring semester (18 scheduled lessons), it averages out to just under [$$] per lesson. This doesn’t factor in the additional group classes that are also offered and included in the regular monthly payment. This is actually at the low end of what most of the teachers in the local associations charge for lessons and I try very hard to make sure that I offer all of my students a good value for their money. I put in quite a bit of time outside of the lessons planning and preparing for lessons and organizing different events so that students gain the most benefit possible from their music lessons. I am so pleased with how [student] is doing in piano and I’m so grateful for your willingness to invest so much in seeing that she takes piano lessons.

I hope this adequately addresses some of the concerns you mentioned. Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions or concerns. Thanks!

A short while later, I received this very nice reply,

Natalie, thanks for explaining to me. I guess I was just thinking of a monthly rate, instead of the overall lessons. I really do appreciate the way you work with [student] and feel she is making much more progress this year. I will let you know about this week’s lesson, as soon as I talk with my daughter. You are a wonderful piano teacher! [signed]

It is SO important to communicate to our students and their families what we expect and to address their concerns in an honest and kind manner. It’s so much more effective than taking these misconceptions personally and getting frustrated and irritated over a [often perceived] lack of respect. We’re all coming from different perspectives and different frames of reference in regard to music lessons. Try to get right to the heart of the issue, address it, then move on and continue being the best teacher you can be!

Deductions, Expenses, Receipts

It’s getting closer to Tax Day. As an Independent Music Teacher/Business Owner, be sure you’re taking advantage of all tax deductions available! Check out this list of 25 Common Business Deductions and Expenses to make sure you’re not missing anything.

Do you ever have trouble keeping track of all those business-related receipts throughout the year? Here’s an idea that’s helped me stay more organized in this area. Place 12 clear sheet protectors in a 1″ binder. Use a sticky label to make a little tab for each sheet protector with the name of each month on a tab. Throughout the year, just drop receipts into the corresponding month’s sheet protector. Make a new binder each year and easily store previous years’ binders until you can rotate them back around again (the above linked article suggests saving receipts for all common business expenses for 3 years).

Here’s a snapshot of my binder:

Worksheets for Sightreading

The worksheets on this site work great for reinforcing note recognition and some basic sightreading. Each of the following categories contain three separate worksheets that can be downloaded for free:

Bass Clef: C Position
Bass Clef: Line Notes
Bass Clef: Space Notes
Bass Clef: Line and Space Notes
Treble Clef: C Position
Treble Clef: Line Notes
Treble Clef: Space Notes
Treble Clef: Line and Space Notes

Here’s a demo image of one of the Bass Clef: Line and Space Notes worksheets:

Naxos – A Great Composer Resource!

Naxos is a pretty familiar name to most musicians and music teachers, but for some reason I had never visited the site. I came across it in a recent search for information on an obscure composer. I was amazed at the exhaustive list of both composers and artists. There are portraits and brief biographies for hundreds (perhaps thousands!) of composers. The design of the site is very user-friendly, allowing for a quick search or browsing alphabetically by last name. You can also browse the artists by instrument or position (i.e. conductors, ensembles, orchestras, choirs, singers, percussion and narrators).

What a fabulous resource! I only wish I had come across it sooner. 🙂