4 Tips for Writing More Effective Piano Lesson Assignments

The topic of the latest newsletter from Music Educators Marketplace really resonated with me: Tips for Effective Practice Assignments. It always amazes me how often students return to their lesson with very little reference to their assignment book during the week. (I’m not the only one that deals with this, right?!) But the more I’ve pondered this, the more I realize that some of the fault lies with me and my approach to writing assignments. I think as teachers we may subconsciously write the assignments more for our own benefit than the student’s! So, I think it’s definitely worth exploring ways to make assignments more effective. Here are the 4 Tips shared in the newsletter:

1. Consider Visual Appeal

2. Include Specific Goals and Specific Suggestions for Results

3. Engage the Student as a Collaborator in Creating Practice Steps

4. Expect Student Engagement with the Assignment at Home

Click here to view the whole newsletter with more elaboration of each tip. I’m doing lots of revamping of my studio for this fall, so I’m excited to take these tips into consideration and figure out ways to make student assignments more effective so that their practicing, in turn, will be more effective during the week. If you have any additional tips that have worked well for you, please do share!

Giveaway of 3 Piano Solo Collections!

Don’t you just love having a new book of beautiful piano solos to play?! One of my favorite things to do is sit down with a new collection of lyrical piano pieces and just lose myself in the music. Thanks to composer James Stevens, there are three more such collections available to pianists everywhere (Like a Dream Flying By, Relaxing and Romantic Piano, and Winter Serenade). In honor of his latest releases, James is generously giving away one copy of each collection to three special Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway! The winner will be drawn using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Friday, August 1, 2013.

In the meantime, check out James’ music at the following links:

Website Info: New Piano Music by James Stevens

Sheet Music: Like a Dream Flying By, Relaxing and Romantic Piano, and Winter Serenade

And the Winner Is…

#60 – Walter! And Everyone! (see below)

Congratulations, Walter! You should receive an e-mail with the complete set of 44 Birthday Variations by Forrest Kinney. I know you’ll enjoy them.

And as a special thank you to everyone for participating, Forrest has generously offered to give all Music Matters Blog readers 50% off the entire set of Birthday Variations! That means you can get the complete set for less than $10. Just type “musicmatters50″ in the coupon code box at checkout and get 50% off the Birthday Variations.

Free Giveaway of 44 Birthday Variations by Forrest Kinney!

Those of you who have been around here for a while know that my teaching philosophy and approach has been largely influenced by Forrest Kinney and his Pattern Play books and teacher workshops. I am excited to share that he has a new website and has been working on lots of projects to share with fellow pianists and teachers!

And, even better, he has graciously offered to giveaway a complete set of his new 44 Birthday Variations to one Music Matters Blog reader! You can listen to sample recordings of them on the individual variation pages (e.g. here’s the New Age one). Just leave your name in the comment section below, and a winner will be selected using a random number generator on Friday, July 11, at 12:00 noon (CST). I know you and/or your students will love these!

e.p.i.c. is Here!

I’m sure everyone has been waiting with bated breath for this moment, right? Well, at least I have been!

My studio saw quite a shift this past year, with many of my older ones graduating and moving on, and 9 new piano students just starting out! With that in mind, I knew I needed a practice incentive theme this year that would be conducive to a younger and less experienced studio, but that would still engage the students I already had.

When I was journaling last summer about the forthcoming theme, I stated, “I want it to be easy to understand, simple to implement, highly motivational, and primarily music-focused.” I also wanted there to be an emphasis on establishing consistent and quality practice habits and encouraging the students to develop the character to succeed in their musical endeavors. With that criteria and some inspiration from my backpacking trip through The Grand Canyon last August, the theme was borne:

e.p.i.c. – an unforgettable musical journey

This proved to be a very easy practice incentive theme to maintain throughout the year (which is good considering my year took quite an unexpected turn!), was a great fit especially for the younger beginning students, and was appreciated by parents because of its emphasis on character, learning to practice with enthusiasm ( a good attitude), perseverance (work hard), initiative (practice without being told), and creativity (try something new). The students loved choosing e.pi.c. experiences along the way and selecting a poster of their choice when they reached designated milestones. In summary, it was a ton of fun!

I know a lot of you are looking ahead toward next fall and planning practice incentives and themes, so for the remainder of the month of June, you can receive $5 off your purchase of the e.p.i.c. practice incentive theme when you use this discount code: 835M024P

Hope you all enjoy it as much as we did!

Get $5 Off Through the Month of May!

Summer is just around the corner, and most teachers are starting to plan ahead for summer piano camps and theme ideas for next fall (except for the over-achieving ones who already have it all figured out… :-) )! In light of this, I’ve decided to offer a special $5 off discount for anything in the Music Matters Blog store.

Whether you’re looking for piano camp plans, fun music games to change things up a bit, or a fully developed practice incentive theme to launch in your studio, you’ll find a variety of tried-and-true possibilities in our store. And if you have a website or blog with ideas or materials for summer, feel free to share a link in the comments section!

Just enter this discount code when you checkout to receive your $5 off: 101W2RP0

Free Piano Interval Worksheet

The final e.p.i.c. Encounter (a.k.a. group class) of our e.p.i.c. practice incentive theme was last week, and our topic for the evening was intervals.

We started the class with an overview of what an interval is, then each of the students received a set of these interval worksheets to fill out and keep for their reference.

This was a helpful visual tool that launched us into an evening of fun interval activities and challenges. The hit game of the night was the “Flashcard Drop.” This ingenious idea (compliments of my creative husband!) involved us dropping note flashcards (we used this wonderful set from TCW Resources) through the slats in our deck to the patio below where the students were gathered in teams of two. As they collected cards, the objective was to identify the interval between any two notes, then run the pair of flashcards up to us on the deck and correctly identify the interval. Every correct answer earned the team a point. Whichever team accumulated 10 points first was the winner! This proved to be a bit of a challenge for the students, but a ton of fun!

We also enjoyed playing The Mystery Note game and the Spelling Challenge from the 5 for Fun! book of music games and activities. I just modified them so that the students could continue working in pairs as we played each game. These Wipe Off: Keyboards and Staffs by Bastien are a wonderful resource for group class games and activities!