As I’ve attended music teacher workshops and conferences over the years, one of the highlights has always been attending master classes. I love watching other teachers interact with students and gleaning insights that I can utilize in my own teaching. Musaic – an initiative of New World Symphony – seeks to bring masterclasses and dozens of other videos from professional musicians right to your fingertips! In addition to masterclasses, you can view a growing collection of performances, tips, and how-to videos that will prove beneficial to music teachers and students alike. What a great project!
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is an interesting infographic recently published by Music Teacher’s Helper (btw, if you use my affiliate link, you will receive 20% off your first month and I will receive a small commission) with input from 300 students:
Even though things are a bit quieter on the blog these days, I’ve been doing some updates behind-the-scenes to make things run more efficiently. One of those updates is the integration of a brand new Music Matters Blog store! I’m super excited to get this up and running, but I need some help to make sure that it’s working correctly. So, for anyone willing to help me iron out any glitches I’m offering an unprecedented 50% off EVERYTHING in the store for 1 week! All you have to do is select any item(s) and enter the following coupon code when you checkout: 6SYWB4GOH36M. (The code will expire on Tuesday, November 18.)
You have to use the links in this post to go to the new (beta) Music Matters Blog store so that the coupon code will work properly. I’m planning to add some sample pages for all of the products so that you will be able to sneak a peek at the Practice Incentive Themes, Piano Camp Programs, and Games. You’ll also notice that I’ve included my published books (physical books that will be shipped to you if you order them!) and a category for Piano Books and Sheet Music. In the course of downsizing my studio, I have hundreds of brand new piano books and pieces of sheet music that I’m going to be listing and making available at 50% off the retail price. Stay tuned as I get these uploaded to the site – there are lots of goodies!
I really appreciate your help and support in getting all of this up and running and making Music Matters Blog as helpful of a resource as it can be for music teachers and enthusiasts. If you have any comments, suggestions, or things you’d like to see included in the store or on the site, please feel free to send me an e-mail and let me know! Happy shopping!
One of the things that I love about teaching piano is the challenge of figuring out how to integrate every part of the student’s learning so that they understand concepts in a relevant way. One of the ways this can be done very effectively is through structured improvisation assignments.
If you’ve been a reader on Music Matters Blog for any length of time you know that I’m a huge fan of Pattern Play as the most effective approach I’ve found to truly teaching improvisation at the piano. But now that most of my students (and I!) have become more comfortable improvising, we create a variety of assignments from week to week that utilize improvising as a way to help students cement various musical concepts.
Right now Mercy is learning chord inversions as part of her Theory and Technique section in our C2 practice incentive theme, so this was the short piece she improv-ed using a c-minor chord and inversions:
It’s amazing how much more exciting and relevant theory concepts are when you see them become a creative expression like this!
I know I’m a few days after the official beginning of fall, but I’m sure enjoying the gorgeous days! So, in honor of another fall of teaching, I’m offering a special sale in the Music Matters Blog store. You can get $5 off any order by entering the following coupon code when you checkout: 05355663
By far, the favorite item in the store is 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson. These are tried and true games that we have used for years in the studio. Last year, my students loved perusing this book and selecting games they wanted to play as part of the e.p.i.c. practice incentive. But I also find myself referring to the book to pick out specific games to help reinforce a concept I’m working on with a student.
The coupon will be good until next Friday, October 10, so have fun picking out any item you’d like! Hope you all are enjoying a lovely fall of teaching!
Whew! What a year this has been! After getting married last December, I continued teaching full-time through the spring semester while also adjusting to being a full-time wife and mother of four. For the sake of continuity for my students (and preserving my own sanity!), we opted to leave the studio at my parents’ house until this summer. I wanted to have a good chunk of time to go through the entire studio, get rid of things I no longer needed, and then move everything over to the new studio in as organized a manner as possible. Not to mention that the new studio still looked like this at the beginning of summer:
What, you don’t think that looks like an inviting studio, either?!
Thankfully, my awesome and artistic husband had a vision for bringing life to our old, dark basement, and we employed some talented friends to help us make my new studio a dream come true! Now I get to enjoy this colorful and inspiring environment every day:
We have almost no natural light in our basement, so we wanted to use colors that would make the area feel bright and welcoming. The waiting area is just outside the studio and has lots of space for families to sit and play games, read a book, or hang out and talk. We’re hoping to put bi-fold French doors on the studio entrance, but that will have to be part of Phase II!
Here’s a closer look into the studio where you can see my desk along the back wall, the Clavinova and piano on the side wall, and then a beautiful entertainment cupboard that houses our printer and shelves with extra paper and envelopes. You can also catch a glimpse of this year’s practice incentive theme: C2: igniting the power within!
I just have to let you peak in my closet because it’s one of the most exciting parts of the studio for me! We picked up this handy shelving system at Lowe’s and some plastic drawer organizers at Walmart, and now everything is neatly organized and easily accessible from anywhere in the studio. I love being able to reach over and grab whatever I need while I’m teaching, but then close the doors and have a squeaky clean-looking studio at the end of the day.
Here’s a view of the other side of our waiting area/library where we have lots of books to peruse while relaxing in one of our comfy chairs. And in between lessons, feel free to plug in a guitar and jam away.
I’m thoroughly loving my new studio and look forward to posting more now that we’re settled and full-swing into a new year of piano lessons. Hope you enjoyed the virtual tour and that your year of teaching is off to a great start!
Many moons ago I, like most music teachers, dreaded the “b” word. We love to teach, to play, to create. But, by and large, we do not like to do bookkeeping. I don’t mind finances at all, but I had such a difficult time collecting money from families or reminding them when they had overdue lesson fees, etc. Then in 2006 that all changed. Music Teacher’s Helper came on the scene and that has forever changed! This is probably the best money I spend every month because once I have everything set up for the year, I create automatic invoicing and the whole process is seamless. Families receive their invoice on the first of each month with their lesson fee amount plus any additional materials, book, or event fees. They can pay on-line or check their account at any time for details.
My posts about MTH always seem to turn into sales pitches, but the main reason I’m posting is because they have finally revamped their IOS app, and I am super thrilled! I do a lot of business from my iPhone, so it’s been a pain not having a working MTH app to record student payments, update info, etc. The new interface looks great, and I can highly recommend the whole MTH package to any teacher looking to make the business side of their studio operations a headache-less venture! (When you click on the links in this post for Music Teacher’s Helper, you’ll receive 20% off your first month and Music Matters Blog will receive a small commission that helps keep this site running.)
I am still pretty much in love with Piano Safari – the latest and greatest (in my humble opinion ) piano method on the market! The students who started and are still working through it have done so well and truly enjoy making music at the piano. Even though they are learning more musically rich music via rote teaching right from the start, the approach to reading rhythms and notation is thorough and effective.
So I was excited to see that the Sight Reading and Rhythm Cards for Level 3 are now available! What’s even better is that if you order the package of all three sets of Sight Reading and Rhythm Cards (and believe me, you want these no matter what method you are using with your students!) are available for 20% off for a limited time. There are so many great ways to use these cards in the lessons (this week we’ve been having fun using rhythm instruments to play the rhythm patterns while selected rhythms from my keyboard provide a steady – but fun – beat in the background!) and the students enjoy having easy-to-manage exercises that they can work on and achieve success in their sight reading endeavors. I have a few students working through the Level 2 books and cards right now, so I’m excited to check out this new set of cards for Level 3!
Do you want to have students who sight read well? Students who get excited when they are given new and challenging assignments? Students who are able to utilize the new technology available only on a digital piano? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions then you will definitely need to add a digital station within your studio.
Why have a digital piano station?
As you read about my digital piano station keep in mind that I have three stations in my piano studio configuration. I have a digital piano station, a computer station and an acoustic station where I teach my students one-on-one as in a traditional lesson. My students stay at each station for 25 minutes and then switch to the other two stations. They attend piano lessons for a total of 75 minutes. Understanding my studio configuration will be helpful as you read the following reasons for having a digital station. At one time I had two stations, a digital piano station and an acoustic piano station and my students attended their lessons for one hour total and spent 30 minutes at each station. If you are interested in further information about having stations within your studio I detail how to do this in a series of seminars which I have titled Susan’s Seminars for Piano Teachers* which can be found at www.musicteacherstore.com.
1) Students have time to prepare for their lessons at the bench with their teacher. This time spent at the digital station is very useful in preparation for their lesson time as it provides a run through and a warm-up of their songs. As a result, their private lesson goes more smoothly with less errors and problem measures or passages in their music . Who doesn’t like a run-through before performing in front of any audience?
2) Use of the digital station allows students time to become comfortable on the digital piano and allows more proficiency in using various settings and instrumentations on this instrument.
3) Our students are millennials and they are very comfortable with using any type of computer-based equipment—and this describes a digital piano!
How to set up a digital piano station
1) It is ideal if the digital piano faces away from any distracting scenery. Place your digital piano carefully so that your students can focus on the assignments that you would like them to complete while at the digital piano.
2) Make sure that your students have adequate lighting in this work space.
3) If you choose to have a Music Library in your studio, it is convenient to place it nearby the digital piano so that students have access to the music as they spend time at this station.
4) You can place an assignment board in front of the digital piano. This can be very helpful in helping students see their expected tasks to be completed while they are at this station.
What are some possible student assignments at the digital station?
1) Students can play at least 2 lines of sight reading. I use “What’s That Note” Books 1 and 2** for my beginning through Level 2 students as sight reading curriculum. I love these books written by my mother, Jane Calder, because they contain both rhythm exercises and gradual note reinforcement through the grand staff. For my more advanced students, Levels 3 – 5, I use “A Line a Day” books 1 – 4 for general sight reading assignments. I have made midi recordings of the exercises in “What’s That Note” and also “A Line a Day” which students use as they play along with these recordings. If the students are playing correct notes and rhythm they do not hear the recording which they are matching. If they play incorrect notes or rhythm they will hear the correct teacher recorded part which will sound different from the notes or rhythm that they are playing. Using these recordings as students play these sight reading assignments makes these exercises self-correcting.
2) After completing their 2 or more lines of sight reading my students record their progress on a personal log sheet which they keep in their assignment binder.
3) I am preparing my digital piano station at this time for my students to use the interactive Piano Marvel*** program to enhance their sight reading skills. I currently have several students in my studio who have subscribed to Piano Marvel and use Piano Marvel in their homes each day as part of their assigned daily practice time. My students who have used Piano Marvel in their homes have really enjoyed progressing through the various levels in Piano Marvel and have enjoyed being awarded trophies as they have improved their sight reading skills on various songs. In studio I will provide each student with a log sheet where they will record their personal achievement using Piano Marvel each week during their digital station time in my studio.
Good luck with setting up your new digital piano station or enhancing your current digital piano station. Your students will enjoy every moment that they spend at the digital station. The musical experience at lesson time is enhanced with the technology of a digital piano and all of its capabilities.
*Susan’s Seminars for Piano Teachers can be located at www.musicteacherstore.com under Teaching Aids (main category) Teacher Improvement (sub category). Many topics are covered and include the following three topics Maximizing one-on-one time with your students, Piano Camp is great for Teachers and Students, and Group lessons are fun and informative for both students and teachers. Seminars are downloadable and available in 8 different topics.
MusicTeacherStore.com is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog, and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send me an e-mail and I’ll let you know about our advertising packages.
#19 – Walter
#41 – Carla
#23 – Laura
You will each receive one of James Stevens’ beautiful solo piano collections to enjoy! Thanks to all for participating. Stay tuned for more great reviews, giveaways, and music teaching ideas! Also, be sure to check out James’ YouTube channel where he is regularly uploading new recordings:
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!