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

Announcing…For the Love of Music!

After many, many hours of work, I am thrilled to announce that our latest project is finished and ready for the world! :-) I could write all about it, but instead I’ll let you watch the trailer that Joey and Jed put together for it:

For the Love of Music is a 5-day course to help pianists develop a love for skillfully reading music. Joey and Jed were my inspiration for this course because they are both fabulous musicians, but both struggle to sight-read fluently. We spent an intense week working together to produce a course that they have gone through and that we hope will be a great help to pianists around the world who face a similar challenge.


You can visit the Music Matters Blog Store to read more about what’s included in the package (including a special bonus offer worth $15!). For the Love of Music can be used by any individual who has experience playing the piano and a basic foundation in music theory. The boys especially enjoyed going through it together, and competing against each other between each class to see who could sight-read the most measures of music (they both played 8,000+ measures of music over the course of five days!).

It was lots of fun and very stretching for us and we hope it proves to be the same for everyone who goes through For the Love of Music!

Project 28 Studio Practice Incentive Theme Now Available! Special $5 Off Offer!

In Courtney Crappell’s article in the latest issue of American Music Teacher, “Dealing With Narcissism: Are Our Students Self-Absorbed Or Just Afraid?” he shares two concepts gleaned from another author that we can embrace as teachers to help our students overcome fears that may hinder them from learning: 1) Letting down our personal guard; and 2) sharing in personal growth. He goes on to say, “Showing another that I am a work-in-progress is scary and immensely challenging. Perhaps most significantly, this act requires us to believe in, and promote, our current level of ability rather than something more. Instead of selling ourselves as the perfect model teacher and performer, we must sell who we truly are.”

Largely inspired by my time last summer at the Pattern Play Teaching Intensive and the Creative Life Conference, I did exactly what Courtney suggests, I let down my guard and committed to sharing my personal growth with my students. That became the impetus for one of our most enjoyable and fruitful Studio Practice Incentive Themes: Project 28. You can read more about the philosophy behind the theme in my guest post for Easy Ear Training: 4 Steps to Playing By Ear. The way I set up this theme required a bit of a paradigm shift, particularly as I pondered what it means to study music as a language and what it takes to become fluent in another language. Thus, the assignment pages were completely revamped to include a space for Hear Music, Speak Music, Read Music, Write Music, Think Music, and Live Music. I was nervous about how it would all play out, but I found that as I approached each lesson with a willingness to learn and work with my students to help them achieve their goal, we had a ton of fun together and learned a lot!

Project 28 begins with the student answering the question, “What do you want to be able to do by next May that you can’t do right now?” From there, the teacher and student work together to determine their first 4-week (28 days…hence the title, Project 28 :-) ) goal and what skills and resources will be required to achieve it. This becomes the basis for the assignments from week to week, thus adding an element of relevancy because the student and teacher have a clear idea of the purpose of each assignment. Every four weeks is dubbed, “Film Week,” and the student has the opportunity to share on camera (either verbally or musically or both) what they have accomplished in those four weeks. My students really enjoyed the Film Weeks, and they provided great accountability as they worked toward their goals. In fact, here’s a shot of a brother and sister duo who loved putting together creative presentations for each Film Week:

All of the details and resources for Project 28 are outlined in the downloadable theme package. And from now until the end of June, you can use the following code to receive a $5 discount on any purchase from the Music Matters Blog store: E91O40F4.

I hope this serves as a great tool and motivator for you and your students as you work together to become better pianists and musicians!

It’s Ready! An Italian Intrigue Practice Incentive Theme Package is Available and You Could Win a Complete Set of Studio Decor!

Thank you for your patience as I finished putting together the complete package from our studio practice incentive theme this year: An Italian Intrigue!

If you are looking for a fun practice incentive theme to use in your studio next fall, this travel-themed adventure will capture your students’ enthusiasm! They will become better acquainted with the geography of that land, see some of the world’s oldest architectural structures, learn a bit of history, and experience a taste of Italian culture – all while learning to play beautifully, naturally, and excellently.

And…for the best news, you could win a complete set of studio decor and supplies to use in your studio! Everyone who purchases An Italian Intrigue practice incentive theme package between now and Thursday, July 19, will be entered in a drawing to win the following materials: a 24″x30″ Italy wall map, printed photo clues of the mystery musicians, a set of Free Travel Passes, and a bag of 600+ Complication Coins!

Giveaway of The Pianists’ Book of Musical Scales and Keys!

It’s always challenging trying to come up with a creative and musical gifts for students each year, but I love trying to think of something that will be special and useful. After quite a bit of brainstorming and reflecting on what students have appreciated most in the past, I settled on the idea of making a customized book for each of them. The students who received the Manuscript Books I made them several years ago love them and still use them all the time for compositions and other musical projects, so this year I decided to make each of them their own Book of Musical Scales and Keys.

It was one of my students who first gave me the idea of designing keyboard scale fingering diagrams and many of my students have used them since. A special book for each of them with a complete set of major, natural minor, and harmonic minor musical scales and keys on the staff with keyboard fingering diagrams below seemed like a perfect next step!

[Special thanks to Am Y for the use of her beautiful piano photo for the cover!]

As a way of wishing everyone a Happy New Year, I am giving away 3 copies of The Pianists’ Book of Musical Scales and Keys! Just leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator on Thursday, January 12, at noon (CST). Enjoy!

Kick-It-Up-A-Notch! a one-week intensive piano course Materials Are Available!

After hours of writing, working, testing, tweaking, re-designing, and implementing, I am excited to announce that the Kick-it-up-a-Notch! a one-week intensive piano course package is now available!

This course is specifically designed for middle school and high school students who are serious about music. In order for students to participate, I required them to commit to an hour of practice between each of our daily 2-hour sessions. Some of my older students are used to this kind of practice schedule, but for some it’s an entirely new experience. But it gives them a glimpse of what they can accomplish when they work diligently to accomplish their goals! You can see a few photo highlights from our first week of Kick-it-up-a-Notch! in this post.

One teacher has this to say after receiving her package of materials:

“You are amazing, that’s all I can say!  It is so well put together.  I can’t imagine the time you have put into all of this.”

I am really excited to share these materials with other teachers, and hope that you and your students find the experience as beneficial and rewarding as we did!

Quest for Capital Practice Incentive Theme Package is Now Available!

It is with a great deal of excitement that I announce the availability of the practice incentive theme that we used in our studio this year: Quest for Capital! You can get your copy today…and see below for your chance to win all the studio materials for use in your own studio!

Quest for Capital is without a doubt one of the most fun, educational, and motivating practice incentives we’ve ever done in the studio! I like to think of it as an entrepreneur-meets-music-student endeavor. :-) In addition to investing in specific piano skills (a.k.a. Stock Options) throughout the year, students could also dream, plan, and create special Capital Improvement Projects that were showcased at The Gallery at the end of the year. The students were given a small table space and encouraged to sell their projects for a small profit, thus experiencing the excitement of integrating their music talents and knowledge with other areas of life and producing something of value in society.

The practice incentive is designed to provide a framework that will spur students on to attain greater proficiency in their skills and get their creative juices flowing as they contemplate possible project ideas. Students have already been asking me if we can do the same theme next year, or at least keep some of the same elements so that they can work on new projects. I am absolutely thrilled with the outcome of this theme and about the potential for it to be used in other music studios all over to inspire students in creative musical endeavors!

And now…for the special deal! Through the end of June, you can get $5 off the practice incentive package price when you use this coupon code: 59W3E7W2.

AND – everyone who purchases the practice incentive by the end of June will be entered in a drawing to win my complete set of studio materials – all the laminated studio cash, the wall banners, and the stock folders on the wall! Just select the Quest for Capital theme on the Resources page and checkout, and you will be entered in the drawing. The winner will be chosen at noon (CST) on Friday, July 1, using a random number generator.

5 For Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson Now Available!

5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano LessonThis has been a long time coming, but I was finally motivated to push through and finish this project in time for a workshop I gave recently to our local music teachers association! Announcing: 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson. (See below for a special discount code!)

Over the years, I’ve come to see the value in using simple games and activities to help students learn or cement various musical concepts. Often times when I have a student struggling with something or I know they need to learn something for an upcoming evaluation, I spend some time brainstorming to come up with a fun activity or game that relates to it. Many of those ideas have made their way onto this blog, but now I’ve compiled a collection of 5-minute games and activities for the private piano lesson and organized them in an easy-to-find and easy-to-implement layout that I hope will be beneficial for lots of other teachers as well!

Categories in the book include Keys on the Piano, Notes on the Staff, Intervals, Chords, Key Signatures, and Rhythm. Each page contains the game name, a list of supplies, step-by-step instructions on how to play the game, ideas for variations, and links to related resources on the Internet. There are a total of 28 games (more if you count the variations!), plus an appendix at the back with additional resources.

I’ve actually put together a whole package that includes: an instruction sheet, cover file, the eBook in a format for easy computer viewing, the eBook in an easy format for printing, and the eBook in black and white for monochrome printing. You can download the package and feel free to print as many copies as you want to use in your studio!

As an extra special way of celebrating the completion of this project, I’ve set up a discount code so that if you order by the end of this week, you can get $5 off the regular price of $15! Just order through the Resources page and then enter this code when you checkout: 65Y126PP

I hope you and your students have tons of fun with these games! We sure have had fun with them in our studio! :-)

A New Idea for Young Prospective Students

One of the things I’m always trying to think about is ways to add value to the families in my studio. Of course, I need to make enough to pay my expenses and run a business, but I want them to feel like they are getting a great deal for their money. So, here’s an idea I thought of the other day when I was contacted by the mother of a little girl who is on my waiting list. She was hoping to get her into lessons this fall, but I ended up not having an opening for her, so they’ve decided to wait until next fall. The thing is that her daughter is so excited about starting lessons NOW.

Instead of just waiting a whole year and risking the loss of some of her enthusiasm, I thought it would be cool to offer some sort of Piano Lesson Prep Course that the mom can do with her daughter to start giving her musical experiences. The Mom really liked that idea, so I sent her the Pre-Piano Camp Package that I put together this summer. She can print off the student workbook and use the lesson plans to help guide her daughter through the course. I’m so excited to see how this works! If it works well, it’s probably something that I’ll list on my website as an extra studio “perk” – families who want to sign up their children for beginning piano lessons will have the option of receiving the Piano Lesson Prep Course to use as a fun introduction to music and the piano.

This particular mom is a pianist herself, so I know she won’t have any trouble utilizing the curriculum. But for those parents who don’t have a musical background, I think I would put together an easy reference sheet with things like a picture of the piano keyboard with the names printed on it, definitions for basic music terms, etc. It seems like it would be a fun way for the parent and child to start the learning process together. I guess we’ll see how it goes with this first family and then go from there! I’d love to know what you think, especially those of you who are parents. Would something like this be of interest to you if you were enrolling your child in a new activity?