piano teaching

Six Practice Steps for Beginning Piano Students

Six Practice Steps for Beginning Piano Students

I love working with young, beginning piano students.

Our lessons are always full of imagination and creative exploration—their eyes wide with excitement and wonder when they make a connection or discover something new—and I always learn so much about myself as a teacher as we walk those first steps in their musical journey together.

That being said, we all know that when learning a new instrument, productive practice time at home is essential to learning and developing as a musician. 

Most of us see our beginning students for only 30 minutes a week, so time spent at the keyboard in between lessons can really make or break a student’s progress and the fulfillment they find in music-making.

Three Things I'm Doing Differently in My Piano Studio This Year

Three Things I'm Doing Differently in My Piano Studio This Year

It's been a while since I've written anything about private teaching here. This is a big part of what I do during the week, even though I don't talk about it much here, and I know many of you teach privately, as well, in addition to the other things you do. 

I teach private lessons four days a week at a private school as part of their extracurricular and after-school programming. At the beginning of this year, I shared eight ways to continue developing your teaching skills this year.

8 Valuable Resources for Music Teachers

8 Valuable Resources for Music Teachers

You can never have too many teaching resources, right?

It seems I'm always looking for a piece of sheet music for this student or a fun concept-based game for that student. I'm also continuously searching for ways to streamline the business side of my teaching with helpful studio management tools, bookkeeping support, and email shortcuts.

Whether you're a studio teacher, K-12 music teacher, or children's choir director, I hope you find at least one thing on this list that's helpful to you!

Here are eight of my favorite resources for music teachers:

Wave Accounting

This all-in-one online accounting system that features free (unlimited) invoicing, ability to accept credit card payments, automatic billing and reminders, accounting support, and more. Wave is the perfect small business tool!

How to Build and Run a Successful Piano Studio

How to Build and Run a Successful Piano Studio

On the surface, it might not look like much work, but running a successful private studio means running a small business and there's lots of behind-the-scenes work that happens in between those weekly 30-minute lessons.

Whether you're just getting started, looking to build a studio in a new city, or searching for ways to streamline your process and help the business side of your studio run more efficiently, this post has something for everyone.

Today, I'm sharing ten tips and tricks for building and running a successful piano studio (many of these suggestions are applicable for other music studios, as well!), including ideas and helpful resources, insight into how I run my studio, and a few things I've learned along the way.

Why You Should Have Consultations with Prospective Students

Why You Should Have Consultations with Prospective Students

Last year, I received an email from a piano teacher asking about initial consultations and interviews. What do you do? What questions do you ask? How long should it be? What materials do you give them? Great questions! Here are some of the reasons I offer consultations to prospective families (and why you should, too!):

Why Are Consultations Important?

1. They give you an opportunity to meet prospective students (and their parents) face-to-face before either of you commit to lessons.

2. For students who are transferring from another teacher, it's important to see what music they're currently working on, assess what they know, and determine where you want to begin in your first lesson.

My Go-To Plan for First Piano Lessons

My Go-To Plan for First Piano Lessons

Where should we begin?

It's the age-old question we ask ourselves when we sit down with a new (beginning) student for the first time. What should we talk about first? Hand position? Finger numbers? Letter names? Where's Middle C?

I like to get the student playing as quickly as possible. We explore high sounds and low sounds and sounds in the middle, black keys and white keys and the patterns they make, and rhythm patterns based on our heartbeat. We imitate, improvise, and create.

The first lesson is all about experimenting with the instrument and exploring sound. Here is my go-to lesson plan:

    40 Ideas to Inspire Creativity in Your Students

    40 Ideas to Inspire Creativity in Your Students

    "To stimulate creativity, one must develop the child-like inclination for play.”- Albert Einstein

    As a piano teacher, I love teaching young beginning students. I love their enthusiasm, the questions they ask, their excitement over little successes, and most of all, their creativity.

    Young children are naturally curious and inquisitive, with vivid imaginations. I love finding ways to bring that into our piano lessons and their practicing at home. I added a "Creativity Challenge" to the bottom of my assignment sheets a few years ago (available as a free printable here) and each week, I write a short prompt to encourage creative exploration, discovery, and music-making during the week.

    "Around the World" Piano Theme

    "Around the World" Piano Theme

    One of my favorite ways to prepare for the new teaching year (or new semester) is choosing a theme and gathering inspiration. Last year, I spent some time planning an "Around the World" theme for my young piano students (inspired by a children's choir curriculum I created a few years ago). So fun! See my inspiration board here.

    Pack your bags and join us for an exciting musical journey around the world! This year, students will discover new skills and musical concepts, hear and play new music, and experience the language of music in a rich environment. At the end of the year, children will have suitcases full of new skills and experiences from their musical travels!

    Monster Dance

    Monster Dance

    Last week, I introduced Jennifer Fink's Monster Dance to an 11-year-old student. It was a sight-readable piece for him - something we could put together in one lesson. The piece is written for left hand solo, though it ventures up into the treble clef partway through. Once we had worked through the key patterns, tricky moves, and looked for repeated material, he wanted to play it all the way through from the beginning.

    As he played, I thought about the beloved Disney/Pixar film, Monsters, Inc. (one of my personal favorites!).

    "Have you seen Monsters, Inc.?" I asked when he finished playing. "Um, yeah, of course!" he said, with a sparkle in his eye. "Have you seen Monsters University?" he asked. "Um, yeah, of course!" I said, imitating his inflection. "I was thinking - which monster is the best match for the music in Monster Dance?" "Definitely Sullivan," he said without pause. "I was thinking Sully, too," I said. "What about Mike Wazowski? What kind of music would fit his character?"

    He immediately went to the high side of the piano and started playing something.

    The Piano Teacher

    Penelope is a bright-eyed, curly-headed girl of almost 8. She often skips into her lesson, singing me the song she composed that week. But one week, in the middle of playing through "Beautiful Dreamer," she fought back tears as she half-whispered, "No one wants to listen to my songs." I put down my notebook and pencil and moved to the bench to sit beside her. "My friends just want to play with me. They don't want to hear me play the piano." We talked about people and how everyone is different. We all like different things and are good at different things. Some people like to be with other people and others would rather be by themselves. "I like to be by myself," she said quietly. "Me, too," I said with a smile. She brushed away a tear from the corner of her eye and we went back to our lesson. Sometimes, it's more important to sit and talk for a minute than hearing every piece on the assignment sheet. Sometimes, lessons are more about building relationships and trust than playing and making music. As musicians, we know how much our emotions impact what we do. Creating music is a vulnerable act, a bearing of our very souls to those listening. Many times I've felt insecure about this and insecure about my abilities when they are not affirmed by others. Maybe you've been there, too. I want to be a teacher that acknowledges these struggles with openness and honesty. Someone who offer that affirmation and encouragement or at least lend a listening ear and say "I understand. I know what you're feeling." I believe this is part of what we are called to do as teachers. We listen when they're going through a hard time, encourage their pursuit of musical excellence, and celebrate their achievements.

    We also laugh at their jokes and smile when they're being silly. Like when Graham, a sandy-haired, blue-eyed 1st grader asked to read me a comic he memorized from the New Yorker. At the end of his lesson, he sat on the bench and "performed" the comic for me with a different voice for each character. His mom said the first thing he told her when he got home was that he "made me laugh" with his story.

    We are musicians and supporters, encouragers and facilitators, but we're also listeners and mentors, friends and confidants. We are piano teachers.