Showing posts with label piano teacher’s guide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label piano teacher’s guide. Show all posts


πŸ‘©πŸΌ‍πŸ’» Music Theory Exercises for Primer

March 11, 2024 0 Comments

I have created customized online exercises and quizzes corresponding to each unit of Piano Adventures Basic Method Primer Level

If you are using a different method, please refer to this Correlation Chart from

Piano Adventures Primer Exercises

Unit 3

πŸ”€ 🎹 Keyboard Letter Names C-D-E

πŸ”€ 🎹 Keyboard Letter Names F-G-A-B

πŸ”€ 🎹 Keyboard Letter Names All White Keys

πŸ”€ 🎹 πŸ€” Keyboard Letter Names Quiz Mode

Unit 4

πŸ”€ 🎼 ⚓️ Note Names (Middle C, Bass F, Treble G) - Anchor Notes

🎹 🎼 ⚓️ Keyboard to Note Matching (Middle C, Bass F, Treble G) - Anchor Notes

Unit 5

πŸ”€ 🎼  Note Names from Middle C to Treble G (with helpers)

🎹 🎼  Matching Keyboard from Middle C to Treble G 

Unit 6

πŸ”€ 🎼 Note Names Bass F to Treble G (with helpers)

πŸ”€ 🎼 Note Names Bass F to Treble G (without helpers)

🎹 🎼 Matching Keyboard to Note Bass F to Treble G (without helpers)

Unit 8

πŸ”€ 🎼 Note Names - Bass C up to Treble G (with helpers)

πŸ”€ 🎼 Note Names - Bass C up to Treble G (without helpers)

🎹 🎼 Matching Keyboard to Note - Bass C up to Treble G (with helpers)

🎹 🎼Matching Keyboard to Note - Bass C up to Treble G (without helpers)

Final Challenge Mode

🎼 🎹 πŸ€”Matching Keyboard to Note - Bass C up to Treble G



Companion Apps

$4.99 Tenuto

$2.99 Theory Lessons


πŸ–¨️ New Printable: The Best Way to Remember the Grand Staff!

March 08, 2024 0 Comments

I created a grand staff printable to help organize the many mnemonic devices I have learned over the years. 

To give credit where credit is due, I want to thank my student, Ed, for figuring out the phrases to relate the mnemonics for lines and spaces on the treble and bass clefs. You will see those written at the top and bottom of the pages. He also came up with the astronaut as the top line of the bass clef. 

Also, My First Piano Adventure came up with Queen Treble Clef, King Bass Clef, and the Middle C Cats that they own. 

I have this displayed in a 5x7 frame on the wall in my studio, visible if needed by the piano. 


  • Queen Treble Clef
    • G Clef
    • Every Good Burger Deserves Fries
    • FACE
    • Middle C Cat with tail up
  • King Bass Clef
    • F Clef
    • Ground Floor G
    • Astronaut A
    • All Cows Eat Grass
    • Middle C Cat with tail down

Printable contains 2 pictures and each should fit in a 5x7 frame.

Grand Staff Picture Reference.pdf



πŸ‘©πŸΌ‍🏫 How to Start Teaching Piano in 5 Easy Steps

July 28, 2023 0 Comments

Aside from knowing how to play the piano yourself, what are ways to start teaching piano? Once you've started teaching, what are avenues for continuing to improve your teaching craft?

Sometimes, all it takes is playing piano in public to be asked for piano lessons. This may take you by surprise or you may have been hoping to get a student, but everyone starts somewhere!

Little girl asking for lessons
"Will you teach me?"

No matter how you get your first student, you will have questions and maybe some hesitancy to start on this journey. 

Here are 5 steps for beginning piano teachers:

1. Be willing to try and fail.

Believe it or not, failing as a piano teacher happens the moment you decline because of feelings of inadequacy. Failure happens before you even started!  While I can't speak to your specific situation, I believe that if you have put in the time to learn piano; maybe 5 years of consistent lessons, practice, and performance experience, becoming a piano teacher is possible. 

Certainly, if a student eventually surpasses your skill level and knowledge, be honest. You may fit as a practice coach and an encouraging, helpful constructive critic. You may refer this person to a more skilled pianist that you trust or that your student finds. You will cross that bridge when you come to it! 

If you have a desire to teach piano, have confidence to start a beginner who is interested. You have to start somewhere just as much as a piano student has to start somewhere. If your thoughts say, "I'm not good enough," say, "I would like to teach and I am committed to continuing to learn and grow in this skill." Making mistakes is part of the process.  

2. Ask yourself who, what, where, when, why, and how.

  • Who? Will you market your studio or just use word of mouth? 
  • What? What level? What style? 
  • Where? Have a location to meet with a piano, whether that is your house, their house, a music school, or a local church that you rent.
  • When? Look at your calendar and determine your availability. Remember to consider prep time and follow up time. 
  • You're Big Why: What is your purpose in life? How does teaching piano serve you towards that purpose? What are your goals?
  • How? Decide your method series and other curriculum. 

I have written posts about starting up an independent studio: 

Resources that have been so helpful to me:

  • The Independent Piano Teacher's Studio Handbook by Beth Gigante Klingenstein
  • How to Teach Piano Successfully by James Bastien
  • Chopin: pianist and teacher as seen by his pupils edited by Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger
  • Faber Piano Adventures website

Consider taking a piano pedagogy course at a local college or online:

In addition, you may want to pursue continued piano lessons with a professor of music or even pursue a bachelor's degree in music. I personally earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music, however, I don't believe that this a pre-requisite to start teaching.

Other blogs that I recommend:

3. Create Lessons Plans

Having a list of activities and a general idea of time commitment is very important. 

As you teach, you will find that the student may need extra attention in a different area or even have questions that they would like to explore. Write your plan in pencil; have flexibility. However, you need to have a direction. 

Do not become a "turn the page" teacher. Have supplemental games, apps, worksheets, and activities ready to go. I refer to Joy Morin's Color In My Piano blog regularly as she has created many engaging games and activities (many of them are free to print!). She is a huge source of inspiration to me. I definitely suggest finding teaching blogs that you are drawn to and consulting them regularly for relevant activities and new teaching ideas.

4. Familiarize yourself with the method.

Have your own copy of all the books you are planning to use. 

Read through the table of contents and all of the concept pages. Use these as springboards for supplemental games and activities to reinforce. You don't need to go in order and you can present ideas sooner than the book. That way your student will be ready for future challenges in their music as it incrementally gets harder. 

Play through all the music and spend time practicing any songs that are difficult for you. Write down how you learned the pieces and think through your approach. What are the patterns? The form? What notes need to be reviewed? What articiulations are present and what technique do you use to create those articulations? How will you teach this to someone else?

If you are using a no-book method or passing down a skill by demonstration, such as playing pop chords or in the jazz style, have a structure and outline of how and when you will present new concepts incrementally. Have a list of songs you will teach and any reference materials that will be helpful for the student printed and attached to follow up lesson notes.

I use a spreadsheet where I write which pages I will assign, what concepts we will cover, and what activities tie in.  Doing this in one large batch gets the hard part of brainstorming out of the way early.  When lessons come, I can refer to my chart and plug those into my lesson notes. 

5. Lesson Structure

Keep your introductions short, try to avoid long conversations that are off topic. Every situation is different, but avoid spending more than 5 minutes catching up.

Be open to a student opening their book to show you their progress. If you would like to encourage a more spontaneous day, ask "What would you like to show me first?" or "What topic or skill would you like to work on today?"

As the student is playing, avoid looking at the music score. Instead, watch their hands, body movements, flexibility, and relaxation.  Give constructive, positive comments.  Avoid reacting to each missed note. Instead, find a way to communicate how to be expressive with music.  

Oftentimes, students will tell me it was perfect at home, but in front of me it's not.  I do whatever I can to help my students feel comfortable, but I always keep in the back of mind how hard it is to play for someone who knows what the music is supposed to sound like. You will be able to tell if they worked on it. If they did, have stickers ready! Find something that sounded great to comment on. Demonstrate a way to vary the dynamics or articulation.  

After the lesson, type up your notes, detail the assignments, and email them to your student. 

Bonus: Have a sticker book

If you are still unsure about teaching because you don't know if your student will like you, make a sticker sheet collection and make a prize box.  Their eyes will light up, I promise. 

Tell me how your first lesson as a piano teacher went!  Did any of these steps encourage you?  If you are an experienced teacher, what is your advice? Let me know in the comments. 

As BrenΓ© Brown says, we're letting go of what people think + "supposed to" and cultivating meaningful work. I believe in you! 



πŸ“• Review: 10 Keynotes of Piano Pedagogy

July 12, 2023 0 Comments
Wanda Landowska at Chopin's Piano - Public Domain

For some reason, when I put Chopin's name in the title of this post, the thumbnail will not show up on my main page. So this should be titled 10 Keynotes of Frederic Chopin's Piano Pedagogy

I recently read Chopin: pianist and teacher as seen by his pupils by Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. Chopin had about 150 pupils in total, which is pretty incredible considering his many compositions and performances; and, he only lived until he was 39. In this book, his students share their experiences and the specific teachings of Chopin.

Here are the 10 most important takeaways that I'm actively applying. 

  1. Teaching Hand Shape

  2. Many methods teach beginners to pretend they are holding a ball or apple under their hands. Others mention keeping your fingers rounded, playing on fingertips, and keeping your wrist level.

    Chopin's instructions were to place fingers 2, 3, and 4 on the three black keys. Then place fingers 1 and 5 on the black keys. This is your natural hand shape. To play on the white keys only, gently pull your hand towards you and maintain the hand shape.

    Forearms should be level with the piano and the wrist needs to stay flexible. In addition to that, he taught that the 2nd finger was the center of the hands; turning my hand out has actually helped with playing his music, but it is awkward to maintain since that is not how I learned.

  3. Singing with the Fingers and Breathing with the Wrist

  4. You must sing if you wish to play - Chopin

    Chopin was a huge fan of opera singers and specifically the bel canto style of singing. By singing our piano pieces, we can hear our natural tendency to crescendo and decrescendo, to take extra time preparing for leaps, and have a freedom from the accompaniment to push and pull the tempo; an effective way to learn how to play rubato.

    Along with singing with the fingers, Chopin also taught students to create the impression of human breathing. He taught students not to lift their hands too quickly and would ask,

    Did it burn you?

    Legato playing was also emphasized. Playing detached would lead to Chopin asking if they were hunting pigeons.

  5. Teaching Rubato

  6. I don't know about you, but when I was taught rubato, the only definition I had was to push and pull the tempo. Listening to interpretations of Romantic music, I would often hear the artist use both hands simultaneously to push and pull the tempo. This sounded great to me! However, my execution often ended up being a cover for my less than stellar sense of rhythm and maintaining an even, steady beat.

    How did Chopin teach rubato? He noticed that singers didn't always stick with the accompanist's tempo, therefore his definition of rubato is the melody is free from metrical constraints leading to the artist being able to freely express their feelings.

    So, if you thought teaching hand independence was difficult, just wait until you teach rubato for Chopin's compositions!

  7. Inspiring Students

  8. Chopin used images to convey emotion. Chopin's own imagery included 

    • For legato - avoid a pigeon hunt
    • For staccato - think of pizzicato or plucking a string and grazing the key like a fly brushing it with it's wing

    I have practically applied this by telling beginner students that spiders can only crawl with rounded legs. Don't be a smashed spider! Use a hammer-like touch for accents and forte, but gently pet a cat to create soft sounds.

  9. Playing Pieces for Students

  10. Chopin would play piano pieces, including his own compositions, many times for his students in full. This is encouragement to us to also play for our students! Don't be shy! I think we may focus more on how to get through the method material or marking up the students' scores, but students need to see how technique and expression are applied.

  11. Advocating for Shorter Practice Times

  12. Chopin advocated for practice sessions to be no longer than 2 hours a day. He actually was angry with a student for reporting practicing longer than that. Why? Because he was very against being mechanical and he believed practicing more than 2 hours caused the student to lose expression and musicality to exhaustion.

  13. Being Self-Taught Is Not a Weakness

  14. I spend time on Reddit's r/piano subreddit. Many users have reported being told that they will have created too many bad habits from self-teaching that a teacher will not accept them into their studio.

    I will admit, I was self-taught for my early years. I did have bad habits. I, perhaps wrongly, perceived my high school piano teacher reluctantly taking me on as a student given my patchy background. Why can't we as piano teachers have the patience to help a student sort out bad habits? Are we worried about tarnishing our reputation? 

    Chopin was self-taught and his eventual piano teacher was a violinist. See how that worked out for him? A well-respected composer, teacher, and performer, remembered nearly 200 years after his death. Please don't underestimate self-taught individuals.

    In my own story, after a failed audition for a university, my dad recalls I was told that I didn't have the expected background of a future music major. When a different college accepted me, I thought it was because they felt bad for me and unfortunately, I carried that sadness for many, many years. I didnt feel as though I belonged and that I was simply given the spot because the professors felt bad for me. Kindness is free. Imagine how a student can thrive if they have your encouragement.

  15. Purpose of Technique Books

  16. Chopin was not a fan of training mechanical technique. Technique and expression work together. Therefore, the technique exercises he preferred weren't trying to create a perfect evenness between fingers, but challenging artistry to shine through even the most difficult passages. He actually prized the individuality in tone each finger could produce. We can hear that in his Etudes. They are performance literature for a reason! Practically speaking, Chopin assigned Clementi's PrΓ©ludes et Exercises and Gradus, Cramer Γ‰tudes, and Moscheles Op. 95 or 70 for technique.

  17. Expression over Accuracy

  18. From the earliest levels, I have been drilling this into my students. Better to focus on the dyanmics, articulations, and putting your emotions into music than play robotic, trying to be perfect, and correct any and every mistake. I ask for my students to continue playing despite mistakes, cover the mistake if they are able, and, since we are still practicing the piece, we go back in and work on the problem spot. This is to train them to perform. We all make mistakes when we are performing; develop the skill of covering and the audience will not notice.

  19. Finding Joy in Piano Teaching

  20. Have you ever been told

    Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

    Ridiculous, I know that now, but I was told by a student that his grandpa said that about me. His grandpa didn't know me, but even if he did, those words are not true. Chopin stopped giving performances due to anxiety about being on stage (another way I related to him!), but I don't think any of us would consider him someone who "can't" simply because he became a teacher full-time. He gave excellent performances of his works to his students. He continued composing. Teaching is an amazing career and rewarding. Don't let someone undermine your accomplishments.

  • Bonus! Chopin's Curriculum
  • Specifically lesser known repertoire

    • John Field
      1. Concertos 1, 3, 4
      2. Nocturnes
    • Weber
      1. Sonatas in C (op. 24)
      2. Sonatas in A-flat (op. 39)
    • Hummel
      1. Rondo brilliant op. 98
      2. La Bella Capriciosa, op. 55
      3. Sonata in F# minor, op. 81
      4. Concertos in A minor and B minor
      5. Septet op. 74

    In conclusion, I found these points to be so encouraging and helpful for practical applications and for creating a positive mindset. I highly recommend picking up this book. It is priced as a textbook, so I suggest doing what I did: use your library or your library's interlibrary loan service to borrow a copy.

    What books have helped you grow as a piano teacher? Please share them in the comments!



πŸ₯… Vocational Goal Update #2

June 21, 2023 0 Comments

How has my goal to put out 25 physical advertisements for my piano studio gone?

After my previous goal post (no pun intended), I decided to invest in Google Ads after reading a business advice blog for piano teachers. Unfortunately, after spending $325 for 941 clicks and 83,400 views, I was only contacted by one person who ultimately ghosted me. Therefore, I will not post the name of said blog because I can't endorse it at this time.

My statistics showed that the bulk of my clicks were from YouTube and were shown on piano tutorial videos. I limited these ads to nearby zip codes and times, but YouTube didn't fit the audience whom I was expecting. I was hoping for Google searches for "piano lessons near me". 

YouTube Ad

I felt very discouraged by the lack of responses because this campaign was ultimately very expensive and I would need three new students to break even from this loss. I have a feeling that maybe people were expecting a video, but the ad was merely a picture. I know my homemade website also loads slowly and wasn't very engaging at the time.


How has my overall goal to get 2 new piano students by June 30 gone?

The brother of my current student signed up in March! I was halfway to my goal. 

I decided to go through my contact spreadsheet and text two friends of mine who inquired. After texting them, 1 signed up! I had reached my goal and she started a week ago.  

Then, at church, a new friend of mine from my worship team inquired about lessons and she was very serious. She signed up and started 2 weeks ago. 

My goal has not only been accomplished, but has exceeded my expectations. 

My happy ending is that I have earned back the Google Ad cost; just not in the way I was expecting. 

What are your goals for 2023 and how close are you to achieving these goals?



πŸ₯… My Vocational Goal Update

March 04, 2023 0 Comments
Goal Detail Page

How has my goal to put out 25 physical advertisements for my piano studio gone?

Thus far, I have put out 10 physical advertisements: 2 business cards directly handed to inquirers, 1 flyer posted in my local library, and 7 business cards placed on advertising tables at the library and a school. I have until the end of March to put out 15 more! 

I have had 2 contacts via email this year.  One nearly committed, but ultimately decided to wait. 

My current lead for advertising is my former principal who said I can post a flyer, she will tell my former students, and she will put my information in her weekly newsletter.  I am needing to update my business cards and possibly change my flyer format again. 

This has been a difficult endeavor, but I know nothing ventured, nothing gained! 



πŸ₯… Vocational Goal Setting for Piano Teachers

January 17, 2023 0 Comments

Setting goals is an important tool for having success in many different areas of our lives, whether that be relational, emotional, or spiritual. When focusing  on our vocational goals, what are we aiming for this year? 

The reason why I decided to start using the Full Focus Planner (see my blog post here) is because of the Best Year Ever course that Michael Hyatt & Company (now called Full Focus) offers. Many topics were covered such as reviewing last years accomplishments and having a positive future outlook. Today I want to tell you about one of Michael Hyatt's most impactful suggestions: the SMARTER goal system. 

What does the acronym SMARTER stand for?

  • Specific
  • Measurable 
  • Actionable
  • Risky
  • Timebound
  • Exciting
  • Relevant
For piano teachers, unspecific goals look like this:
  1. Practice more
  2. Advertise
  3. Have more piano students sign up
  4. Teach well
This is my process of taking these goals through the SMARTER system. 

Rephrasing these goals to be Specific looks like this:
  1. Practice Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 daily
  2. Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood
  3. Have 2 piano students sign up
  4. Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student
Measurable means that you can track progress. 
  1. Practicing will be measured with a habit tracker
  2. Creating flyers and distributing them will be measured by the completion of this task. 
  3. Having 2 piano students sign up will be measured by the completion of this task. 
  4. Creating lesson plans each week will be measured by a habit tracker. 
Actionable goals start with a strong action verb. 

What specific action will I do to achieve this goal? 
  1. Practice daily, memorize and perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 
  2. Design and print 20 flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood
  3. Follow up with all leads by text, email and or phone call until at least 2 students sign-up
  4. Write detailed lesson plans each week and create a spreadsheet for long-term overviews
Risky goals are goals that are challenging enough to keep us interested. 
  • Practice daily, Memorize and Perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 Chopin Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 
    • I have already learned Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, but have had difficulty with Op. 27 No. 2. It is still within my capacity to learn, but presents challenges that I have limited myself to believing I can't surpass. 
  • Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch"
    • This requires me to actually talk to people I've never met before and present clear reasoning why my piano lessons are a valuable activity for them or their child
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons
    • Another uncomfortable situation, but sometimes a necessary one. If a student is showing interest and attention, a longer lesson time helps us to do more activities outside of the method book
  • Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student by helping my students to craft their own goals 
    • This takes away some autonomy from me and can sometimes be difficult to encourage a student to create goals for themselves

The next step is to make these goals Timebound. Create a start date and a deadline for both habit and achievement goals. In addition to those, create a frequency and streak goal for habit goals.

  • Practice daily, Memorize and Perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 starting January 5th, 6 days a week, until March 5th. (Habit Goal) 
  • Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch" starting January 10th, completed by March 31st. (Achievement Goal)
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30. (Achievement Goal)
  • Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student by helping my students to craft their own goals each week and track plans for 20 weeks and overviews for 5 months. (Habit Goal)

Are these goals Exciting to me?  Exciting means inspiring and engaging to the point of being willing to continue even when it gets hard. Internal motivation is what helps us to see goals through to the end.  Asking if a goal is exciting may also be an evaluation of whether or not it would be fun. At this point, it's important to weed out any goal that we've made because we feel expected to achieve that goal by other people (whether real or imagined).  On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most exciting, I have rated my goals below. 

  • 6 - Practice daily, Memorize and Perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 starting January 5th, 6 days a week, until March 5th. 
  • 4 - Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch" starting January 10th, completed by March 31st.
  • 10 - Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30.
  • 9 - Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student by helping my students to craft their own goals each week and track plans for 20 weeks and overviews for 5 months.

The last step is evaluating if these goals are Relevant to my life overall. I've created 4 possible vocational goals, but there are other domains of my life in which I also wish to set goals, such as parental, relational, financial, and avocational. Michael Hyatt recommends only setting 8 goals per year to cover ALL the domains, and then only assigning 2-3 per quarter. If I think of these goals in the context of my overall life goals for this year, the most relevant is
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30.


One does not simply have 2 students sign up for piano lessons.

So that means I need both of these vocational goals during this year. 
  • Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch" starting January 10th, completed by March 31st.
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30.

Full Focus calls these related goals complex goals. They will count as one goal. Full Focus recommends limiting your multiple step complex goals to 2 per year. 

I think once I have a 4 student studio, creating the lesson overviews will make more sense since I will need to do those to stay organized. For now, I'm able to keep a lot of it in my memory since I only have 2 students to track. 

As for the last remaining goal, practicing and performing is something I'm always doing.  I may still learn this piece as a major project, but I won't put it on my Annual Goals list. 

And that's the SMARTER annual goal setting process!

What goals are you setting this year? How can you phrase your goals as SMARTER goals? 

Happy New Year!


Source: Full Focus 

This post is not sponsored. 


πŸ“’ Review: Full Focus Planner: How to Stay Positive, Organized, and Focused

December 29, 2022 0 Comments
One Year of my Full Focus Planners
My 2022 Full Focus Planners
I painted Quarters 2 and 3. 
Full Focus Planner by Full Focus
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

This is my honest review of the Full Focus Planner. This post is not sponsored.

What symptoms did the Full Focus Planner address for me?

  1. 1,000 tasks in my brain at a time
  2. No idea where to start
  3. Long-term projects being pushed to the last minute
  4. Feelings of discouragement for "not doing anything today"
  5. Little tasks getting lost in the shuffle

How did it address the symptoms?

  1. Key Projects section - List your most important tasks for the upcoming quarter. Other Tasks and Notes spaces on Daily pages. Weekly Overview space where I keep rolling over tasks. 
  2. Ranking my most important goals and projects. Using the Goal Detail pages to break down the goal into action steps. Sending these action steps to Weekly Big 3 and Daily Big 3 pages. 
  3. Using calendar pages and quarter pages to set regular deadlines for the action steps. 
  4. Feelings of encouragement from checking off my Big 3 each day and saying I accomplished important things today. 
  5. Checklist-style entries with a key with symbols to code if the task is finished, waiting for something, deferred, delegated, or deleted. Tasks that are not completed or deleted get sent to the following day. 

How did I learn about the Full Focus Planner?

Last year, my husband became interested in Full Focus through a podcast. One product they make, their Full Focus Planner, really caught his interest. I was very skeptical of this system because of the expense and also because I had experience trying planner systems that were far too cumbersome to set up or set up but with not enough space. I abandoned those systems and found that I was making long lists on loose-leaf paper and leaving them around the house. I would hang on to this list of never-ending tasks and feel bad daily for not accomplishing anything. 

After using this method for a few quarters, my husband was keeping work at work and coming home when he planned and being present. He was more organized and positive. 

My husband wanted me to try this method too, but I was reluctant. Like the Bullet Journal method, this planner required a lot of front-end setup. It was also a very expensive system because you need 4 planners for one year.

In contrast to the Bullet Journal, however, I didn't need to create my planner from scratch, which eventually became a chore. In contrast to a yearly planner, Full Focus had equal space for each day of the week rather than shrinking Saturday and Sunday. 

I was very skeptical that this would help, but I was getting annoyed by the recurring reminders on my phone (to the point of ignoring them!) and my loose-leaf paper wasn't organized or motivating.

At the beginning of 2022, my husband bought the Best Year Ever course from Full Focus and encouraged me to watch with him. Almost immediately I was sold on this method as I realized they were using a researched-based approach to help people reach their goals. I was already learning how to implement challenging limiting beliefs and all-or-nothing thinking using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques and this planner is built specifically to implement those challenges. 

How is the Full Focus Planner structured?

The Full Focus Planner is a quarterly planner that is centered around goal setting. To start small, the Start Here page gives a Simple Setup: On the first Day page, list your top 3 tasks for the day. This is called your Daily Big 3. Check them off as you accomplish them. Just 3 tasks. There is a list for other tasks below the Big 3, but the Big 3 are the tasks that have priority for accomplishing your goals and to help you feel like you did something today. 

I use the Big 3 to remind myself to plan piano lessons, send piano lesson notes, plan music for Sunday worship, email my band and AV team, post a blog, read to my daughters, and clean my apartment. Each Day page also has a schedule column where I list my lessons and other appointments. I also draw boxes to show how I will use my time: cooking, cleaning, or writing music. 

The Weekly Preview is my favorite tool. After the end of a week, the first section has you review what you did and write down 3-5 of your Biggest Wins. I can't begin to express how much just sitting down and reviewing what I actually did objectively has done for how I view myself. Lazy? No. Doing the best I can with what I have? Yes. 

Previously, I would complain to my husband about how lazy I am and that I didn't accomplish anything. Then I would proceed to list doing the dishes, picking up a toys, going to the park with the girls, and making lunch. I was accomplishing tasks, but I didn't record them, so I didn't remember them, and I felt discouraged and even shame about myself. Now, I look back and see that I put together a worship set list for Sunday, I had guests over on Friday, I published a blog post, I turned in a competition entry, I made a craft, and planned a piano lesson. 

On the Weekly pages, you get to set a Weekly Big 3 to advance your goals and projects and at the end of the week and gauge how far you got. There is space to review your week for what to keep, improve, start doing or stop doing. I usually roll over a list of tasks in another space and have decided to use large post-it notes so I'm not rewriting long term tasks multiple times. 

Another helpful tool has been the space for writing down appointments for the week. Even though they are on my phone, reviewing and writing them down helps me to be prepared ahead of time. The last part gives space for planning self-care. I use this space on and off, but I want to set a goal to focus on how I can rejuvenate myself. 

To sandwich the book, the front gives lots of space for goal setting for the year. I highly suggest learning the SMARTER goals format. Next are blank calendar pages including full box calendars for the 3 months of the quarter and additional list pages for the remainder of the year known as Rolling Quarters. 

The back of the book has a quarterly preview which is a review of the previous quarter and a time for planning the next quarter, giving steps for setting up the next one. An index is in the very back for any notes you've made over time that you would like to find later. 

Additional favorite features of mine include the back pocket that is the perfect size for inserting a Moleskine notebook and inspiring and motivating quotes on each page of the planner. 

Did I have my Best Year Ever?

Yes. I consider my mood boost from reviewing my weeks and quarters (and in the next few days, my year) similar to eating chocolate except the benefits are long-lasting and actually change my negative beliefs about myself. These positive feelings towards myself are based in reality and I have physical evidence to prove it. I have been less anxious about completing projects and whether or not I will have enough time. My goals are set according to my values and not what I think I'm expected to do by others, so I get intrinsic rewards from my accomplishments even if I don't have a sushi date or cream cheese danish waiting for me on the other end of a project. Although those treats are a good idea, so maybe I'll treat myself for a great a 2022. 

What annual goals did you specifically accomplish?

I haven't done a year in review after having used this system, but I imagine my comparison to last year will show that, while last year I did do a number of things that I hadn't formerly considered accomplishments, this year I purposely had goals and I purposely accomplished them. 

My 2022 planned and accomplished goals:
  1. Have a fully licensed business by August 21 ??? Whenever Chicago can figure it out
    • Status: Completed, but much later than August 21st.  
  2. Teach my 5-year-old how to read daily and finish lesson book by April 30
    • Status: Completed by May 7
  3. Post 1 composition a month on Soundcloud, Pond5, and/or Arrange Me
    • Status: Completed on time
  4. Finish reading Daring Greatly by BrenΓ© Brown by March 31
    • Status: Completed on time
  5. Read the Bible 4 times a week (48 times) by September 30
    • Status: Completed
  6. Composition Competition by April 30 
    • Status: Completed. "The Voyage Home"
  7.  Composition Competition Entry by July 31
    • Status: Completed "Save the Sheep!"
  8. Spend quality time with my daughters everyday by December 31
    • Status: Completed, however I didn't track this. 
  9. Symphonina Competition Entry by December 15
    • Status: Completed

What planned goals were not accomplished? 

It is true that not all goals get accomplished with this system. Realities set in, such as too many invasive weeds took over our shared backyard (4), concertos are very, very hard (goal 1), habits are hard to form and maintain (2, 3), and sometimes saying no to one project means getting to say yes to another (5). 
  1. Memorize Romance movement from Chopins' Concerto in E Minor (8 ½ pages) by June 5
    • Status: Abandoned
  2. Do physical therapy or yoga every morning (80 times)
    • Status: Abandoned despite the reward of cheesecake...
  3. Practice piano every morning for 30 minutes at 6am (60 times) by March 31
    • Status: Partially completed (I have a ~ in the checkmark box)
  4. Plant lawn and garden by May 31st
    • Status: I have an indoor tomato plant I grew from a seed. Hoping for a better season in 2023. 
  5. Composition Competition Entry by October 31
    • Status: Abandoned in favor of the Symphonina Competition
In addition to these annual goals, I had a number of smaller projects that came up over time that were also accomplished or abandoned, but they are less interesting and more mundane, such as cleaning and paperwork. 


The Full Focus Planner is worth the cost. The productivity increase and mood boost has been absolutely priceless. I highly recommend this system for everyone whether you are a stay-at-home mom like me or a manager like my husband. They even have a youth version. 

It is so much more than just a planner; it is a way to capture the truth about what you accomplished in a year and to challenge the negative beliefs about yourself and how you spend your time. Everyone has different values and our goals reflect that. 

I hope if you try this system, you also find that you are able to do things you dreamed of accomplishing, such as me orchestrating compositions, but didn't know where to start. 

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below!

Have a happy New Year!



🎹 Essential Piano Studio Set-Up Guide

December 09, 2022 0 Comments
Essential Piano Studio Set-Up Guide
I started teaching by traveling to homes or schools. More recently, I have been able to put together a small studio in my three-flat with a home studio and virtual option. 

This is a list of essentials to set up your piano studio. I created three lists: Traveling Piano Teacher, Home-Based Piano Teacher, and Virtual/Hybrid Piano Teacher

I sincerely hope this post helps you if you are just starting out on your piano teaching journey.

Traveling Piano Teacher

If you teach at a school, church, or at students' homes, this is the list of items you will need to own or have available for your use:
  1. Reliable transportation 
    • Public transit or a car
  2. Access to a piano or digital piano 
    • Piano must be tuned and in good working order. It must also have a bench and music stand. A digital piano should not be on a table; an X-stand or furniture stand is necessary. It must have a sustain pedal. 
  3. Private space with a waiting area 
    • Especially if you are using a multi-purpose space, you will need to assert that you and your students need quiet and no interruptions. 
  4. Backpack 
    • Durable and comfortable. Space to keep books from bending.
  5. Onsite Storage (permanent classroom)
    • Plastic box 
    • File box
  6. Method Series 
    • Create a system for knowing which books to take to avoid overstuffing your backpack. 
  7. Repertoire Books 
    • Avoid heavy materials and consider making scans of material that both you and your student own. 
  8. Flashcards 
    • Use an old stationery box to prevent bending. 
  9. Stickers 
    • Organize in a 4"x6" photo album. 
  10. Metronome
    • If you are using an acoustic piano, make sure you have a metronome with you. 
  11. Storage at home
    • There's nothing worse than not having a place for your materials to be safely stored. Whether it's a bookcase or storage boxes, make sure that your paper materials will not get bent. Corral loose items and manipulatives into small boxes. I save boxes from mugs that have been gifted to me.
  12. Curriculum 
  13. Prizes
  14. iPad or comparable tablet
    • Optional, but this is helpful for music apps such as Note Rush, Piano Maestro, Rhythm Cat, Treble Cat, or Bass Cat. It is also useful for emailing lesson notes. 

Home-based Piano Teacher

  1. Piano or digital keyboard and bench
  2. Bookcase
    • Hold all of your books and materials in a bookcase, preferably one with cabinet doors at the bottom to hide most of your materials and scores. Keep the shelves organized by decluttering and organizing often. Don't forget to dust!
  3. Method Series 
    • I have my go to method, Piano Adventures, but I also have methods from Alfred, Bastien, Music Tree and others on hand just in case a student needs supplemental repertoire to reinforce a concept or they have a different learning style. 
  4. Metronome
  5. Repertoire Books 
    • Have a wide variety of music ranging from easy to difficult.
  6. Textbooks 
    • Important for referencing information about music without "Googling it".  
  7. Carpeted Space or Area Rug 
    • This provides a comfortable area to play games. 
  8. Rhythm and Movement Accessories 
    • I purchased nylon scarves from Amazon to help with listening activities. 
  9. Stuffed Animals
    • I will often communicate with antsy preschool aged students by use a stuffed animal as a puppet. 
  10. Curriculum 
  11. Prizes

Virtual/Hybrid Piano Teacher

All of the Home-based piano teacher materials and: 
  1. Tripod 
  2. Camera
    • I use the camera on my phone 
  3. Skype 
    • Skype had the best sound quality when paired with an external microphone when comparing it to other available conferencing software. This platform is free. There are companies that offer subscriptions to low-latency conferencing software specifically for music lessons.

My Gear

  • Yamaha P-255 
  • Adjustable Piano Bench from Amazon
  • Manhasset Music Stand
  • Sauder Bookcase
  • Filing Box
  • Ikea Step Stool
  • MacBook Air
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPhone SE (2nd Generation)
  • Tripod
Thank you for reading my Essential Piano Studio Set-Up Guide. I plan to update the links as I create more blog posts detailing items from these lists. Please let me know in the comments if this post helped you and if there are any items you would like me to expand on in a future post. 

Blessings on your piano teaching journey!



πŸ’‘Aha Moments - The Principle Goal of a Piano Teacher

November 30, 2022 0 Comments
"A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.” - Anonymous

"A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.” 
- Anonymous

My goal as a piano teacher is to teach myself out of a job. 

Sounds strange, right?

I love my students and I love piano teaching, but I want my students to continue playing the piano even after they discontinue lessons. I want them to move beyond my knowledge. I want them to explore the many, many musical topics. 

How does a piano teacher accomplish this? 

The Principle Goal of a Piano Teacher

"The principle goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” 
- Jean Piaget

In her book, The Independent Piano Teacher's Studio Handbook, Beth Klingenstein explains that showing and not teaching creates a dependency on the teacher for every piece they will ever learn. She says, "Ultimately, such dependency means the last piece the student is taught will be the last piece played with accuracy" (156). 

Following this claim, she details many skills piano teacher's must teach their students in order to create independent musicians. 

The topics include how to teach:
  • Practicing
  • Memorizing
  • Performing
  • Timing and Rhythm
  • Technique
  • Sight-Playing
  • Fingering
  • Pedaling
  • Developing the Ear
Wow, what a list! When we shift to this mindset, however difficult, we benefit our students for a lifetime.

Pieces provide a vehicle with which to teach skills, but the end goal is not the pieces themselves, but the ability to learn more and more. Klingenstein goes on to say that pieces are learned faster and more pieces are able to be learned by a student who can effectively train themselves.  

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher . . . is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” 
- Maria Montessori

As I continue to build this blog, my hope is to chronicle my journey learning to teach these and to provide helpful resources and tips for other teachers to in turn cultivate lifelong learners of music. That is the principle goal of a piano teacher.

What are some quotes that have helped you as a teacher? What is your personal response to this post? What are some anecdotes you have about putting this into practice as a teacher? Let me know in the comments! 



🏘 Free Printable: Harmony Street

November 22, 2022 0 Comments

What is Harmony Street?

Harmony Street is a fun visual and introduction in the form of an analogy for explaining scale degrees, chords in solfΓ¨ge, quality, cadences, and chord functions in a diatonic major scale to young students. 

My goal is to provide an early understanding of chord relationships to preparatory level piano students. I believe that the earlier a student has an understanding of chord functions, the earlier they can improvise and compose. This is also helpful with analyzing music, giving a framework for understanding a piece and supporting solid memorization. 

This is a free printable for use in your studio and may be distributed freely to your students. Please do not alter this printable in any way. Please do not repost as your own work. If you repost on your website, please link back to my blog. Always keep the copyright notification at the bottom of the pages.

If you have feedback or typo corrections, please email me at I would love to read your comments and any suggestions for modifications.


πŸ“‘ Free: Piano Lesson Notes Email Template

November 18, 2022 0 Comments

This is my typical email template for weekly piano lesson notes. I add and subtract categories as needed. For kids, I really enjoy finding matching emojis for each song.

I prepare my notes ahead of time based on my lesson plan to save time after the lesson. If the lesson goes differently than I planned, I will make a note of it in my notebook. 

Feel free to copy and paste this for your piano lesson notes emails!

Subject: Lesson Notes MM/DD/YYYY

Dear Student, 

In today's lesson, we learned about tempo and beat. Practice clapping the beat along with songs at home. I am so proud of your progress so far. Continue practicing 6 days a week or until your assignment is completed. 

Technique: Learn the C 5-Finger Scale.

Lesson Book #, p. 1-2
πŸ‘ Mary Had A Little Lamb - Transpose to the key of G.
🌟Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star - remember to stretch 4th finger to G, 5th finger will play A. 

🏰 Disney Book
⛄ Do You Want to Build a Snowman? - learn the first line for the next lesson. 

Listening: Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Flashcards to Add
Middle C 
Treble G 
Bass F
Treble Clef
Bass Clef

Worksheet: Print and complete the attached notespeller for the next lesson. 

App: Rhythm Cat Lite, Stage 1, Levels 1 and 2. Aim for 3 stars! ☆☆☆

Resource: Check out

Have a great week!
Jane Doe
Piano Teacher, Jane Doe Piano Studio

I hope you like using this template for your piano lesson notes. Do you use email for piano lesson notes? Why or why not? What are some categories you include in your notes?


πŸ“‹ How to Get a Chicago Home-Based Business License

November 15, 2022 0 Comments
πŸ“‹ How an Independent Piano Teacher Got a Chicago Business License

When I applied for my Chicago business license, I had no idea what I was doing. Zoning laws differ in every locale and vary in restrictiveness, and Chicago is very strict. The city says that everyone conducting business in the city must have a business license, so that means independent music teachers teaching out of their homes. 

I wanted to start my home-based piano studio in my apartment legally and with as little cost as possible. I couldn't imagine the heartbreak of being closed down and unable to serve the students that I love encouraging. My purpose for this post is to help guide Chicago-based piano teachers pursue a business license in Chicago. 

Important Note: This blog post is not legal advice. After writing this, I found this excellent checklist from a local accounting firm. Please use this! It's very straightforward and detailed. 

You will work through the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).


Step 1: Check your zoning designation. 

  1. Check this website: Chicago Zoning Website. RS followed by a number is residential. Mine was RS-3.
  2. Apply for a Home-Based Business License and select the Musician category. 

Step 2: Determine your organization.

I decided to be a sole proprietorship with a DBA. Other possible ways to organize include partnership, LLC, Corporation, or S-Corp.

Pick either 3a or 3b:

Step 3a: Apply for a DBA.

If you are operating solely under your legal name as a sole proprietor, you do not need an Assumed Business Name from Cook County. But if you have named your piano studio like I did you need to apply for an assumed business name (aka DBA - "Doing Business As..."). LLCs register their names with the state, so they do not need a DBA from Cook County. 

Here is the example on the website:

"For example, a business called "John Jones, P.C." (i.e. owner's full name and title) does not have to file an assumed name, but "Jones Wrecking" does." 


If you decide this applies to you, apply here: Assumed Business Name Registration.

Here are the steps:

  1. Apply online and print a paper application. 
  2. Take this application to a Notary Public at a bank and sign it in front of them. 
  3. Send this application to the Clerk's office with a $50 application fee. 
  4. Receive a Copy of Legal Notice that you must publish in a local newspaper within 15 calendar days. It must be published for three consecutive weeks. I ran my legal notice with the Chicago Sun-Times and it cost $165. 
  5. The newspaper will send you a Certificate of Publication with the clipping to you as proof and you must return that the the Clerk's office. 
  6. The certificate will be sent to you in the mail.
Total cost for a Cook County DBA: $215 one time 

Step 3b: Apply for an LLC. 

If you decide to apply for an LLC with the Illinois Secretary of State, you will need to make an Articles of Organization. The name of your company must end with LLC. You also must appoint a Registered Agent (that can be you, but most advice suggests you appoint someone else) to submit Annual Reports. The fee is $150 when you submit your Articles of Organization one time and then $75 each year when you file your required Annual Reports. You must file the Annual Reports or else your LLC will be dissolved. 

Total cost for an Illinois LLC: $150 + ($75 x the number of years you operate your business)

Step 4: Apply for tax numbers.

Next is tax registration with Illinois. I attempted the IDOR ID application online multiple times and I determined that because I do not sell goods, I do not need an IDOR because I do not collect sales tax and I will not be hiring employees. (Source: New Business Checklist | Smith & Cull, Ltd.) If you are selling merchandise, you will need to get a tax number from IDOR and collect sales tax. 

Finally, apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Please read this Starting a Business (IRS) for information about the different ways to organize your business and how to handle accounting. 

You will need to create a system of keeping track of income and expenses. I simply keep spreadsheets called Income (Year) and Expenses (Year). Make sure you understand if you need to file quarterly Estimated Taxes and how to calculate that amount based on your accounting. When you file, you will use your EIN. Do not lose the paper document sent in the mail with the EIN number. The bottom of the letter says they will only correspond with you if you use the tear off at the bottom of the page.

Total Cost for EIN: Free

Step 5: Apply for a Chicago Business License.

I applied online before the following was posted on the online portal. 

Home Based Businesses

Posted May 25, 2022

Applications for home occupation licenses (home based businesses) must be made in person at the Small Business Center. Such applications will not be accepted online. The Center is located at 121 N LaSalle Street, Suite 800 and is open from 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM daily Monday through Friday.

I'm sorry to say you have to go in-person now. 

Fill out this Chicago Business Information Sheet. This is a pre-application that you will use at the Small Business Center

If you are a Sole Proprietor, you will still put your full name as the Legal Name of Business. Then your DBA will go on the second line. Fill out the rest of the form to the best of your ability and take it to the Small Business Center at 121 N LaSalle St

Total Cost of a City of Chicago Home-Based Business License: $250 biannually

Total Licensing Startup Cost: $215 + $250 = $465 (+$250 every other year)

I wish you well in your endeavor to become a licensed piano teaching business in Chicago. Please leave a comment and let me know if this helped you obtain a business license. Once again, this is not legal advice; this is simply how I, an Independent Piano Teacher, got a Chicago business license.



πŸ“š 8 Curriculum Must-Haves for Beginner Piano Lessons πŸ‘©‍🏫

April 07, 2022 0 Comments
8 Curriculum Must-Haves for Beginner Piano Lessons

Beginner piano lessons are foundational for music reading skills, healthy technique, and audiating music. While there are many great resources for teaching beginner piano, the following have been effective and engaging for my students. Listed below are my beginner piano curriculum must-haves. 

1. Piano Adventures Method

8 Curriculum Must-Haves for Beginner Piano Lessons: Piano Adventures Method
The Piano Adventures Basic Method is comprised of 8 levels (Primer, Level 1, Level 2A, Level 2B, Level 3A, Level 3B, Level 4, and Level 5). There are 4 core books per level; I typically assign two. Recently, I have chosen the Technique & Artistry books. The exercises provided are fun and give detailed instructions and fun illustrations for executing many different articulations in a healthy way. 

I appreciate the progressive difficultly of reading skills, the colorful pictures, and the amusing lyrics in this series. It also has backing tracks for each piece for free on the Piano Adventures Digital Cloud.  Many duets are written in the books for the teacher and student to play together. I love the duets because I believe providing ensemble experience is a cornerstone of music education.  

In addition to the Basic Method for elementary-aged children, Piano Adventures has additional methods specially designed for preschoolers, teenagers, and adults. They are adapted to the learning styles of each age group and enter into the Basic Method at various points. For example, the adult method prepares beginner pianists for Lesson Book 3B in the basic method. 

Click here for a PDF showing all of the Piano Adventures publications and how they relate. Stay tuned for reviews of the various method series from Faber Piano Adventures

2. Alfred Complete Color-Coded Flashcards
Alfred Complete Color-Coded Flashcards

This set has 89 cards. This deck has all the concepts a beginner student will learn in the method books. They reinforce note reading on the treble and bass clefs, common musical terms, rhythms symbols, and articulations. 

To use the Alfred Complete Color-Coded Flashcards, I mark the answer side with a color-coded number. The colors match the Piano Adventures book in which the concept is first introduced and the number matches the unit.  This way during a lesson, I can quickly pull the current flashcards.

3. Note Rush app 

Note Rush App Icon
Note Rush is a cool app for quizzing notes on any instrument. Using various themes, such as bugs, outer space, and holidays, Note Rush shows you notes on the grand staff one by one and hears you play the note. You do not need a MIDI cable to use this app, but it does have that feature if you would like it.  You are able to turn the timed test feature on and off and build your own quizzes that can be shared with your student to practice at home via a link or QR code. 

4. Board Games

Ice Cream Intervals by Joy Morin Example
My favorite resource for music games is Joy Morin's Color In My Piano blog. My favorite games are Grand Staff Pass, Ice Cream Intervals, and The Amazing Keyboard Race. Another resource I have is The Big Book of Music Games that has games to copy, color, and assemble on file folders. While it is more geared toward general music class, it has many games suitable for 2 players as well. 

5. Elective Book

Faber Supplementary Library
I firmly believe in providing students with additional piano literature outside of the method books. The more the better and I do count working on extra music as practice time. The reason is that self-guided learning in conjunction with enthusiasm for the music quickly builds neural passageways and takes away the drudgery that can often accompany the thought of an upcoming practice session.

As I think back to learning how to play piano, I loved having a library of piano books at my level and beyond. I pushed myself to learn "My Heart Will Go On" from a book of popular piano songs.  I worked on the Faber ShowTime to BigTime Library series books spanning pop, jazz, classical arrangements, ragtime, hymns and Christmas music.  The experience I gained from regularly playing for enjoyment allowed me to progress through intermediate piano literature very quickly. I love to lend my books to my students and I also encourage them to build a music library at home comprised of exciting music books.

6. Theory Worksheets

The Staff, Clefs, and Ledger Lines Worksheet
There are many theory books available for students, but personally, I enjoy making my own curriculum or finding free worksheets from other piano teachers. The most helpful resource for creating my own curriculum has been Joy Morin's Music Symbols Pack. You can drag and drop the symbols from the file into a word processor and create very professional and polished worksheets for your students. I have assigned theory lessons from and created an accompanying worksheet to have the student apply the information learned practically. I love because it also allows you to build your own theory quizzes and share the link with your students to use on their computers at home. 

7. Music Learning Theory 

Have you ever experienced a piano student adding an extra beat to the last note of each measure in 3/4 time?  What about a student who is unable to distinguish D major from D minor, missing the F# each time and not even noticing? If so, I believe understanding and implementing the concepts of Music Learning Theory by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon will be very helpful to your students. 

I was introduced to Music Learning Theory by my elementary school general music teacher.  We would sing major and minor patterns and chant rhythms.  When I was older, I read a post on the Color in my Piano blog (if you haven't noticed, I adore this blog), about Music Learning Theory and immediately recalled my elementary music classes. I firmly believe in the importance of teaching piano students to sing because it prevents simply decoding the notes to press the correct "buttons".  I have had transfer students unable to tell if they missed a note and unable to feel the difference between duple and triple meters.

The resources on The Improving Musician website are very helpful tools for learning to audiate various tonalities. Check out this resource explaining the process. 

8. Exploring Improvisation and Composition

I have not yet created a printed curriculum for improvisation and composition, but I am brainstorming.  Typically, for the first lesson, I play chords on the black keys and ask the student to play any black keys. For later lessons, I play a white key-based chord progression (I, V, vi, IV or I7, vi7, ii7, V7) and ask my student to play white keys in any order.  The main issue for my students has been confidence and not being willing to make mistakes, even though with the black key improvising, you really can't make a mistake. 

This is one of the main reasons why Music Learning Theory has become so important to me. It helps students to have musical ideas (audiation) and the ability to recreate them on their instrument and with their voice. As another plug for Music Learning Theory: my brothers and I are all improvisers and composers on our respective instruments, and while some people would say we're genetically all musical, I say it's because we all had the same general music teacher growing up. 

For me, improvisation and composition are staples to my musical life. I post my compositions and arrangements to SoundCloud and Sheet Music Plus for fun.  None of those compositions would exist without my initial improvisation to create those ideas.  The composition aspect develops those ideas and creates a coherent piece that becomes a score.  I work hard to impart this skill to all of my students. I hope to teach them music notation software such as MuseScore and the free Apple DAW, GarageBand, so that they also can become composers. 

In Conclusion

I use many resources to build my beginner piano curriculum.  It is not simply piano, it is also games, singing, moving, creating, and collaborating. 

Stay tuned for my intermediate and advanced piano curriculum must-haves!

What are materials are essential to your piano curriculum? Let me know in the comments!