11.26.2022

πŸƒLesson Hacks: Label Your Flashcards for Quick Sorting

November 26, 2022 0 Comments
Alfred's Complete Color Coded Flash Cards for All Beginning Music Students
Labeled flashcard
When you have a solid block of students, sorting the correct flashcards can be difficult and time-consuming. To avoid using up precious lesson time sorting flashcards, I color-coded and numbered them! 

Below is a complete list of the Alfred's Complete Color Coded Flash Cards for All Beginning Music Students with the matching color-coded Piano Adventures Basic Method level and unit numbers. I wrote the numbers on the bottom right corner on the numbered side of each card. 

If you use a different piano method, I hope that this idea can still be helpful for you. 


Alfred's Complete Color Coded Flash Cards and Piano Adventures Correlation Chart


Link to PDF version


Key

Primer 

Level 1

Level 2A

Level 2B

Level 3A

Level 3B

Level 4

Level 5


Symbol

Card

Faber

Canary

Treble Clef Sign

1

4

Bass Clef Sign

2

4

Bass Clef:

Low C

3

1

Low D

4

5

Low E

5

5

Low F

6

5

Low G

7

10

A

8

10

B

9

10

C

10

8

D

11

8

E

12

8

F

13

5

G

14

6

A

15

6

B

16

6

Middle C

17

4

D

18

6

E

19

6

Treble Clef:

A

20

6

B

21

1

Middle C

22

4

D

23

5

E

24

5

F

25

5

G

26

4

A

27

1

B

28

1

C

29

2

D

30

3

E

31

2

High F

32

3

High G

33

3

High A

34

5

High B

35

5

High C

36

1

Pink

Single Eighth Note

37

3

Eighth Notes

38

1

Quarter Note

39

2

Dotted Quarter Note

40

8

Half Note

41

2

Dotted Half Note

42

3

Whole Note

43

2

Eighth Rest

44

7

Quarter Rest

45

10

Half Rest

46

5

Whole Rest

47

5

2/4 Time Signature

48

2

3/4 Time Signature

49

6

4/4 Time Signature

50

5

White

Adagio

51

7

Andante

52

7

Moderato

53

7

Allegro

54

7

Ritardando

55

9

A tempo

56

2

Pianissimo

57

9

Piano

58

2

Mezzo Piano

59

2

Mezzo Forte

60

3

Forte

61

2

Fortissimo

62

3

Crescendo

63

2

Diminuendo

64

2

Accent

65

10

Green

Sharp Sign

66

6

Flat Sign

67

6

Natural Sign

68

1

Fermata

69

4

Pedal Sign

70

1

8va

71

4

Staccato Note

72

1

Slur

73

1

Tied Notes

74

9

Repeat Sign

75

2

Repeat Signs

76

5

D.C. al Fine

77

4

Blue

Melodic & Harmonic Intervals:

2nd

78

5

3rd

79

7

4th

80

4

5th

81

4

6th

82

3

7th

83

3

Octave

84

8

Key Signature:

C Major or A Minor

85

4

G Major or E Minor

86

5

D Major or B Minor

87

5

F Major or D Minor

88

10

B-flat major or G Minor

89

Level 5


How did this resource help you? If you found this resource helpful, please share with a friend!

What are your lesson hacks? Let me know in the comments! 

Until next time,

-Jenny

11.22.2022

🏘 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 jennifermeltonpiano@gmail.com. I would love to read your comments and any suggestions for modifications.

11.18.2022

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!


To: parent@somewhere.com
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. 

Assignments
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 MusicTheory.net

Have a great week!
--
Jane Doe
Piano Teacher, Jane Doe Piano Studio
janedoepianostudio.co


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?

11.15.2022

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.


-Jenny

11.11.2022

πŸ“• Why I Stopped Teaching Music for Little Mozarts to Preschool Students: A Detailed Review of Level 1

November 11, 2022 0 Comments

According to the Foreword of the music lesson book, Music for Little Mozarts "was designed to provide a balance between the discipline necessary for playing the [piano] and the enjoyment one gets from the process of music-making" (p. 2). 

The FAQ on Alfred.com says, "When a student completes Level 4 of Music for Little Mozarts, they should continue in Alfred's Premier Piano Course, Level 1B. Note that it may require some extra work by the teacher on naming notes and moving around the keyboard." The authors expect that completion of Music for Little Mozarts will take about 2-years.

This review is for Level 1 of the Music For Little Mozarts series. 

Music for Little Mozarts: Music Lesson Book 1

Rating: ⭐⭐ (out of 5)

Pros

  • Adorable concept complete with original characters and a narrative on each lesson book page
  • Uses stuffed animals as a teaching tool for young students
  • Easy for parents to help their student practice; detailed instructions and steps are included for each song
  • Appealing for 3-year-olds as well
  • Holistic music approach incorporating movement, singing in solfΓ¨ge, and coloring activities in the supplementary books

Cons

  • Overall expected cost will exceed $100 if you buy the lesson book and two core books for levels 1-4
  • Long and boring
  • Might not appeal to older 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds

General Overview

Grand Staff Reading: No songs use the Grand Staff. 

Approach to Note Reading: Pre-staff notation only, directional by step. Notes move higher and lower on the page to show melody contour.  The contour is more subtle than in the Faber pre-staff notation volumes. It's harder to distinguish that the note is moving. 

Method of counting: Unit counting

Hand Position: Each page has a picture of the piano keyboard with finger numbers and later note names. Thumbs Share C is the only hand position that is introduced. 

Technique: Posture and hand shape are introduced in the first lesson. These concepts are not reinforced throughout the method. 

Complete range of piano: Only in activities at the beginning comparing the high and low sides of the piano and playing glissandos up and down the keyboard. 

Fingering: All notes have finger numbers even if they are repeated until piano key letter names are introduced.

Adequate reinforcement of concepts: Yes.

Rate of progression: Very slow

Logical Sequence: Yes

Pieces: In the lesson book, short original songs and one folksong fragment with lyrics. The compact disk sold separately narrates the written story in the book and provides a backing track for the songs. If you subscribe to the Piano Maestro app, the songs are also included. Sometimes the students play along with the entire track, sometimes they play a fragment, such as just the E-I-E-Os in Old MacDonald. The Discovery Book includes full songs intended to be movement or rhythm activities. 

Familiar Folksongs in the Music Discovery Book 1:

  • If You're Happy and You Know It
  • Finger Play Song
  • Hickory, Dickory, Dock!
  • Mexican Hat Dance
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Composers and Compositions Introduced in the Music Discovery Book 1:
  • Beethoven - Rage over the Lost Penny
  • Mozart - Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Sousa - Stars and Stripes Forever
  • Mozart - Minuet in F Major
  • Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor

Varied styles: No

Harmonically interesting: No

Concepts:
  • Dynamics: Clear explanation; forte and piano only. Beethoven Bear represents loud sounds and Mozart Mouse represents soft sounds. Forte and piano are interspersed throughout the book, but pieces are either one or the other.  
  • Tempo: No
  • Phrasing: No
  • Articulations: No
  • Pedal: No
  • Harmony: No
  • Form: No

Theory: Music Workbook, Notespeller & Sight-play Book, and Rhythm Speller are separate purchases. The Lesson Book has keyboards printed for coloring in the introduced piano keys, but no other written activities.

Composition: No. 

Improvisation: No.

Ear Training: Yes, in Music Workbook.

Sight-reading: Yes, in Notespeller & Sight-Play book. 

Duets: Yes, high quality. 25 of 25 songs have duets.

Private or Group Lessons: Group or private.

In-person or Virtual: Either

Levels in Series: The Music for Little Mozarts Core Levels are 1, 2, 3, and 4. The student will be ready for Level 1 of Piano Adventures upon completion of Level C. 

Supplementary Materials: A plethora of accompanying books per level, coloring books, flash cards, 7 cheaply made plush toys and probably more. 

Visual Appeal: Low to Medium. Pastel, watercolor illustrations. The character designs are cute. Printing size is very small. The keyboard depicting hand position is three-dimensional on most pages and a bit hard to decipher sometimes.  The hands are drawn next to the music line.

Daunting: No

Audience: Young students, ages 4-6

Audio: On CD, on Piano Maestro (subscription based), or Apple Music (subscription based).

Publisher Preview: Music For Little Mozarts (Alfred.com)

Additional Support for Teachers from the Publisher: Teacher's Handbook for Levels 1&2

My experience: I came across this method at the sheet music store at which I worked about 8 years ago. A local piano teacher came often to pick up cute stuffed animals every few weeks. I thought it was adorable. 

Previously, I would try to teach preschool students with the typical piano method recommended by my lesson coordinator, Bastien. It was not designed for preschoolers. I found it particularly effective to use her stuffed bunny to teach her. She would listen to me if I used the stuffed animal as a puppet to instruct her. 

At a later job, my coordinator pushed me to take on two 3-year-old boys who were brothers. I picked this method for them hoping that the Mozart Mouse and small bear stuffed animals would keep them engaged. However, I do believe that 3-year-olds are bit too young to begin independent piano lessons because of short attention spans and beginner verbal and written language skills. Eventually I was able to progress my students through level 1 and 2 of this series.

Closing Thoughts:

For very, very young students, Music for Little Mozarts is a non-threatening introduction to the keyboard. It is intended for group lessons and much of the supplementary activities are similar to early childhood group classes. 

The songs are only 4 measures long (8 if you include the repeats) from the beginning to the end of the book and the introduction of new concepts is very slow. For very young students and students on the older side of the age range who may have learning struggles, this is a good series. 

But from the perspective of me as the teacher and my young daughter when I began trying preschool methods with her, I've found this method to be pretty boring and frustrating because of the cost to give the full intended experience of the method. 

The books mention the stuffed animal characters frequently, and not just as characters, but as learning tools. The instructions on many of the songs in this book, for example, start with "Place Mozart Mouse..." or "Place Beethoven Bear...". The stuffed animals are typically very small and they cost $7.99 each. The lesson book and supplementary books are approximately $8.99 each. I think that this is unfortunately a money grab. This series has three different authors, so I understand the need to charge enough to cover paying for their content, but the expectation for each child to have multiple books and collect the stuffed animals is saddening to me at such a high price point. 

Have you used Music For Little Mozarts? If so, what was your experience? What are other options of preschool methods you have tried? 

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

-Jenny

Music for Little Mozarts: A Piano Course to Bring Out the Music in Every Young Child 

© 1999 Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. (Distributor: Alfred)

  • Music Lesson Book 1

11.07.2022

πŸ“• The Best Preschool Piano Method to Engage Young Students: My First Piano Adventure Level A

November 07, 2022 0 Comments

When I first showed my daughter the My First Piano Adventure series, her eyes lit up. Illustrated with vivid colors and original characters, this method journeys to take the Piano Adventures curriculum to a younger audience. 

To intentionally enter into a child's imagination, the Fabers adopted the ACE instructional theory:

  • Analysis →Understanding
  • Creativity →Self-Discovery
  • Expression →Personal Artistry

ACE is practically applied in the Writing Book with many activities, the Lesson Book which contains engaging songs with vibrant pictures in between the notes, and accompanying audio tracks  with great audio mixing and mastering, funny lyrics, and great voices. 

The goal is to have students playing musically through listening, singing, tapping, and moving. 

This review is for Level A of the My First Piano Adventures Method. My opinion is that this is the best preschool piano method for engaging young students. 

My First Piano Adventure Lesson Book A Cover

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (out of 5)

Pros

  • Engaging for young children and piano teachers
  • Easy for young children to practice on their own; illustrations provide directions
  • Easy for parents to aid children at home; practice instructions are printed on each page

Cons

  • Overall Cost of all three levels ($47.70) as compared to the Primer core books of the Basic Method ($29.95).

General Overview

Grand Staff Reading: No songs use the Grand Staff. Games introducing the Grand Staff are at the end of the book. In the middle of the book, the treble and bass clefs are introduced and a note at the bottom of the page says that the games may be started. 

Approach to Note Reading: Pre-staff notation only, directional by step. Notes move higher and lower on the page to show melody contour. 

Method of counting: Unit counting and word associations

Hand Position: Each page has a picture of the piano keyboard with finger numbers and later note names. C 5-finger scale is introduced in the second to last unit. 

Technique: Posture, hand shape, and firm fingertips are introduced and reinforced throughout the method.

Complete range of piano: Yes

Fingering: All notes have finger numbers unless they are repeated

Adequate reinforcement of concepts: Yes, especially when using the Writing Book.

Rate of progression: Slow and steady

Logical Sequence: Yes

Pieces: Original songs and folksongs with witty lyrics and interesting backtracks and teacher duets

    Folksongs include:

  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Buckle My Shoe (backtrack or teacher duet game)
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb (renamed Mary's Rockin' Pets with new lyrics)
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm (renamed Old Pig-Donald with new lyrics)
  • If You're Happy (backtrack or teacher duet game)
  • Eensie Weensie Spider (new lyrics)
Varied styles: Yes

Harmonically interesting: Yes, but teacher duets or backtrack are needed for full effect. Major, minor,  whole tone, tritone. 

Concepts:
  • Dynamics: Clear explanation; forte and piano only. Often the first play through is forte and then the repeat is piano
  • Tempo: No
  • Phrasing: No
  • Articulations: Short and Long sounds are introduced and experimented with in the first unit activities
  • Pedal: No
  • Harmony: Yes, harmonic intervals are used sparingly
  • Form: No

Theory: Writing Book reinforces rhythms and piano key names. Writing book involves circling, drawing lines, coloring, and some writing with ample space for large letters, numbers, and drawing pictures.  

Composition: Yes, in Writing Book. Creative presentation with boxes for letters. 

Improvisation: Yes with teacher duets or backtrack.

Ear Training: Yes, in Writing Book.

Sight-reading: Yes, in Writing Book.

Duets: Yes, high quality. 35 out of 48 songs have duets. 

Private or Group Lessons: Private, however Group Lessons are possible according to Faber's FAQ

In-person or Virtual: In-person and virtual. Virtual is aided by a subscription to Teacher's Atlas by Faber to enable screen share. 

Levels in Series: The Young Beginner Core Levels are A, B, C. The student will be ready for Level 1 of Piano Adventures upon completion of Level C. 

Supplementary Materials: Christmas Book (best to begin around p. 66; contains an Advent calendar), CD (Free Cloud Audio only more recently). 

Visual Appeal: High. Vivid, bright colors. Cute character designs. Printing size is large and often pictures are in the music. Easy to see the notes going up and down on the page.

Daunting: No

Audience: Young students, ages 4-6

Audio: Free Cloud Audio (I highly suggest listening here).

Publisher Preview: Click here for an extensive look from the publisher's website

Additional Support for Teachers from the Publisher: 20 Questions and Answers for My First Book A, Lesson Plan for the First Lesson

My experience: I use Piano Adventures as my main method for all of my students. I have had success particularly with the Basic Method, especially levels Primer-2B with my students ages 7+. Initially when I learned about My First Piano Adventure, I actually wasn't sure about the visual appeal for young children. But when I showed my 5-year-old daughter and saw her eyes light up, especially after we had been trying Music for Little Mozarts with little interest, I knew this book would be something special. 

It is fantastic. I love that it stretches out the concepts presented in the Primer Lesson Book of the Basic Method. More time is spent reinforcing new piano keys and rhythm concepts. If you are familiar with the Basic Method, you will recognize some of the original tunes. They are often paired with new lyrics. The lesson book has pages dedicated to technique and there is accompanying written work, ear training, and rhythm exercises in the Workbook. My daughter has been going to practice the piano unprompted and has been succeeding in accomplishing the work at a high level. She is currently 6 and we are close to starting Level B. 

The art is similar to the look of construction paper cut-outs. On most pages, the child is supposed to find Tap, a little firefly hidden on some of the pages. A unique approach is the images that show up in between notes. Rainbows, kangaroos, and whales are used to show hand position changes as the student moves up and down the piano. 

Closing Thoughts:

For young students, this method is a wonderfully engaging introduction to piano. 

The songs increase in length as the book progresses. The activities are inventive and the audio is free online which gives an additional depth to the songs.  For example, Monster Bus Driver has a very funny voice making beeping sounds with which the student plays rhythms on the 2 black keys and 3 black keys. 

From the perspective of the teacher, I'm excited to teach this method. It has made me laugh on more than one occasion because the humor is very well-written and incorporated. 

While the overall cost of the core books will cost more than just the Primer level with core books, I believe it is an excellent investment and bang for your buck.  Capturing the attention of a young child is more than half the battle of teaching them piano, that is why I believe that this is the best preschool piano method for engaging young students.

Have you used My First Piano Adventure? If so, what was your experience? What are other options of preschool methods you have tried? 

Let me know in the comments!

My daughter and I will be starting Level B of this series very soon. Stay tuned for another review! 

Until next time,

-Jenny

My First Piano Adventure for the Young Beginner by Nancy and Randall Faber
© 2006 Dovetree Productions, Inc. (Distributor: Hal Leonard)

  • Lesson Book A and Writing Book A (Pre-Reading)

10.27.2022

πŸ…Top 5 Prizes for Young Piano Students (and Young at Heart)

October 27, 2022 0 Comments

As a middle schooler, I remember being so excited when my piano teacher, Billie, pulled out her sticker collection. She had made a scale chart with magic marker and as I learned my scales and increased the octaves, I got to pick a sticker to add to the grid. As I learned pieces, I would also put a sticker on the page to show completion. 

When I was watching an episode of Franklin, the titular character and Beaver's piano teacher, Ms. Panda, motivated students with stickers.  As they practiced, the star stickers would add up on the studio chart.  

An anecdote I heard was a student who slumped after completing a piece for her teacher. When the teacher asked why, the student replied that her friend had a huge sticker collection from her piano teacher and that was the reason she started taking lessons in the first place!

Below I have compiled my top 5 prizes for young piano students that have motivated my students over the years. I hope you find inspiration in this post! 

1. Stickers

Top 5 Prizes for Piano Students: #1 Stickers

When I started teaching piano lessons, I traveled to churches, homes, and schools.  My sticker collection would slide around in my backpack and the sheets would bend and ruin the stickers. Since the sticker sheets measured 4"x6", I had the idea to buy a photo brag book!  This small photo album was not glamorous. It was green with a blue border and completely plastic.  

My system was a hit, but I am on my third brag book because the pages are pretty fragile. 

Stickers are rewarded for

  • Six days of practice during the week OR completion of the assignment, whichever comes first. 
  • Satisfactory completion of a song from the method book
  • Completion of a piece or song for the repertoire list
  • Memorizing a piece
  • Extra credit: any assignment I didn't get to assign during the lesson gets double stickers

2. Toys

Now that I teach from home, I have also added a prize box.  The prize box is for large achievements and events. These achievements include 
  • joining my studio
  • completion of a book
  • showing above and beyond knowledge of a subject during a pop quiz (scales, theory, etc.)
  • birthdays
  • "Joining my Studio" anniversary
  • Completion of bingo boards, tic tac toe boards, and other challenges assigned during breaks
When I purchase the prizes, I try to have each toy cost about 30 cents or less. 

Examples of prizes are 
    Top 5 Prizes for Piano Students: #2 Toys
  • Small containers of Play-Doh
  • Keychain Plushies
  • Iwako Erasers
  • Clearance Holiday items from the drug store (erasers, stamps, pens)
  • Entire Sticker Sheets

3. Piano Karate Friendship Bracelets 

At the end of each method book, a certificate on the last page is signed and dated for completion. But what about when the students finish the method series or decide to move on from them? 
Top 5 Prizes for Piano Students: #3 Piano Karate Friendship Bracelets
I learned about Recorder Karate from students I taught general music to one summer.  I had asked the older elementary students to bring their recorders and I noticed that they had colored strings on the ends in the colors of karate levels.  Their elementary school music teacher gave them a "belt" when they fulfilled a level of proficiency on the recorder. 

I have since rewarded "white belts" to a couple of students for completing the Preparatory level as described by the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Piano Syllabus.  I particularly use the repertoire, ear training, music theory, and sight playing requirements as benchmarks. I have decided that one octave scales are sufficient for elementary level students, so I pace technique very differently than RCM.  

I try to follow this syllabus very loosely as I don't want to prevent a student from learning harder pieces than the syllabus lists.  However, it is a comprehensive guideline for benchmarks. It is also helpful for having an ordered curriculum that builds on itself, leaving no skills behind. 

It's also very fun to see their eyes light up when they receive the bracelet. My newest idea is to tie the bracelets around a plushie keychain prize.  

I may provide my benchmarks in a future post, but I have decided the belt colors in order, once again loosely based on RCM levels Preparatory (A and B combined) through 10.  I also take into account the repertoire difficulty opinions of Jane Magrath in Pianists Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature, Faber Developing Artist series, and Jennifer Linn's Journey through the Classics series.

Top 5 Prizes for Piano Students: #3 Piano Karate Friendship Bracelets
Preparatory - White Belt
Elementary Levels - Yellow Belt, Orange Belt, Green Belt
Intermediate Levels - Blue Belt, Purple Belt, Brown Belt, Red Belt
Advanced Levels - 1st Degree Black Belt, 2nd Degree Black Belt, 3rd Degree Black Belt

4. Skeleton Key Cards for Scales

I use the ideas on Joy Morin's Music Keys Matching Worksheets & More post on her ColorInMyPiano.com blog (this is my favorite piano teaching blog and I have used many of her worksheets and resources in my studio for over 8 years). 

Her skeleton keys and padlock printable gives you an opportunity to reward each scale that a student learns.  

5. Roses

Top 5 Prizes for Piano Students: #5 Piano Karate Friendship Bracelets
At the end of recitals, I like to break up a bouquet of roses and hand one to each student for our group picture.  

Incentives are a huge part of encouraging children to practice and participate in piano lessons.

What did your piano teacher use to motivate you?  What are incentives you use in your own studio? What are your top 5 prizes for your piano students?

-Jenny