repertoire / methods, Retreat

2017 Piano Teacher Retreat

Hello, readers!

I’m so excited to share with you some photos from the three-day Piano Teacher Retreat I hosted earlier this month.  

On Thursday the 17th, 12 piano teachers arrived for our retreat activities. They came from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Virginia, Ontario (Canada), …and even as far as Georgia!

Including my friend Amy Chaplin (who was in charge of delicious meals for us!) and myself, this added up to 14 piano teachers in “Piano Manor” — which is what my students and I fondly call my home studio. :)

My chief goal with my Piano Teacher Retreat was to create a professional development experience with no single “expert” to learn from, but instead with all attendees collaborating and sharing their thoughts and experiences, toward the goal of growing together to become better teachers.

Don’t get me wrong: I love conferences, but if we really want to create an experience that results in the greatest amount of learning, we need to create learning experiences that very closely replicate the actual desired skill or behavior.

To that end, this was not a professional development experience where attendees sat in their seats and passively listened. Nope. At Piano Teacher Retreat, everybody participates. :) All 14 of us kept busy through group discussion sessions, studying certain method books with a partner, and presenting our findings with the rest of the group. We were hands-on and interactive!

Continue reading “2017 Piano Teacher Retreat”

repertoire / methods

Video: A Peek Inside the Littlest Piano Method Book You Ever Did See

Hi there!

Earlier today, I went live on Facebook to take a peek inside the littlest piano method book in my collection. :) It’s called “Little Players: A Piano Book For Very Young Beginners,” by Robert Nolan Kerr. The copyright year is 1941.

I found this book among a boxful of other old sheet music I received from a retiring piano teacher. It’s an interesting piece of history. Join me in taking a closer look at this book!

Here is the Facebook Live video.

Taking a peek inside just about the cutest little piano method book I ever did see…

Posted by Color In My Piano blog on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Here is what’s covered in the video:

  • 0:37  Check out the size of this little book compared to a typical-sized method book.
  • 1:47  Take a guess: which reading approach is used by this method book?
  • 3:06  Find out what “very young beginner” age the author intended this book to be for. Today, I think publications generally use “very young beginners” to mean age 4-6.
  • 3:27  Find out which touch (non-legato, legato, or staccato) the author expects the student will use throughout the book.
  • 4:30  Check out the 1940s era illustrations.
  • 5:42  It’s nice to see pieces in both duple and triple meter early on.
  • 6:11  This book contains a few interesting activities requiring students to experience meter through listening and moving to music the teacher plays.
  • 8:15  This is a method where the student is learning to play pieces through a combination of note and rote learning. Singing also seems to be encouraged.
  • 11:42  An early page in this book indicates that it was for group or individual instruction. Can you picture a classroom full of school children, each with their own copy of this little book?! :)

Thanks for exploring this old method book with me!

Questions for you: Have you ever before seen such an adorable mini-sized piano method book?! Do you teach your beginners to play with legato touch first, or do you do something else first? What other interesting observations do you have after taking a virtual peek with me inside this interesting piece of pedagogical history?

Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Why am I looking through old piano method books? It’s because I’m in the midst of preparations for Retreat at Piano Manor which I will be hosting later this summer, August 17-19, 2017! During the retreat, we will be looking through piano method books from across the decades, uncovering pedagogical wisdom relevant for us today. Be sure to watch the facebook page and here on the blog for future videos about piano methods.

Professional Development, repertoire / methods, Retreat

Video: Let’s Talk about John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play”

Hi there!

Earlier today, I went live on Facebook to talk about one of my favorite old piano method books: the classic John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” book. It was my first piano book when I was all of age 5. :)

Here is the Facebook Live video.

Let's talk about this classic piano method: John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the "Teaching Little Fingers" book because it was my first piano book when I was age 5. ??

Posted by Color In My Piano blog on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Here is what’s covered in the video:

  • 0:50  Get a peek inside an OLD copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” book by John Thompson.
  • 2:10  Why I like using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book sometimes today as a supplement.
  • 3:05  Get a peek inside a NEW copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book. The illustrations have been updated, but the version is otherwise pretty true to the original.
  • 3:35  How to address one of the potential pitfalls of using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book: the overabundance of finger numbers.
  • 4:47  How John Thompson was ahead of his time as a pedagogue. Or, perhaps there is really just “nothing new under the sun.” :) Hint: See the note on the cover of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book.
  • 7:04  Learn more about other music and resources John Thompson authored.

Questions for you: Have you ever used the John Thompson series? What do you appreciate about it?

Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Why am I looking through old piano method books? It’s because I’m in the midst of preparations for Retreat at Piano Manor which I will be hosting later this summer, August 17-19, 2017! During the retreat, we will be looking through piano method books from across the decades, uncovering pedagogical wisdom relevant for us today. Registration is now open and a few teachers have already registered. Be sure to watch the facebook page and here on the blog for future videos about piano methods.

repertoire / methods

Check Out Composer Sara Tomlinson’s Music

paper airplane coverGood day!

Today, I am so happy for my friend, Sara Tomlinson, who recently was accepted into Jennifer Eklund’s Composer Community through PianoPronto.com. Please take a moment to listen to Sara’s piece “Paper Airplane” via the video below.

Paper Airplane is a flowing, intermediate-level piece in the key of Eb. You can preview the digital sheet music and purchase via digital download here.

To receive notifications when Sara’s other compositions became available, please like her Facebook page or join the email list at her website.

Performances, repertoire / methods, Reviews

My Favorite Sheet Music Solos for Piano Students

For our annual Spring Recital, I maintain a tradition of letting my piano students choose their own special piece to memorize and perform. In December or January, I restock my library of sheet music solos at all the various levels, so that I can demonstrate 3-4 pieces for each student to choose from.

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I’ve started to try to keep track of some of the pieces that I feel were favorites or especially successful in performance over the past few years. I think every teacher should keep track of their favorite teaching pieces! I suggest doing so using a YouTube playlist or a spreadsheet file (Excel or Google Sheets). In fact, I have started a Collaborative Repertoire List project here that you may be interested in viewing.

Today, I’d like to share with you a selection of favorite sheet music solos my students have played over the past few years. In this video, you will hear me talk about and play excerpts from 18 pieces. Below the video, you’ll find written comments for each piece as well as links for purchasing the sheet music. Enjoy!

Favorite Sheet Music Solos for Piano Students

My Fav Sheet Music Solos for Piano Students

Posted by Color In My Piano blog on Monday, March 21, 2016

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EARLY ELEMENTARY

  • 1:20 Dancing Drums, by Joyce Grill —  A lively piece in a minor key that has a catchy and interesting melody. Teacher duet.
  • 2:00 Japanese Garden, by Jennifer Linn — An expressive, pentatonic piece for beginners. Teacher duet.
  • 3:20 In My Dreams, by Jennifer Linn — This piece has an absolutely gorgeous melody. 36 measures in length. Teacher duet.

MID ELEMENTARY Continue reading “My Favorite Sheet Music Solos for Piano Students”

repertoire / methods, Videos

Christmas Piano Duet Recommendations

Hello, friends!

My piano teacher friend, Susan West, and I have been busy practicing a selection of Christmas duets in order to perform them for a handful of local events during this December. Susan was kind enough to join me for today’s video to share a peek at the books we are using this year for our duet repertoire. Check out our favorite duet books and listen to our live performance of Norman Dello Joio’s O Come All Ye Faithful arrangement in the video below!

2877961Here is the list of piano duet books mentioned in the video:

Do you have Christmas duet recommendations for us to consider for next year? Please leave a comment below!

* * * * *

Thanks for watching. All past broadcasts are here: ColorInMyPiano.com/live/. To watch future broadcasts live, download the free Periscope app (for iOS or Android), search for @joymorinpiano, and hop online on Mondays at noon Eastern time. Hope to see you next time!

Do you have suggestions about what we could discuss in future Periscopes? Please submit your ideas by clicking here. I appreciate your input!

repertoire / methods

Video: Elena Cobb’s Higgledy Piggledy Jazz

Isn’t it great when you find just the right music, for just the right student, at just the right time?

Back when I first reviewed Elena Cobb’s music in 2012, I had mostly beginner students in my studio having recently relocated to Ohio. Recently, I was pleased to have the opportunity to give Elena’s book of jazz-inspired early intermediate pieces, called Higgledy Piggledy Jazz, to my student, Emma.  Emma has really gone to town with this book — she loves the pieces and loves playing along with the backing tracks on the accompanying CD.

I asked Emma if she would like to take a video to share with the composer and she was thrilled with the idea.  I hope you enjoy Emma’s little wink at the beginning of the video…it pretty well shows her personality!

Check out the rest of the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz book at Elena’s website.

[Note: Emma and I are still working on being able to play those fast triplets loosely and easily. It’s a work in progress!]

Piano Teacher Institute, repertoire / methods

Tracking Progress of Piano Students

tracking student progress in piano studyI received an email from a reader over the weekend, asking: “I would love to know your general process/techniques for keeping record of work done with a student.”

Although piano methods already provide structure for study and the student’s assignment notebook does serve as a log of the student’s progress, I personally find it very helpful to keep my own records and notes about each student.  As a colleague of mine recently said, the idea is to have a plan or record of the past, the present, and the future.

Here are some of the things I like to keep notes about:

  • The student’s current level.
  • When the student began lessons.
  • Curriculum. Meaning, the books we are using, when books/pieces are completed, a repertoire list, etc..
  • Pieces/books I think would be appropriate for the student in the future.
  • Events the student has participated in (recitals, festivals, exams, etc.).
  • And any other accomplishments or miscellaneous notes.

evernoteI currently use Evernote to store my notes, but any program or platform would work. (Evernote is an online-based note-taking service that offers syncing across their apps for smartphone, tablet, and computer.) In Evernote, I have a notebook for “Active Students” and “Inactive Students.” Each notebook contains a series of notes titled by student name.

I do not necessarily pull up these notes during the lesson time, unless I need them for some reason. I find myself referring to my notes before I begin teaching for the day or when I’m brainstorming about a student’s needs.

Below is an example of what my teacher notes look like for a hypothetical elementary-level student and intermediate-level student, covering September 2012 through August 2014. [Note: The repertoire list for the intermediate student be much longer in reality, but I’ve kept it short for this example.]


JANE DOE

Current Level: Mid Elementary
Joined Studio: September 2012
Began Lessons: September 2012
Notes: Began as a 6-year-old. Very enthusiastic beginner with an excellent natural sense of rhythm. Continue reading “Tracking Progress of Piano Students”

repertoire / methods

“Un-Method” Books for Piano Students

Un-Methods for Piano StudentsAs a piano teacher, you have probably been in the situation where you felt that using your favorite traditional piano method might not be the best choice for a particular new student’s situation.

For example, perhaps you have a new student who already has experience reading music from school or band.  Or an older beginner with a great ear who is largely self-taught.  Or an adult student who is returning to piano lessons after a number of years.  Or perhaps you have an average-age beginner who isn’t thriving in their method books and would benefit from additional supplement.

For those special situations, it is useful to be familiar with some method book alternatives, which I fondly refer to as “un-methods.”  Un-methods are useful for creating structure in weekly piano assignments while maintaining the flexibility to round out the student’s curriculum with other styles of music they are interested in.  In my mind, an un-method must meet at least two out of these three criteria:

  • Uses on-staff note reading.
  • Little to no illustrations or text on the page.
  • All-in-one book, for the most part.

Below is my list of some un-methods that you might enjoy exploring!


Right From The Start, by Lynn Freeman Olson (Fischer)

3786474_01downloadAs the cover states, this thin volume is a “rapid piano reader.”  Teachers who appreciate a landmark (aka interval) reading approach will appreciate the way this on-staff book begins: by teaching Bass F, Middle C, and Treble G.  The book provides a solid, no-nonsense approach.  I think it is a great book that truly leaves the teaching up to the teacher!

By the end of this 30-page book, students are playing basic rhythms (no eighth notes, unfortunately) within quarter note meters (3/4 and 4/4 time), a variety of articulations (staccato, legato) and notes covering the entire grand staff.

View it on Amazon or SheetMusicPlus.com. Continue reading ““Un-Method” Books for Piano Students”

repertoire / methods, Reviews

Review & Giveaway: Elena Cobb’s “My Piano Trip To London”

A couple of years ago, I reviewed some lovely sheet music by British teacher/composer Elena Cobb (read the review here). She is the author of the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz books, the “Blue River” book of solos, and more.

Elena has recently released a new book: a piano method called “My Piano Trip to London.”

1. COVER NEW FRONT

“My Piano Trip to London” contains 40 pages.  The pieces throughout the book are based on various landmarks and themes from London.

The first piece in the book is a black-key piece to be learned by rote.

Page 5 London Calling Student Continue reading “Review & Giveaway: Elena Cobb’s “My Piano Trip To London””

Giveaways, repertoire / methods

Piano Pronto “Prelude” Book with Teacher Duets – Giveaway

Remember when I blogged about Jennifer Eklund’s music last Winter?   Today, I want to tell you a little bit more about her self-published piano method, Piano Pronto.

Piano-Pronto-Piano-Lesson-Books-Music-for-all-ages-and-all-stages-10

I haven’t been experimenting with the Piano Pronto books for very long yet, but already I can see some reasons why Piano Pronto is unique from the piano methods available from the major publishers:

  • Piano-Pronto-Prelude-book-300x300It is an all-in-one book.  Lessons introducing new concepts, prep exercises to learn, and simple theory questions to answer are all included within the book.  This makes it easier for the teacher to supplement with a variety of types of music.  Or, the method can even serve as the supplement to a different method!  
  • It begins with on-staff reading.  Some students do not need a period of pre-staff notation — especially older beginners or those who have learned staff notation at school.
  • It uses a huge variety of familiar folk tunes and classical themes.  This allows students to use their ears a great deal as they learn to read music.  It also can be motivating for students to be able to play tunes they are familiar with.
  • It does not shy away from teaching rhythm concepts such as eighth notes (taught in the Prelude book) or 6/8 time (taught in the Movement 2 book) early on.
  • It teaches key signatures early on (in the Movement 1 book).
  • It requires students to move around the keyboard early on (starting in the Prelude Book).

If you haven’t taken a look at Piano Pronto before, you can learn more by browsing the preview pages and audio samples on Jennifer’s website.  

Being self-published has its advantages, including being able to interact directly with one’s audience.  Jennifer manages an active forum on Facebook where teachers can ask questions and share success stories.  A few weeks ago, I posted there to ask Jennifer if there was any chance that she would be releasing teacher duets anytime soon to go with her method books.  Jennifer responded almost immediately and set to work writing teacher duets for the “Prelude” book.  The eBook for those teacher duets is now available here!   After purchase, you can print a copy from the PDF or load it onto your favorite score reader on your iPad.

In celebration of this new release, Jennifer has offered to sponsor a giveaway.  Two randomly-chosen winners will receive a FREE copy of the Piano Pronto “Prelude” book and the corresponding teacher duets (U.S. winners will receive hardcopies while international winners will receive digital copies).  To enter, please leave a comment on this post describing which unique aspect of the Piano Pronto method (from the list above) intrigues you the most!  Enter by Wednesday, August 6 at midnight Eastern time.

Don’t forget to visit Jennifer’s Piano Pronto Discussion Group on facebook and request to join.  There, you will find many other resources relating to Piano Pronto, including a transfer assessment guide and a guide to Jennifer’s supplemental music.

Update: Jennifer is running a rare 20% off sale from August 1st through August 5!  Use the promo code SCHOOL20.

Professional Development, repertoire / methods, Technology

Watch this Google Hangout Discussion about Piano Methods

Whew!  I feel like I have so much to share, but not enough time to share it!  ;)

Last week, I held a summer camp for my piano students called “Practice Tips & Tricks.”  It was a fun week.  For my birthday last month, my husband gave me a projector.  (Yes, I’m a techno-geek!)  It was wonderful to be able to have a large visual to use during camp!  I hope to share more details about all this later.

On Friday, I held another Google Hangout this time talking about piano methods.  You can watch the video here.  We did encounter some technical difficulties unfortunately — I apologize about that!  Thanks for bearing with us during this experiment.  :)

I have another Google Hangout scheduled for this Friday at 11am Eastern time.  Please visit the event page here to get all the details and feel free to submit questions for us to discuss in advance.

More later!  :)