repertoire / methods, Resources

Best Free Sheet Music Sites

Picture 3You can never have too much free music!  Head on over to and check out this post:  11 Best Free Sheet Music Sites.  It is an excellent list of sites that contain free pdfs of sheet music.  A word of caution: not all free sheet music online is copyright free.  Always be careful to observe copyright restrictions, if any.

Group Classes, Music Camps, Music History, Resources

Teacher Resources @ Clavier’s Piano Explorer site

Picture 2Many piano teachers subscribe to Clavier magazine, and some even subscribe their students to Clavier’s Piano Explorer, the music magazine for kids.  I recently found out that their site contains some great resources for teaching about various composers and concepts in music history.  This month, there have some great resources about Beethoven, including:

  • Links to YouTube recordings, organized by Beethoven’s early, middle, and late compositional periods – click here and scroll down.
  • A pdf worksheet about sonata form, to be filled out while listening to Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata – click here and click “pdf” under Sonata Form.

These resources would be perfect for a summer camp or a group lesson!

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“The notes I handle no better than many pianists.  But the pauses between the notes — ah, that is where the art resides!”

– Artur Schnabel

Every Wednesday brings Words of Wisdom here at the Color in my Piano blog…in the form of a musical quote or joke, intended to bring inspiration or humor to the middle of your week.   Have suggestions?  Send an email off toadmin[at]

improving as a teacher, Resources

6 Ways for Teachers to Stay Current

Although many of us teachers are no longer in college, I think it’s safe to say that we all want to stay connected with other teachers/musicians and continue to improve and grow both as teachers and musicians.  Here are six ways to do just that:

  1. Stay in touch with any previous teachers or professors you may have had in the past.  Email is a great means to do so, as well as Facebook (it’s not just for the young folks anymore!).  Ask questions or ask for suggestions, and exchange teaching ideas.  You can never have too many resources.  It’s important to keep past contacts fresh.
  2. Join a formal organization such as MTNA or Piano Guild.  By attending meetings and entering students in their events, you will invariably meet new fellow teachers and make new friends.  In addition, by attending lectures, you will be furthering your education as a teacher/musician.
  3. Join forces with fellow piano teachers in your area and hold a summer piano camp or a Christmas Party/Recital together.  Be sure to keep it fun and non-competitive, and never try to “steal” students from another teacher.
  4. Subscribe to blogs of other piano teachers.  There are thousands of other teachers out there just like you, with ideas and resources to share with you.  The internet holds a wealth of information just waiting to be found.  Once you find a few sites you’d like to regularly follow, subscribe to their sites via email (you’ll receive an email each day that they post new content) or via a feed reader.  A feed reader is a free service that allows you to read the latest content of all your favorite blogs all in one place.
  5. Start your own blog (separate from your studio website).  Share your ideas and expertise with other teachers by posting articles about various topics and putting up any worksheets or other materials you have made in the past. Both and allow you to make and maintain a blog for free.  (If you want your own domain name, you will have to buy one, however.)
  6. Participate in online forums. There are a number of sites that have forums, such as the Piano Club Forum on the Fabers’ website.  In addition, you can join a Yahoo group such as piano_teacher_support and talk with other piano teachers about any topic under the sun.

Do you have other ways you stay connected?  Let us know by sharing below!

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Practice

What Motivates Musicians and Music Students? – Part 2

This post is Part 2 of the two-part series: What Motivates Musicians and Music Students?  Here’s a quick recap and then the conclusion of the series:

This goal [creating students who can convey musical meaning] in itself is an intrinsic motivator, for even the youngest of students can appreciate the value of musical meaning and feel important as they learn to create musical meaning.  But to encourage this kind of mastery of the instrument, we need to make sure that our incentive programs are reflecting this goal.

Let’s first consider this:  What kind of student would be produced by an incentive program that is based upon the number of minutes practiced each day?  Answer: The student is motivated to spend more minutes sitting at the piano, but not necessarilyto spend their practice time efficiently and towards the goal of creating musical meaning.  To only encourage large amounts of practice time is missing the point.  So how do we create incentive programs that encourage students towards the goal of learning to communicate musical meaning?

The best idea I am coming up with right now is to base the incentive program upon how many pieces (or pages, perhaps, since some pieces are longer than others) the students “passes.” Since the teacher has ultimate control over when the student passes (or doesn’t pass) a piece, the student is encouraged to figure out what kind of things the teacher values in their playing in order to do well in the incentive program.  That is, the students are more likely to think about what the teacher wants them to improve on in their pieces while they are practicing (aka, the elements that contribute to communicating musical meaning in their pieces).  At this point, the student might even (**gasp**) crack open their assignment notebook and read what it says! — try to shape the phrases more, and think about using more arm weight in the forte section, for example.

What do you think?  Would an incentive program like this work?  What kind of incentive program do you find to be most effective for your students?

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh and go slow.”

– Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket

Every Wednesday brings Words of Wisdom here at the Color in my Piano blog…in the form of a musical quote or joke, intended to bring inspiration or humor to the middle of your week.   Have suggestions?  Send an email off to admin[at]

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Practice, Resources

What Motivates Musicians and Music Students? – Part 1

I found an interesting post over at the Third-Stream Music Education blog.  It includes a link to a fascinating video of Dan Pink’s presentation about motivation in the business world (be sure to watch the whole thing!).  The post at the Third-Stream Music Ed blog makes some interesting connections between ways of motivating employees and ways of motivating students in music education settings in schools.

There are some connections here that can made made to private piano teaching as well.  Knowing what we do about how motivation works, how can we effectively motivate our students?  How can we improve the number of students who quit piano by the time they reach junior high and high school?  What kind of incentive program should we create in our piano studios in order to get maximum results from our students?

But first — here are two of Dan Pink’s basic propositions:

  • When the solution is clear and the tools needed to complete the problem are provided, extrinsic motivations (such as, a monetary bonus) work very well to encourage productivity from employees.  It’s the whole follow-the-carrot kind of reward system.
  • But when the solution is less obvious and the tools may not be provided, monetary motivations do not work well.  Instead, intrinsic motivators (i.e., being motivated by the feeling that what you do matters) work well.  Intrinsic motivators work better for situations where the problems require creative, innovative solutions and  “thinking outside the box” is needed.

The teaching and learning of music falls into the second category, because it is so subjective and it requires creative problem-solving skills.  And so, according to Pink, intrinsic motivators then ought to be used.

Before we talk about the application to incentive programs, let’s first clarify what the “tasks” or goals of learning piano (or music in general) are: mastery of the instrument.  But what does this “mastery” involve?  At first appearance, our goal seems to get our students to play play their pieces accurately, with few mistakes.  Under this definition of mastery, a robot could conceivably succeed.  Well, then maybe mastery is to get out students to progress rapidly, or to play lots of difficult repertoire.  According to this logic, a “successful” music educator would be one who has students who learn all of 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, or who become concert pianists, perhaps.  While, or course, these things are not bad, they aren’t exactly our goal either.  At least, not our chief goal.

So then what is our chief goal?  We want them to create music — music that carries meaning and touches the emotions.  In other words, we want our students to become masters at creating musical meaning and communicating emotions through their music.  And if they become concert pianists along the way, so be it.  But I’d say we’ve succeeded as soon as we create individuals who can appreciate music as a way of communicating expression.  This is something that all of our students — both the talented and less so — can attain, at some level.  This is much more practical than trying to create concert pianists.  And so much more rewarding.

This goal in itself is an intrinsic motivator, for even the youngest of students can appreciate the value of musical meaning and feel important as they learn to create musical meaning.  But to encourage this kind of mastery of the instrument, we need to make sure that our incentive programs are reflecting this goal.

[…to be continued in Part 2…]

Announcements, Motivation, Resources, Teaching Piano

Using Adjectives to Capture the Imagination

One of the ideas I’ve been exploring extensively throughout the research I’m doing for my paper for college (the one about improvisation) is making music musical.  This seems so obvious, but really, what would music be without musicality?  Check out this video, of a robot playing the violin.

Speaking of which, have you ever had students who played like robots?  ***raises hand timidly***  Yep, I have too.  This is what music would be like without musicality.

What started me thinking of robots, and music, and robotic students, you may ask?  Well, I came across a lovely resource over at The Piano Pedagogy Page — a handy list of adjectives.

It may seem that a list of adjectives may be more fitting for use in an English class.  Maybe.  But it may also be helpful in the piano lesson, in helping those certain robotic-like students get “beyond the notes.”  Shoot, it might even be good reminder for me from time to time!  It’s easy to fall into the trap of being overly concerning with the technique, and fail to think about what I consider to be the ultimate goal of music: to communicate expression.  Music is meant to  reach out and speak to people, at one level or another.

It’s so important to be teaching students musicality at an early age.  It makes lessons so much more exciting, anyway.  We are not trying to create little robots who can push the right buttons (i.e., the keys on the piano) at the right time, but creating little music makers.