Music History

4 New Lapbooks Added to the Shop

I just got caught up with posting some new composer lapbooks to the Color In My Piano shop!

As you may recall, I teach a Music History Class for homeschoolers each week.  I started creating my own music history curriculum after I was unable to find anything quite like I was looking for.  I ended up using the lapbooking format for my curriculum, because it is a visual, interactive way to learn historical facts and information.  It has been quite a success so far!  I am constantly impressed with how much information my students are able to absorb each week.

I call my curriculum The Great Composers & Their Music.  Each $10 pdf download includes all the pages you will need to print for each student to create their own lapbook, as well as a printable biography booklet, and a few pages of extra information for the teacher.  The license for this curriculum allows you to print as many pages as you like, as long as you are using the materials with your own students.

The curriculum is a pretty flexible.  I teach each composer over three class periods, spending about 20-30 minutes out of the class on the lapbook.  (We do other activities during the rest of the class time.)  If you wish to use these lapbooks for a one-time class, you can probably cover the whole lesson in 60 minutes (or maybe 45 minutes if your students are junior high or older).  A lot of it depends on how much time you devote to listening to excerpts of the composer’s music (a link to a YouTube playlist is provided).

Here is a peek at the 4 newest composers that have been added to the Color In My Piano shop!  Continue reading “4 New Lapbooks Added to the Shop”

Forum Q&A's, repertoire / methods

Forum Q&A: What piano book did you first learn from?

Greetings!  I know I’ve been MIA around the blog lately — it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  This time of year always requires lots of planning time, for upcoming festivals and recitals.  I’ve been helping students pick out repertoire and keeping track of forms and registration dates, etc.  :)

Anyway, I though I would start a new Forum Q&A post today!  Last time, we discussed duet repertoire — I hope you will go check out all of the responses so far by clicking here, and I also hope you’ll continue adding your favorites!

Today, I want to to hear from you:

What piano method books did you learn from as a child?  Did you like the books?  What did you like about them?  What else do you remember about your first piano lessons?

I think it will be fun to hear your stories!  I’ll try to post my own answer sometime this week, too.

Early Childhood Music

Finger Number Beanbag Game

Pinterest is wonderful, isn’t it?  :)

While browsing Pinterest, I was inspired by this picture by the blogger Becki Lewis.  Becki’s Finger Number Beanbag Game is a simple but very effective game for young beginner piano students.


Students stand in front of the mat and drop the beanbag.  Then, they name the finger the beanbag landed closest to, and correctly identify RH or LH.  I tried this game out with my Piano Readiness Class, and they enjoyed it!  It is a quick, easy activity that effectively reviews the hands/fingers.

Becki used a marker and a piece of cardboard to draw the outline of two hands.  I designed a printable on the computer to use with my students, and Becki gave me permission to share the printable with you here: visit the Printables > Games page, and scroll down to the F’s for “Finger Number Beanbag Game.”  I laminated the two pages and taped them together, so that they fold for easy storage.  Enjoy!

  Finger Number Beanbag Game (177.7 KiB, 15,005 hits)


Photo of My Studio Featured in Clavier Companion!

A couple of months back, I shared on facebook that Clavier Companion magazine was looking for submissions of photos of different piano studios.  I decided to go ahead and submit a few photos of my studio, and I was thrilled that they decided to use one of them!  If you subscribe to Clavier Companion, take a look at page 25 of their January/February 2013 issue, and you will see my photo:

Screen shot 2013-01-14 at 12.10.20 PM

How exciting!  I enjoyed browsing all the other studio photos in the article, too.  I also recognized photos from some other bloggers: Jennifer Fink of, Leila Viss of, and Dorla Aparicio of

If you aren’t a subscriber of Clavier Companion magazine, definitely check them out!  It is very affordable (both print copies and the digital version) and the articles are always excellent and inspiring.

repertoire / methods

More Classical Anthologies for Piano Students

This post is a sequel to the post: 9 First Classical Anthologies for Piano Students.  As mentioned before, anthologies are great for exposing students to a variety of composers and styles of literature at a great value.

After the student’s first introduction to classical pieces, there are many, MANY of different options for classical anthologies that are suitable for late elementary / early intermediate level students and beyond.  We piano teachers are fortunate to have such a variety to choose from!  Rather than resorting to using the same 2-3 books, I try to take advantage of the huge variety of books available and enjoy the variety of literature available for our students to play.  I am always on the lookout for new things to use with my students.  :)

Below are descriptions of a smattering of different anthologies, along with my comments about each one.  Be sure to share about your favorite anthologies in the comments!

Classics Alive!, Book 1, ed. by Jane Magrath (Alfred).

I love this book, and all the selections within it.  It’s a great value, with 72 selections.  The pieces start at a late elementary level.  The editing is great, and the typeset is clean and easy-to-read.

Books 1, 2, and 3 are available.

Melodious Masterpieces, Book 1, ed. by Jane Magrath (Alfred).

Again, I love all the selections in this book!  Book 1 contains 38 selections, starting at an early intermediate level. The pieces are chosen for the purpose of encouraging the student to play expressively, or to suit the student who enjoys melodic, poignant literature.

This book contains mostly Romantic pieces, although all periods are represented.

Continue reading “More Classical Anthologies for Piano Students”

Teaching Piano

Dynamics & The Beginner Piano Student

Music-forte-pianoWhen I was a 5-year-old beginner piano student, I remember being re-assigned one-/two-line method book pieces when the only thing lacking was dynamic contrast.  And I remember being frustrated with this.  My frustration was partly due to the fact that I was bored with the music I was playing; I wanted to be reading staff notation instead of pre-staff notation, as my mother taught me to do before she found me a piano teacher.  Regardless, having to re-practice pieces that were already mastered, due to forgetting to drop from forte-piano to piano in one place was a hard thing for me to swallow.

Looking back, I do realize the importance of dynamics.  As a teacher, I am a stickler about them even with the most beginner of students.  However, as tempting as it is, I do not generally reassign a beginning-level piece from a method book if the ONLY thing lacking is the dynamics.  I have decided that holding a student back in their progress is not worth it, because learning to observe dynamic markings is something that can be mastered over time through the next few pieces in their method books.   Continue reading “Dynamics & The Beginner Piano Student”

repertoire / methods

Forum Q&A: Duet Repertoire Suggestions

Barefoot Easter SerenadeOur previous Forum Q&A post was about Christmas gifts for piano students.  We received a LOT of responses — thank you!  I will definitely be consulting that post again next year when Christmas rolls around!

Our new Forum Q&A is a topic suggested by a reader.  She says:

“My New Years resolution in my studio is for myself and my students to sight read and prepare more duets.  I would love suggestions on duets at all levels.” 

 So, please share in the comments of this post!  What are some of your favorite solos or books for piano duet to use with students?

Games, Group Classes, Printables, seasonal / holiday

January 2013 Piano Party!

Last Saturday, I held another Piano Party for my students.  I had record attendance: 14 students!  Here’s a run-down of what we did:

We introduced ourselves, and shared our favorite Christmas present this year.

Christmas Recital and Name-That Tune game.  Yes, I know Christmas is over!  Because of how busy December often can be, I decided to try scheduling our students-only Christmas recital in early January instead.  Besides, students always play their Christmas pieces through the break anyway, so they might as well do the recital after that!

I took advantage of the fact that my students would be playing familiar tunes, and held a name-that-tune game.  I gave each student the worksheet below, and they had to write down the titles as they heard them.  If they got it correct, they got to color in the star on the right, in order to keep track of how many they guessed correctly.  This was a huge hit!  Even the students who didn’t know very Christmas tunes were able to learn some new ones by the end.


You can download the Name-That-Tune worksheet by visiting the Printables > Games page and scrolling down to “Name-That-Tune – Christmas Edition.” Continue reading “January 2013 Piano Party!”