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.]


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.


  • Animal exercises from PianoSafari.com — Sep. 2012 through Jan. 2013.
  • 5-finger patterns in major keys — Jan. 2013 through Jul. 2014. 
  • Two-handed arpeggios in major and minor keys — Jul. 2014 through present.


  • Piano Adventures, Primer Level — Sep. 2012 through Apr. 2013.
  • Piano Adventures, Level 1 — Apr. 2013 through Jan. 2014.
  • Jon George: Kaleidoscope Solos, Book 1 — Jul. 2013 through present.
  • Piano Adventures, Level 2A — Jan. 2014 through present.
  • Next: Preparatory Piano Literature (Faber).


  • April 21, 2013 – First performance ever at studio recital: Japanese Garden by Jennifer Linn (Early Ele. level). 
  • March 21, 2014 – Bat That Ball! by Wynn-Anne Rossi (Ele. level)



Current Level: Early Intermediate / RCM Grade 3
Joined Studio: Transferred January 2013
Began Lessons: ~2008
Notes: Dedicated practicer with supportive parents. Finds it challenging to play musically/with expression.


  • Two-octave scales in major keys — Sep. 2013 through Feb. 2014.
  • RCM Technical Requirements Grade 3 — Aug. 2014 through present.


  • Fundamentals of Piano Theory, Level 2 — Jan. 2013 through present.


  • SightReadPlus app — assignments each week.

Current Curriculum:

Books Owned:

  • Classics Alive! anthology ed. by Jane McGrath.
  • Celebration Series Level 3 books.

Will prepare 5 pieces for RCM Level 3 exam upcoming in May. 

  • List A:  Bach: Musette in D Major, BWV Anh. 126.
  • List B:  Haydn: German Dance in G, Hob. IX:12/1.
  • List C:  George: “Rain … and the Rainbow” from A Day In The Forest.
  • Etude 1:  Burgmüller: Arabesque, Op. 100 No. 2.
  • Etude 2:   Schytte: Study in A minor, Op. 108 No. 5.

Repertoire List:

  • Baroque:
    • Bach: Minuet in G, BWV Anh 116.
  • Classical:
    • Haydn: German Dance in E Major, Hob. IX:22/9.
    • Mozart: Minute in F Major, K. 2.
  • Romantic:
    • Burgmüller: Ballade, Op. 100 No. 15.
  • Modern:
    • Rebikov: Chinese Figurine (No. 13 from Christmas Gifts)


  • April 21, 2014 — Studio recital: Schumann Soldier’s March, Op. 68 No. 2
  • May 21, 2015 — RCM practical exam Level 3.

For discussion: What is your favorite method for tracking student progress?

Side note: This is a good example of a topic that is covered during my online course for piano teachers. Get more information at institute.joymorin.com, where you can also join the mailing list.

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12 thoughts on “Tracking Progress of Piano Students”

  1. Love your blog!!!!!!!! Can’t find the post on notebooks, but I designed a block that I print and cut in advance. Then, while the student is getting books ready, playinf a scale etc. I paste it in the notebook. The page is already divided in different sections, like scales, technique, repertoire, theory, etc. I simply have to fill in page numbers and comments. I also added a “practice block” filled with smiley faces. Every time they practice at home, they colour in a smiley face. So in the next lesson I can get an idea of how much was done at home. I urge them to be honest. Some weeks I have 20 faces and some weeks 5 faces coloured in. But it motivates them!

    1. Hi Mirizca! My assignment notebook method sounds reasonably similar to your assignment sheet method (there is a link in the post above to click for more details). How nice to hear how well your assignment sheets are working for you!

  2. Than you for sharing your process. I am teaching students about drawing and painting and was looking for a good way to manage and track their progress, your blog posts have been a good help. Thank you!

  3. This is wonderful and so helpful to see what literature your intermediate student is tracking along with after 5 years of lessons. Thank you! I’m afraid I’m not as tech savvy… I keep a notebook with dividers for each student where I journal a brief summary of what we did after each lesson. At the front of each student’s divider I have a template page with categories: technique, theory , repertoire, etc. where I write in what curriculum we are using that year and what is accomplished, etc. I was introduced to Evernote once and now…I’m encouraged to look back into it. Thanks for all your help!!

  4. Hi Joy,
    I was googling ideas for a summer music camp for my students this morning, and I came across your site. I LOVE it! You have so much on here to look at — I won’t get bored for a long time!
    I’m a 22-year-old piano teacher who is very afraid of becoming burnt out too early. I didn’t go to college so I try to make up for that by continuing my education in other areas — piano, cello, and theory lessons, orchestra and chorale, and performing. In the last few months I’ve really started to realize how much there can be to teaching piano, and how exciting it can be, as long as I’m willing to explore all my options. One thing I wonder when I see all of your content is, how do you find time for all of it? Are you just always working or does your level of experience allow you to get things done faster? I feel like I don’t have time to do all the things I want to do, but it seems like you’ve done everything. I’m so impressed!
    When I started typing this I actually intend to comment on your post, so now I will.
    This is actually something I began to do recently. I designed my own pages and put them in my teaching/book-keeping notebook. My favorite part about my pages is two boxes: one for the student’s strengths, and one for their weaknesses. I’ve found that reading over their weaknesses before I begin their lesson reminds me what I need to work on with them the most, and reading their strengths reminds me to go overboard with praising them in those areas!. I love your idea to keep a record of when they began lessons, and keeping a “learned” and “future” repertoire list. I will be adding those categories to my notebook. 🙂
    Thanks so much for the work you do and I’m looking forward to delving deeper into your blog!

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks for your comment. Yes, I know that over time I have gotten better and faster at various aspects of my teaching. I do dedicate a great deal of time to my teaching, but you should remember that what you see here on my blog has added up over the past 6 years of blogging. The longer you teach, the more experience and materials you will acquire! 🙂 A little bit of time each day results in a lot of progress over time.

      I love your idea about notating students’ strengths and weaknesses into two boxes. Thanks for sharing this!!

  5. I love the way you’ve laid out what they studied in the past as well. That would be especially helpful to give them if they ever changed piano teachers. I’m trying to teach myself piano right now, and it wouldn’t hurt to keep track of the books I’ve already worked through.

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