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. ūüôā 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.

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?! ūüôā

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.

Piano Teacher Institute, Professional Development

Fall 2016 Online Course – Piano Teacher Institute


Just sending out a quick email today to announce that registration for the upcoming Fall 2016 session of my Piano Pedagogy 101 online course will be available this Friday (July 29) at 9am Eastern time.

Are you wondering if this online course is right for you?

“Joy Morin’s pedagogy course is an excellent learning tool for new piano teachers or teachers wanting to refresh their pedagogy knowledge.”

–piano teacher in Canada

Here is our calendar for the upcoming session.

  • Week 1: August 29-September 4
  • Week 2: September 5-11
  • Week 3: September 12-18
  • Week 4: September 19-25
  • Week 5: September 26-October 2
  • Week 6: October 3-9

Continue reading “Fall 2016 Online Course – Piano Teacher Institute”

Games, Videos

Video: Playing the Ice Cream Interval Game

During a recent lesson, I used my¬†Ice Cream Interval Game¬†— one of my favorite games for piano teaching — to¬†reinforce and improve my student’s¬†visual recognition of the intervals unison, second, third, fourth, and fifth in staff notation. Today, I thought I’d share a¬†three-minute video clip of the activity.


Here is what you’ll see¬†in the video:

  • 0:00 When playing this game¬†with my students, sometimes I like to hand-pick¬†certain cards from the pile for the student¬†to sort next, in order to build¬†success. First, I made sure Emma could easily¬†distinguish 2nds versus¬†3rds.
  • 0:10 Then, I gave Emma¬†a card showing a 4th on the keyboard, and then a 5th on the keyboard. After that, I start giving her 4ths and 5ths notated on the staff.
  • 0:12 I like to ask the question: “How many notes are being skipped over?” I have found that this is a more effective strategy leading to being able to¬†quickly recognize intervals on the staff upon sight, as opposed to¬†allowing students to count all of the steps within an¬†interval (for example, counting “1-2-3-4-5” for a 5th).
  • 1:00 I point out to Emma that 5ths look like triads except that the middle note has been removed.
  • 1:18 I encourage Emma¬†to try to recognize the intervals on sight, instead of¬†immediately resorting to counting the steps within the interval.
  • 1:44 Emma enjoys taking note of¬†which cone has the most ice cream scoops so far. Students often¬†comment on this¬†during the game, because it’s fun! Emma¬†does it¬†again at the end of the video.
  • 2:08 Emma is beginning to recognize the various intervals upon sight, as evidenced by the increased amount of ease and decreased amount of time¬†she uses while sorting the cards.

The Ice Cream Interval Game is available in my shop as a digital PDF download here. To read more of my thoughts regarding the important role of interval recognition during sight-reading, check out this post. Thanks for watching!


2015 Workshop with Irina Gorin of Tales of a Musical Journey

Irina Gorin - Tales of a Musical JourneyLast week, I attended a three-day workshop given by Irina Gorin in Fishers, Indiana (outside of Indianapolis) for her self-published piano method, Tales of a Musical Journey. If you aren’t already familiar with Irina’s work, you can read a bit about her in¬†this written interview I conducted with her back in 2011. I’ve been an enthusiastic follower of Irina’s YouTube channel for a few years now and have learned so much from her teaching videos. I highly recommend subscribing to her channel.

When I heard that Irina was going to offer this workshop for the first time, I knew I had to try to attend because it is so rare to have the opportunity to learn about¬†teaching beginner piano students and I am a huge fan of Irina’s¬†teaching approach. Most conferences and workshops tend to focus on intermediate or advanced students. I am SO glad I went, because I learned so much that I can¬†apply to every lesson that I teach in the future. And I will definitely be using her books with more of my beginners in the future!

Irina’s piano method, Tales of a Musical Journey, is different from mainstream¬†piano methods in many ways. I have experimented with her books only a little bit over the past year, but I am intrigued and I can see that Irina is really onto something with her approach. Irina’s books are an attempt to combine¬†the best pedagogy from¬†Russian piano methods and American¬†piano methods. The Russian Piano School is much older than the American and there are definitely many time-tested principles that we American teachers can learn from.

Irina was kind enough to connect me with another piano teacher from Ohio who I could carpool and room with. Tamara and I become good friends during the workshop!

20150808_161249 Irina Gorin workshop

I have lots of photos to share. Irina was wonderful.¬†She is a gracious host and we learned so much from her. The workshop took place at a music academy in Fishers, Indiana that had a large room with a piano and projector screen.¬† Continue reading “2015 Workshop with Irina Gorin of Tales of a Musical Journey”


Book Review: Intelligent Music Teaching by Robert A. Duke

I am excited to post this book review because this is one of the best books I have read in a while. If you are looking for a practical yet research-based book about piano/music pedagogy, get your hands on this book. This is my best book recommendation for any music teacher looking to improve their teaching.

Intelligent Music Teaching: Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction, by Robert A. Duke


The author, Robert Duke, is currently Professor of Music and Human Learning at the University of Texas at Austin. According to his bio, his research on human learning and behavior includes studying motor skill learning, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience. He is also a former studio musician and public school music teacher.

Robert Duke’s book is organized into eight chapters or essays, with titles such as “Precision in Language and Thought,” “Sequencing Instruction,” “Feedback, and “Effecting Change.”

In the first chapter, the author makes a point about the ability to speak/write with precision of language being an important asset for any teacher. Based on the wonderfully clear writing is this book, I imagine that the author is an excellent teacher.

The book discusses how to think of the¬†every day components of our teaching — instruction, assessment, evaluation, sequencing, etc. — with an awareness of¬†how the human mind works and learns. Every page of this book contains¬†a nugget of wisdom or practical tip for how to teach intelligently and meaningfully so that our students learn how to change and improve themselves.

Allow me to give you¬†one¬†quick example of a meaningful take-away from¬†the book.¬†During a section where the author makes a comparison to learning how to solve quadratic equations in math, he states: “The goal of instruction — the real goal, the long-term, far-reaching goal — is not to solve the equations, but to use what you know about solving equations to solve other problems¬†that you may or may not have encountered before” (p. 29). Music teachers¬†should¬†have a similar instructional goal, as¬†the author expounds¬†throughout the book. The goal is for the student to gain intellectual, physical, or social skill rather than merely knowledge.

The writing is pleasant to read, being both intelligent and conversational. I think it is rare to find a book with such well-grounded information that is understandable by the layperson. The teaching/learning strategies and principles discussed in this book are backed by research. Yet, reading this book felt like having a thought-provoking conversation with the author over coffee. I could hardly put the book down until I finished reading it.

I highly recommend this book to any music teacher. It is a must-read for newbie and experienced teachers alike. My opinion is that it should be required reading in every piano pedagogy class. It will influence and change the way you teach. View it on Amazon here.

Edit: Ohio University sponsors a piano pedagogy seminar each summer in June and this year (2015), they have invited Robert Duke to be a speaker. I read Dr. Duke’s book in anticipation of attending this event. For more information about the event, visit¬†¬†


Music Mapping with Piano Students

With nearly every piece I teach, the student and I analyze and label the form: Q&A phrases, AB form, ABA form, sonata form, etc.. Understanding the structure of a piece helps the student learn the piece more thoroughly and make well-based decisions relating to the interpretation of a piece.

Back in early March,¬†a student of mine demonstrated¬†he had his piece memorized all the way through but found he was “fuzzy” on the details in certain places and¬†could not always remember what came next between phrases without taking time for thought.¬†In a moment of inspiration (or perhaps desperation!), we decided to construct a visual map of the piece — an activity I have found to be beneficial¬†in the past¬†with certain students. I took a blank sheet of paper from my printer and handed my student a few¬†colored pencils. Taking a few minutes to turn our analysis¬†into a simple, visual graphic proved to strengthen and clarify his¬†memory of the piece.

During my college years, I was exposed to this kind of music mapping thanks to a book I found in the university library: Mapping Music: For Faster Learning and Secure Memory, by Rebecca Payne Shockley. She shares many examples in her book to learn from, but emphasizes that music mapping is a very personal thing: the map must primarily make sense to the person who makes it.

Music Mapping with Piano Students graphic

As you can see from the image above, we used boxes to represent the 4-bar phrases as well as the larger A and B sections. Within each box, my student drew lines or shapes to represent the melodic contour of the phrases. We also added a few chord symbols to help mentally clarify the B section and the ending.

As a final step, we added dynamic markings in pink and green shading to represent pedaling.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 12.51.20 PMAfter completing the¬†music map, I asked my student to play the piece by memory again. It was not a perfect performance, but it was definitely better¬†because his¬†memory¬†of the piece’s structure was stronger and more clear.

After creating a¬†map, it should not be necessary to have the student read from the music map while playing, although that is an option. The point of the exercise is to be able to rely on a¬†strong, mental picture¬†of the piece during performance.¬†In my student’s own words: “It’s the process of creating¬†the map that is beneficial; not the finished map itself.”

Have you ever created a music map with a student?

[Note: In case you are interested, the piece my student was learning is called “A Quiet Lagoon” by Dennis Alexander and Martha Mier. We were using a sampler piece of sheet music I received during a conference, but the piece is readily available in the Technique Book Level 2B of the Alfred Premier Piano Course.]

Piano Teacher Institute, Professional Development

Upcoming 2015 Sessions from Piano Teacher Institute

This information¬†was just sent out to those on the email list for the Piano Teacher Institute with Joy Morin. I’m blogging it here as well, just for your interest!



A year ago, I began writing the coursework for my online course, Introduction to Piano Teaching. I’ve now¬†offered the course three times: Summer 2014, Fall 2014, and Winter 2015. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed designing the course¬†and interacting with the teachers who have enrolled each time!¬†I believe this course fills an important¬†need¬†for¬†teachers who have¬†a desire to increase or refresh their current knowledge¬†to gain further education in piano pedagogy, i.e., the art of teaching piano.

I’m preparing to offer two¬†more sessions this year, so¬†I asked the most recent registrants if they would be willing to write testimonials¬†to help others decide if my online course is right for them.¬†Here is what they had to say:

“This course was excellent!¬† For several months, I had been looking for some kind of training for piano teachers.¬† There are many university level, longer term programs available, but I needed something I could do from home.¬† This course was exactly what I needed.¬† I am a new teacher, and this course really helped steer my efforts toward the most important things that I should be focusing on–including the business side of teaching and the actual teaching.¬† Ms. Morin was prompt about both responding to my questions and leaving feedback for my assignments.¬† I also appreciated being able to interact with the other members of the class.¬† Their ideas and experience were wonderful!¬† I feel I am more organized and have clearer direction as a teacher because of this course.”¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† — Michelle Marchant, piano teacher in Utah

I¬†HIGHLY¬†(*****) recommend Piano Teacher Institute by Joy Morin.¬†¬†This class was fantastic for me!¬†¬†My formal education came many years ago and I have taught many students over the years.¬†¬†But with a relocation of my studio to another state, I felt it was a great time to update my piano pedagogy skills and to enroll in the course.¬†¬†¬†Ms. Morin did an EXCELLENT job with the design of the course as well as conducting the one hour weekly chat sessions with the other enrolled students.¬†… She is a very professional instructor but at the same time is very personal and insightful in helping each student in their piano teaching journey.¬†¬†The materials from the course will be an excellent resource for future usage.¬†¬†If you are looking for a great piano teacher class, I would encourage you to enroll in Piano Teacher Institute.¬† ¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† — Phyllis Bowers, piano teacher in Alabama

Dear Joy,¬†Observing the way you take such pride in your role as an educator has made a huge impact on me. You have truly helped me to look at what I do in a dramatically different way. You have helped me to treat my job more like a career. The changes I have made in my business approach have¬†been exciting, but I’m even more enthusiastic about the way I FEEL about the piano. Watching you love music has helped me rekindle my love of the piano! I’m playing again and actually enjoying it!¬†Thank you for being a great mentor and for being a new friend!¬†
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† —Susan¬†Honey, teacher in North Carolina

You can read the rest of the testimonials here. Introduction to Piano Teaching is an intensive course that lasts for six weeks, with each week dedicated to a certain topic (business topics, piano methods, technique, etc.). The ideal registrant is an individual with a passion for learning, a dedication to teaching, and the time and energy to spend 10-15 hours each week reading and completing the assignments.

Here are the dates for the two upcoming sessions:

  1. Summer 2015: May 25 through July 12. (I’ve allowed seven¬†weeks instead of the usual six, to help both you and I accommodate any summer travel plans.)¬†
  2. Fall 2015: August 25 through October 4. 

Registration for the Summer 2015 session will open at 9AM EST on Tuesday, May 5 and will appear on this page of the website. Registration will automatically close after the first 10 teachers have registered. Last time, registration filled within two hours — so if you are interested in taking the course, I recommend that you mark your calendar!

Read more about the course or sign up for the email list (I promise to send no more than 10 email updates each year) on the website here.  If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.


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. Continue reading “Tracking Progress of Piano Students”


Winter Course Offering: Intro to Piano Teaching


I just sent out an email today to my¬†mailing list for the Piano Teacher Institute online courses. ¬†Below are the details to announce that¬†I am preparing another session¬†of the “Intro To Piano Teaching” course. ¬†The dates for this online course will be January 5 through February 16.

This 6-week course is intended for piano teachers seeking to learn more about business topics, piano methods, pedagogy, and much more.  The ideal registrant is an individual with the willingness to spend at least 4-5 hours each week reading/studying the weekly topics and interacting with other registrants in forums and videochat discussions.  This highly intensive course is the perfect crash course for the new piano teacher or a great refresher for the experienced piano teacher.

Here are the weekly topics covered during the course:

  1. Business Sense¬†— business structures, bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, and more.¬†
  2. On Teaching and Learning¬†— teaching objectives, learning styles, and developmental stages.¬†
  3. Developing Music Literacy in Students¬†— music literacy, music education philosophies, a history and overview of current piano methods.¬†
  4. Piano Technique for Beginners¬†— developing posture, hand shape, fingering, pedaling, and more.¬†
  5. Finding and Choosing Repertoire¬†— leveling, publishers, anthologies, editions and more.¬†
  6. Lesson/Curriculum Planning¬†— leading the lesson, making assignment sheets, effective practicing, and planning long-term for students.

You can learn more about the course and read testimonials by visiting

Registration will open on Monday, December 15 at 9am Eastern time, one week from today.  Registration will automatically close after the first ten teachers have registered.  Registration usually fills within 24 hours, so if you are determined to take the course I would advise that you mark your calendar and be timely about watching the registration page.

After the Winter 2015 offering, I anticipate that the next course offering will occur Summer 2015.

Thanks for your interest, friends!

Announcements, Professional Development

Announcing: Piano Teacher Institute with Joy Morin

I received nearly 300 responses to my survey about offering an online piano course for piano teachers.  I was so encouraged by your comments that I immediately began writing the course material to be able to offer a 6-week course this summer.  Thanks so much for your feedback!  I am SO excited about this endeavor.

Here is the official announcement:


Here is how the online course will work:

  • Registrants will receive a username and login to the course page. ¬†Each week on Sunday, new coursework is added to the website. ¬†Each week’s material will focus on a different topic. ¬†After downloading the PDFs, you can study the coursework from your computer or tablet. ¬†Many supplemental PDF examples, forms, and other resources will also be available for download.
  • Completed assignments can be emailed to Joy if you are interested in receiving feedback. ¬†All assignments are optional, allowing you the flexibility to decide how your time is best spent.
  • Every Friday during the course, you will be invited to participate in a live video chat via Google Hangout. ¬†This is your chance to ask questions and interact with Joy and others who are taking the course. ¬†(Non-registrants are invited to observe the Google Hangout occurring live from Joy’s YouTube channel, or watch the recorded video afterwards.)
  • A forum will be available on the website, allowing you to post questions or participate in discussions with other registrants at any time.


This summer’s 6-week course is intended for piano teachers seeking to learn more about business topics, piano methods, pedagogy, and much more. ¬†This jam-packed course is perfect for the new piano teacher as well as for the experienced piano teachers who looking to revitalize their teaching. ¬†You won’t be disappointed!

Here is the list of weekly topics I hope to cover between June 9 РJuly 28:

  1. Business Sense¬†— business structures, bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, and more.
  2. Developing Music Literacy in Students¬†— teaching objectives, learning styles, and a history and overview of current piano methods.
  3. Finding and Choosing Repertoire¬†— leveling, publishers, anthologies, and more.
  4. Lesson/Curriculum Planning¬†— leading the lesson, making assignment sheets, and planning long-term for students.
  5. More info coming soon!
  6. More info coming soon! 

The dates and topics are somewhat tentative and the cost has not yet been set. ¬†Please stay tuned as the details continue to fall into place. ¬†ūüôā

Registration opens in May and will be open to only 10 teachers (I want to be sure to have time to give feedback to all the registrant’s assignments. I will probably offer the course again in the Fall if there is enough interest.). ¬†Visit to learn more and¬†sign-up for the email list for the latest updates about this¬†course and future courses.

improving as a teacher, Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

The Role of Intervalic Reading when Reading Music

A few weeks ago, I added a new game to¬†my Shop called the Ice Cream Interval game. ¬†In that post, I briefly mentioned the importance of being able to read intervalically when reading music and I’d like to discuss this further today.


While it is important for students to be able to identify the names of notes quickly, it is equally important for them to read intervals as early as possible in their studies. ¬†While I am a big believer in drilling note-naming flashcards, I am an even bigger believer in drilling intervals.¬† Continue reading “The Role of Intervalic Reading when Reading Music”


Teaching Tip: Leaping Across on the Keyboard

blog Teaching Tip - Leaping Across the KeyboardEven from the beginning, the pieces in most modern piano method books require the student to move around the keyboard quite a bit. ¬†Older piano methods (at least, the ones that utilize the Middle C reading approach) require the student to stay around the middle of the piano during the entire first level, or even further in some cases. ¬†I’m glad modern methods require the student to move around the keyboard, because this because it helps student become familiar and comfortable with the whole keyboard from day one instead of¬†inadvertently¬†teaching the student that anything away from the middle of the piano is “hard.”

I’ve had parents notice and comment on this difference between older and newer methods. ¬†They are surprised when their student needs to use the whole keyboard at their first lesson, because when they took lessons as a child, they remember playing around Middle C and never venturing to the extreme ends of the keyboard.

As an example:  The first four pieces in the Primer Level of the Faber Lesson Book require the student to play a simple pattern on the black key group of 2 or 3, and then to repeat the pattern twice, moving up an octave each time.  Other pieces throughout the series require students to play notes up or down an octave, especially at the end of the piece.  Other method books take a similar approach.

Often, to the student, making those leaps across the piano is the most challenging aspect of a piece.  They sometimes need to stop to think about where their hand needs to go.  Even if they know where their hand needs to go, they still might take some extra time searching the keyboard with their fingers to put the correct finger on the correct key.  This, of course, disrupts the rhythm of the piece.

How can we help students solve this problem? Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Leaping Across on the Keyboard”