Music History

Just Added: Scarlatti & Tchaikovsky Great Composers Lapbook Curriculum

Big news:

I just added two brand new composer lapbooks to my shop!

The composers are…

Domenico Scarlatti and…

Peter Tchaikovsky!

In studying Scarlatti, we learned about how Scarlatti as a Baroque composer greatly influenced the development of the Classical style, especially in keyboard music. He taught the princess Maria Barbara of Portugal and followed her to Spain when she married to became Queen of Spain. Scarlatti is remembered today mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas. We took particular interest in the sonata known as “The Cat’s Fugue.” :)

Tchaikovsky arrived at music as a career a bit later in life. We listened to excerpts from his most famous works, of course including the wonderful Piano Concerto No. 1 and the three ballets he composed: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.

These are two of the four composers my students and I studied this summer during my 2017 “Music History Blast From The Past” camp (see the photos here). Sometime next week, I will have the other two new composers lapbooks listed in the shop. Stay tuned!

I just looked it up: Can you believe that I’ve offered a “Music History Blast From The Past” 4-day camp every single summer since 2012? I love offering this camp because I think that it’s so important for students to be exposed to great classical music and gain an sense of how music styles have evolved across the centuries. This experience is so helpful, especially as students begin playing classical repertoire at the intermediate levels. And they always enjoy learning about the composers’ lives, especially in a group setting.

Anyway, as I said: Stay tuned for the announcement sometime next week about two more new composers!

Learn more about the Great Composers & Their Music lapbooking curriculum here.


NCKP 2017 (4): Saturday

[Click here to go back to Day 3.]

8am Kjos Publisher Showcase: Bastien New Traditions: Inspiring the Next Generation of Beginning Pianists, by Lori and Jane Bastien.

You probably know the Bastien name from the variety of method series (remember the iconic cover of the Bastien Piano Basics method?) and supplemental materials that were popular across past few decades. You may not know, however, that the Bastiens are back with the brand new method released last year (2016) called the Bastien New Traditions All In One Piano Course.

The Primer A book is off-staff reading, while the Primer B book is on-staff reading. If desired, the teacher can directly start the older beginner in the Primer B book. In this showcase, Lori demonstrated a number of the pieces from the method books, so that in hearing the pieces and the teacher duets we could gain a sense of the quality of the music.

Here's a photo taken of me with Jane Bastien and her daughter Lori!

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (4): Saturday”


NCKP 2017 (3): Friday

[Click here to go back to Day 2.]

First thing this morning, I joined Tim Topham live on Facebook to rundown of the previous day's events.
Check out our fun video here!

9:00am Effective Communication of Practice Expectations: Send them Home with the Tools for Success, by Scott Donald

Scott completed a survey recently exploring how teachers communicate at-home assignments to their students. After all, how well we communicate expectations and practice strategies determines the likelihood that the student will follow through.

In another project, Scott compared three modalities for communicating the same practice expectations: written, aural, and video. Those teachers who participated were to evaluate the number of errors in the performance. As it turned out, there was no statistically significant difference between the modalities. So, Donald decided he needed instead to take a look at what exactly what was being communicated. The top tips he shared: Be specific in your assignments. And practice together during the lesson.

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (3): Friday”


NCKP 2017 (2): Thursday

[Click here to go back to Day 1.]

8:00am Hal Leonard Showcase: Recent Classical Piano Publications from Hal Leonard

During this showcase sessions by Hal Leonard publishers, we were informed about a variety of new publications available. Of special interest are the new "At The Piano" books from Henle Verlag. These books contain original pieces by one composer, arranged and labeled by level of difficulty. The book contains information about the technique and interpretation of the piece. According to Henle, the books are most appropriate for Jose who are returning to the piano after a longer break. It's interesting to see Henle branch out into pedagogical publications!

9:00am Lost In Translation: Helping Students Connect with their Repertoie through the Subtleties of Musical Languages, by Ryan Greene and Thomas White.

In Ryan and Thomas's presentation, they shared some terms they have discovered and developed as a way of categorizing and talk about recognizable styles of music. Along the way, they shared plenty of musical example illustrating each style.

The styles include the Brilliant Style (as seen in scale passages in pieces by Clementi and Mozart), the Learned (Strict) Style (hearkening back to Baroque contrapuntal styles), the Singing Style (Chopin Nocturnes are exemplary), the Pastorale Style (based and nature and folk tunes and dances), the Turkish Style (an influence originating from the 1600s when the Ottomans were sieging Vienna), and Exoticism (when composers mimic a musical culture without complete integrity, such as "cowboys and Indians" subject matter or oriental music).

I found these categories fascinating. These are styles we commonly see in both pedagogical and standard classical repertoire and no doubt will prove useful for helpful students transfer experiences to new pieces.

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (2): Thursday”


NCKP 2017 (1): Wednesday Pre-Conference Seminars

Weeeeee! I'm blogging from here at the NCKP — the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy occurring in Lombard, Illinois. Amy Chaplin and I drove a five-ish hour trip to to get here and have been enjoying some wonderfully informative and inspiring sessions so far.

The first day of NCKP was the optional day of pre-conference seminars. This day consisted of a variety of tracks to choose from: technology, teaching students with special needs, musician wellness, collaborative pianists, young professionals, and independent piano teachers. Here's some notes from the sessions I attended.

1:30pm Keynote Address by Barbara Kreader

Barbara is the author of a new book, The Music of Teaching: Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development. This book focuses on the development of perception in our students and on what we as teachers can learn from our students.

Barbara gave a wonderful keynote address. She described a student of hers who found developing basic skills difficult. Barbara felt nearly out of ideas with this student, but found herself amazed at the ongoing tenacity and good naturedness of her student. She realized that this student likely struggled with other subject areas in school. She started asking the student for his ideas about what to do next. The student offered things like that he liked to stand when he felt frustrated and shake out the tension in his muscles. And he said he wanted to sing. They tried those things, and while it didn't make things magically easy, it did help. The student often will reveal what they need, if we just take the time to ask and listen.

Every child develops and matures at their own rate. Before a standardized school system, children graduated to the next skill, not to the next grade. And they did so when they were ready. It is not necessary for every student to graduate from one level to the next at the same time. As independent teachers, we are fortunate to have freedom to allow and nurture development appropriate for individual students.

Amy and I ran into Jennifer Foxx and Lynette Barney at this session. Conferences are wonderful for reconnecting with old friends and making new friends.

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (1): Wednesday Pre-Conference Seminars”

Studio Business

Freebie: Lesson Attendance Sheet Updated for 2017-18

I have just finished updating one of the studio business forms from the Printables page for the 2017-18 school year.  It is called the Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment PDF.  I do not currently use this form myself anymore, but I still receive requests from teachers are using it so I am happy to update it again this year!

In case you haven’t seen this, here is how the form works: Write your students’ names in the first column.  Each week, write the lesson date (in a month / date format) in the column for that week.  This is how you can track attendance.  The small circles in each cell are where you can write checkmarks indicating tuition payments.  Whether you charge by-the-week or by-the-month, you can place a checkmark by each paid lesson date.


Download it below or on the Printables > Studio Business page.

  Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment (2017-18) (84.6 KiB, 23,921 hits)

P.S.: Here is a link to where I explain my current system for tracking payments received.

Music Camps, Music History

2017 Music History Camp

Last week, I held my Music History Blast From The Past camp. We had a blast! ;)

As in previous years, I used my own composer lapbook curriculum for this camp (available here). I know some of you will be very pleased to hear that I have created lapbooks for FOUR brand new composers this year, which will be added to the shop later this summer. Stay tuned!

Snack break is always a hit during camp. ;)

Fun with Scrabble tiles during break.

The four composers we studied this year are Domenico Scarlatti, Muzio Clementi, Peter Tchaikovsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. I am always amazed at the amount of information my students retain from this lapbook format. The pictures and the interaction with the information makes the history come alive.  Continue reading “2017 Music History Camp”

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.


2017 Retreat | Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom From Method Books.

Hi there!

Today, I just wanted to share a little bit more regarding the retreat for piano teachers I’m planning in August 17-19, 2017.

The topic our retreat will be centered around is: Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom From Method Books.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE looking through piano method books — both old and new — to see what wisdom I can gain from each approach.

Just look at the beautiful color art of these two old piano methods! I can’t help but drool. ;)

This is the corner of my studio where all my piano method books live.

During the retreat, you’ll have the opportunity to share your own insights as we pore through a variety of piano method books published through the decades. We will all benefit from collective wisdom through combining our knowledge and experiences. I can’t wait!

Here’s the full description of the event:

Retreat at Piano Manor is a three-day experience for piano teachers to getaway in order to connect, ask questions, share, and become better teachers for our students. Together, we will explore the wisdom from piano methods beginning with early treatises and concluding with piano methods published in the 21st century. You will share your insights and teaching experiences with the rest of the group, and work with fellow attendees to review certain method books in-depth. While at “Piano Manor,” you’ll also enjoy relaxing downtime and deliciously healthy food planned by my foodie friend, Amy Chaplin of

At the end of the three days, you will have knowledge of the range of available piano method books, both old and new, and how to choose among them to match your students’ needs and desires. You’ll be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to try new method books of your choice, to increase your range of options and keep your teaching fresh. You will know when and how to supplement a method as needed, so your students develop musical skills without undue effort. Using this knowledge and skill set, you can create custom-tailored curriculums designed to nurture happily progressing students in your studio. Retreat at Piano Manor will leave you feeling inspired and connected, with newly formed friendships and fresh ideas for your teaching.

If you are interested in attending the retreat, read more here and then please be sure to join this special email list. The registration information will be sent out within the next week or so.

If you can’t attend the retreat, don’t worry: I’ll be sharing highlights in weeks ahead — of both the preparation process as well as the actual retreat activities. Watch here on the blog as well as my facebook page for updates!

Games, Rhythm

Game: Which Rhythm Pattern Do You Hear?

Today, I thought I’d share about a quick and fun rhythm game I’ve been using lately with some of my younger students.

Game: Which Rhythm Pattern Do You Hear?

  1. Choose two animal erasers.
  2. The teacher creates two rhythm patterns using these free cards, laying out each one by an animal eraser.
  3. The teacher chants one of the two rhythm patterns and asks the student: Which animal’s rhythm pattern did you hear?
  4. Repeat with new rhythm patterns.
  5. If the student is ready for it, next try having the teacher and the student switch roles.

I like this activity because it keeps the focus on the SOUND of the rhythm patterns and because the only notation-related skill that is required is recognition. When switching roles, of course, the student is then required to create and perform notated rhythm patterns.

If you use Irina Gorin’s method book or if you want to keep things simpler, you can use Othello chips instead of rhythm value cards.

And if you are working with a small group of students, here is an idea for variating the game:

  1. Each student notates a rhythm pattern, with an animal eraser sitting near it.
  2. Whoever is “it” randomly chooses a pattern and chants it for the group.
  3. The rest of the students identify which animal’s pattern was heard.

Have fun!

Games, Rhythm

Rhythm Activities with Othello Chips

Since attending Irina Gorin’s summer workshop for piano teachers in 2015, her “Tales of a Musical Journey” has become one of my favorite piano method books to use with beginners.

In her book, she uses black circles and white circles to represent simple rhythms in duple meter. (Duple meter is MLT’s term for when the macrobeat [big beats] contains two microbeats [little beats].)

Here is an example of Irina teaching with the black and white circles.

It’s easy to cut black and white circles out of paper, but I’ve also been using Othello chips. They are perfect for this because they are black on one side and white on the other. I found a used Othello game at a thrift shop for $2 a couple of years ago, and have been using the chips for rhythm games on the floor with my beginner students.

20141226_133514 NIKON Othello 2 wm-1

These chips can be used in any rhythm game where you might normally use rhythm value cards. Here are a few quick examples:

  • The teacher notates two simple rhythm patterns (4 macrobeats in length), chants one of the patterns, and asks the student to identify which pattern they heard.
  • Notate simple rhythm patterns and chant them together.
  • Chant simple rhythms (perhaps using simple poetry) and notate them together.

The Othello chips also work great with a cloth staff/keyboard, which means the rhythms could be notated on the staff. There are many of fun uses for these chips! Let me know in the comments below if you have other ideas.