Reviews, Videos

Teaching Tool Review: Wright Way Note Finder

wright way note finderWhen I am teaching piano, one of the teaching tools I use frequently is the Wright Way Note Finder (find it on Amazon). I love this tool because it is useful for building a stronger sense of staff-to-keyboard correlation in students in just a few minutes’ time during lessons.

Watch the video below to learn more about how I use the Wright Way Note Finder during lessons. In this video, I also describe what I consider to be the four steps that our minds go through when decoding music on the staff during sight-reading:

  1. Recognizing the note’s location on the staff (e.g., treble clef line #2).
  2. Audiating (hearing in your mind’s ear) the approximate pitch (how high/low is this sound?).
  3. Correlating the note to a specific key location on the keyboard (e.g., the G above Middle C).
  4. Knowing the name of the pitch (e.g., G or sol). This step is not nearly as important as the other three steps; yet, in practice, we and our students tend to overemphasize the importance of the note names. This step is not crucial during sight-reading.

I like to use the Wright Way Note Finder to help the student improve steps 1-3.

Where to find the Wright Way Note Finder and similar tools:

  • The Wright Way Note Finder costs about $12 on Amazon.
  • Alfred Publishing offers a similar tool called the All-In-One Flashcard for about $8. As the video on Alfred’s website shows, the tool is two-sided with letter names printed on one side. And the quarter note can be flipped upside down so that the stem is pointed the proper direction.
  • Slide-A-Note is a similar teaching tool, sold for about $7 at, that shows a sideways printed keyboard for the intent of further building the student’s sense of correlation from staff to keyboard.

Thanks for watching!Wright-Way Note Finger vintage

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Reading Notation, Reviews, Technology

Aug 2013 Giveaway: SightReadMinor app for iPad

mzl.kzclobbb.480x480-75Remember my review for the SightReadPlus app for iPad?  Well, here is an update:

I’ve been using it here-and-there with students during lessons with great success.  I love being about to choose the key and make the student have to really think about the various key signatures.  As I mentioned in the previous review, I appreciate that the app keeps the student accountable to the beat so the student does not feel it is an option to stop playing if they make a mistake.

I’ve also recommended SightReadPlus to a few of my adult students, who love that fact that the app shows them how well they did — both with the pitches and the rhythm.  It’s like having your teacher at home with you when you practice!  I have really been impressed with the usefulness of SightReadPlus.

Good news — The developers behind SightReadPlus have just released a sequel: the SightReadMinor app.  SightReadMinor works much the same way as SightReadPlus, but it contains 2880 short exercises in all minor keys for $4.99 (SightReadPlus contains 4800 short exercises in all major keys for $7.99).

More good news — The developers have also offered two promo codes of SightReadMinor for a giveaway!  In order to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post about how your Fall studio planning is going.  🙂  A winner will be randomly chosen after Midnight EST on Thursday, August 15 and announced the next day.

Reading Notation, Technology

App Review & Giveaway: SightReadPlus

bg-1-273140SightReadPlus — $7.99 *for iPad only*

Update: also check out my short review of SightReadMinor ($4.99).

SightReadPlus is an app for iPad for piano students.  The app not only contains thousands of sight-reading exercises, but it also “listens” to the student play on their piano and evaluates their performance based on accuracy of pitch and rhythm.  I love this technology!  SightReadPlus is a great tool to improve students’ sight-reading abilities, especially in preparation for examinations or adjudications that require sight-reading.

The 4800 sight-reading examples in this app are appropriate for beginning and elementary students.  The range of notes in each exercise is limited to major five-finger patterns, and all exercises are either for RH or LH (never together).

The exercises are divided into 10 levels.  Level 1 begins with half note and whole note rhythms in 4/4 time, with intervals limited to 2nds.  The more advanced levels contain intervals up to a 5th, rhythm values such as dotted quarter notes and eighth rests, and a variety of time signatures (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8).  The exercises can be played in any key.  Continue reading “App Review & Giveaway: SightReadPlus”

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”

Conferences, Reading Notation

OhioMTA Conference 2011 (1): Learn at First Sight by Margaret Young

The recent Ohio Music Teachers Association conference I attended was wonderful.  I had the opportunity to meet other teachers both near and far from where I am in Ohio, and I also learned a lot!

The first session I attended was an informative presentation by Dr. Margaret Young.  Dr. Young cited a large number of research studies throughout the session and had a two-page bibliography in the handout (!).  I will not be providing those facts and citations here, but rather presenting a summary of some of the points Dr. Young made.  If anyone is interested in more in-depth information about Dr. Young’s session, I’m sure you could contact her and see if she’s willing to share a copy of the handout.  🙂

Learn at First Sight: A Review of the Current Research Literature on Sight-Reading

Dr. Young went through a number of questions, each time answering in detail what the research says about each issue.  Some of the questions were: What does sight-reading involve?  What factors influence or predict sight-reading success?  Continue reading “OhioMTA Conference 2011 (1): Learn at First Sight by Margaret Young”

Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Phrase: Look & Think Ahead

A few months ago, I read an research article about sight-reading that stated that professional pianists read something like eight notes ahead at any given time while sight-reading (I wish I could cite the article, but I don’t remember where I found it – if anyone knows of it please tell me!).  The article, however, wasn’t very clear about what the “eight notes” referred to (harmonically? melodically?), especially since it seems that this would change depending on the texture, meter, and tempo.  Regardless, I found it interesting to consider how far ahead one can be looking and thinking ahead while reading in order to be better prepared for what is coming up.  (How many notes can YOU think ahead?)

Personally, I think reading is mostly about “chunking” – recognizing groups of notes as chords, patterns, and other groupings.  I do find, however, that students benefit greatly from being taught to “look ahead” or “think ahead.”

A young student of mine this week was playing a two-lined piece where the RH and LH move up an octave to echo what was stated in the previous two measures.  The first time she played the piece, she had to briefly pause to think and move her hands to the right place before going on.  She had been practicing this piece all week and I could tell she knew where her hands needed to go.  Nevertheless, the spot was catching her unaware.  Mentally, she wasn’t prepared for the octave move and therefore her hands weren’t ready on time either.  We talked about this, and we reasoned together that she needed to be thinking ahead in order to be ready on time.  After this, of course, she was able to play the piece fluidly.

Now the question may be, is it more effective to instruct students to “look ahead” or “think ahead?”  Any opinions?

Photo Credit: pfly | CC 2.0

Conferences, Group Classes, Music Camps, Reading Notation, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

2010 MMTA Conference (4): Functional Skills are Important by Martha Hilley

What follows are the notes I took from a session with Martha Hilley at the 2010 Michigan Music Teachers Association conference.


“Functional skills” include skills such as harmonization, improvisation, transposition, rhythm, and theory.  There are many fun ways to incorporate functional skills into group/private settings.  Today we are going to try out some examples:

Rhythm Activities

Activity #1. Make up a series of patterns such as:

Tap   Clap    Tap    Clap
Tap   Clap  |___|  Clap
Tap  |___|   Tap   Clap
Tap  |___| |___| Clap

Put them on a transparency or write them on a whiteboard.  (The box is the quarter rest.)  Most students don’t have time for rests!  They want to keep going.  So give them something to do during the rests (e.g., saying “rest” aloud; or making some kind of movement during the rest).  This is a great activity for class piano or monthly group lessons. Continue reading “2010 MMTA Conference (4): Functional Skills are Important by Martha Hilley”

Ear Training, Practicing, Reading Notation, repertoire / methods, Teaching Piano

Introducing Students to New Pieces

The first look at a new piece is crucial.  As accomplished pianists/teachers, we automatically know to scan the piece to check the time signature, key signature, texture, composer, title, etc. before playing through a piece.  Of course, we were trained to go through those steps before sightreading through a piece.

Before having students sightread, what do you say/do with them to introduce a new piece?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Here’s some things I’ve tried: Continue reading “Introducing Students to New Pieces”