Early Childhood Music, Group Classes, improving as a teacher, Rhythm

Developing a Good Sense of Rhythm

Developing a good sense of rhythm is one of the most challenging parts of being a piano teacher.  It’s not something that arrives overnight, and it’s something that must be maintained as the student advances to music with more advanced rhythms and time signatures.  It truly is something that must be developed.

I’d like to suggest that there are three components to having and developing what we so loosely refer to as a “good sense of rhythm”:

  1. A sense of beat. This means the ability to maintain a steady beat/pulse.  This is probably the most common and most basic problem that students encounter when it comes to rhythm issues in their piece.  The inability to maintain a steady beat/pulse is crucial for developing #’s 2 and 3 below.
  2. A sense of rhythm (i.e., note values).  This involves being able to accurately identify and execute the various note values within a variety of tempi.  Beginner students may struggle with placing eighth notes within a quarter note beat, while more advanced students may struggle with syncopated rhythms or playing 2 against 3.  It is nearly impossible to develop a sense of rhythm without first developing a sense of beat (#1 above). Continue reading “Developing a Good Sense of Rhythm”
Printables, Studio Business

Just Added: Piano Lessons Flyer Template

New printable just added:

Piano Lessons Flyer Template (.doc)

Advertise for new piano students by filling in this free Piano Lessons Flyer Template!  Just edit and print in Microsoft Word (.doc) and you’ll be ready to post your flyers all over town.


  1. Download the Piano Lessons Flyer Template from the Printables > Studio Business page.
  2. Open the file in Microsoft Word and edit the file so that your own information is entered.
  3. Print the file.  Using a pair of scissors, cut vertical lines from the bottom of the page (as marked) so that interested students/parents can rip off a tab with your name and contact information.
  4. You are ready to post your flyers all over town!

View the flyer template large below:

  Piano Lessons Flyer Template (32.5 KiB, 26,481 hits)

Resources, Studio Business

Piano as a way to build community

Check out this fascinating news story:


It’s great to see the great potential music (especially the piano) has to connect members of a community in a unique way!  This story really got me thinking: what are some ways we as teachers of music can use our skills to connect and benefit the community?  We tend to set our focus on just our studios, and admittedly we sometimes get overly competitive with other teachers in the area.  Wouldn’t it be great to join forces as teachers/musicians in a particular community and find ways serve the greater community?  (Ideas, anyone?)  =)

For more:

Visit artist Luke Jerram’s “Play Me, I’m Yours” website to view video uploads of various pianists playing on the pianos in cities all over the world.

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Questions, Studio Business

SUMMARY | The June Forum: Making Your Vocation A Vacation

The Way to Paradise June is over (summer is going by so quickly!!), and so is the June Forum: Making Your Vocation A Vacation topic.  Thanks for all the thought-provoking comments, all!  Here’s a summary of your comments, along with some thoughts of my own mixed in:

  • Teach only when you want to. Don’t overdo it.  Only schedule yourself what you can easily handle each day/week.  If needed, schedule yourself an occasional 15-minute break so you can chill out for a bit and perhaps get a bite to eat.
  • Teach only who you want to. Whenever possible, accept only the students who are motivated and hardworking.  I’d like to also add: only teach the levels/ages you are comfortable with.  For example, if teaching adult students isn’t your forte, don’t feel as if you have to accept them into your studio.  Recognize the areas where you shine and make those your focus!  Same goes with styles of music: if you aren’t comfortable teaching jazz, recommend those students to another teacher who is comfortable doing so.
  • Be firm on your business procedures. As teachers and musicians, we often don’t like to think about the financial side of things.  We like to focus on passing our passion for music on to our students.  The reality is, there will always be parents/students who show up late, don’t show up at all, don’t pay on time, etc..  Everyone handles these situations differently, but I would recommend never allowing yourself to be stepped over.  It will stress you out.  (I know from experience!)  Write up some Studio Policies and stick to them.  (This is an area I personally need to work on — so I’ve been brainstorming some ways to make “the business end of things” run more smoothly and efficiently.)
  • Keep it fun and fresh by varying up each lesson, and tailoring lessons to each individual student.  Be on the lookout for new music books or games to try with students.  Try to discover each student’s interests, strengths, and weaknesses so you can personalize their lessons to their individual needs.  Attend local/state/national music teaching conferences so you can continue your own education as well as network and exchange ideas with other teachers.
  • Find ways to make sure your students are making progress. When students are making progress, students are having fun, and when students are having fun, the teacher is having fun!  Decorate your studio, create an incentive program, keep communication open with parents to keep them involved, have a practice requirement — in short, find ways to keep students engaged and motivated to develop their skills at the piano and excited about lessons!

All these ideas above are part of being an effective, successful teacher — and that’s when teaching becomes a vacation rather than a vocation.  Great thoughts, everyone!

Stay tuned for the introduction of the July Forum topic, coming later this week!

Photo credit: nattu | CC 2.0

Printables, Studio Business

Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment

Just added to the page of free Printables > Studio Business:

> Lesson & Payment Record Chart 2010-2011 (3 page pdf)

Summertime is a great time to do some planning for the next academic year of teaching!  As you can see, I’ve been keeping busy…..  This chart is designed for the 2010-2011 year in mind, starting in September.

What this chart records:

This chart provides a simple way to track student attendance/absences for lessons and tuition payments.

How to use this chart:

In the first column, enter your students’ names.  At each lesson, enter the lesson date (e.g., 9/14) corresponding with that week of lessons.  If the student misses a lesson for some reason, that box may be marked with a slash, or left blank so that the make-up lesson date may be later written in.  Any lessons that are paid for should be marked with a checkmark in each little circle.  Please see the up-close picture below for an example.

The 3 pages of this chart can be easily 3-hole punched and placed in a 3 ring binder, for maximum convenience when teaching.

I hope some of you find my chart useful!

improving as a teacher, Music Theory

Teaching Music Theory: Our Responsibility

I was talking to a parent after teaching a lesson yesterday, and she told me that her older daughter (who plays a few different band instruments, but is not currently taking piano lessons) is attending a band camp for high schoolers this week.  Upon arrival, the camp gave her daughter a theory placement test, and she scored a 2B (I’m not sure what leveling system they were using, but her mother had expected her to score higher).  Her mother was a little perturbed because she has paid for many years of lessons for her daughter, but only a few of her daughter’s past teachers taught theory as component of taking private lessons.  She wondered, shouldn’t my daughter have gotten more theory training than this?  What have I been paying all this money and time for?

This conversation got me thinking about our responsibility as teachers.  A basic definition of music theory is the study of how music works. A student having little understanding of theory is missing a huge piece of the pie.   Continue reading “Teaching Music Theory: Our Responsibility”

Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Teaching Piano, Worksheets

Just Added: Scales & Primary Chords Worksheet 1 (CGDF)

Just added: a new free, printable worksheet called:

>  Scales & Primary Chords Worksheet 1 (CGDF)

Ideally, this worksheet is designed for the intermediate+ student who is already familiar with the scales and primary chords for the keys of C, G, D, and F major, and perhaps could use some review in writing them out on the staff.  However, this worksheet could also be used during a group lesson while introducing these ideas for the first time.

Terms/concepts covered in the worksheet:

  • An understanding of key signatures for C, G, D, and F major.
  • Practice writing out scales.
  • Practice writing out primary chords.

To download, visit the Printables > Worksheets page and scroll down to the S’s for “Scales & Primary Chords worksheet.”

Watch for the next worksheet coming soon, covering D, A, E, and Bb major!

Performances, Practicing

Dealing with Performance Anxiety

Your hands are cold and shaky, your heart is racing, and you find it hard to breath.  Are you sick?  Are you having a nightmare?  No, you’re about to play your instrument in a recital, and the symptoms you are experiencing are due to performance anxiety — better known as stage fright.

Performance anxiety affects us all, to some degree or another.  Here are some things you can try out to help deal with your performance anxiety:

  • Practice performing. Play your pieces for other people whenever you can. It’s one thing to practice your pieces, but it’s another thing to practice performing. Ask other people to come in the room to make you nervous, and see how well you can handle running through you pieces.
  • Envision yourself succeeding. Envisioning yourself performing your piece well is extremely helpful. Do it as your practicing, as you’re not practicing, and as you are performing.  Doing so keeps your outlook positive and sets you up for success. Continue reading “Dealing with Performance Anxiety”
improving as a teacher, Motivation, Practicing, Teaching Piano

My Thoughts on Practice Requirements

Many of you may remember being required by your piano teachers growing up to practice a certain amount of minutes each day/week.  Perhaps your requirement looked something like this:

  • 15 minutes a day,
  • 140 minutes each week, or
  • 45 minutes, 5 days a week.

One of my previous teachers built her incentive program around how much practice time each student completed each week.  She would set an amount for each student (15 minutes/day for the young ones, and then gradually increasing up to 60 minutes/day for the advanced ones).  If you completed all your practice time each week, you’d receive a sticker on your chart for that week.  When you received 7 consecutive weeks of completed practice, you were allowed to chose a prize from the prize box.  She used a system similar to the following:

  • Beginners: 10-20 minutes, 5 days a week (depending on their age).
  • Intermediate students: 20-45 minutes, 5 days a week.
  • Advanced students: 60 minutes or more a day, 5 days a week.

Personally, I use a simpler, more flexible practice requirement for my students.  I simply tell my students and parents that they are expected to practice daily.  And that’s it.  Here are my reasons why I like to leave it at that: Continue reading “My Thoughts on Practice Requirements”

Resources, Studio Business, Technology

Free Studio Website Builder: Weebly.com

Have you thought about starting a website for your studio, but felt that you didn’t have the resources or expertise to build one?  Check out Weebly.com — an attractive and easy-to-use online resource where you can create a website for free.

Personally, I currently use iWeb software (comes free on all Mac computers) to create and maintain my studio site.  However, Weebly sites are so attractive, I might make the switch someday!  I switched, and now I use Weebly for my studio website!

Some great features:

  • Extremely user-friendly. The drag-and-drop site builder is extremely easy to use, even for those who might not consider themselves to be very technologically savvy.
  • No software is needed. That means, no buying or installing software onto your computer.  Creating and maintaining your website is done completely online.
  • You can use a free ___.weebly.com domain name, or use your own domain name. Weebly is one of the few free website building sites that allow you use your own url (e.g., colorinmypiano.com) if you desire.  Just purchase one from a site such as Name.com (a year usually costs around $10).  If you don’t want to use your own domain name, for free you can just use yourname.weebly.com.
  • Attractive themes. Of all the free website building sites I’ve seen, Weebly by far creates the most attractive-looking sites.  They have tons of great customizable themes to choose from.

Here are some links to some studio websites that were created using Weebly, to get you inspired:

Good luck!  If you are successful in creating your own studio site using Weebly, be sure to share the link with us in the comments!

improving as a teacher

The June Forum: Making your Vocation a Vacation

As mentioned yesterday, a new series is being introduced here at Color In My Piano: a monthly forum of sorts, where readers put their heads together a discuss various topics.  The success of this series depends on YOU, so please, type away!

Without further ado, allow me to introduce the topic for the June forum:

The June Forum: Making your Vocation a Vacation

The June forum is inspired by a couple of quotes I encountered a couple of days ago that really got me thinking about my piano teaching:

“Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”  – Godin

“Make your vocation your vacation.”   – Old adage

So the idea is to make your vocation as a piano teacher enjoyable for yourself, so that you aren’t living most of your life just getting by until the next vacation.  =)

Now that summer vacation is here, ironically enough, I think this is a fitting topic to consider.  I’m sure that some of you are probably taking summer vacation from teaching and others of you are probably going to be teaching as normal through the summer (personally, I’m somewhere in the middle – some students have stayed on and others are taking a summer break).  Nevertheless, I’m sure we are all thinking ahead to the next year of teaching and maybe even already doing some planning.  Well, now you can add this thought to your list! — How can I make the next year of teaching be more like a vacation than a vocation?

Thoughts?  What do YOU do to make your vocation more like your vacation?  How do you deal with discouragement and disappointments as a teacher when they come along?  How do you keep your teaching fresh and fun?  What are some practical ways that you can do differently to make your vocation as a piano teacher more like a vacation all year long?

Photo credit: jonycunha | CC 2.0


Introduction of a New Series: The Monthly Forum!

At the expense of sounding like an old record, I’d like to express once more (last time, I promise!) how much I’ve enjoyed reading all your comments lately, especially the shared stories on the giveaway post from a couple weeks ago.  It’s comments such as those that make Color In My Piano a success and a worthwhile resource for everyone including myself!   We have so much we can learn from each other.

For this reason, I’d like to introduce a new series that is coming to Color In My Piano designed to inspire and facilitate worthwhile discussions on various topics.  It’s essentially a place to “throw our heads together” and share our expertise and experiences so that we can grow and learn from each other.  Each month, a topic will be introduced in a post titled “The [current month] Forum: [topic].”  The success of this new series lies in your hands…so please, be ready to type away!   Think of it like a potluck: we each bring a dish to pass so that we can share a fabulous meal with each other.  =)

At the end of the month, I will post another post summarizing the various points of discussion brought up and perhaps adding more of my own thoughts, effectively bringing that month’s forum to a close.  (Although you may certainly feel free to continue commenting about the subject if desired.)  At the beginning of the next month, a new topic is then introduced.

Stay tuned for the introduction of the topic for the first-ever monthly forum — to take place tomorrow!

Photo credit: incase. | CC 2.0