The Piano Race: A Game About Intervals

piano keyboard

The piano has a major advantage over other instruments when it comes to learning music theory: a clear visual layout on which many concepts can be physically demonstrated and mentally retained. Of course, I’m biased, but that doesn’t make it less true. Most other instruments rely on memorizing fingering for specific notes, which often makes the notes’ relationship to each other harder to see. On the other hand, all of the available notes on a piano are laid out before the player in an easily recognizable pattern. Continue reading


Theory Wizards: A Summer Music Project

Summer’s here! Let us all heave a collective sigh of relief for another school year come and gone, which we have (hopefully) survived.

end of school

One nice thing about summer teaching, aside from the obvious addition of extra teaching time to free up my afternoons, is the flexibility my lessons have because I’m not constantly preparing for recitals, contests, etc.
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Teaching Tuesdays: Students are Snowflakes


Perhaps you have heard the saying that no two snowflakes are alike. Each one is unique, beautiful in its own way but different from all others. Likewise, each student you teach is unique, with their own personal strengths and weaknesses. What does that mean for the music teacher?

For starters, it means we can’t just force information into their heads. Nor can we follow the same exact script in each lesson and expect the student to understand new concepts just because we explained them the usual way. It’s true that there are general teaching methods that work more often than others, but there’s always exceptions. Continue reading

Student Quote of the Week: Water Fountains

This is one of my favorites from an old student. She has since moved away, and I must say I greatly miss our entertaining conversations.

“Instead of water fountains, they should have hot chocolate fountains in the winter and chocolate milk fountains in the summer. That would be way better.”


Student Quote of the Week: Delicious Pizza

This week’s quote comes instead from one of my Sunday School students. The five-year-old boy arrived early to class, so he was drawing a picture to pass the time. He decided to draw a slice of pizza, which turned out very well actually–complete with pepperoni and sausage (or “those little balls of meat” as he called it). Upon completion of his masterpiece, he licked his lips and declared with rapture:

“Mmm…This pizza looks good enough to make you throw up out of your nose!”

And to think, I’ve gone my entire life having sadly never experienced food delicious enough to meet such a high standard…

Music Games: Name That Note!

I’d like to do something a little different this week for my music/teaching post. One of the most difficult and often intimidating aspects of music is learning to read notes. It’s not something that can be learned overnight, and it has to be constantly reinforced on a consistent basis.

But I won’t jump ahead of myself and go into too much detail about reading music today–that will come later. Instead, I thought I would share a game I made up to give my students a chance to practice and reinforce said reading skills. Why a game? Continue reading

Teaching Tuesdays: Why I Teach Music

clef heart

It’s that time of year again. The end of semester is nigh and recitals loom on the horizon, promising either joy or dread (or both). No matter how well prepared your students are, as the teacher, you still worry. Because you know the experience can go one of two ways: good or bad. So you prepare. You fix mistakes, tell them to count (for the 93rd time), practice with the metronome, practice skipping ahead to avoid getting stuck in memory slips, and pray (a lot).

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Musical Mondays Continued (or Teaching Tuesday): The Practice Directions

View previous posts in this series here:

Part 1-What’s the Point?

Part 2-Practice, Practice, Practice!

Part 3-Don’t Just Practice…Practice Well

As promised, today I am going to finish up my discussion of training music students to not just practice, but practice well. Yesterday, I spoke more generally about how important it is to teach how to practice in such a way that concepts and skills are reinforced, and the student is simultaneously trained to observe their playing and think through their songs. As a reminder, here’s what my list of Practice Directions looks like that I give all my beginning students:

1. Play and say the notes out loud.

2. Play and say the counts out loud.

3. Play and sing the words out loud, with dynamics.

4. Play and whisper count.

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Musical Mondays: Teaching Music, Part 3 (Don’t Just Practice…Practice Well)

Click here to view Part 1 and Part 2.

Thus far in this “Teaching Music” series, I have established the necessity of long-term teaching to develop stronger, more independent musicians, as well as the importance of consistent personal practice. As I mentioned in Part 2, practice is to musicianship as exercise is to a healthy, lean body. However, just as it is possible to exercise poorly and risk doing harm to yourself, so it is possible to practice in such a way that it actually becomes more of a hindrance than a help. Continue reading

Musical Mondays: Teaching Music, Part 2 (Practice, Practice, Practice!)

Click here to view Part 1.

bugs bunny weak arm

In part 1 of this teaching series, I discussed the importance of training students to teach themselves and to retain what they learn. But what does that look like? How exactly does one develop musicians, rather than parrots who can only copy what you say? Well, it starts with one of the most basic (but often the most dreaded) requirement of musical study: practicing. That’s right, the “P” word. The reaction it receives more often than not would make you think you were talking about a deadly disease to be avoided at all costs. Continue reading