Summer Workshops for Teachers

Wendy Stevens from has put together a great list of some fantastic summer workshops available for teachers! They ALL look great! Just wish I could go! Would love to hear from those who plan on attending some of these!

Here is the link to check them all out:

Tech Tuesday: The Real Reason Teens Are Quitting Your Studio – Part 3: Technology!

I am excited to have Tim Topham as a guest today for our Tech Tuesday feature. He has a terrific blog that you should visit. His posts in this series have been spot on, be sure to check all of them out!

Teenagers and Technology – a match made in heaven


This is the last article in a 3-part series I’ve been writing about retaining and motivating teenage piano students.

The initial idea for the series was borne out of feedback I received from readers of my free Teen Teaching Toolkit eBook. I found that despite their best efforts, many teachers didn’t know how to connect effectively with their teenage students and couldn’t work out why they were losing them to other activities.

I’ve already covered two key reasons that teens quit piano:

Part 1: They aren’t playing music they want to play

In the first part of the series, which you can read at Wendy Stevens’ fantastic Compose Create blog, I discussed that teachers of teenagers have to be open to teaching the music their students want to play.

Part 2: They don’t see the relevance in their lessons

In Part 2 of the series, I explained that teenagers also need to see the relevance in what they are doing and their lessons have to be practical and useful. To them. Now.

This week, in the final part of the series, we’ll discuss how keeping up with technology can help you motivate and retain teenagers in your studio.

Bach v Xbox – how can you win?


Technology is a great motivator for today’s adolescents.

If you’re trying to get students to choose between 30 mins of Bach practice hands separately with a metronome and 30 minutes on their Xbox, you’re going to lose every time!

But what if they got to learn their favourite pop songs by playing along to the full band and vocals on their iPad for 30 minutes? Or if they got to practice their jazz improv by playing along with a bass and drums? How much more engaged could they be?

I’m not saying that learning Bach isn’t a good idea for the right student; rather, incorporating aspects of technology is what this post is all about. You don’t have to revolutionize everything that you’re doing in your lessons – small changes can have a lasting impact.

What if I don’t have an iPad?

OK, so I know that not everyone has an iPad. However, I’m hoping that if you’re reading an article like this and you don’t have one, you’re probably at least thinking about it. While I’m not here to convince you to buy an iPad, if you’re looking for ways to keep your teens engaged, I think it’s a ‘no-brainer’.

That said, not everything is about the iPad either. YouTube is a great resource and allows you to do far more than just watch and upload videos. Check out my post about creating playlists for students, for example. There is also plenty of free online music software on the web that you can use: notation software (eg. Noteflight), aural training software and music games.

So, how do you get a start motivating your teens with technology?

Here are my top 3 tips for using technology to inspire your teens this week:

1. Get stuck into Notestar! 

The free Notestar app by Yamaha is probably the app I use more than any other when it comes to teaching teens. Notestar provides backing tracks with full vocals for all the latest pop songs. It is updated regularly when new material is released and has lots of the 60s, 70s and 80s included, as well as the latest releases. You’ll even find Baroque and Classical music on there (try playing along to a string section for Canon in D!). While the app is free, songs are about $4 to download, however you can download the first 30 seconds of every song in the catalogue for free to check out whether you’d like it and to see how easy/hard the music is to play.

Notestar is perfect for kids who are learning to play chords and who want to play pop music as it makes otherwise boring chord progressions much more interesting. The on-screen music has printed notation and chord charts so students who can’t read music can still play by chords. There is also a feature to change the music to any key and also play at 3/4 and 1/2 speed while practising.

Tim’s Tip: This week, download and explore the app and the catalogue of music available (you can view and search the catalogue online here without even getting the app). Get a feel for how it works and which of your students might enjoy using it. Test it out yourself and then try it out on one of your teenage students.

2. Find out about how other people are using iPads by reading blogs, magazines and following discussion threads.

I don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to iPads and I’m always on the lookout for new app recommendations from others. When it comes to buying an iPad and downloading apps, it pays to do some research. Here are some of my favourite resources:

Tim’s Tip: If you haven’t already done so, get a Facebook account and sign up for the groups that I recommend in my post: Top 4 Facebook Groups for Piano Teachers. This is one of the best ways to keep current with trends in music, technology and teaching (and meet teachers from around the world). Set aside a couple of hours this weekend and start doing some research and experimenting at home with apps – you’ll be amazed at what you find.

3. Set engaging practice goals using technology

While many of your teens may have no issue with motivating themselves to practice, there will always be some in your studio who would benefit from a boost. Here are some great practice motivator apps:

  • Scale Blitzer, an Australian app, is one of the best apps for encouraging students to practice scales. Set students some scales to work on and the app will do the motivating for you! It even has an international leader-board of top scores – great for those with a competitive edge.
  • MusicFlashClass is a great app for note recognition. I often ask students to spend 10 minutes on this a day while they are learning the notes on the stave. Both have competitive settings with time limits and count-downs that are great for teens. PianoNotesPro allows students to do the same thing using their MIDI keyboards. It even has a setting that allows students to practice chord inversions, not just notes.
  • Motivating exam students to practice their aural skills can be like pulling teeth! To encourage them, try using one of the following apps: ABRSM, AuralBook, Auralia.

Tim’s Tip: If you have students preparing for exams, trial one of the aural or sight-reading apps and show students how to practice with them at home this week. If you have teens learning to read music, allocate them some time on MusicFlashClass or PianoNotesPro every day at home.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this series about motivating teenagers in your studio. They can be such a fun bunch of students to teach and so rewarding when you connect effectively and can make a real difference in their lives.

While sometimes challenging, I get enormous pleasure from inspiring children to play the piano. I remember how much I enjoyed learning music through high school, the kudos I received as a piano player from my peers and the pride expressed by my parents and family. To be able to give that same gift to another young person is priceless.

For even more teaching tips and ideas, make sure you head to my website. Also, don’t forget to get a copy of my free Teen Teaching Toolkit while you’re there.

Good luck and please get in touch with me if you have any questions.


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Best known for his blog at where he has been sharing teaching resources, tips and repertoire ideas with piano teachers and students since 2011, Tim Topham is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist. Tim is Head of Keyboard at Xavier College and has also taught in Western Australia, Tasmania and the United Kingdom. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, a Bachelor of Music, Diploma of Education and AMusA (Distinction). He has worked in education as a classroom teacher, private studio teacher, head of department and head of campus. His new eBook: Teen Teaching Toolkit may be downloaded from his website:

Be Our Guest! Summer Camps


This month’s guest is a piano teacher from Tucson AZ, Lynnette Barney. I’m happy to have her as a guest blogger this month. Summer is quickly approaching and she has some fun ideas to help spark some ideas for your studio.


I really enjoyed last month’s Be Our Guest article on building a studio community. I got some new ideas I can’t wait to incorporate in my studio. One of my goals is to build a community that expands beyond my private students. My summer camps are open to enrolled students, their friends, and other interested families. I scheduled my camps for two and a half hours a day, Monday through Thursday, for a total of 10 hours and included 8-10 campers.

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Students enrolled in these camps may have many piano lessons under their fingertips, may be beginners, or may have no music experience at all. It can be a challenge to come up with camp ideas that will challenge my enrolled students and yet be accessible for those with little or no music experience. Last summer I experimented with four different camps as well as a beginning piano camp for students new to my studio. The most popular camps were “Drums, Chants, and Beatboxing” and “Music and Electronics”. You can find pictures and a summary of each camp here:

My goal for the “Drums, Chants, and Beatboxing” camp was to help the campers experience rhythm and beat through a variety of activities and recognize unexpected places we find rhythm and beat in our lives. One of my students graciously lent our studio several bongos, conga drums, and large African drums which really added to the fun. Daily activities included:

  • A drum circle – I used ideas from Kalani’s The Amazing Jamnasium and Together in Rhythm (published by Alfred). Students loved being part of the circle and most loved the chance to jump up and be the drum circle leader.
  • A chant – We discovered how sailors worked to sea shanties, the history of African-American work songs, silly jump rope rhymes, and how military cadences motivate cadets in training.
  • Beatboxing – Kids love vocal percussion! Each day we watched a youtube video ( to learn a new sound – kick drum, hi hat, basic snare, toms, and crashes. Then we watched youtube videos that feature a capella groups using vocal percussion, such as BYU’s Vocal Point and the group Pentatonix.
  • Counting conundrums – we used syllabic counting to echo, perform and read complex sixteenth and triplet rhythms, explored hemiola, played around with 2 against 3 and 4 against 3 rhythms, and conquered other tricky rhythms. I was surprised at how quickly the inexperienced students picked up these complex concepts when extensively exposed to them over four days.
  • Rhythm notation – each day we picked a topic, created a phrase, drummed our phrase, and then figured out how to notate it. More experienced students were happy to help their peers. Favorite topics were animal rhythms (snakes were well represented in one group), ice-cream flavors, and everybody’s names.
  • A drumming video – the absolute favorite activity was one I hadn’t planned, it just happened. Each day at the end of class, the students broke into groups of two or three and planned a rhythm video. They incorporated drums, singing, dance, acting, and huge amounts of creativity to create music videos.   Someday I’ll learn video editing and create a video montage!

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In addition we made our own drums using a five gallon bucket and packing tape, created a water xylophone, learned the parts of a drum set and explored drums from around the world, explored Morse Code, learned about the characteristics and categories of percussion instruments, and more!

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My “Music and Electronics” camp included the history of electronic music and instruments, the science of sound and how to create synthesized sounds, and the vocabulary related to digital instruments and keyboards. Students learned how to do multi-track sequencing on the studio digital keyboards (Yamaha DGX640 model) and composed and recorded at least one piece each day. The idea was to create music for a video game, but they ranged far beyond that!

Composing and performing their pieces was definitely the highlight of each camp day! I paired a more experienced student with a less experienced peer and was amazed at what each duo came up with. Each group’s creations were so different and reflected their personalities. Now that I have a Clavinova in my studio I can convert their MIDI performances into audio files so that they can share their masterpieces with others.

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I’m in the planning stages for this year’s summer camps and hope they are as successful with such a mixed crowd as last year! What are you doing in your studio this summer? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Lynnette Barney owns Creative Keys, a music studio in Tucson, Arizona, offering music for families and individuals from babies through adults. She strives to be an enthusiastic and innovative piano teacher and is a registered Music Together® teacher.  Lynnette believes music study is most effective and enjoyable when it extends beyond the private lesson into the student’s family, peer group, and world. She has a particular love for collaborative music and provides many opportunities to learn and perform piano ensemble works and explore group improvisation.


Thank you for being our guest, Lynnette!  Don’t forget to visit Lynnette’s website and check out her studio blog. If you are interested in being a future guest on FPSResources, let me know by emailing me:

Don’t forget to like FPSResources on Facebook to stay up to date on giveaways, reviews and other music resources!


MTNA Conference

I wasn’t able to attend MTNA Conference this year due to a couple important family events. If you are like me and couldn’t make it you may be interested to know where you can find those who are sharing about conference…

Blog- Marcia Vahl has been blogging about sessions she is attending. You can catch her posts at

Joy Morin has been blogging about sessions she is attending as well. Here is her link:

Facebook/Twitter- Wendy Stevens has been posting memorable quotes on Facebook and Twitter. You can catch her on Facebook here. And the MTNA Facebook page with all the Twitter hashtags can be found here. Otherwise just go to Twitter directly and search for #mtna2014.

MTNA- If you haven’t heard already, MTNA is live streaming some masterclasses. You can check them out here.


If anyone else is blogging or sharing in anyway, feel free to comment with where we should go! Thank you to all those who share! I really wish I could be there, but I’ll see you in Vegas 2015!


MMF Piano Primer iPad App

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Andy Fling, creator of the Making Music Fun website has created a new iPad app, MMF Piano Primer. If you are familiar with the Making Music Fun website you will know that it offers a lot of free resources for teachers. Music, certificates, games, charts and more!

In the MMF Piano Primer app for the iPad you will find 19 pieces students will enjoy such as Bubble Gum and Jack be Nimble, composed by Andy. Included in the app is a recording of each piece, a note to parents and teachers, an introduction of piano theory basics, worksheets and a certificate of completion that can be printed out.

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The primer book pieces are enjoyable supplemental pieces that would go along well with whatever core primer book you might use. The pieces are in Middle C and C position (very basic LH- Bass C, F and G).

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MMF Piano Primer is an iPad app that can be downloaded for .99. Over the weekend, I will be giving away 2 copies of this app as a flash freebie on the FPSResources Facebook page. So if you haven’t already liked FPSResources on Facebook yet, be sure you do it before tomorrow!  *

Walking Billboards

A couple weeks ago I was wearing a t-shirt I bought years ago that says “Piano Teachers have a Grand Time”.


On this particular day, I was dropping my daughter off to work and getting some gas at the gas station when a lady drove up to me and asked if I was a piano teacher. Why yes! I said… She is now on my waiting list.

Fast forward to yesterday and I’m wearing my t-shirt again. This time I was at my physical therapy appointment (nursing tendonitis in my elbow- no fun!) and a lady also receiving PT asked me, do you teach piano? I am looking for a teacher for my two kids. Why yes! And I gave her my card.

That night I was across the street meeting our new neighbor and she noticed my shirt and asked if I taught piano lessons. Why yes! She proceeded to tell me her daughter who also lives in the area is looking for a teacher.

I have to say sometimes I will wear my shirt and nobody will say anything, but lately it has been my walking billboard. You just never know…

A couple weeks ago I held my Keyboard Festival event where I order t-shirts for all my student participants. On the t-shirts I always make sure my studio website is included. They can be walking billboards too.


If you are looking for a place to have your t-shirts printed, I highly recommend using I used them for the first time this year and was highly satisfied. (I haven’t had much luck with local businesses) They made the entire process so easy. I designed my shirt, which then created a link that I was able to pass onto my piano parents. All they needed to do was click on the link and enter their child’s size. Once everyone submitted their size, I clicked on the order button and a couple weeks later they arrived. So easy and quality was excellent!

Tech Tuesday: Plickers

Have you heard of Clickers? How about Plickers?

A clicker system is where students can answer questions or vote on something in an interactive way. (Think game shows such as “If you want to be a millionaire” when they ask the audience to submit their answer) If you have seen clicker systems like these:

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You will know or very quickly find out that they can be very expensive. Not to mention where to store your clicker system? But the idea is pretty cool and has great potential to use in a group class setting.

In comes They have created a simplified and FREE system. All the teacher needs to do is simply download the free app (iOS or Android) and print off the free paper clickers (barcodes). When the teacher asks a question. The students hold up their paper clicker to their answer and the teacher quickly scans them in. Then everyone will be able to view a real time graph of those answers.

Here is a helpful video that gives you a good idea how it all works.

I am planning on using Plickers at group lessons in a couple weeks. I will write a follow up post on how it went! I’m super excited for this resource!