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.


Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 7.59.57 AM

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:

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:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 12.22.32 PM

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 12.09.23 PM

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!

Tech Tuesday: NotateMe and NotateMe Now app

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about an iOS app and one that I have been wanting to write about is NotateMe.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 3.11.48 PM

If you aren’t familiar with NotateMe, it is a composition app that recognizes handwriting and will put it in computer notation form. The thing that I like about this particularly app is that it gives students practice on how notation is written. Currently NotateMe is $21.99. As the app improves, the price goes up. (Right now it says that it is 25% off for a limited time.)

Now the good news, if you want to simply use this app as a practice tool for students in drawing notation and learning basic melody composition, there is a free version called NotateMe Now. The main difference between the two is the free version only includes a single stave.

I wanted to share some wonderful video resources created by Christopher Russell “choirboy” over at the Technology in Music Education blog. He put together four video lessons for his students to help them when they start composing and using NotateMe Now. I was thrilled to see these video’s because it is a perfect tool to have students view during lab time or at home. In addition he has included PDF’s which include the guide for the theory that is being taught in the lesson, the assignments, and the checklist for the assignment.

Here are the links where you can easily find them.

#1 Using NotateMe Now

#2 NotateMe Now Lesson

#3 and 4 Final Lessons and Thoughts

So if you don’t want to spend money for NotateMe, at the very least check out NotateMe Now. (Just remember the paid version’s price will continue to go up in the meantime)




Tech Tuesday:


It’s time! Tomorrow the online conference begins! I will be presenting in this conference, “Staying Relevant in Today’s Generation”. I am looking forward to sharing with all of you on Friday! 

Top 10 Reasons to Register for (if you haven’t already)

10. Save Money. When I go to national conferences I can spend easily over 1,000 with travel and hotel. Depending on where it’s at, some years it’s higher, some a little lower. State conferences typically average around $300.00 and up. This conference is just $99.00.

9. Great Presenters. The line up for the first conference is awesome. You will recognize many names and faces…

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 8.22.24 AM

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 8.22.41 AM

8. Great Topics! (See picture above)

7. Live Sessions! Even though this is online, most of the presentations will be done live. This means that you will have the opportunity to ask questions afterwards!

6. Recorded! Can’t watch a session live? All the sessions are also recorded, which means you can view these at a later time at YOUR convenience until Feb. 1st, 2015. That is a year down the road!

5. Unique Exhibit Hall- In the exhibit hall you will find information and video’s about different companies.

4. Education- Each time I attend a conference my teaching grows from it and in turn my students benefit. There is always at least one thing (usually a lot more) that makes it worthwhile for me to attend. Matter of fact, when I can’t go, I feel like I’m really missing out.

3. Investment. When you invest in yourself and your business, you are nurturing you and your business to help you succeed. (not to mention it’s a tax write off!)

2. Comfort of your own Home. Watch the conference in your pajama’s. How can it get any better than that?!

1. Discount! I have a flash code that is good for $10.00 off if  you register by Wednesday! Just enter FPS

Hope to “see” you there!

Tech Tuesday: Class DoJo


As much as I enjoy holding group lessons and camps they can be exhausting. More in the last 5 years then I ever remember. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe the kids don’t take authority as well, maybe it’s a combination of the two. Now mind you it’s not all my classes that I have problems with. I’ve noticed it’s usually due to particular high maintenance students being in the same group of each other. For example, I could have 4 different groups of kids totally getting along, totally respectful of the teacher and eachother, no problems. My lesson plan goes exactly as planned. We are able to get through everything. The personalities in the group just mesh perfectly.

Then I turn around and have a group that is a total disaster because of particular personalities feeding off of each other. It’s all about them, respect is lost, the volume is high, they can’t leave their hands to themselves and I’m lucky if I get through everything that I had planned. And let me tell you, those are the groups that I question if I ever want to hold another group lesson or camp again.

As hard as I try to prevent that second scenario from happening, chances are that there will be at least one group like this.

In comes Class DoJo!

teacherappreciation-900I found out about this website awhile back, (I believe from It is a behavior management software program FREE for teachers to use. While it caters to the school classroom teacher, it is perfect to use in any group setting. I was going to use it at my first group lessons this year but then didn’t because I figured I wouldn’t have any problems THIS time. Surely, it would all be fine. Well, you guessed it, I had one class full of boys (one girl- poor poor girl…) that was so bad that I ended up having to contact parents afterwards about it all. I have never done that before for group lessons and I never want to have to do it again.

So Christmas camp comes along and once again I was tempted that surely it would be fine. (How I forget so quickly…) Then I remembered the nightmare from a couple months prior and said no! This time I have to try it! And try I did. And guess what? It made a big difference! Why did I wait?! The kids that tend to be larger personalities were soooo concerned on how many points they had. I did have one student (10 year old boy) that had the “doesn’t care” attitude that he will do what he will do despite of it. There is always one of those and I just ignored it. Because he was alone in his quest to rebel it didn’t really affect the class as a whole.

Now keep in mind Class DoJo is geared towards elementary kids. I had a mix of elementary through high school in my Christmas camp groups, which was one reason I almost didn’t use it. (In my group lessons I try to schedule my older students separately) So I just told my HS to go with it and they were fine. Some of them got a kick out of picking their monster avatar.

ClassDojo monster 8

Which brings me back to the Class DoJo program. You or the kids will pick out a monster avatar that represents them and will keep track of their positive and negative points. There are several behavioral tasks already in the system. You can delete what isn’t relevant to your class and add custom tasks to what is relevant. Or perhaps you only want to keep track of positive behaviors, then just delete anything that would be considered negative.

teaching-900For example the behavioral tasks I had:

Positives- Helping Others, On Task, Participating, Persistance, Teamwork, Working Hard

Negatives- Bullying, Disrepect, Inappropriate, Off Task, Talking out of turn, Unprepared

During camp, I used it on my iPad since they have an app that you can download and log into your account from the app. It worked out nicely. But if you don’t have an tablet, smart phone or iPod touch you can just use it from a computer. Did I mention it’s free? On the website it says “We intend to keep ClassDojo free, forever, for early-adopter teachers like you! Sign up below now to join our early-adopter teacher community.” This tells me that while it is free and has been for a while, there is a possibility of Class Dojo charging sometime in the future IF you don’t take advantage of being an early-adopter and sign up for an account now. So even if you don’t do any group type classes now (or never will- more on that later…) but think you may in the future, I would go ahead and sign up for an account now. (Hopefully I haven’t scared you away from trying group classes and/or camps because they really are fun and worth doing. The goal is to get those behavioral problems down to none so they can be fully enjoyed by everyone who participates…)

Another neat feature about this program is if you choose to do so, ClassDojo can send you behavior-tracking analytics and reports that can be shared with parents. In addition, there is a teacher “decoration” pack that you can download to make Certificates, passes, posters, whatever you think would be fun to use to encourage good behavior!

Even though Class DoJo is geared towards classes, I would imagine you can adapt this to the individual student who has a hard time staying on task during lessons. Really, the possibilities are up to you and your needs! I would encourage you to visit the website, sign up for an account and start trying Class DoJo in your studio. I promise  you won’t regret it!

Tech Tuesday: Did you know…?


- There is a new Pinterest page called Piano Teaching Products where you can find some fun resources to use in your studio all in one convenient place? Follow here.

-, a virtual conference for music teachers is coming up in a couple weeks. It’s not to late to register and hear some great presentations at your convenience in the comfort of your own home! Click here.

- Musical Moments is currently offering FREE shipping on all their music right now until February through Feb. 15th. Click here.

- Box, is offering 50 GB of FREE cloud storage when you download their free iOS app before February 15!!! Don’t wait on this one! Click here.

- Prima Music is offering an extra 5% off of your order the month of January (up to 30% off) using the code: JAN2014. Click here.

Well now you know! So what are you going to do about it? Go check them out!

Tech Tuesday: Giveaway and Sale Extended!


I heard through the web vine that today is “Giving Tuesday” so for one day only I would like to give back to all my wonderful readers and do a giveaway for one product of your choice in my store. Deadline to enter is 10:00pm tonight (AZ mountain standard). Just like my Facebook page here then leave a comment below of which product you would like to win and a product idea you would like to see available in my store.


Tomorrow is “Wish List Wednesday” so I am also extending the 20% off everything in my store deal through this Wednesday. While there, be sure to check out The Nutcracker Christmas Camp. It works for not only camps but for group classes as well. Be sure to check that out and more here.

Tech Tuesday: The iPad Piano Studio (review and giveaway!)

When Leila Viss first announced on her blog that she had something exciting in store, I knew it had to be good. As expected, her surprise was an exciting one when she announced details about her new book,The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps.


With a little encouragement and support from several friends, Leila made this book possible to help teachers feel more comfortable with the way technology is moving forward. The great thing about iPads is the technology is really not too complicated. I find it much easier to work and keep up with then I ever did with computer software and hardware. Matter of fact, I have found this year that I use my iPad in my studio lab (I have a separate one for my lab) a lot more then the computer.

The iPad Piano Studio is a simple read that one can go back to over and over. It does not need to be read in order. Leila was careful in not putting too much information that would quickly be outdated. This was smart as we know technology advances quickly and in the world of apps what is there one day, may not be there the next.

The iPad Piano Studio includes 12 chapters in addition to an intro and an outro. In the beginning Leila talks about the background of the book and why it was written. The first chapter begins by talking about the 5 different generations and why knowing and understanding each generation is important in our field of teaching. We then learn how to implement the iPad in our studio and the basics of getting started with a studio lab. If you are new to the iPad world and not sure what to look for or if it’s really worth the investment, Leila guides the reader with helpful information so you can be confidant in your new investment.

As with any technology, there are words and abbreviations that can frankly make one’s head spin. Leila breaks those “tech terms and languages” and explains them in an easy way for the reader to understand. In addition to some app suggestions, Leila walks you through what is already included in your iPad and ways to use those and several other optional apps in your studio. You will learn quickly that apps are not only about playing games. There is much, much more to the iPad then games. (Though they are fun too…)

The last chapters finish off with learning about helpful accessories that will enhance the iPad experience; and how to connect the dots making the iPad not only a teaching tool, but a teaching assistant that can enhance your lessons and business.

When purchasing the book, you have the option to purchase the digital only or the paperback copy with the digital. Having the digital copy along with the paper book allows for the reader to have a much fuller experience. When you download a QR app (free) onto your iPad or iPhone, etc… the digital copy allows you to scan your QR code and view helpful video’s Leila put together.

scanning book

As you can see, The iPad Piano Studio is a helpful resource that will help teachers who want to learn more about making the most out of their iPad in their studio.

The paper back copy (which includes the digital copy and a free copy of SimpleTEC magazine) of The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps is $21.99 (+shipping). The digital copy only is $18.99. In addition, there is a support blog that will be updated with helpful information from the website. Be sure to click on any of the links included in this review to find out more about the book and future resources that will be available.

Now for the fun part! I have an extra paperback copy of The iPad Piano Studio that Leila sent me to give away to a lucky reader! This will include your digital copy as well! To enter the following questions below: Do you have an iPad? If so, what is the favorite way you use it in your studio? If not yet, how would you like to use it in your studio?  The deadline to enter is Monday, November 25th; 10:00pm (AZ mountain standard).

Disclaimer:  I received this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Tech Tuesday: The Piano Bench Magazine (and giveaway!)


I am excited to introduce you to a new piano teacher magazine created by Karen Gibson (editor/publisher) called, The Piano Bench Mag. The Piano Bench Mag is available by download on iTunes to your iPhone or iPad. The magazine will then sync to your NewStand app.

The first issue of The Piano Bench Mag has come out this month and is full of holiday ideas for the piano studio.

Inside the first issue you will find:

  • Find a Treasury of Holiday ideas (different website resources for you to check out!)
  • Giving Back- My Studio and Operation Christmas Child
  • How Charlie Brown Helped my Career
  • App Review- Master in a Minute
  • 5 Alternatives to the December Recital
  • Jazz Up Your Christmas Carols!

I am looking forward to seeing what future issues will hold. Next month the main topic will be on Technology.

Subscription rates are 1 issue for $1.99; 6 month for $7.99 or 1 year for $11.99.

Karen has offered 5 lucky readers of FPSResources a 3 month subscription to The Piano Bench Mag out for FREE!

To enter please comment on what topics you would like to see written in The Piano Bench Magazine. Deadline to enter is Saturday, October 26th 10:00pm (mountain standard time).  (*Winner MUST respond within 72 hours of announcement or another winner will be chosen*) The winner will be announced on this blog and on the FPSResources Facebook page by Sunday, October 27th. Be sure you subscribe to the blog and on our Facebook page so you don’t miss out seeing if you are a winner! Good luck!

Tech Tuesday: iOS 7 and an iPad app giveaway!

Last week was a crazy busy week and I’m just starting to catch up. Last week as many of you know, was the anticipated iOS 7 update. There were articles going around to hold off on updating if you had in particularly some “older” products (ie: iPad 2 etc…). I ended up upgrading my 4s iPhone to a 5s, so that made everything most current. I am enjoying the new iPhone 5s especially the fingerprint scan feature. However if I was coming from a iPhone 5 I wouldn’t have bothered to upgrade. I recently upgraded one of my iPad 3′s (I have a personal one and a studio lab one for my students). For the most part it is fine, but I do have some apps that keep crashing on me. So I’m hoping those updates to fix the crashes will come soon. I decided to hold off on updating my studio lab iPad for that reason until some bugs get fixed. Still trying to get used to the look of the update. There are some things that I felt didn’t need changing but were etc… Not too sure how I feel about the look of iOS 7. My husband calls it the “fisher price” update because of how it looks.

There is a video that the Technology in Music Education blog made showing the difference between the iOS 6 and iOS 7. I wanted to share this especially if you haven’t upgraded yet as I found it really helpful when I did upgrade. Video


It is time for another iPad app giveaway! A couple weeks ago we gave away the SightReadPlus app, a wonderful sight-reading app for major keys. This week it just makes sense to give away the SightReadMinor app right? So that is what we are doing! If you missed the review on the SightRead Minor app you can read it here. Remember if you already have this app, win it for a lucky student in your studio!

Deadline to enter is by this next Monday, September 30th; 10:00pm (mountain time). (*Winner MUST respond within 72 hours of announcement or another winner will be chosen*) The winner will be announced on this blog and on the FPSResources Facebook page by Tuesday, October 1st. Be sure you subscribe to the blog and on our Facebook page so you don’t miss out seeing if you are a winner!


If you missed out last week on winning the SightReadPlus app for yourself or a student, The Fame School Blog is giving a copy of this app this week. Deadline is THIS Thursday, September 26th so be sure to visit and enter to win!