Guest Post: Discounts for Back to School & Why I Hate the Term Method Book

Today I have a guest post by Jennifer Eklund, creator of the Piano Pronto books…

It’s that time of year already – kids are headed back to school in many parts of the country and teachers are looking ahead to a fresh year of piano students and lessons.  Since writing my Piano Pronto books back in 2006, and learning the ropes of marketing I’ve ruminated over my brand and the purpose for these books in an already overflowing market of piano lesson materials.  Let me say first and foremost that I respect everyone’s preferences and admire the staunch loyalty that many teachers have towards particular publishers, etc.  I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I really dislike the concept of “method books.”

A method is certainly a “way” of doing things but within the context of a “how-to” type of activity (like piano lessons) it also implies that one method may be superior/inferior when compared to another method.  In the world of piano teaching this gets even stickier because us teachers tend to cling pretty strongly to our individual methods and trust me we *all* do things differently.   And this isn’t a bad thing!    As we progress through the years we find the methods and tricks that work for us and our individual clients.  For instance, I pride myself in *not* being a “traditional” piano teacher.  I was brought up learning classical music but that’s not my primary focus with my students.  My clientele are the piano hobbyist kids who love to play their favorite radio songs so we mix in a great deal of that material alongside more traditional pieces from my books and beyond.

My impression after seeing many students over the years is that teachers who stick to one set of materials (a method) generally have problems with student retention rates.  I make this judgment because I’ve gotten plenty of transfer students who got bored with what their teacher had to offer.  When these students asked for the teacher to extend beyond their primary skillset and the teacher couldn’t offer up the goods the student moved elsewhere.  When I started teaching I was the exact opposite – I couldn’t find enough good materials in all the available methods so I ended up having kids working out of multiple different series, grabbing one song out of a book and ditching the rest.  This got exhausting so I started writing my materials as a way to catalogue what was working well with students in one cohesive package.

Why I wrote Piano Pronto:

  • I really dislike the pre-reading materials in most series and wanted to write books that get kids looking at real sheet music from day one.  So many books waste the first half of a primer book with off the staff or black key only reading by finger numbers that tends to cause a lot of confusion when you do finally switch a student over to the grand staff.
  • Kids don’t care about illustrations and neither do I!  Dancing frogs all over the page and other random images are usually just a distraction.  I wanted my books to be clean and focus on fun music that excite the students.   As well, adults appreciate not playing out of a kid-centric book.  To make up for lack of color I let my students decorate their pages adjacent to the music with reward stickers.
  • Random songs that are unfamiliar don’t aid in the process of learning the piano.  One of the biggest things we as teachers need to reinforce in the beginning (and all) stages is the proper way to practice.  It is really difficult for students to practice effectively on their own if they aren’t familiar with a tune.  Case in point:  give little Johnny “Jingle Bells” to practice vs. publisher composed tune “Big Indian Joe” and I’ll bet you 9 times out of 10 that “Jingle Bells” gets more attention from your student.  Now granted not every tune will be familiar to every student and that’s why I created companion Mp3 packs to accompany every book in my catalog.  For between $2-3 your student can have every song in their piano book downloaded on their iPod or tech gadget of choice.  No more, “but I didn’t know what it was supposed to sound like” excuses!
  • I love all genres and want students to get a dash of everything.  In Piano Pronto you will find opera themes, violin themes, symphonic themes, piano sonata themes, jazz, blues, Latin music, folk music, ragtime, standard piano repertoire, you name it.
  • Arranging for students from beginning to intermediate stages is my passion and I take pride in carefully arranging pieces to maintain the integrity of the original theme while also keeping the music appropriate for the level of the student.   As a lifetime pianist I understand the hands and work hard to keep awkwardness out of the arrangements.  I always strive to arrange with a “lush” sound in mind because students are always motivated when they play music that sounds more difficult than it really is.
  • I wanted to incorporate an all-in-one feel with my books.  I do this in two ways:
    • Every piece has a “Before you begin” section that asks a few questions about the next piece and reinforces theory concepts and terminology.  It’s kind of a “quick-scan” of the music to help students get their bearings, jot down new notes, etc.
    • There is also a “Pronto Prep” section before each piece where I’ve extracted the tricky sections of the piece and the student works through these passages separately.  The idea here is to reinforce practical and efficient practice habits (because we all know that students are prone to just practice from the beginning to the end of the piece without “getting under the hood” and working out the problem spots.  I tried to head them off at the pass and put all the tricky sections in the Pronto Prep areas.

How I would like teachers to utilize my books:

  • Don’t think of Piano Pronto as a “method” but more as a repertoire series alongside whatever else you are using with your students.  When I wrote the books I had this in mind that they could either stand on their own or be used as supplemental materials.
  • Skip around in the books as you see fit.  I know that not every tune will be a hit with every student, but I also took care to take enough time and offer enough materials in each level that if you hop over a few pieces you will not have missed a big chunk of concepts.

My Back-to-School promotion (School15):

Ready to give Piano Pronto a try?  Great!  For the month of August I am offering a 15% discount on to all FPSResources blog readers.  There are no limits on titles or number of times you can use this promotion and shipping of tangible books is always FREE.  To get the promotion just type in SCHOOL15 at checkout and update your cart.  On the website you can:

  • Browse all the available titles
  • Preview the Table of Contents
  • Preview many of the pieces in each book
  • Listen to every title in every book (just press the play button next to the title of the piece)
  • Buy individual sheets as low as $0.99 (over 100 titles available!!)
  • Checkout via PayPal or Google Checkout.  (You do not need a PayPal account!)
  • Remember SHIPPING IS FREE!

If you have any questions please drop me an email:  jennifer@pianopronto.com

 

*Thank you Jennifer for your post and generous discount offer! If you missed my review on Piano Pronto be sure to read my original review here and an updated review here.

 

Tech Tuesday: Hands free pedal for iPad

I have to laugh… I wrote this post yesterday (Tuesday) but was thinking it was Monday so I held it for today. And I just realized as I’m getting ready to publish it that it is actually Wednesday!  My brain is a day behind… Gotta love it! So here is your “belated” Tech Tuesday…

Last week was my birthday. For my birthday I asked my husband for a pedal for my iPad. At first he didn’t want to get it because he didn’t want to buy something “for my students” for my birthday. But I assured him that this is not for my students and I really really wanted it. I knew about the pedals from Air Turn, but then found out from a friend, that there was another one called the PageFlip that was also compatible with the iPad. The price was a lot cheaper so that is the one I put on my wish list.

Can I just say how much I love my PageFlip pedal! I am currently learning Jared Radnich’s arrangement of Pirates of the Caribbean via the ForScore app on iTunes. As you may or may not know this piece is fast. I have been practicing this piece on my iPad and when I quickly turn a page sometimes it will turn then immediately turn backwards. I would get so frustrated when it would happen because I would have to quickly mess with it getting back to the next page and before you know it I have to pause to get back on track. So frustrating as I’m sure you can imagine and maybe even experienced yourself.

But now with my new PageFlip pedal I don’t have this problem. I just push the right pedal to go forwards and the left if I want to go backwards. It’s absolutely perfect!

I tested the pedal on other music reader apps that I had, and the pedal worked with all of them. I would highly recommend the PageFlip pedal!

Free Game Download from Fun Music Company!

A few days ago I posted about using interactive whiteboard materials in the studio. Janice Tuck with Fun Music Company graciously offered a free download to one of the games I used in my summer theory workshop called Rhythm Clock.

You can see the video, download the materials and file to Rhythm Clock by clicking here. Remember even if you don’t have an interactive whiteboard you can still use this in your studio either by printing the materials or by using powerpoint.

My students enjoyed this game and would take turns pointing to the “time’s” on the clock for us all to clap. Enjoy!

Tech Tuesday: Interactive Whiteboard with Free Sample Lesson Plan

This year for my summer workshops I wanted to focus just on theory. My main resource for my workshops was Interactive Whiteboard Software programs from the Fun Music Company. I have most of their products so I knew when they came out with their interactive theory software it would be good. The only trick was I didn’t have an Interactive Whiteboard. Now if you are familiar with Interactive Whiteboards you know they are very expensive. And really how much would a private piano instructor really use one in her studio? So I did a search online for homemade interactive whiteboards and there were several YouTube video’s that show you just how to do this. Of course, you can find how to do anything on YouTube!

All I needed was an inferred pen, powerpoint projector (already had one) and a Wii remote (already had one) and download an interactive whiteboard program. I used ActiveInspire (free online for individual use). So the only thing I had to purchase was the inferred pen and the software from Fun Music Company. Now I wish I could say I was successful in making it work, but I had very limited time and came very close but I couldn’t get it to work in time for my workshops to begin. Had my husband not been so swamped himself, I am confidant we could have made it work, or I should say he could have made it work. However, this didn’t stop me from going forward.

Even though I wasn’t able to use it “interactively” where students used the pen on the projected wall or screen, they still were able to get involved interactively by moving things around with the mouse from the laptop and I still had everything projected via my powerpoint projector. So all in all it was still a successful summer of theory workshops! Using the software from the Fun Music Company along with the printable materials that went along with the software made for easy lesson planning.

You can download a free sample lesson from Fun Music Company here.

Here are some pictures from our theory workshops in June…

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*Coming soon- Some free interactive games from Fun Music Company!

Last day for MTH Contest

I just wanted to thank everyone for your support for the Music Teachers Helper contest. It has been very humbling to see all the support and comments from teachers willing to help out. It’s been awesome and I really appreciate it! Thank you so much!

There has been a little confusion that I wanted to clear up with a couple comments I have received either personally or otherwise…  Because of the video I made I’ve had a few who confused it as an “ad” by me, the “creator”. While I wish I could take credit for creating Music Teachers Helper, I am not. I’m only a happy customer who entered this contest that they are holding.

If you are interested in signing up for Music Teachers Helper I would highly recommend it by going to this link so you can receive 20% off your first month. If you are still not sure, you can sign up via a free trial using 5 students and try it out. If you decide to add more students because you like it- as long as you went through this link you will still get 20% off your first paying month.

Back to the contest… Today is the last day to like, comment and share. You can go directly to my entry by clicking on this link. If you haven’t seen the video yet, I think it’s worth taking 2 minutes to view it. Enjoy!

 

*Coming soon in Tech Tuesday- Interactive Whiteboards and some free games you can download!

Getting ready for Fall Studio Kickoff

Last year I started what I call Fall Studio Kickoff. Basically the first lesson back from summer is a group lesson kicking off the new school year. I noticed the first lesson back students aren’t quite into the “groove” of being back with school just getting started so I wanted to do something that would give them a week to refresh and get excited about the new school year with piano lessons.

During fall studio kickoff week, students come on their normally scheduled lesson day but at the same time (ie: 4-5:30pm). The purpose of the Fall kickoff is 3-fold. 1. To introduce the new theme for the year.  2. For students to share their summer practice prop projects  3. To kickoff the year together with their piano peers and have some fun!

Click here to see our 1st Fall studio kickoff from last year.

I started this last year with the intention of creating excitement for what was to come for the new year. And it was a success! I recently emailed our 2012 Fall Studio Kickoff Flyer to my piano parents. This gives them the schedule information and highlights the new theme for the year. Here is a copy of this years flyer: 2012 Fall Studio Kickoff

What are you doing to kickoff the new school year in your studio?

Tech Tuesday- Android Tablet

As you know I have an iPad and an iPhone. While I totally love my iPad and iPhone, I know there are other options out there for teachers when it comes to music apps and devices. Unfortunately I am not much help when it comes to the Android Tablet for example, because I don’t own one and never have. However the good news for those that do have an Android Tablet is there is a teacher that can be very helpful on giving app advice for the Android.

Jennifer Ecklund, author of the Piano Pronto series has recently started a blog. She has an Android Tablet and has been posting about the tablet and apps that she enjoys with her students. I would highly recommend you subscribing to her blog if you want to keep up with recommendations for Android apps. (Among other things she blogs about) If you do a search for Android Tablets in the search bar on her blog, you will come up with 5 (and I’m sure many more to come) that will be helpful to you.

Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!

 

***P.S. I’m neck and neck in the MTH competition. I would appreciate your support by going to: https://www.facebook.com/musicteachershelper then find my entry “Ode to Music Teachers Helper” by Jennifer Foxx click on like, leave a comment and share. Likes are worth 1 point, comments 2 points and shares 2 points.  THANK YOU for your help! You can comment and share as much as you would like!  🙂 Contest ends July 15th. So everyday you can help really does help! Thanks!