MTNA Conference; Tuesday, March 24, 2015: Teaching Skills Not Pieces

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(This is the last post in this series) I really enjoyed this presentation by Dr. Beth Gigante Klingenstein, author of The Independent Piano Teacher’s Studio Handbook. (Great book by the way if you don’t already own it…)


Dr. Klingenstein firsts asks us how much time do I spend teaching skills, discussing musical elements and fixing mistakes?

The most pressing task is to teach people how to learn. (Peter F. Drucker)

Then she went through the following lifetime skills…

Practice– How can we teach students the art of discovery? Dr. Klingenstein says that we should expect 99% accuracy the 1st week. How many of  your students do this? I know this is something I need to work with my students on more. The key is slow practice and intelligent, mindful repetition. Students should discover the musical elements, patterns and technical elements in the piece. Practice should be goal oriented. (versus time). I do stress this with my family when they ask how much time their child should spend practicing. Dr. Klingenstein said when students first learn a piece they should start with hands together. Then if needed can break certain sections hands separate.  She also stressed that students should be able to make musical choices from the very beginning (dynamics, articulations, etc.)

If you google- 8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently (Dr. Noa Kageyama), it was discovered that it did not matter how long practice. What did matter how many times they played incorrectly, The % of correct practice to incorrect practice.

Memorize- There are 4 different ways a student can memorize. Analytic/Cognitive, Tactile/Kinesthetic, Aural and Visual. The best way to memorize is to memorize as they learn the piece. Other tips are small overlapping sections, patterns, mindful repetition, slow, various orders and to be able to start from any location.

Performance- Students should practice performing. When they say can I start over? Do not let them…. “You are on stage, deal with it”. They should learn to cover (avoid fixing, no expression, shaking head, keep going…), focus on musical issues when performing, not on demons, avoid perfectionist tendencies. “Olympic skaters fall down all the time and its okay, it’s normal to make mistakes…”

Timing- Students should count out loud and count before playing. You can use the metronome, drums, clapping, tapping, etc. Teach students how to learn correct timing on their own! Let the student figure out right timing. After they have done so, you can step in to demonstrate subtleties of rhythm.

Technique- The goals for good technique are to play musically, be tension free, strength, speed and finger independence/control. Basic technique should be taught early. Stand back and look for proper position, posture, use of fingers, wrists, elbows and arms. Look for tension in face, jaw, neck, shoulders, back, arms, wrists,fingers. Discern the cause of the tension. If it hurts, something is wrong.

Sight-Reading- This can be learned. Look over the piece and check for patterns, read intervals and view chords as a single unit.  Use knowledge of theory. Count out loud, do not mess up timing. Keep going no matter what (80% is okay). Develop good fingering habits. Do not stop! Keep eyes ahead and on the music.

Fingering- Good fingering habits impact: Musicality, Technical skills, Accuracy, Memory and Performance. Remember fingering choices have technical and musical repercussions. Develop fingering options. Plan ahead. Observe 100% of fingering on the page (if it doesn’t work, change). Rethink poor choices. Keep fingering consistent. Choose fingerings that eliminate strain.

Pedaling- Students should understand the mechanism of the pedal, explain it. Incorporate use of pedal early. Use a pedal extender for small children. Explain varied reasons to pedal (legato, blending, dynamics, tone color). They should understand how/when to lift and the various graduations of pedaling. The should understand when and how it’s appropriate or not appropriate to pedal by stylistic period/composer. Avoid over pedaling! Tip: start playing staccato with pedal up and then gradually put pedal down so you can see the gradations/colors of the pedal.

Self Assessment- Teach students to assess progress. Spend time doing our own self assessments of teaching skills. Research possible ways to improve teaching. Reinforce the need to listen

Are we teaching our student the skills they need to succeed?


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Technique Trainer Update!

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 12.29.24 PMDid you hear? Technique Trainer now has an unlimited studio licensing option! This is GREAT news! For a little investment (what you would spend for 5 students) you can use this resource with ALL your students!

If you missed my review on Technique Trainer click here. Then click here to view all the pages of the book and how to order.


Be sure to ‘Like’ FPSResources on Facebook and follow FPSResources on TpT to stay up to date on giveaways, discounts, reviews and other music resources!

Using Technology to Improve Student Retention

Have you received your May/June of Clavier Companion yet? Did you notice the article on page 28?


IMG_4988I had the opportunity to participate with a group of wonderful teachers that are sharing a series of articles addressing the future of piano teaching. My article is part of this series and can be found in the May/June edition of Clavier Companion!

Don’t get Clavier Companion? Get a digital copy of this issue for free. Just click here. There is a lot of great articles in this issue. Clavier Companion is my favorite magazine. Relevant and engaging articles for piano teachers to look forward to 6 times a year. If you don’t already subscribe, I would highly recommend it!

MTNA Conference; Tuesday, March 23, 2015: Creative Chords

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Bradley Sowash’s showcase was one of the most entertaining showcases I think I have ever attended. The pictures below will give you a taste of that entertainment.




Bradley Sowash has a brand new book that was featured at this years MTNA Conference, Creative Chords.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.12.31 PMBradley says “Our goal as teachers ought to be comprehensive musicianship. Both eye and ear skills are essential.”

And then asks the question, why have the eye/ear approaches remain separated? Answer: Pride and Prejudice. Each camp (eye and ear) is secretly jealous of each other.

In this showcase, Bradley teaches us the steps to teaching “off page” creativity



*Compliment (the ember of creativity is important, easy to squash it out)

*Ask Questions (I noticed… are there?….)

*Turn them loose

The Creative Chords book balances both the eye and ear. Students can learn familiar tunes reading and by ear. They can personalize melodies and improvise variations. They can interpret pop/jazz chord symbols, apply stock accompaniments in a variety of styes and use music theory to enable their creative ideas.

The Creative Chords book is unlike anything I have seen out there. It has a look and feel where it can be easily used as a main method book, but opens itself up to use along with your main method. It  begins at a mid-late elementary level. Students should have some basic music theory knowledge when beginning Creative Chords.

In the book students will find:

  • PLAY Steps when learning a piece. Prepare, Learn, Add, Your Way
  • Work Out- Technical Exercises
  • Creative Concept- Creativity with the technical exercise.
  • Extra Challenge- An added challenge to the technical exercise.
  • Theory Tools

Along the way there are little tips and fun little characters (including a cartoon version of Bradley!) scattered throughout.

Broken up into 5 units students will learn about:

  • Sweet Harmony
  • Transposing
  • Scaling the Chords
  • Accompanying
  • Encore- Applying it all.

Creative Chords is an IPS- Interactive Practice Studio book. Which means, inside the back of each book there is a special code to download backing tracks, video lessons and other documents and files such as worksheets, musical examples, etc. Creative Chord is published by Kjos and is available at your favorite music retailer. You can find a little more information on the book at the Kjos website here.

FREE Download

If you ever purchase anything on TpT, you will want to download this FREE infographic, TpT Buyers Guide: Insider Tips for Buyers. It is packed with helpful information for the TpT buyer. Perfect timing with the TpT sale going on right now!

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Inside you will find:

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Also included in this file are some helpful bonus tips/TpT links like:

  • How to Earn Credits Towards Future Purchases
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Click here to download this very helpful infographic. Thank you Melody Payne and Jennifer Hibbard for creating it and ALL the other TpT sellers who contributed.

And just a reminder the TpT sale ends tomorrow! 20% off PLUS another 10% when you use the code: Thank You

Tech Tuesday Review: My Music Staff

mymusicstaff-logo-2015My Music Staff is a web-based resource you can use on whatever device  you have. Just log into your account online wherever you are and manage your studio.

My Music Staff is super easy to set up. Simply input your students and family details (you can do this by importing your contacts if you wish) to set up their account. Have multiple teachers in your studio? No problem, My Music Staff makes managing easy for you too.

MMSHome-1024x640 MMSStudent-Details-1024x640 MMSStudents-1024x640Once that is done you will be able to include and access attendance notes, practice log, repertoire and email history.

Next you can schedule events, group lessons, camps and more to be added to your calendar (in addition to regular lessons). The calendar will even show students birthdays!

MMSCalendar-1024x640Easily keep track of your lending library…

MMSLibrary-1024x640… and send invoices to families. By the way, My Music Staff is working on an exciting update (currently in beta). “Now, when a student/parent clicks the “Make Payment” button (or uses the “Pay Online” link in an invoice), they’ll be taken to a new payment page first that displays your invoice logo and a few other details about their payment before they’re taken to PayPal.” That is coming soon!

MMSFamilies Invoices-1024x640Expenses and income log, very helpful at tax time! And don’t forget to keep track of your mileage.



You can even set up a website page and posts. If you already have one, they have some widget codes you can add to yours.

MMSWebsite-1024x640When you log into My Music Staff you not only see your agenda for the day, but you can see the latest “staff room news” so you are always updated with the latest.

My Music Staff has a clean interface that makes managing you studio super easy for even the tech challenged teacher! My Music Staff is just $12.95 a month no matter how many students you have.

My Music Staff does not do an affiliate program like some of the others. Keith Russell stated “We believe in offering the lowest price possible to everyone without compromising features, benefits or service.”

You can check out My Music Staff here and sign up for a month trial for free.

Be sure to ‘Like’ FPSResources on Facebook and follow FPSResources on TpT to stay up to date on giveaways, discounts, reviews and other music resources!

TpT Teacher Appreciation Sale!

TpTSaleThis week is Teacher Appreciation Week! To help celebrate all your hard work, TpT is hosting a Teacher Appreciation Sale! My store is participating in the sale so if you have anything on your wish list I have put everything (yes including bundles- which I usually don’t do since they are already discounted) 20% off PLUS when you use promo code: THANKYOU you will get an extra 8% off. That is 28% off!

Don’t do what I did last time and forget the promo code. Matter of fact put it in first! If you haven’t started a wish list yet, better get started because this sale only lasts for two days, May 5-6th.

To visit my TpT store, click here. Happy Shopping!