Christmas Tunes to Harmonize: A Free Reference Sheet

One of the most downloaded free resources here on Piano Pantry is 147 Tunes to Harmonize: Traditional, Popular, and Christmas.

Due to the popularity of this download as well as the recent release of my new book Christmas by Ear: 8 Tunes to Harmonize, I thought now was a perfect time to share with you a FREE handy quick reference guide of Christmas tunes to harmonize!

Each of the 20 tunes included are well-known traditional ones that are in the public domain.

Often times students are happy to play only a portion of a favorite tune. While many Christmas tunes have a little more complicated harmonizations, sometimes the opening portion or the chords are more simplified. For this reason, a few are listed twice.

For example, you can harmonize the open two phrases of Deck the Halls using only tonic and dominant. Many’s students might get a kick out of being able to play even a few phrases of favorite tunes by ear without having to learn the whole thing!

Here are a couple of quick ideas on how you could use it:

  1. Pull it out when students forget their materials or haven’t practiced enough on their pieces.
  2. Practice harmonizing these tunes on your own to develop your own ear!
  3. Have students choose one piece off the list that they’re not learning as part of their Christmas repertoire and have them work on playing chords while they sing! One of my favorite first steps with students is to play root position chords in the RH and either chord roots or root octaves in the LH.

Interested in having a little more guidance through the process of playing by ear with your students?

Checkout the new book I mentioned above, Christmas by Ear: 8 Tunes to Harmonize.

Here’s a quick preview from the book.

Read more about this resource in the post: The Most Versatile Christmas Book You’ll Ever Own.


16th-note Rhythm Cards Resource

and free downloadable reference sheet

For several years now I’ve used and loved a set of “flashcard” patterns created by D’Net Layton over at Layton Music.

There are two sets:

  1. Dotted Quarter Note Rhythm Cards
  2. 16th Note Rhythm Cards


The latter set introduces 16th note patterns in a lovely progressive manner with 6 sets of color-coded patterns.

Download this set of flashcards here.


Free Reference Sheet

While I have always kept the sets bundled separately, I always find myself searching for which set to do first.

Today, I decided to take a few minutes to create a nice little reference sheet. It also makes it nice to see how the various patterns are introduced and then combined in a progressive manner.

Isn’t it pretty? 🙂



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Help Your Students Perform Their Best with these Piano Performance Checklists

Recital season is here which means it’s time to start talking to students about good performance practices.

It’s easy to get tied up working on student’s skills with their repertoire and forget that there’s much more to it when it comes time for them to actually perform their music!

I sometimes find myself forgetting that students don’t just automatically KNOW these things, we have to take time to talk to them about (and practice) things like…

  • If you make a mistake, do your best to continue in an inconspicuous manner without pauses, facial expressions, physical reactions (such as flinching), or sounds.
  • If the performance situation has them announcing themself and/or their piece), speak slowly, and clearly, with well-articulated words and confidence.
  • The Day of the Performance…At least once during the day (and preferably about an hour prior to the performance), take a moment to close your eyes and visualize your performance including walking in, talking to the judges (if applicable), adjusting the bench, and warming up.
  • The Day of the Performance…Make sure you have practiced what you will use to warm up when you first sit down at the piano. Every piano feels different so don’t be afraid to ask if you can try it out before you begin your piece. A brief scale/warm-up or opening 4 measures of your piece will suffice.
  • The Day of the Performance…Take a celebratory photo after the performance somewhere that is memorable of what the event was and send it to your teacher!


Today’s free download includes TWO CHECKLISTS:

The first is a “Piano Performance Checklist”. This page is great to use with students either individually or during a group performance class. It’s not an adjudication sheet, just a nice list of things that make up a solid performance.

The second is a list of helpful points for students to remember “The Day-of Your Piano Performance.”

I’m sure there are a whole plethora of other items that could be added to each but the goal was to keep it fairly concise and keep it to one page each. You don’t want to overwhelm students with TOO many do’s and don’ts.


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MTNA Music Study Award Printable Template

Every year at our Spring Recital, students are given a “Music Study Award” celebrating the milestones of their years of study and dedication to ongoing music lessons.

Made available by MTNA, (only members have access to this award), they have a free certificate available for download signed by the current MTNA President and the Executive Director/C.E.O.

For more details on how to find the award on the MTNA website, see this post: Studio Awards Policies and Procedures.

There is space for the teacher to fill in the student name, years of music study, and for the teacher’s signature and date given.

This form is usually fillable but for some reason this year it is not.

I have terrible handwriting and while it’s one thing to sign my name and write the date, it’s another to write out the student’s name and years of study and make it look nice.

So, I created a printable template I’m sharing with you today for free.

4/27/2021 Update: Thanks to fellow colleague/reader Jan Fulford for pointing out to me that her fillable form WAS working. We contacted MTNA and found out it was flux and it was supposed to be fillable. It has been fixed now so YEA!

I’m going to leave this template available anyway just in case since I’ve already put the work into it.

First, you will want to print the certificate.

P.S. If you are using a certificate paper that has a large border on it, you will need to scale down the print area. Here’s a 2-minute tutorial to show you how.

Next, return the printed page to the printer tray (be sure and put it in the correct direction).

Then, print the template on top of it. (You will, of course, have written in the student’s name and years of study. 🙂 )

P.S.S. If you had to scale your document based on the type of certificate paper you’re using as per above, remember to scale the template as well. 🙂

It’s a little tedious because you have to do it one-by-one for each student but is a project that can be knocked out pretty quickly with a good rhythm.

I would print as many awards as you need then put the full stack in your printer and print the names out one by one.


How to Access and Use the Template

The template is available in Google Docs.

Click here to access it.

The document is viewable only which means you cannot edit it. In order to edit the document for your own use, you will need to either download it or copy it onto your Google Drive. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the link.
  2. Be sure you are signed in to your Google Account (do this in the top right corner).
  3. Click on “File” in the upper left-hand corner.
  4. Four options down, select “Make a copy.”
  5. A box will pop up asking you to name the document and choose where in your Drive you would like to save it. Make your selections and hit OK.
  6. That’s it! You should now be able to edit the document.
  7. Just be careful as you change out the text that you don’t hit too many backspaces and alter the location. If that happens, simply go back to the original link and copy the document again. 🙂


Click on the image below to enlarge it.


Friday Finds #204

Valentine’s Goodies

Preparing you for the sweet holiday ahead.



I’m not much of an iced cookie baker, but if I were, I would definitely make these cute piano valentine cookies for my students!



A Valentine’s Playlist on Spotify full of all kinds of good love songs for you to enjoy for the next few weeks.




I just purchased some fun little Valentine Fortune Tellers from Lauren Lewandowski to give to my students the week of Valentine’s along with their Valentine card/treat. (She has two sets: Set 1 & Set 2).



My students don’t get Valentine treats from me every year but in the years they have, I’ve used printable Valentines from Wendy Stevens, Joy Morin, and Sara Campbell, and Lauren Lewandowski.




Pictured above next to student valentines, is the free candy jar contest printable available here on Piano Pantry.



Do you have students who like to color? Get them listening to classical music with Playful Piano’s Shades of Sound: Listening & Coloring Book for Valentine’s Day.



Alert: personal Valentine’s memory

My husband made this photo for me when we were first married (some 18 years ago!) when he was big into photography. He’s still a bit of a pyro but always with safety first. 🙂



Although I love to cook, Valentine’s Day is a holiday I declare a break and a night out at a delicious restaurant. If I WERE to cook for that night though, here are some things I might put on my menu (notice the heavyweight on desserts! Ha!):

Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese (Ina Garten)

Butter-Roasted Radishes (Add a Pinch)

Apple Gorgonzola Salad with Italian Vinaigrette (Kelsies Kitchen)

Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta Cream (Ellie Krieger)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (Ree Drummond)

Frozen Berries with Hot White Chocolate (Ina Garten)

Mixed Berry Pavlova (Ina Garten)


Have a great weekend, everyone!




The Practice Cake Assignment Sheet

Have you ever heard of “The Practice Cake?”

The analogy was first brought to my attention by Dr. Lori Rhoden, who I studied with in the graduate piano pedagogy program at Ball State.

Recently, I saw an article on The Practice Cake and it made me remember that I have an assignment sheet that is based on this idea!

It’s a simple idea really, but a great visual for how to teach students to build their practice.

1) Rhythm and notes/fingering

2) Articulation

3) Dynamics and tempo

4) Pedal

The image is flip-flopped, however, like a layer cake! The foundation is the rhythm/notes/fingering the top of the cake is the pedal. You can’t get to the top unless you have the foundation!

One of the assignment sheets I created in my early “assignment-sheet-creating” days included a small image as such.

However, after a reader asked if I could tweak it because it looked like *that* emoji, yeah, you know, the poop emoji, I decided to simply switch the analogy to a stairstep. (I was working from Microsoft Word, and didn’t know about things like Canva at the time, OK? 🙂 LOL)

It doesn’t really matter the graphic, right? The idea is the same.

If you like the idea of having an image as such on your student’s assignment sheet each week, check out Assignment Sheet #15: Practice Steps 2 on Assignment Sheet Central or just download it right here!


Interested in reading a little more on this idea?

Check out this article by Chrissy Ricker on  The Practice Cake: A “sweet” approach to teaching beginners how to practice


An Assignment Sheet for Piano Safari

There are a whole lot of assignment sheets on Assignment Sheet Central – 21 to be exact.

I thought it might be nice to highlight one, in particular, that was designed around the Piano Safari method.


Download Now!

As you can see in the image, it uses clip art images of each of the safari technique exercises so you can simply circle which exercise the student is doing that week.

Weekly sightreading cards are also a big part of the Piano Safari method so there is a section specifically for that as well.

One of the things I learned from the mini-essays from Piano Safari is the importance of having students continue to play and review pieces they’ve already mastered.

Not all pieces are “reviewed for fun,” just the ones the student loves and wants to keep playing. That’s their choice! (Check out Piano Safari’s Mini Essay 4: Assigning Pieces for more on this.)

Visit Assignment Sheet Central to check out more assignment sheets!


December Fun: Christmas Games and Activities for Your Studio

Are you looking for ideas on fun “off bench” activities to use in this Christmas season? Look no further! Today I’m going to share some of my favorite games and resources that I return to year after year along with tips for each one.

First, let me briefly share how I store my holiday games. We have to stay organized, right?


Storing Games (Both Hard-Copy and Digital)

Inspired by Nicola Canton I’ve started storing my holiday-themed games in these clear plastic document folders.

(P.S. The A4 size is nice because if you laminate a letter size-sheet, the lamination makes it larger.)

It’s not a cheap way to store games as they’re almost $1 a piece, so I’m currently only storing my holiday-themed games in these. The rest of my games are stored in hanging files in a file drawer. (I’ll write a post on that another day!)

The digital files are stored in my cloud file manager.

From there, I name files for what they are. This allows me to see how many games, for example, I have, how many worksheets, etc.


Favorite Christmas-Themed Activities

In no particular order…

Holiday Rhythm Cups from Wendy Stevens at Compose Create.

This is a great way to have fun with rhythm in a unique and collaborative way. The set includes three songs in three levels: Deck the Halls, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Joy to the World.

Check out a clip of my students having fun with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Continue reading

147 Tunes to Harmonize Updated

Just a quick note to let you guys know that I recently did a small update to the free download 147 Tunes to Harmonize: Traditional, Popular, and Christmas.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw how many hundreds of you have downloaded this freebie!

Here are a few quick ideas on how you could use it:

  1. Pull it out when students forget their materials or haven’t practiced enough on their pieces.
  2. Use it for a month-long focus on harmonization.
  3. Practice harmonizing these tunes on your own to develop your own ear!
  4. At Christmas time, have students choose one piece off the list that they’re not learning as part of their Christmas repertoire and have them play that Christmas tune with chords while they sing!


P.S. I would definitely recommend printing it out and keeping it next to the piano at all times!

Happy harmonizing!

Improve Your Audience’s Recital Experience with these Simple Signs

Organizing a studio recital involves lots of different aspects beyond student repertoire preparation. Many of us, I’m sure, have stories we can tell of the lessons learned in our first few years of recital-planning.

One of my first lessons-learned was to put up some kind of signage, especially when the recital is not in the same location every year.

Is it a necessity? No. Can people generally find their way to the recital hall or auditorium eventually? Yes.

So why use direction signs?

If you’ve ever attended a graduation party, baby shower, or conference, I’m sure you will agree that the minute you see a sign indicating you are in the correct location, you breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s comforting to not have to wonder if you’re in the right location or to have to search for where you’re going. Relieving this small anxiety for your audience will not only make a great first impression but will add a professional touch with little effort. All it takes is a few signs posted around the building where the recital is being held.

The signs are very simple. No-frills. I kept them pretty plain rather than with a design so they can be used at any kind of recital, no matter what your program looks like.

They’re being made available to you in Microsoft Word format so you can download the document and make tweaks to your heart’s content or print only the signs you’ll use.

I like to include my logo at the top of the page.  Feel free to import your own!

Signs include:

  • Arrows pointing to the correct direction to find the recital location/room.
  • Asking the audience to wait in the foyer until the doors open.
  • Reminding attendees food and drink should be taken into the recital hall. (Unless you’re having a special recital like a picnic of course! 🙂
  • Asking the audience to sit toward the front half of the room. (I use these when we’re in a large sanctuary so it doesn’t feel like they’re all spread out. I set them on either end of the row/pew encouraging people to keep moving forward.


Consider taking your signage a step further and purchase a yard sign you can reuse from year to year that has your studio logo and says “Recital Here” or something generic that could be used for any kind of performance(s) you organize in your studio.

What was one of the first things you learned when planning a recital that helped it go smoother the following year and each year since?