Tracking Student Repertoire (A Free Download)

Do you keep track of the pieces your students learn? I’ve done it for as long as I can remember, although I can’t recall what made me get started.

There are two reasons one might consider tracking students’ repertoire.

(1) As time passes, it can be easy to forget the work that students have done.  Writing down pieces makes it easy to look back on those accomplishments.

(2) You might need to intentionally track pieces in order to meet specific goals or challenges (such as the 40-piece challenge.)

While this post is not necessarily about the 40-piece challenge, here’s just a brief background if you’re not familiar.

First made popular by Australian-based teacher Elisa Milne, this challenge was ultimately a reaction to piano culture’s highly steeped exams and competitions, where students were only learning a small handful of pieces to perfection each year.

While exam culture is not as prominent in the states, the challenge still gained much attention – and for good reason. Even for students who study higher-level repertoire, the goal is to learn some easier pieces they can learn quickly in order to have exposure to as much repertoire as possible.

I’ve never actually run the challenge formally in my studio, but I do give away an award at my Spring Recital to the student who masters the most pieces. I mainly like to track repertoire so we can remember the work they’ve completed.

Over the years, I’ve used a variety of tracking sheets. In recent years I feel like I’ve refined what works well for me, and I finally feel like I can present you with a sheet I’m proud of that you might also find useful in your own studio.

Download this repertoire list

While there are two parts to this sheet that likely won’t surprise you – “mastered” and “memory,” there are two parts that might have made your head turn – “studied” and “level-up.”


Why “Studied” Pieces?

While yes, the goal is ultimately for students to polish their pieces to a solid state, sometimes we start pieces with students and eventually realize we have to let them go. It could be that the student is just struggling to connect with or enjoy the piece or that it’s proving more of a technical challenge than we expected it to be. I’ve learned that – that’s OK! It doesn’t mean that working on the piece was a waste of time – there’s always something we can learn along the way.

As you can imagine, this can happen more frequently with some students than others, so tracking these pieces helps us see the big picture of how much we “let go of” to ensure we don’t see too much of a trend.

Calling it a “study” piece removes the negative connotation that they were not able to master it fully and maximizes the fact that they still benefited from learning and doing some work on the piece.


Why “Level-Up” Pieces?

This particular idea I have to attribute this to my friend, Christina Whitlock, who, in episode 113 of her podcast “To Pass or Not to Pass,” shared the idea of giving students the option to “level up.”

While I use the term “mastered” (unlike her), I’m of the same opinion as her that “mastering” a piece may not necessarily mean it’s polished to “competition-ready” absolute perfection. It might look a little different for each student.

In my early years of teaching – this one was a big struggle – not knowing what “standards” to uphold. Experience has taught me that while generally yes, a nicely played piece should have all the elements – steady beat – appropriate tempo, accurate notes, dynamic contrast, etc., sometimes we have to consider each individual student.

I don’t want to get into too much detail here – I would encourage you to listen to Christina’s episode on the topic. I will say, though, that asking students if they want to “level” up is a good way of knowing how much they love a piece and how determined they are to play it well.


Memory Pieces

Memorizing repertoire is not something I push, but I encourage students to memorize a good handful of pieces each year. This is another area that can be revealing in helping you know how much a student loves a piece. They don’t want to memorize something they aren’t enjoying that much.

I tell them that the goal is that they have to play it for me by memory three weeks in a row (keep in mind I’m just talking general weekly study here – not necessarily what you might need when preparing for a festival, recital, or competition.)

I count the first one as long as it’s “close,” but the 2nd and 3rd ones have to be confidently memorized, or they need to work on it a little longer.

Download this repertoire list.

I hope you and your students enjoy using this repertoire list throughout the year!


Favorite Quotes Desktop Backgrounds (Free Download)

Thanks to summer, I finally had a chance to sit down and put together a little creative project I’ve had on my mind for a while!

I’m always looking for fresh, uncluttered, and visually appealing images to use on my computer desktop background or wallpaper.

Years ago, one of the food websites I was following offered a new set each year. Unfortunately, she no longer does this and ever since I’ve never really put any effort into finding something new – I just rotate through her old ones along with a few others.

If you’re interested, she has a live set you can still get your hands on. Visit the blog post: Free Backgrounds for Food Enthusiasts from Chocolate and Zucchini.

Back in those days I would have had no idea how to create my own but it occurred to me last year I could easily do so with Canva (which I swear I use almost every day! LOL).

So, I’ve created a set of 12 images featuring 12 of my favorite quotes (one for each month of the year – which is about how often I try to rotate). I tried using a combination of both educational quotes, life quotes, and productivity quotes. I hope you find the choices well-balanced and inspiring.

My goal was to keep it simple and visually appealing. I think the Piano Pantry dark blue color looks amazing as a desktop background and makes for a really sleek and clean feel.

Here is a slideshow preview. Click on the arrows on the bottom left or hoover along the right or left sides to go forward or back.


When coaching teachers on digital organization, it’s always my recommendation to keep your desktop free of shortcuts and to use your taskbar to pin quick links to your most used programs. This allows your screen to be clutter-free and more aesthetically pleasing.

For any links you do keep on the desktop background, try and relegate them to the side as much as possible. As you scroll through the images you will notice I tried to keep the quotes especially free of the left margin which is my preferred location for anything on the desktop.



Sign up here to get the download delivered to your inbox. It will send you a link and when you click on the link, you will receive access to a ZIP file. From there you will want to download the file to your computer and extract the file.

Be sure and save it in a location you will remember to access. Dare I say perhaps just link to the folder from your desktop? 🙂 LOL

If you really do want to do that, right-click on the folder, then select “send>desktop(create shortcut)”.


One Last Tip

While I think it’s fun to change my desktop background each month, I would never remember if it didn’t place a recurring reminder/task in my calendar. For more tips like this, listen in on episode #006 of The Piano Pantry Podcast –  Tasks: They’re Not All Created Equal


If you would like to see more of these in the future, let me know in the comments!



Listening Playlists to Accompany Music-Themed Children’s Books

Recently, I shared a couple of blog posts related to building a lending library in your studio of music-themed children’s books and comics.

After purchasing a few more books from some of your recommendations, I noticed I had quite a few books that had suggested listening lists in the back of the book. Thus was born the idea to create listening playlists to accompany some of these books!

I’ve been using Spotify for years to create playlists of my own. It’s a wonderful place to create public playlists anyone can listen to.

In this post, I will share brief synopses of each of these 9 books as well as the direct link to each playlist.

For quick access to them all in one location, simply click on the link to my public playlists.

As a bonus, as a way of sharing these playlists with your students, I’ve created a free printable of bookmarks you can print on heavy paper or cardstock and stick inside each book when it’s checked out.

This will be an easy way to give parents the link to listen to these playlists at home when reading these books with their children.

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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, 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.



16th-note Rhythm Cards Reference Sheet (Free Download)

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

There are two sets:

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


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


Download this set of flashcards from D’Layton 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.


Help Your Students Perform Their Best with these Piano Performance Checklists

As we move into the Spring festival and recital season, consider taking time to talk to your students about good performance practices.

It’s easy to get tied up working on students’ 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!


This 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.


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 it is a project that can be knocked out 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.


A Big One-Minute Club Update and Free Landmark Notes Download

Recently, I went through a big overhaul of the annual One-Minute Club Note-Naming Challenge we do in my studio including an update to the levels as well as putting together a new display/tracking board.  I updated the original post to show you some of these most recent updates (including photos!). It also contains all the details you need to get it started in your own studio.

Part of my big update was moving to a leveling system based more on a landmark approach to teaching note names rather than the skips-alphabet approach.

While I find the skips alphabet approach to be a really useful way to help students understand how the grand staff comes together, I personally found my students spending too much time counting up the staff to find the notes and struggling to name them quickly.

The landmark approach highlights 12 “guide notes” if you will that outline the mirror-like relationship of the grand staff. I especially love how it makes sense with the location of the Bass Clef (or “F” Clef) and the Treble Clef (or “G” Clef).

Rather than students learning individual pitches, they recognize the pattern of the entire grand staff in relation to the piano and from there simply go up or down a step or skip to find the notes surrounding the landmarks.

In the process of all my updates, I created a beautiful visual aid with three different pages to help students see all of the landmarks in a variety of patterns together. Print it off and laminate one copy to use in all your lessons or print off copies for each of your students.


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.

As you can see in the image, it uses clip art for 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.)


Interested in more assignment sheet designs?

Visit Assignment Sheet Central to get access to more than 20 different ones!


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 make a great first impression and add a professional touch with little effort. All it takes is a few signs posted around the building where the recital is being held.

This free download includes 9 different signs. They are intentionally designed in a very simple, no-frills format so they can be used for any studio and any recital. Enjoy!


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! I’ve not done it yet myself, but I love the idea!