A New Halloween-Themed Music Lab

A new lab has been added to the Music Lab Shop!

Introduce students to “spooky” classical music with this fun Halloween-themed lab!

Four pages long, this lab guide accompanies the (free) Halloween Videos series published here on Piano Pantry. Comprised of 13 videos, there’s over an hour of listening for your students to enjoy!

This lab sheet gives students brief and easy-to-digest background information on the piece followed by a reflection question.

For years my Halloween music lab was comprised of just a few videos students did the week or two leading up to Halloween. They were asked to write out their answers to the questions on the lab sheet but I found it kind of annoying to have to go in and “grade” their lab assignments.

It wasn’t that I was giving them a grade or score, but I was mostly just making sure they gave the right answers. If they didn’t, then (as a teacher should), I felt like I should go over it with them during their next lesson. That was all just waayyy more than what I wanted labs to be.

It’s important to me that lab assignments are enrichening for students while being as low-maintenance ongoing for me as possible. 

In order to avoid teachers having to “grade” the lab, the reflection question is intended for them to use simply to ponder and listen actively.

The student also rates the video, which serves both as a way for students to reflect on how the piece made them feel and to track the pieces that they’ve listened to in the lab.

If you only have students do this lab for a week or two leading up to Halloween then you might be able to use it with students two or three years in a row depending on how long your lab time is!

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop).


Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab

This post highlights a few of my go-to iPad apps for Music Lab time that my students enjoy: Rhythm Cat HD, Rhythm Lab, and Staff Wars.


Rhythm Cat HD

Rhythm Cat HD is a rhythm app available on iOS. If you would like to try it out, check out the free version, Rhythm Cat Lite HD.

The paid version, Rhythm Cat HD (currently $4.99), currently includes six stages, each with ten levels. If you are looking to use this as a lab for your students, then you will need the full paid version.

Please note that this app does not have a way for the student to hear the rhythm in playback. They tap the rhythm along to an accompaniment track. Often the accompaniment does not include the rhythm in any way, so students must have a solid sense of beat. If they miss just one note, they will receive two, not three stars.

Stages and levels can only be unlocked by successful completion. So, you cannot assign stage 4 to a student until someone has successfully mastered and unlocked stages 1, 2, and 3.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

Students cannot “sign-in” to this app to track their progress, so I like to assign stages and track progress by having them fill out this music lab sheet.

It is recommended not to assign a stage until the student is proficient at the rhythms included.

For example, even though level one only uses whole, half, and quarter notes, some of the exercises must be executed at fast tempos.

This download includes two pages covering all six stages and ten levels.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop)

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Two High-Quality iPad Theory Apps

This post highlights two of my current favorite apps that teach music theory (at various levels). I’m sure there will be more to come in the future but for now, let’s have a look at the Waay app and The Royal Conservatory’s Theory apps.



Waay is an app available on iOS that teaches music theory via two courses: melodies (free), and chords ($4.99). Each course is comprised of 8 videos and interactive practice exercises. Even more specifically, the app states that its intention is to teach “songwriting.”

My recommendation is that this app is best suited for high school or adult students. While the app states that it is great for beginners, the videos and concepts move very, very quickly. Students will do best if they’re already familiar with the concepts presented in the app.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

This app does not allow students to log in to track progress, so I have students use a music lab sheet.

The way the courses are set up, it works well to assign an entire course rather than individual videos and exercises. To assign a course, simply place a checkmark in the box next to “assigned.”

This download is two pages long – one page for each course.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop).

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Finally! A Music Lab/Assignment Sheet for Piano Explorer Magazine

For years, I’ve seen teachers in Facebook groups asking for some kind of assignment sheet to accompany Piano Explorer Magazine published by The Instrumentalist.

Well, today I am posting my version as part of the Music Lab Series on Piano Pantry!


What’s Piano Explorer Magazine?

Published once a month, this fun student-focused magazine covers topics such as composers, technique, practicing, instruments, and more. There are also puzzles, quizzes, student compositions, and the 100-day Practice Challenge!

At the time of this post, teachers can purchase a single subscription for the studio ($12), or a group subscription of five or more copies ($6 each). (Keep in mind that a group subscription would be mailed to one address.)

If teachers wanted to have students receive a copy of the magazine in the mail at home, you would have to purchase multiple individual subscriptions and set them up to mail to separate addresses. Kids get “real” mail so infrequently, it could be a fun addition to your studio for students to receive these!

For the purposes of using this as a music lab, it would be possible to use only one copy of the magazine for all students at your studio. That being said, the benefit to each student having their own copy is not only that they could take it home after completing the lab, but that they could actually complete the written puzzles and/or activities in the magazine.  (If students have their own copy of the magazine, they could complete it as an assignment at home as well!)

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More Than 100 Videos for Your Music Lab

For years, I’ve been collecting videos from all over the internet for my student’s music lab time.

This has resulted in two major sets of videos:

Music Theory Videos

Fun Music Videos

Access to both of these video series is FREE for Piano Pantry readers!


Music Theory Videos

The Music Theory Videos series is a culmination of the best videos I’ve found online that teach music theory concepts.

I wasn’t looking to use these videos as a way to teach concepts. That should, of course, be done in the lesson. It was nice, however, to use them as a way to reinforce what we have already learned. 

Comprised of 48 videos, they have been divided into four sets based on a rough/general order in which concepts are introduced in most piano methods. The order may not line up exactly, but you can simply assign videos based on what the student has already been taught in their lesson time.

From my own experience, I find it doesn’t work well to assign just one video at a time. Switching between multiple lab assignments/programs during the lab is not ideal.

It’s much easier to save up until they can spend an entire lab time on just the music theory video assignments. Thus, they might only do this lab every six months as they progress through new concepts.

Please know that the list of videos is in no way exhaustive. That is, there may not necessarily be a video available for every music theory concept students learn in music lessons.

All videos can be found here.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

Since students weren’t doing this lab on a weekly basis, I needed a way to track which videos they had watched. Thus, was born the corresponding music lab sheet.

The lab sheet includes directions to the student, a place for teachers to assign individuals for students to watch, the video name, who it is from, its length (so they know if they have enough time during their lab to complete it), and a space for the student to check that they watched it.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop)



Fun Music Videos

When I started including music lab time in my student’s weekly lesson experience, one thing I found is that while there are a lot of apps and programs out there, sometimes you simply run out of things for them to do!

There were two main reasons I found this happening on occasion.

The first was simply because, when you have 30-minute lab time, students can get through quite a bit and thus they move through their assignments quickly.

The second reason was more specifically with younger students. There are only so many lab assignments you can give when they are beginners. Not only are they limited in the musical concepts they can play games for, but any assignment with too much reading and writing is just too difficult for kindergarten, first, and even second graders to do on their own.

Thus, was born the Fun Music Videos lab series.

Comprised of more than 60 videos, the series is organized into eight “theme” sets: 

  1. Classical Music Fun
  2. Inspirational
  3. Musical Humor
  4. Unique Instruments
  5. Playing with Popular Tunes 1
  6. Playing with Popular Tunes 2
  7. Music History
  8. The Evolution of the Piano

The great part is that I’ve made all of these videos available to you for FREE!

You could even use these videos for a little fun way to end a group class or even play one to start a group class as students are entering!


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

My students were enjoying these videos a lot, but I needed a way to track which ones they had watched. I wasn’t necessarily assigning the lab week after week until they finished the entire lab, I was only assigning it every once in a while and using it as a “filler”.

Thus, was born the corresponding music lab sheet.

The goal was to keep it simple.

Yes, I was using it as a “filler” lab assignment, but I also didn’t want it to just feel like “busy work”. Not only that, but it had to be something I could assign to students of all ages – especially younger students. As I stated earlier, any assignment with too much reading and writing is just too difficult for kindergarten, first, and even second graders to do on their own.

Thus, the lab sheet includes directions to the student, the “set” name, the video name, the length of the video (so they know if they have enough time during their lab to complete it), and areas to rate the video and openly reflect/comment on their thoughts.

While I would love for it to include more background information and reflection questions (maybe someday I’ll create a more in-depth version for older students), my main goal was an easy lab that students of any age could use and enjoy.

Be aware that students have been known to continually go back and watch some of their favorite videos several times when they’re supposed to be watching new videos. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop)



If you’re curious for even more details on how I run my music labs, I’ve created a 15-page eBook that is chock full of all kinds of “pro tips.”

We’ll talk about how I schedule, set-up, and organize labs. (You all know “organizing” is my favorite topic! 🙂 )

Laid out in an easy to read and understand format, this book will answer all your questions regarding music lab time!


Give Me More!

Would you like to learn more in-depth details on the programs that I have created labs for?

Check out these posts:

1) My Favorite Computer-Based Program for Music Lab Time

2) Finally! A Music Lab/Assignment Sheet for Piano Explorer Magazine

3) Two High-Quality iPad Theory Apps

4) Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab


Ready to Purchase?

Do you just want to just straight to getting your product?

Shop the entire Music Lab Series now!


My Favorite Computer-Based Program for Music Lab Time

In the post Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History, I mentioned that when I first started to include music lab time in my piano studio,  I didn’t have an iPad so I started with computer-based programs such as Music Ace MaestroAlfred’s Interactive Musician, and Essentials of Music Theory, along with a subscription to the online Music Learning Community.

Of those programs, there’s only one that I’m currently still using and that’s Essentials of Music Theory published by Alfred. You can purchase it on their website or on Amazon.

Because it is an older program, you don’t download it directly from the internet, you have to purchase the CD-ROM and upload it to your computer. While this feels antiquated, I still find the program a valuable addition to my music labs as it is one of the most complete and comprehensive theory lesson programs out there.

The program comes in either a Student Version (single use), Educator Version (multiple students on one device), or Network Version (multiple computers).

There are 3 Volumes available that could be purchased separately or as one program called Essentials of Music Theory Complete.

If you are using the program in an independent studio setting for music lab time, then you will need to purchase the Educator Version – Complete. While it is one of the more expensive music theory programs to include in a music lab, it’s also one of the most thorough and comprehensive.

The program includes 18 units. Each of those units comprises four to five lessons, ear training, and a review test for a total of 75 lessons within the 18 units. For a detailed list of what’s included in each unit/lesson, visit this link.

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Shop is Open – Check Out the New Music Lab Series!

Drumroll, please…

After two years and five months of this blog, Piano Pantry now has a SHOP! (I’ve been waiting so long to say that!!)

You can find it in the top menu bar.

While this is quite an exciting announcement, there’s an even better one…

What’s the first product, you ask?

It’s a Music Lab Series!



For a brief history of music labs and how I came to where I am today, read “Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History”.

As I mention in that post, when I first started including a music lab eight years ago, there was really only one “curriculum” product out there. It just wasn’t working for me, so I began creating my own music lab assignment sheets.

Only one other music lab curriculum/program has emerged since that time (that I know of), but I’ve continued to stick with my lab own series since it was working well for me.  Over the past seven years, it has morphed and changed quite a bit as I’m sure it will continue to do.

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Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History

(and a big announcement!)

Do you remember when you first started hearing about the idea of including music labs as part of private music instruction in the independent studio? Is the idea something you’ve always been aware of or do you recall a certain point in time when you noticed the idea emerging?

Depending on how long you’ve been teaching, I’m sure each of us will have a different answer to this question.

From my own recollection, my piano lessons growing up were fairly traditional. When I first started teaching piano right out of high school (ca. 1998-2001; I can’t remember what year I took my first student! 🙁 ), I had never heard of music labs.

Since my first degree and career was in choral education, not piano pedagogy, I’m not aware of the exact point in history when music labs became popular to include in the independent music studio. I recall being vaguely aware that it was a “thing” around 2005.

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Facebook Live Studio Tour Wrap-Up

Earlier this week I hosted a Facebook Live series that toured various areas of my piano studio.

If you missed it, you can still catch the videos on the Piano Pantry Facebook page. There were several blog posts and items I mentioned in the videos I’ve also linked for you below.

Many thanks to all the encouraging comments and feedback! I look forward to doing more Facebook Live videos in the future now that I’ve finally taken the plunge!


Day 1

Studio layout/overview, and workspace including student files and how I organize my music. Click here to view the video.

Posts mentioned / related:

Other resources mentioned:


Day 2

A look into my teaching space and student music lab. Click here to view the video.

Posts mentioned / related:


Other resources mentioned:


Day 3

A look into my student space including incentive program, prize boxes, game drawer, practice charts and more. Click here to view the video.

Posts mentioned / related:

Other resources mentioned:


Get a Great Deal on an Annual Subscription to Sproutbeat

I just wanted to let you know that the iPad app SproutBeat that I use a lot during my student’s music lab time is running a sale for 15% an annual subscription for new sign-ups. This is a GREAT deal. If you’ve been thinking about trying it, now is the time.

If you’re interested in reading a little more about how I use the app in my studio, see this post.

The discount ends on December 16.  

Happy Holidays from SproutBeat®