A Sequenced Assignment Series for At-Home Practice with Note Rush

Today I’m excited to share with you a brand new product available in the Piano Pantry shop!

It’s a sequenced set of custom links to use with the Note Rush app.

This product was a result of wanting to give all my students well-sequenced, note-naming assignments to do at home each week that focused on small groups of notes at a time with lots of repetitions.

Rather than creating these assignments manually for every student every week, I sat down and designed an entire well-sequenced set all at once.

Teachers will find it especially useful when using it in conjunction with any kind of online assignment tools such as email, Google Docs, or Tonara (a software program for giving student assignments online.)

In this post, I’ll give a quick primer on Note Rush then show you how this product can be incredibly useful for you as a teacher!

P.S. Be sure and get the 15% discount code at the end of the post in celebration of the launch of the product.

Please note this product is not produced by or in conjunction with either Note Rush or Tonara and is of my own accord.

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Online Music Labs and Organizing Repertoire in Tonara

Over the years I’ve gotten lots of emails with great questions from readers like yourself.

Recently, it dawned on me that instead of keeping that information between me and the person who asked, perhaps others could find it useful!

So, I’m beginning a series on Piano Pantry called Your Questions Answered, and will post approximately one per month. Enjoy!

In this time of online lessons, what does a “lab” look like? When I read your posts I feel like I’ve been teaching in the dark ages, and suddenly been thrust into the light. You inspire me to up my game!!!

I am wondering how you organize your resources on your computer too. I am struggling with this….especially videos. Are you using Tonara? I am, but struggling with saving repertoire to re-use.

I know this is a busy time for you with the new teaching year. I’m grateful for any help you can offer. I want to be better!!!!!!



Hi, C!

These are all great questions and am happy to help.

I’ve always promoted my lab time as a “bonus”, so when the COVID lockdown went into effect in March 2020, I didn’t worry about moving the entire lab time online. My students and I simply had our individual lessons and called it good – luckily with no complaints from parents. 🙂

One thing I did do, however, was to use the Music Theory Video lab series and assigned it through Tonara.

I pre-created a set of assignments in the “repertoire” section of Tonara for each video and titled it not only by the “set number” and “video number” in which I ordered it but also by what they were supposed to do (an “action word”).

For example:  WATCH: (S1 #15) Steps and Skips on the Staff

(Here’s a screenshot for you to see it in my Tonara repertoire database – click on the image to view it more closely if needed.)

A link to the video on YouTube video is included in the assignment.

As you stated, while the repertoire tool in Tonara is super awesome for storing frequently-used assignments like this, I know it can be a struggle to take the time to make it happen.

Last year I went through that and tried to just focus on inputting one book at a time into Tonara. I title the assignment by an acronym for the book first then the name of the piece.

For example, for my Music Moves for Piano books I might title assignment like this:

MM1 (U01) PLAY: Popcorn

MM1 (U02) SING: Triple Meter

(The “U” stands for “Unit”). 

This makes it easier when you use the search function to be able to see all of the pieces in one book together IN ORDER of the book.

Keep in mind that the longer the title gets, the student won’t be able to read the whole title on their device until they actually click on the assignment itself. That’s why I try to keep the title as descriptive and yet succinct as possible.

Here’s another screenshot:

I don’t know if that completely answers all of your questions but hopefully, it’s a start and can inspire you to find some ways that will work for you!

Best wishes!




Just a heads up that all links in this post to Tonara are affiliate links. All it means is if you sign up to use it through one of those links, I get a little back without it costing you extra. Being an affiliate for great products helps me cover the cost of running this free blog! 🙂


9 Lessons-Learned From My First Zoom Recital

Well, this is a post I never expected to see myself writing! LOL.

Over the past two months, studio teachers from all over the world have taken the plunge into unknown territory

Here are  7 things that I learned from our first Zoom recital. I hope this will make your recital a little easier!


#1 Do a practice run

For our in-person recitals, we always do a rehearsal the day before. I’m glad I didn’t let the online format change this norm.

Holding a practice recital the week prior gives students, parents, and ourselves a chance to know what to expect. Even more importantly, it allows you to practice “managing” the recital online.

Definitely plan on requiring a parent to attend the rehearsal so they can practice holding the device and we could pick the best location. This will avoid you having to give instructions during the recital like “move a little further back”, or “turn your camera sideways” or “no, no, that’s too close – we want to see their hands!”

The practice run will make everyone feel much more relaxed going into it recital day!


#2 Send an Invitation Email

Send families an email at least a week ahead of time that is specifically for them to forward on to family and friends. Here is mine. Feel free to use it or any portion of it as needed.

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Help Your Students “Enable Original Sound” on Zoom With This Email Template

You know how sometimes in life you’re told about something that you know you should do but at the moment, you just can’t bring yourself to mentally mess with it?

That’s how I was when we started using Zoom for our online lessons.

Teachers in Facebook groups were mentioning the importance of the “Enable Original Sound” setting to help with sound quality but I was just trying to wrap my head around getting myself set up online to pay it any mind.

Then two or three weeks of lessons went by and I was DONE with the garble. It was time to upgrade our sound.

Do I kick myself a little for not dealing with this sooner? Yep. But, oh, well, I’m over it now.

Through all of this, I have to say one thing all my studio families have been mentioning in our evaluation meetings this week, was the quality of my communication throughout this whole process. They felt the instructions were incredibly helpful and easy to follow.

That’s part of our job! Quality communication.

To spell things out as clear and easy as possible, I gave my step-by-step instructions using screenshots. It doesn’t get easier than that!

Teachers: You have my permission to copy and paste this entire email and use these images to send to your studio families (if you don’t mind having my mug shot! LOL).

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Games Webinar This Thursday

Hey, friends!

I just wanted to drop you a quick note and let you know that I’ll be a contributor on a webinar put on by The Francis Clark Center this Thursday, May 21 @ 11:00 a.m. EDT.

Our topic will be focused on games during online teaching. Other contributors include Nicola Cantan, Joy Morin, Christina Whitlock, and Melissa Willis. What a great crew and I’m honored to get the chance to be a part!

I’m guessing you know most of these ladies but if you don’t, here’s a little about each one:

Nicola Cantan writes at Colourfulkeys.ie, Joy Morin writes at ColorinMyPiano.com, Christina Whitlock is author of our awesome Varsity Musician Series here on PP and Melissa Willis has been really active in Facebook teacher groups sharing her online teaching tips on YouTube since this all started.

Can I give you a sneak peek? I plan to share a tip for keeping all of those games organized. It’s me – you know I can’t resist!

You can either register for the webinar ahead of time or view the replay later by visiting this link.

Hope to see you there!


The One-Minute Club Goes Virtual

One of the top posts here on Piano Pantry is the One-Minute Club Note-Naming Challenge.

Here we are, four years from the first time we talked about this studio-wide challenge, and every teacher around the world has suddenly been thrown into online teaching like we never expected.

So, today, let’s talk about three different ways we can adapt this challenge to online lessons including the pros and cons of each format!

If you haven’t read the original post yet, you’ll definitely want to check it out to have a better understanding of how the challenge works!

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10 Products to Make Your Online Teaching More Comfortable

If you’re not already teaching lessons online, many of us will be this week following Spring Break.

I think we can all agree that online teaching can take a little bit (or even a lot) more energy than in-person. Hopefully, the more we do it, the easier it will get!

To help you along the way, here are 10 products I love that can help make your next few weeks feel a little less stressful and a little more comfortable.

Remember, it’s the small things that can bring us joy in stressful times!

Here’s a quick reference guide – descriptions follow!


#1-4 Hydrate and Moisturize

Staying well-hydrated is always important for good health, but we may need to be even more conscious of it now. If we’re not intentionally conscious of it, we may tend to find ourselves talking a little louder than normal, which leads to dry mouth and dehydration.


Consider keeping an electric kettle next to you for cups of tea or even warm lemon water. Chef’s Choice Electric Glass Kettle is good quality and well-priced.


One of my favorite teas is The Republic of Tea’s Spring Cherry Green TeaThe individual bags are convenient for on-the-go teaching.


Excess talking can also easily dry out the lips. Don’t forget a stash of chapstick! SW Basics Organic Beeswax Lip BalmI also love Burt’s Bees Chapstick.


With everyone being more conscious of handwashing, perhaps longer and more frequently than before, the skin on your hands may be suffering.

Keep this lovely-smelling EO Body Lotion, Coconut, and Vanilla on your desk to enjoy after each hand-washing.

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Save Time and Money Taking Payments With Coinhop


As many teachers are considering what it may look like to run their studio (temporarily) online, one topic that may be necessary and quite urgent is making the move to online payments.

If you’re still taking checks from parents and worried about making the switch, rest assured, while it may take a little leg work setting everyone up, your future self won’t regret it.

Taking online payments will save you time manually depositing checks, but the payment portal I want to share with you today will save you money compared to 90% of the other online payment services.

(P.S. That number was arbitrary. Basically, the fees are cheaper than anything else I’ve found out there.)

Coinhop has been my payment portal of choice for several years now. I hope the reasons why I love it will help you as you’re considering online payment options for your studio.

Please note that Piano Pantry is enrolled in the Referral Program with Coinhop, which simply means that if you sign-up, I will get a small commission without it costing you any extra.

Sign up for Coinhop now!

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Musings on Keeping a Positive Perspective During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Is you Inbox overloaded with emails titled “Person/company name’s response to COVID-19″?

Are you feeling a little bit like you’re in the Twilight Zone?

Do you just want to make it all go away and get back to normal?

Is one side of you glad to know that “we’re all in this together,” and another part of you tired of hearing the phrase already?

Yeah, me too.


Strong Declarations

Over the past week as posts on Facebook have ramped up regarding online lessons, we’re seeing success, generosity, and encouragement, but also escalating anxiety and even negativity.

Several posts popped up of people expressing their frustration with online lessons and in the heat of those frustrations, they declared them to be “worthless.”

Really?, I wondered…

Worthless? Continue reading

A Simple (and Free) Video Supplement to Support Your Online Teaching

Are you looking for a few extra (but simple) tools to help you with your new journey into online teaching?

Here’s one you may not have even considered!

A free compilation of 48 of the best music-theory videos from all over the web is available here on Piano Pantry.

How can this video series help make your life easier over the coming weeks?

The videos have been leveled into four sets based on the rough/general order in which concepts are introduced in most piano methods.

You can quickly and easily access videos that help reinforce new concepts your students may be learning. Here are a few examples of videos in each set:

Set 1
  1. Key names and the music alphabet
  2. How to draw the treble and bass clef
  3. Landmark notes
Set 2
  1. Skips alphabet on the staff
  2. Sharps, flats, and naturals
  3. How to build major and minor triads
Set 3
  1. AB and ABA Form
  2. Chord inversions
  3. Circle of fifths
Set 4
  1. Scale degree names
  2. Augmented intervals
  3. Double sharps and flats


Before, during, or after your online lesson, grab the link and text or email it to students/parents. (If you use a program such as Tonara, simply attach a link to the video in a theory lesson assignment. Easy!)

Should these videos replace a lesson?

Are they an easy and fun way to provide additional e-learning to your students?

Access the video series here.

Here’s a screenshot showing a few videos that are included in the series:


Tracking Sheet

If you’re interested in having a way to keep track of what videos you’ve assigned to each student, find the 3-page guide that accompanies this series in the Shop or add it to your shopping cart now.

P.S. All music labs are studio licenses, so you can print it as much as you need for your students.


Related Resources

If you’re interested in more resources like this, there are four more video series available you can access through the Menu > Resources.

Christmas Music Videos

Halloween Music Videos

Expressive Movement Videos

Fun Music Videos

Several of these – including the music theory videos mentioned in today’s post – can be used as part of an off-bench lab time at your studio or given as assignments online utilizing a digital assignment tool.

There are ten different lab resources available in the Piano Pantry shopFor more detailed information on each, see the posts linked below.

1) Essentials of Music Theory
Details here: My Favorite Computer-Based Program for Music Lab Time

2) Fun Music Videos
Details here: More Than 100 Videos for Your Music Lab

3) Holiday Lab – Halloween
Details here: Halloween Music Videos Listening Activity

4)  Holiday Lab – Christmas
Details here: Christmas Music Videos Listening Activity

5) Music Theory Videos
Details here: More Than 100 Videos for Your Music Lab

6) Piano Explorer Magazine
*04/2021 Update: Unfortunately, Piano Explorer Magazine has been discontinued

7) Rhythm Cat HD
Details here: Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab time

8) Rhythm Lab
Details here: Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab time

9) Staff Wars
Details here: Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab time

10) Waay
Details here: Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab time