Top Tools and Resources

Four Tools I Can’t Live Without

Being known as an organized person means I frequently get asked what some of my favorite tools and resources are I use on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, if you’ve been around Piano Pantry long enough, you know my #1 is by far Evernote.

When we talk about “tools” though, there is a wide gamut we use daily whether it’s for organizing music, social media, our schedule, resources, etc.

Today I want to highlight four digital tools that help me stay organized that I in 2020 I would now find it very hard to live without.


P.S. All of these along with a whole lot more of my favs are listed on a permanent page here on Piano Pantry.

Under the Menu select Resources > Recommended Resources


 

Evernote. The easiest way to describe Evernote is that it’s a digital filing cabinet where you can save multiple types of content formats in one location: documents, URL links, clips from YouTube, selections from internet pages, PDF files, and more. Highly useful for both our teaching and personal lives!

Check out all my Evernote tutorials on Piano Pantry.

 

Feedly. Using an RSS Reader is, in my opinion, the only way to properly manage content in today’s world. An RSS Reader is like a personalized digital newspaper. You tell it the website you want to follow and it will stream all the newsfeeds into one location so you can keep up on new content in one place.

Read more about how I use Feedly in this post: Managing Internet Content the Easy Way

 

Grammarly. My English teacher and writing sidekick. With Grammarly Premium, you not only get the basic critical grammar and spell-check errors, but you also get instant feedback on over 400 advanced grammar rules. Microsoft Word spell-check can’t even touch the capability of this program.

Read more on why I love Grammarly in this post: Grammarly – Spell Check on Steroids

 

LastPass. In this day and age, I couldn’t manage all my accounts and passwords properly without Last Pass. Your life will be made easier (and more secure).

Since I haven’t written a full post about LastPass, I’ll just direct you to an excellent one on Leila Viss’s site: Keeping Safe with Password Safety and Online Security.

 


P.S. All of these along with a whole lot more of my favs are listed on a permanent page here on Piano Pantry.

Under the Menu select Resources > Recommended Resources


What are tools would you have a hard time living without?


Did you find this post helpful? Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list where you’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

Sound good?! Subscribe here.


 

The Fabulous Five

Top Posts from 2019

Here we are with the close of 2019 in our sight. The act of hitting pause and taking a moment to look back and reflect on the past 365 days has always proven to be a life-giving exercise.

I’ve been doing this since I started Piano Pantry and it always proves to be a lesson in gratitude – not just for what’s been “accomplished” – but for what life has given. Opportunity and the freedom to do what we love can easily be taken for granted in today’s world.

Thank you for being here, for connecting with me whether it be through Facebook comments, email replies to my newsletter, or comments on blog posts.

I hope that my little slice of pie in the online piano teacher content world proves to be, for you, not just useful, but inspiring, invigorating, and more than anything…inviting.

In today’s post, I’ll share:

  1. Five posts from 2019 that you deemed that most “fabulous” (by visiting them, of course 🙂 ).
  2. The top five posts of all time since Piano Pantry started in March 2016.
  3. A month-by-month run-down of the posts from 2019.
  4. A few fun stats.

I’m looking forward to what 2020 has in store!

 

Top Posts From 2019

#1 |  A Visual Guide for Formula Pattern Scales

A free and easy-to-use visual guide for introducing students to formula-pattern scales. Students enjoy playing this pattern once they get the hang of it!

#2 | 147 Tunes to Harmonize: Traditional, Popular, and Christmas

Get the free download of 147 tunes to harmonize using a little as the tonic chord or as much as four chords. Tips for teaching students to harmonize.

#3 | The Piece My Students and I Can’t Stop Playing

My students and I haven’t been able to stop playing this piece of music. Hear why they love it!

#4 | Instagram for Piano Teachers: 5 Fun Accounts to Follow

If you’re on Instagram and you’re a piano teacher, then you should be following these five fun accounts. A little piano, a little personal, a LOT of fun.

#5 | Christmas Gift Round-Up

An important tip for your studio gift-giving, a new gift idea from my studio, and a big ‘ole round-up of all the student gift ideas you could ever want!

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Christmas Gift Round-Up!

A couple of years ago I shared severel ideas for great Christmas gifts to give to your music students.

Since not much time has passed since that post, I only have one new idea to add to my original list, so I thought it might be fun to also give you links to everyone else’s ideas too!

 

First,  a Tip!

Before I give you my round-up, I do have one new BIG TIP to share:

Keep a list of what you give your students each year!

The first year I opened my studio, I didn’t record the gift I gave and I regretted it because it is SOOOO nice to be able to look back and see what you’ve done recently.


Keeping a list means that you can easily repeat gifts with confidence.


This year, I’m cycling back and giving a gift that I did six years ago which means I’m confident a large majority of my students haven’t received this gift from me!

It’s a simple as writing it down in your favorite note-taking app (like Evernote, of course!).

Here’s my list (all of these items – except 2018 – were shared and are linked in my original gift-giving post.):

 

More Ideas

Last year I gave my students these Treble Clef Bookmarks.

At $13.00 for a pack of 10, you can’t go wrong for such a cute but economical gift! 

BONUS: The tassel makes them useable as an ornament and they come in a cute little box!

 


Get ideas from LOTS of different teachers in this Q&A Form post over at ColorinMyPiano.com

An Edible Ornament That Lasts for a Lifetime? (Leila Viss | 88 Piano Keys)

Christmas Gifts (Jennifer Foxx | Music Educator Resources)

Christmas Gift for Piano Students (Joy Morin | Color in My Piano)

Christmas Gift Ideas for Students (Jennifer Foxx | Music Educator Resources)

Christmas Gift Ideas Revisited (Jennifer Foxx | Music Educator Resources)

Easy Recital Prep and Gift Ideas for Students (Melody Payne | The Plucky Pianista)

Gift Ideas for Music Students (Melody Payne | The Plucky Pianista)

Holiday Gift Ideas for Young Pianists (Karen Lien | You Love Piano)

Making Grab-Bag Gifts for Music Students (Joy Morin | Color in My Piano)

My Favorite Christmas Resources For Piano Teachers > Scroll down to “Inexpensive Gift Ideas” (Tracy Selle)

Music Student Gifts on Etsy

Piano Student Gifts on Etsy

Sheet Music Christmas Ornament – Gift Idea for Piano Students (Joy Morin |  Color in My Piano)

Student Gifts That Keep on Giving (Music Teachers Helper)

Student (and Family) Gifts in 3 Easy Steps (Rosemarie Penner | The Unfinished Lesson)

 


Please note that Piano Pantry is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Simply put, being an associate allows me to make a small percentage from Amazon on items to which I link at no extra cost to you.


Did you enjoy this post?

Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list. You’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, new posts on the blog, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

Sound good?! Subscribe here.


 

 

 

The Piece My Students and I Can’t Stop Playing

Do you ever come across a piece of music that grabs you so deeply that you never tire of playing it?

Over the past year, I’ve experienced this with one particular piece that I would like to share with you today.

Initially, I purchased it for myself as a fresh addition to my church repertoire stash. Even if I don’t have immediate intentions of using a digital download for students, I almost always purchase a studio copy just to be safe.

I’m so glad I did with this one especially because I loved it so much I’ve been handing it out like candy to every student that was willing/interested!

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Instagram for Piano Teachers

5 Fun Accounts to Follow

This is a post I’ve been excited to write for a long time. I don’t know why exactly.  I think it’s just because it’s a fun and light post that doesn’t require any of us to revamp our piano-teaching or extend our to-do list. LOL.

If you’re not already on Instagram, you might want to check out this post first on the #1 Reason Why You Should Be On Instagram as in Independent Music Teacher.

Whether you’re just creating your Instagram account for the first time, or if you’ve been on there since the day it launched in 2010, there are five Instagram accounts I’ve really enjoyed recently you might want to consider following if you’re not already.

Before I give you my list, I wanted to let you know exactly what I was looking for in this particular list.

 

The Criterion

While there are a TON of piano teachers, bloggers, etc. on Instagram, this post is focused on accounts that spark a little “fun” in the piano studio world.

They can include a little (but not too much) of:

  • Marketing for their website or product.
  • Videos of their own playing or their students playing.

They should include:

  • Student / studio-related photos (but not too many).
  • A few personal photos – keep yourself real and relatable!
  • A lot of fun, beautiful piano-related eye candy.

In other words, I was looking for accounts that balanced life and studio, that didn’t seem focused on marketing themselves or products, and that included a lot of piano beauty, fun, and even humor.

Here’s are my recommendations in no particular order. (Except the last one which is definitely my favorite!)

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147 Tunes to Harmonize

Traditional, Popular, and Christmas

Over my years of teaching, I’ve come across several lists of tunes to harmonize using primary chords. Often, however, they’re either not very comprehensive, or they include a lot of tunes that students these days have never heard because they only include folk tunes and a couple of Christmas songs.

Last summer I started a studio-wide harmonization focus that lasted through the summer and fall. After continually having students look at the song list and shake their head that they didn’t know many of the songs, I finally decided it was time to compile my own list.

This comprehensive list includes 147 tunes (traditional, popular, and Christmas). The list progresses from tunes you can harmonize using only the tonic chord, to tunes that use four chords (I, IV, V, vi).

The tunes are, of course, mostly in major (because, well, we live in the Western World), but there are some minor tunes as well.

Keep in mind, these are not tunes tied to any particular chord progression such as I-IV-V-I or I-vi-IV-V. It’s up to the person harmonizing to figure out what chords to use and when.

First, let’s talk a little about what it means to harmonize and how to teach harmonization.


Just want the download?


 

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A Visual Guide for Formula Pattern Scales

Contrary motion scales are awesome. Not only are they fun to play and sound cool, but they’re a wonderful way to teach scale fingerings – especially when students are first learning to play scales. Students seem to love them as well.

A step up from a simple contrary motion scale is playing scales using what’s called a “formula pattern.” (I’ve always wondered why it’s called a “formula pattern” so if you know, please educate me! It’s such a boring name for such a fun scale pattern.)

I think we should call them zig-zag scales instead!

The first time I tried to teach a student the formula pattern was a struggle. I try to avoid using formal “scale books” for students to have to read every note and fingering, so I needed to find an easy way to explain the pattern.

Since I’m a visual person, I came up with this simple Formal Pattern Visual Guide for my students. Every student I’ve used this with has found it very helpful and so I realized it was time I shared it with you!

After my students finish Piano Safari Technique Level 3, which covers the keys of C/Am, G/Em, and F/Dm, I’ve been moving them into the RCM technique leveling. Even though I don’t send my students to RCM, I like having a step-by-step leveling system.

Joy Morin has a free downloadable PDF of the Technical Requirements for the 2015 RCM Program we use.

As far as formula pattern goes, here are the requirements RCM has:

Level 1 = C Major
Level 2 = C, G Major
Level 3 = D Major
Level 4 = C minor
Level 5 = A Major, A minor
Level 6 = E Major, E minor
Level 7 = D Major, D minor
Level 8 = Eb Major, Eb minor
Level 9 = Db Major, F Major, C# minor, F minor

My downloadable PDF has two pages. One includes no fingerings and is the one I originally made.

Since the first seven levels all use the same fingering, however, my students found it even more helpful to have the starting and ending finger numbers written in at each octave point.

Once they hit level 7, I wouldn’t be too worried about needing a visual. Once students have used this for even just a couple of levels, they catch on and don’t really need it anymore.

I hope your students find it helpful! 

 

 


Did you enjoy this post?

Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list. You’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, new posts on the blog, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

Sound good?! Subscribe here.


 

Top Posts from 2018

The Best of the Best

 

It’s that time of year! Yep, it’s time for a recap of life, including the life of Piano Pantry! In this post you will find:
  • Most popular posts written in 2018
  • Most popular posts/pages of all time
  • Most read Friday Finds of 2018
  • My personal favorite from 2018
  • A month-by-month recap of posts from 2018

 

Most Popular Posts Written in 2018

#1 Piano Teacher Must-Have’s: A Minimalist’s List

#2 Candy Jar Contest Printable

#3 Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons: A Master List

#4 One-Click Calendar: Your Annual Studio Calendar Simplified [Video]

#5 Back-to-Teaching: Six Easy Recipes for the Week Ahead

 

Most Popular Posts/Pages of All Time

#1 Assignment Sheet Central

#2 Piano Safari Stuffed Animal Shopping Guide

#3 Piano Teacher Must-Have’s: A Minimalist’s List

#4 Candy Jar Contest Printable

#5 Evernote: An Independent Piano Teacher’s Handbook, Part 1

 

Most-Read Friday Find of 2018

#1 = Friday Find #100 (of course, it was the big recap and giveaway winner announcement! 🙂 )

 

My Personal Favorite From 2018

While this was not one of the top posts, the addition of the monthly “Secret Letter” was the biggest addition to Piano Pantry this year and the one thing that has excited me (and still excites me) the most.

Writing them is a highlight of my month (and hopefully it’s a highlight for readers as well!). They feel like a special piece of me delivered right into your hands.

If you would like to subscribe, you can do so here.

 

Month-by-Month Recap of Posts from 2018

January
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

 


If you want to check out the recap posts from previous years check out:

Piano Pantry’s Best of 2016.

Piano Pantry’s Top Posts from 2017

 

Piano Teacher Must-Have’s

A Minimalist’s List

As the time gets closer and closer for us to move into our new home and eventually my new studio, I’ve come to realize just how much STUFF I have in my studio that will have to be moved.

While dreading the thought of relocating all these things, I began to ponder what it would be like to have a “minimalist” studio.

If I were a brand new teacher or if I had to start all over again in a very small space, what are the items that would be “must-haves”?

Thus was born this “minamalist’s list.” Keep in mind that we’re talking bare bones. This list does not include equipment (like a piano),  office equipment like computers and printers, or pedagogical books.

I look forward to hearing some of your “must-haves” in the comments!

 

A Copy of Your Favorite Method Book

This is my first recommendation because it’s one of the most basic and important in my opinion.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either wanted to have a look at a students method book while lesson planning, needed a copy so I could make a video lesson for a student or simply need an extra copy when a student forgets their book. Whatever method you use the most, keep one extra copy on hand at all times!

 

 

Office Supply Must-Have

Post-its are kind of a “must-have” in any teacher’s world. I couldn’t go without these 1/2″ x 1 3/4″ Post-its for marking assigned pages. I like the paper ones because I can also write on them if needed as opposed to the plastic-type tabs.

Erasable pens, markers, and colored pencils are God’s gift to teachers. I have four specific recommendations in this area.

Frixion Erasable Colors 12-pack.

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Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons

A Master List

How many manipulatives, games, and other resources do you have in your music studio?

You probably don’t even have to count to know the answer. A lot!  Am I right?

Keeping track of all our teaching resources can be a daunting task.

Lesson planning for private and group classes can be enough work in itself without having to continuously recall and rehash all the different manipulatives and games we have each time we plan.

After finding myself physically walking back and forth regularly to my game files, flashcard box and such, I decided it was time to put together a master list of every activity or manipulative I had or could use to teach a concept.

It can be very easy to lose track of what we already have. Having a document like this has allowed me to not only have an easy place to reference what activities I could utilize at any given time, but it was an awesome snapshot and inventory of what I owned.

Keeping a master list is also a great place to keep teaching ideas that may not necessarily have physical items to accompany the activity.

I thought you might find this document useful as well.

 

The Master List

Since it is a document that I update on a regular basis I decided to simply share the public link to a Google Doc. Keep in mind that it’s a working document so it’s possible I will add to, edit, and even remove items as time goes by.

There are three ways you could utilize this document

  1. If you want to keep the document as is and not risk being at the mercy of my future edits, you could download it.
  2. If you want to always see the updated version, I would recommend bookmarking the link in your browser (or in Evernote :-). This way you simply click on the link and you always see the most updated version.
  3. If you wanted to create your own list you could even copy and paste into your own document to get you started and create your own version with the materials you have!

I’m working on hyperlinking directly to every item on the list if it’s available. It’s not complete but I have a good start.

May this document help you add a little more sanity to your lesson planning and studio organizational life. 🙂

Click the link below to view the document.

Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons

 


Did you enjoy this post? Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list where you’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

Sound good?! Subscribe here.