Preschool Piano Classes

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

 


Hi, Amy!

I absolutely LOVED reading your most recent post offering your reflections on what you’ve learned as you celebrate your teaching milestone. So much of it truly spoke to me!

I am gearing up to launch a preschool piano class this fall and was wondering if you’d share with me how you structured your class – number of weeks, length of class, number of students, lesson plan structure, etc.

(I am currently thinking 8-week sessions, 45-minute classes, 3-4 students, ages 4-6.)

I’ve been learning a lot about MLT, audiation, and MMfP, but I feel like I’m stalling the preschool class launch because I am still so new at all of it. I have been teaching using Piano Safari, as well as several other methods for several years now, and recently ordered the new Piano Safari Friends materials. I also have several years of experience teaching the Music Together program (early childhood family music classes). However, I have felt like until I could teach as an MLT “purist,” I should wait.

Your thoughts on combining methods and doing what works for you and your students has encouraged me to consider another way without worrying about doing it “wrong.” I’d love to hear more about your experience with this age group and the bird and bolts of how you structure your classes!

Marissa L.

 


Hi, Marissa!

Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog post. It is SO NICE to hear directly from people impacted! So thank YOU! 🙂

As far as the preschool piano class goes, your email made me realize that the photo I shared in the blog post was perhaps deceiving! The photo I posted was from a free one-off summer class I did with our local parks department for a few years. I used that photo because I was pulling from a multitude of curriculums with those kiddos.

I have yet to run a full preschool piano class. While I offer the group class, it seems I’ve never had enough students timed just right for it to be a go. I’ve only ended up doing private preschool lessons. Here’s how I advertise my preschool lessons though:

“Lessons are paid for and attended in 8-week sessions. Students come once a week for a private lesson or group class of 2-3 students (depending on availability). Private lessons will be 30 minutes and group classes 40 minutes”

So, whether it was a private lesson or a group class, parents were only committed for a short period.

I think what you’re planning as far as length, time, and students are perfect!

As far as curriculum goes, for the most part, I now pretty well use Music Moves Keyboard Games books 100% for this age. I’ll tell you what I’ve done in the past though (as far as combining resources) that worked well for quite a while:

I didn’t necessarily use all of these at once but did combine many of them at one point.

As far as the Music Moves for Piano series goes, let me say this: just do it – don’t feel like you have to know or understand it all to try using it! Keep pressing on and learning a little more at a time.

The Keyboard Games Books are in my opinion the absolute best piano book for preschoolers out there as the songs are short, encourage exploration all over the piano, and especially support the audition of basic rhythm patterns in duple and triple meters.

It’s worth it!

Good luck and I would love to hear how things pan out!

 

~Amy

 

What iPad and Page-Turner Device Do You Use?

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

 

Hi Amy,

Which iPad do you use and what type of page-turner device do you use with that?

Do you use SuperScore or something else to play digital music?

Do you have your students purchase iPad if they don’t have one?

Need your advice as I would like to update my old mini iPad and stay current with tools.

Thanks,

Twinkle R.

 

Hi, Twinkle – good to hear from you!

For the last 5 years or so, I have been using the iPad Pro 12.9. There are two reasons I like the 12.9″

  1. Once I started a full-time church job, I much preferred to read music off the larger screen.
  2. I do not have a laptop so for travel, having the larger iPad makes it nicer to work from.

I like the Pro version because I can use the Apple pencil with it. Over the years I tried several different types of stylus’ but not of them has come close to the smooth use of the Apple Pencil. I find it to be much more accurate for annotation on my music and as a bonus, it charges directly from the iPad itself and does not need a separate plug to charge.

That being said, if I had a laptop, I would probably be OK with the 11″ iPad for sheet music. I know several people who have and like that size.

I have also always used and loved the Apple Smart Keyboard. The one that goes with my current 4th generation is a folio-style, which envelops the iPad.

The Apple Pencil 2 works with this 4th generation iPad and charges through magnetism along the side of the iPad.

While my current iPad is the 4th generation, if I were to do it all over again, I’m not sure if I would go with the 4th generation iPad 12.9″. It’s not because of the iPad itself – I actually love the 4th generation iPad 12.9″ because it’s a little smaller edge-to-edge than the 3rd generation 12.9″.

It’s because of the smart keyboard. I really loved the style of the original smart keyboard. The folio-style only allows you to set it up as a keyboard or fold it back and hold it as an iPad. The older Smart keyboard allowed you to prop up the iPad without having the keyboard out. Plus, since the old one did not wrap around the entire iPad, the backside of the iPad was exposed which means when I set it down it would slide more nicely on a surface.

This is just a personal preference though.

The first-generation Apple Pencil that worked with my old iPad Pro had a lightning plug directly on the end with a cap – you would charge by plugging into the iPad female end.

My page-turner is the iRig BlueTurn. I love it and highly recommend it. For years I used the Airturn PedPro. While I liked the slim profile, I had too many troubles with it not responding when I needed it to or turning more than one page at once. There’s a chance it was just a user error but I’ve found having the feel of actually pressing the button makes a big difference for me.

As for sheet-music readers, I have been using ForScore for years and love it. You can create setlists, annotate, export PDFs either with or without annotation, crop, and do all kinds of crazy amazing things with it. I highly recommend it.

As for your question regarding students purchasing iPads, no I do not find any reason to require my students to have iPads.

I hope this helps – if you want to check out more of my recommended resources including apps, business tools, and more, check out the Recommended Resources page here on Piano Pantry.

~Amy

Favorite Collections of Christmas Music

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

 


Hi Amy!

Do you have favorite collections of Christmas music for your students?

My middle kid wants me to get out ‘the’ Christmas music book (we have a very old primer from my in-laws).

I told him he had to learn two new songs from a non-Christmas book before I would think about that. So, he sat down and sight-read the whole Faber Piano Adventures, Level 2A Performance book. 🤨 😮 (I guess the desire for Christmas music was a good motivator!) So, I’m going to get the Faber Christmas books for levels 2 and 3.

Do you have any other recommendations?

-Anna Parkinson


Hey, Anna!

Why yes, I do! I actually have an entire blog post dedicated to some of my “Trusty Christmas Favorites.

But first of all, bravo to you on finding a way to light the fire for your kiddo! It sounds like you’re probably headed in the right direction.

As far as Faber goes, I don’t know if you were intending on doing the Christmas books that correlate to the student library or the ones that are part of the “Show Time,” “Big Time,” and “Play Time” series. While either is fine, my personal preference is the latter.

Since I have a whole post of my favorites, I won’t share too many more details here but will mention that you might also consider getting him the  Adult Piano Adventures Christmas Books.

Each book has a lot of music. The first 1/3 of book 1 is labeled as “beginning Christmas songs: easy arrangements with simple harmonies.” Section 2 has 13 pieces labeled as “Christmas songs in the key of C Major with I, IV, and V7 chords) and Section 3 is the same but in the key of G Major.

Due to the primary-chord structure and keys included I would say book one is leveled with the student library up to level 3A.

I started trying some of Piano Pronto’s holiday books in the last couple of years. I haven’t used any of them long enough to say they’re ones I return to “year after year” but there are some unique little finds. One, in particular, you might consider is the Multi-Level Holiday Classics which includes 3 difficulty levels of each piece.

Some of my older students enjoyed the arrangements in Christmas Classics: Contemporary Lyrical Solos. That book would probably not be the best next step for him quite yet, but I still wanted to mention it.

I hope this helps!

~Amy

P.S. Just a heads up that by no later than next week I will be publishing a studio-licensed download of 8 Christmas songs to harmonize and play by ear.  This would be a wonderful resource for him to learn to play from chord charts and to play some of the most popular Christmas tunes without notation. Stay tuned!


Do you have any favorite Christmas collections? Share in the comments!

 

What Method and Theory Books Do You Use?

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

 


Good afternoon Amy,

I am wondering what your favorite method is to use? Why? Also what book do you use for theory. I appreciate your articles so I thought I would ask.

Thank you, Shirlee

 


Hi, Shirlee!

My favorite theory book series right now is the Celebrate Theory from The Royal Conservatory. Some of the things I like about it include:

  1. They’re clean, and uncluttered, and the covers are colorful.
  2. They’re well written and nicely laid out.
  3. At the end of every unit, students are asked to explore an excerpt of music (printed in the book) and answer questions in regards to what they see in the score.

I also use Fundamentals of Piano Theory by Keith Snell and Theory Gymnastics by TCW Resources (both published by Kjos) as well as Ready for Theory by Lauren Lewandowski.

Generally, this is when I have multiple students from one family. In order to avoid siblings comparing themselves, I like to keep them in different series. Otherwise, Celebrate Theory is what all my students get.

As far as the favorite method goes, it’s a much more involved answer as I have used it a lot over the years!

Currently, my go-to books include:

Tales of a Musical Journey by Irina Gorin

I really appreciate how Irina introduces technique (playing with fingers 3 and 2 first), as well as the note reading approach using landmark notes.

Even though it’s written in a storybook format, I tend to gloss over that part with my students unless they seem particularly interested.

While the series is directed toward younger beginners, I also use it with late elementary age students with success.

Music Moves for Piano by Marilyn Lowe

This series isn’t your traditional piano method however as it’s based on Music Learning Theory by Edwin E. Gordon.

That is, it uses an audiation-based approach to teaching music. Notation is not introduced the right way as in traditional methods.

It is full of a lot of singing, movement, and aural activities such as hearing the difference between duple vs. triple meter and major vs. minor tonality and building a vocabulary of rhythm of tonal patterns.

The pieces are very short and easily digestible. When I first started using this series that was actually a turn-off for me but I have found that my students really enjoy the pieces and it was more my issue than theirs!

Piano Adventures by Randall and Nancy Faber

While I’ve used the entire series with students in the past, currently, I mostly use book 1.

Very few of my students start one series and complete the whole thing, I tend to supplement a lot and zig-zag in and out of books and levels.

Level 1 of Piano Adventures is a winner though. It has a lot of really great pieces students love!

 

~Amy

 


What method and theory books do you use and love? Share in the comments!

 

Email Templates and Sibling Discounts

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me. If you have a question feel free to contact me here

 


Do you also have a similar letter that you use for fall and spring lessons? I’m trying to be more organized and intentional with my piano lesson information. It’s been a bit haphazard. I’d like it to be more professional.

Also, I’d like to know how you do family discounts. I teach several siblings and need to consider a discount because each sibling set has another sibling to add!!

Thanks for all your useful information and helpful ideas!!

-Patsy Mitchell

 


Hi, Patsy,

I honestly don’t have an email “template” of any kind I use each year. That would be nice, but I find every year is always a little different, so I compose information based on whatever that year holds.

That being said, I do generally follow a similar format for that initial contact email getting things going for the term

1. Greeting

Hey there! I hope you’ve had a great summer thus far.  This email is to let you know all of the details regarding the upcoming school year.

2. Specifically lay out what is in the email as well as what required actions and deadlines are needed.

Please read these 3 sections of information below, then there are two forms at the bottom of the page you need to fill out by August 1.

 

3. Outline the start date and any other details needed for the first week back to lessons.

4. What will remain the same (as far as studio offerings) and what will be slightly different this year (and why).

5. Highlight any policy changes and attach the annual studio calendar.

6. Action – again, be specific.

ACTION: by August 1 please:

Fill out your registration form.
Fill out this schedule request form.

 

Hopefully, that gives you a general idea of what to include each time!

As far as the family discounts go, I know exactly what you mean!

When I first opened my studio, I did 10% for the 2nd student but quickly found that I had way too many families with two kids in piano I couldn’t really afford to give that big of a discount. Currently, 70% of my studio is made up of siblings!

Now, there are no discounts until you reach 3 students in a family. At that point, I give 3% (which equates to the cost of approximately one lesson).

I know plenty of teachers that don’t give any discounts. The perspective behind that is that if they didn’t have multiple kids in lessons you would have a whole other family in that spot that would be paying full price.

Thanks for a great question and yea for working toward being more intentional and organized!

~Amy

 

 

What Do You Use After Piano Safari 3?

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.


Hi Amy,

I’m really enjoying your posts, especially Friday Finds!

Regarding method books, my question is: what do you use after Piano Safari, level 3? Or do you design your own curriculum?

Many thanks, as always for your help.

Warmly,

-MJP

 

Hi, MJP!

As far as method books go, I am definitely a zigzagger. Rarely do I put a student in one method book series covering books 1-2-3 back-to-back.

Sometimes that works just fine and can certainly give the student a feeling of progress by “moving to the next level.”

I find many students, however, transition better through levels if I either supplement between each one for a few weeks (or months) or even cover the same “level” in two different book series. For example, I might have a student finish Piano Safari Level 1 and then do Piano Adventures Level 1 before moving into Piano Safari Level 2.

One thing to keep in mind is that (with the Piano Adventures series in particular), I’m not one to give students both the Lesson and Performance books. I usually just do one or the other, especially if I’m weaving it between levels of another series.

In answering your more specific question on what I would do after Piano Safari 3, I often go to Piano Adventures 3B or into a repertoire series such as Celebration Series Repertoire Level 2.

(The authors of Piano Safari say that book 3 transitions nicely into Celebration Series Repertoire Level 3 but I always find doing a little in C.S. book 2 first a nice transition.)

Piano Safari 3 covers Major and Minor keys and technical skills in the keys of C/Am, G/Em, and F/Dm. Piano Adventures 3B focus on the minor keys only.

Here’s an example scenario.

  1. Piano Safari 2 (5-finger patterns)
  2. Piano Adventures 2B (Chords)
  3. Piano Adventures 3A (One-Octave major scales/keys of C, G, F)
  4. Piano Safari 3 (Two-Octave scales/keys of C/Am, G/Em, F/Dm)
  5. Piano Adventures 3B (Two-Octave scales/keys of Am, Em, Dm)

This may be a little excessive example overlapping however, something like this might work for a student who is professing a little slower. Also, as I said previously, keep in mind this would just include one book in the P.A. series (such as a lesson or performance)

I hope this gives you some ideas. Good luck!

~Amy

 


Reader friends, do you have any suggestions?

MJP and I would love to hear where you take your students when they finish Piano Safari Level 3. Please share in the comments!

Specifics on my “À La Carte-Style” Adult Lessons

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

 


I’ve been a regular reader and subscriber of your blog for ages!

I’m working on a website reboot for my studio over the summer and have been browsing other teachers’ websites to get ideas.

I read your blurb about adult lessons and really liked the way you have it set up with 6 weekly lessons over 8 weeks. Would you mind if I borrow that setup and use it with my own adult students?

If you’ve got a moment to respond, I’d love to know how you handle specifics of that setup – do you have the adults come at the same time each week for their lesson, or offer flexibility on time slot as well? Any specific wording that you’ve found works well to communicate those policies?

Thanks for your help and for all the great tips over the years!

-VR

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Light but Fun Composing Ideas for Summer

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

This question was posed in reaction to another Your Questions Answered post regarding Summers Lesson and Curriculum.

 

Love-love-love your posts they are so helpful.

Like you, I’m getting ready for Summer Lessons. I try to change things up for the Summer and this year I’m introducing more about composing. I started introducing this the last semester of this year but I want to do a lot more over the Summer.

What ideas do you have to teach composing on a light level but keeping it fun?

What other kinds of things do you do over the Summer?

Also, I have two 4 -year old girls starting this Summer any really fun ideas for them?

Sorry I know that’s a lot of questions but you always have great ideas.

Thanks Again,

Frances

 

​​Hi, Frances!

​A few resources I’ve used in the past include:

​The main thing I think is important is giving them small parameters such as what meter, how many measures, key, mood, etc., and to keep them short. Many of these resources do just that.

​As far as your second question goes regarding fun ideas for 4-year-old beginners, the first thing that comes to mind is to spend a lot of time off-bench singing and moving and doing activities such as drawing a picture that “sounds like this little song we’re going to learn”.

My favorite tool for preschool students is Music Moves for Piano’s Keyboard Games Book A. The pieces are very short – only 4 measures and focus on students simply playing to a beat and learning patterns – not reading notes. However, you will likely want to purchase the teacher book if it’s your first time trying the series.

I’ve also used with success in the past resources from both Trevor and Andrea Dow’s Wunderkeys and Faber’s My First Piano Adventures however, Music Moves remains my favorite because it encourages the most “musicing.” That is, singing and movement, not just reading notes.

I hope this gives you a little bit of a springboard for some more ideas! Congrats on the new students and good luck!

~Amy

 

Purging Old College Notes and Professional Magazines

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

 

Dear Amy –

Help!

I have these enormous binders from college many years ago.

I know I need to toss a lot of it, but there are definitely resources in there I don’t want to get rid of (and would love to make more easily accessible to review).

Any advice?

-Christina W.

 

Hey, Christina!

I would hedge a guess many-a-teachers are nodding their heads in agreement – me being one of them. Ha!

You’re beating me to this task as it’s one I’ve also had on my list for years but never seems to move up in importance. Bravo to you for tackling it!

That being said, I went through a similar purge of all my MTNA American Music Teacher and Clavier Companion magazines last year.

8 years’ worth and something like 5 magazine file boxes was weighing me down mentally. Why? Because how does someone utilize any of that information or recall what they need to from stacks (or binders) of information.

You don’t!

That’s when you decide (as we did) that enough was enough.

How did I tackle it?

A little at a time – not putting pressure on myself to use one of my days off to do it all.

I placed a small stack next to the couch and every day – either first thing in the morning during my brief quiet reading time or at the end of the day’s downtime – I would flip through one or two magazines.

It’s surprising how much I remembered what articles I enjoyed and found benefit in. (It helped that the first time I read them years ago, I folded down the page on my favorite articles. 🙂 )

 

Step #1 – Find a time frame that works that feels achievable, not overwhelming.

 

Step #2 – Flip through, skim, and determine what is most beneficial moving into the future. (Have high standards – only the best information/articles. For me, that was no more than 1 or 2 per magazine – sometimes none!)

Next, I used the Scannable app to scan the articles. (Genius Scan is another favorite app for scanning).

When you scan with Scannable, you can choose to save it in either PDF or image format into Evernote, or “send” it into another program.

So, even though Scannable is an Evernote product, you could use it to scan items and send to any of your file managers such as Google Drive or iCloud Drive.

 

Step #3 – Scan and save in the best digital management place for you.

Remember that simply saving articles digitally will not do you any more good than the physical ones if you don’t make them easily accessible – that is, easily searchable).

One of the reasons I absolutely adore Evernote is because Evernote Premium gives you additional search powers. It can search the text of PDFs as well as your handwriting on hand-written notes! I find that amazing (and incredibly helpful).

Without Evernote Premium, it will only search the titles of notes and text typed in the notes themselves.

If you don’t want to pay for Premium, or if you prefer to use a cloud file manager such as Google Drive or iCloud Drive to save all of your stuff, the best way around this would be to make sure you title the document thoroughly for what it’s about.

Sometimes I add additional words outside of the title – ones that I might use when searching for information on that particular topic. This will make it much more searchable in whatever digital storage place you use.

Here’s an example (from an online article/resource):

Natalie Weber has a composition resource called “The Psalms Project.” I might title the file name (or Evernote note) like this:

The Psalms Project_Composition_Composing

Otherwise, if I saved that PDF file and was looking in my digital files for a composing activity, using the word “composition” is not in the original article title.

I hope that makes sense!

If you use Evernote, you can also tag every item with a multitude of things. So I might tag that one note with the tags:

composition, bible, summer camp

Then, that one note/file will show up under each category without being duplicated in Evernote.

Step #4 – Make sure the materials you are converting to a digital format are easily searchable and thus useful.

Once you make your choice of what’s worth keeping. The last part may feel a little difficult…

Trash the rest.

It’s time.

You didn’t look at it for 10 years anyway, right?

Is it really that important?

I don’t think so.

Feel the weight lift from your shoulders? Ahhh…

Sweet relief.

Step #5 – Let it go. The trash is your friend. 

 

~Amy

 

P.S. Please recycle.

P.S.S. If you’re interested in diving into all the great ways that Evernote can work for you and your business, check out the Evernote for Independent Music Teachers series here on Piano Pantry.

 


Please note that Piano Pantry is an Evernote affiliate, which means I earn a small percentage back if you sign up using my link at no extra cost to you. See all disclosures here.

 

Summer Lessons and Curriculum

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.

 


What curriculum do you teach in the summer?  Do you keep the student going in their regular curriculum or do you use something different to give them a break?

I love your idea of 6 lessons in 7 weeks and I would love more info on how you set it up.

Thanks,

PM

 

Dear P,

Those are some great questions and I would be happy to share a little more info!

I don’t have a set curriculum I teach in the Summer. For the most part, I just keep going with whatever students are working on but it’s always quite relaxed and there is no Classical repertoire involved unless the student specifically wants it.

Usually, I try to do a lot of pop tunes, Disney, chord charts, really anything the student is interested in. For several years I held a studio-wide outdoor picnic performance and it was fun to play that kind of music in that environment.

The 6 lessons in 7 weeks have worked perfectly for me ever since I’ve opened my studio. Depending on how my late July looks, I’ve even done 6 lessons over 8 weeks or 7 lessons over 8 weeks.

It’s nice to give flexibility to families in the Summer and I prefer to have a lighter schedule myself. Because of my preference for a light summer, I also do not require students to take summer lessons. I strongly recommend it for the first 3 years but don’t require it.

If they opt not to take summer lessons, however, I have a $30 non-refundable holding fee to keep their spot for fall lessons. I can’t replace my income for those two months if they don’t take lessons because I can’t take on new students for which I don’t have space in the fall. This is a great way to still have a little extra income while maintaining a lighter summer schedule.

The summer tuition fee is paid for in one payment (due by the first lesson) however, on occasion, if a family requests, I will let them make it in two payments. My fee is the same “per lesson” rate as the school term although I don’t advertise “per lesson” rates – that’s just how I calculate my fees.

My rates are listed as an annual tuition rate. More specifically, a school year rate and then a separate summer rate. From there, they have payment options of annual, semester, or monthly. I think it’s good to keep the focus on the big picture fee rather than on a per month (and especially not a per lesson) fee.

I hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions!

 

~Amy