Oh my God!

© Olga Vasilkova | Dreamstime Stock Photos

As you glance over at Kyle, you are surprised to see tears brimming over. Where did those come from? He is just so sensitive! Some students seem to take corrective comments in stride, but others melt with the slightest suggestion for improvement. Kyle melts…

There can be multiple reasons for a student to not respond well to correction. Each of these reasons would suggest a different approach for resolution.

  • fear of failure
  • low self-esteem
  • perfectionist attitude
  • frustration with themselves
  • not meeting their own expectations
  • lack of understanding of the problem
  • have a hard time trying new things
  • feel they are not able to please you
  • bad day at school
  • hit their emotional limit for the day
  • low stress tolerance
  • fight with parent or sibling in the car on the way to the lesson
  • feel out of control
  • not doing music lessons for themselves, but out of coercion
  • not used to being corrected
  • not used to working hard for something
  • do not respect you as a teacher
  • loyalty to a previous teacher

Questions you might ask yourself as the teacher:

  • Have I properly prepared the student to play this piece?
  • Is this piece too challenging for this student’s emotional reserves?
  • Does the student know what I am asking for and how to achieve it?
  • Does the student have the technical skills to do what I am asking?
  • Was I clear in my instructions?
  • Have I broken the skill down into small enough pieces?
  • Is the tempo too fast?
  • Is the fingering wrong?
  • Have I already pushed too hard for this session and it’s time to back off?
  • Have I given enough positive feedback to balance the negative?
  • Is it time for a break or time for a new piece?
  • What is my best guess as to what is behind this melt-down? (see list above)

Many times we can slip into a pattern of ‘the student plays and then the teacher makes corrections.’ This can be an uninspired approach if it is not a process of joint discovery and stretching for the next level. There are many creative ways to involve the student mentally and emotionally to get past a road block. One approach is to praise what you honestly can, and then, instead of immediate correction, try one or more of the following: Read more…

Read More » Comments (10)

Posted in Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

“I’m late!
I’m late!
For a very important date!
No time to say “Hello”, goodbye!
I’m late!
I’m late!”Picture of White Rabbit with I'm Late
Part of the lyrics sung by the White Rabbit from the song “I’m Late” in Alice in Wonderland

Do your students run late?

Late students are inevitable. It is usually the same students that run late on a regular basis.

This can be stressful for instructors as it crunches the already limited time you have with the student.

Ideas on ways to eliminate late students: Read more…

Read More » Comments (5)

Posted in Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

"Circuit Training" Music LessonsThey’re not all the same but every now and again you meet a teenager determined to fit the stereotype. With so much hair over their face you’re not actually sure what they look like, their shoulders are dropped so low their hands are practically touching the floor and all questions are met with an obligatory “dunno” response (if you’re lucky)!

Were we ever like that? I’m sure many of today’s finest musicians had their moments as teenagers and I would like to just say that many of the teenagers I’ve taught have been highly “switched on” and motivated. But how can we inspire even the most apathetic student?

Enter something I’ve been trying out I call “Music Lesson Circuit Training!”

Now I need at this point to warn you that Read more…

Read More » Comments (8)

Posted in Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips


Michael Kaeshammer

We all know that stickers, charts, music money, trophies, and competitions may motivate students to progress but these “tactics” are just that, extrinsic motivators to get your students to do what YOU want.

However, why not find more ways to trigger intrinsic motivation so that your students achieve and move forward just because THEY want to.

Nothing inspires me more than seeing someone do something that I want to do. With the availability of videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see and experience others excel and having fun making music. When viewing  videos on YouTube, each one usually inspires me in some way. It dawned on me that the same videos could have a monumental impact on my students. Read more…

Read More » Comments (9)

Posted in Music & Technology, Music History & Facts, Teaching Tips

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-young-boy-girl-fighting-image17751175In my last post, I promised that I would share a story about 2 students that challenged my perceptions about teaching young kids how to play guitar.  If you didn’t catch my first post, you can read it here.

I agreed to teach two siblings as beginning guitar students.  Brother is younger than Sister.  The two of them are complete guitar greenhorns.  Mom wants to “expose” them to music.  I’ll call them Manny and Madeline. (Not their real names.)  Keeping the sibling rivalry stoked, Madeline likes to point out her little brother’s short comings and often punctuates her observations with well-placed kicks to Manny’s shin.  The first time this happened, I didn’t even see it and I was sitting right in front of them.  There’s no wind-up to the kick; it’s more like one of those reflex reactions.  Brother says something, sister replies and boom!  It’s gotta hurt – she plays soccer.  She knows how to kick.  I seriously pondered the thought of suggesting to Manny that he bring a pair of shin guards to their lesson.  When I set up their chairs, I make sure Manny is well out of the reach of Madeline’s leg.

Mom says she is just trying to give them some exposure to something other than sports.  Dad, a self-described sports enthusiast, likes to make Manny and Madeline compete in everything they do.  This might explain why tuning guitars at the beginning of the lesson tends to turn into a grudge match.  Never thought I’d see two kids engage in guitar tuning trash talk!

At the first few lessons it took at least 10  to 15 minutes just to tune the guitars and get focused on playing one string or one note.  “Hey kids!  Let’s play the high E string together.”  Manny says, “E string?!  What if it was an E-I-E-I-O stwing?  (Oh, brother.)

As the teacher, I felt a lot of pressure to try to accomplish something at each lesson.  I mean after all, Mom and Dad are paying good money for me to teach their kids how to play.  What a challenge!    I can’t get either one of them to play a even a one-fingered chord!  And of course, both Manny and Madeline can’t wait for the lesson to be done.  (Clock-watchers!)  Frustration can easily set in.

Then one day, I had an epiphany!  Turn the lesson into a game!  (Some of you right now are saying, “Duh!”)  The very next lesson, I created a game called Crack the Code!  I wrote the following fret numbers on the whiteboard and offered a prize to the first one who could crack the code!

0 – 0 – 7 – 7 – 9 – 9 -7

5 – 5 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 2 – 0

7 – 7 – 5 – 5 – 4 – 4 – 2

7 – 7 – 5 – 5 – 4 – 4 – 2

0 – 0 – 7 – 7 – 9 – 9 -7

5 – 5 – 4 – 4 – 2 – 2 – 0

Their competitive instincts took over and the contest was on!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  These two siblings, who prior to this couldn’t tune their guitars or play a one- fingered chord or even fret a single note, were suddenly playing a song!  Manny said, “Hey!  I know that song!  It’s Old MacDonald!”  ;-)

Over the weeks, I began to loosen up a little and have some fun with these two.  I tried to find kid friendly resources to help make learning guitar fun and it’s been working.  (Read more about the resources I use here.)  At their most recent lesson, Manny said to me, “Mr. Shelby, I had a dream today that I want to come true.”  I said, “Oh yeah, what’s that?”  Manny replied, “I dreamed that my guitar lesson would last 2 hours!”  I think these kids are teaching me a thing or two!

More posts by Pat Shelby:

I Don’t Teach Guitar To Kids (Part 1)

Why I Use Music Teacher’s Helper

Read More » Comments (12)

Posted in Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Group Lessons

June 28th, 2014 by

By Robin Steinweg

Singing group of girls   When that waiting list grows out of proportion, how do you multiply your time? With group lessons!

Part I: Vocal Group Lessons

To multiply my time this summer, I’m conducting two 8-week group classes. I’ll write about the other (a group guitar class) next month.

Normally I’d advertise. But due to circumstances, I emailed  my present students and posted a note on facebook. Word-of-mouth proved sufficient, and I have enough students for a pleasant group.

A great thing about group lessons is that I can charge a lower tuition fee per student, but still earn a good deal more money per hour. Also, my time of preparation is once for all the students in the class. This tends to create more of a buzz about my studio, too.

Here’s how I’ve gone about it—you may have wonderful ideas of your own—please share them in the comments below!

*This group is for 8-12-year-old girls. Classes are 45 minutes long. If they are successful, I will try to offer a follow-up 6-8 weeks this fall.

*To help them get to know each other, I had them share birthdates, family, nicknames, pets, hobbies, musical experiences—they had fun with it. I wrote a curriculum with lots of flexibility in it until I could get to know their strengths/areas of growth.

*I found and created warm-ups. Physical movement (asked them to reach up as if for something on a high shelf that they want badly (a sugar glider, an American doll…), easy descending patterns, pulses, vowel formation, diction, ear training… done with as much humor as I can. Tongue twisters come in handy. Whining like a puppy and meowing like a cat on different pitches turned out to be surprisingly effective warm-ups!

Girls sing 3 parts

*Familiar songs in appropriate keys followed. I played just the melody and listened for who can match pitches and how much confidence they might have, and I began to get clues as to their vocal ranges. From this I can plan the rest of the group lessons.

*Rounds—I had nearly forgotten the benefits of learning to sing rounds! For beginning singers, not an easy feat. Some benefits: Social—you know how kids often walk together or sit together, but are in their own worlds with their phones, texting or playing games? Rounds are a bit like that. The kids are standing in close proximity, but each concentrating on their own thing—separately but together! If you have enough students, they can divide into groups or even just two on a part. Singing rounds requires much concentration, and tuning out the other parts while focusing on their own. Ear training—singing a melody and singing harmony.

Maria von Trapp (Sound of Music—the real woman, not Julie Andrews) said that singing rounds teaches you “to mind your own business.”

Surplus benefit: since rounds are based on mathematical relationships, students are learning math concepts while singing.

You can find some CDs of rounds here: http://fun-books.com/books/lester_family_music.htm

Here’s another source for rounds: http://roundz.tripod.com/

I’ve been using The Round Book: Rounds Kids Love to Sing, by Margaret Read MacDonald and Winifred Jaeger (80 songs).

Round Book the

*In addition to rounds, I included a couple of very funny (and obscure) songs to keep them laughing. And I remind them that laughing is great for feeling where the support happens. Talk about pulses!

*Real energy occurred when I asked the girls which musicals they would love to sing something from. As each girl mentioned a musical, the others exclaimed how they love that one too. Contagious. I promised them at least one piece they all love. They can hardly wait for the next group lesson. Win!

Even though the group represents abilities from not being able to match pitches to start with, all the way to one girl who does so unconsciously and has sung in public for years, they are working together, being challenged to progress, learning note-reading, intervals, solfege, blending, listening, focusing, and cooperating. In just a few weeks their improvement has impressed me.

This is the first time I’ve taught more than one vocal student at once. I’m liking the way I can multiply my time with group lessons!

singing children

I’ll share about the mixed-gender-mixed-age group guitar class on July 27th.







Read More » Comments (14)

Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

Anna at CSU Outdoor PianoHere are some ideas to move your studio forward this summer:

Hold a sight-reading challenge. Set out good sight-reading books from your library for students to choose from each week. Give out prizes at the end of summer for reading a certain number of pages.

Host a summer camp. You could hold your camp one day a week for a month, or four to five days in one week. It could be to attract new students, or a fun intensive for current students. I like “Way Cool Keyboarding” books by Musical Moments for great ensemble playing with beginners.

Attend a concert and invite your students. Give your students “points” in the fall for each concert they attend over the summer. Email notices of upcoming events in your area, especially free events for kids. There will be a free “Peter and the Wolf” performance in my local park in a few weeks, so I sent a flier out to all my families.

Get out all the fun music. Take a break from your regular repertoire and find something different and exciting to learn this summer.

Prepare for fall competitions. This is the time to polish up pieces that need to be ready to go in October or November. For ideas, see my blog on “Preparing for an Event or Competition.”

Organize your music and files. Check for overdue borrowed books. Label and file new music. Enter new music into your Music Teacher’s Helper library. I use cardboard magazine boxes on my bookshelves to organize my music into labeled categories, so that I can find books quickly.

Order a new computer or iPad game.  Learn to use it yourself this summer so you can use it in your media lab this fall. Check out “The iPad Piano Studio” by Leila Viss.

Attend a workshop or seminar. Local colleges or music stores often host guest artists or speakers. Consider traveling a little to immerse yourself in a blues workshop, or an improvisation seminar.

Recruit new students. This is the time of year parents are looking for a music teacher to begin lessons in the fall. Make sure you are on top of your marketing strategies. For marketing ideas check out my blog on “How Do You Attract New Students?”

Try out Music Teacher’s Helper. If you don’t already use this fabulous tool, summer would be a great time to learn all it can do for your studio and your sanity!

Plan your studio budget. I swear I only make $.03 per hour after you take into consideration all the time I spend outside of lessons, and the number of “toys” it takes to keep me having fun teaching. But seriously, summer is a great time to plan for the money aspect of the next school year. List your projected expenses, and then calculate how many students you need, and what you need to charge for lessons this coming year.

Think through individual student needs. Summer is a great time to ponder each student, make a list of their personal strengths and weaknesses, and how you can best move them forward.

Decide on your “theme” for the coming year. My students are on a mission to find out what our theme will be for next year! Read my blog on “Themes Add Focus to Your Teaching” for more about how this can enhance your school year.

Look into Michelle Sisler’s games and motivational tools. Michelle is so creative! Every year she comes out with more and better ideas. Check them out at http://keystoimagination.com.

Get your instrument tuned and repaired. If you have been putting off this task, now is the time to get everything in tip top condition.

Learn new music. You could read through new music for ideas for your students, or brush up on some higher level pieces you will be assigning. You could also spend more time on your own musical repertoire.

Read a book. I am enjoying the book “Make it Stick” by Peter C. Brown, recommended on this blog site. If you can’t attend a seminar, a book is an inexpensive way to update and expand your thinking on a particular subject.

Get healthy. I’m serious. It is the only way you are going to live through next winter and withstand all the germs that are going to be traveling through your studio. Summer is a great time to make changes in your health habits.

Rest and refresh your spirit. Summer is a great time to take time for you! Do something you love but never get time for. Get outdoors, take a mini vacation, enjoy your kids and family, or just sit and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and be grateful for all you have been given.

Read More » Comments (6)

Posted in Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Yiyi Ku

New Piano Music

June 22nd, 2014 by

Dear Teachers,

I hope this post finds you well and you are either enjoying a well deserved summer break, or will be having one soon!

Most private music teachers have a lighter teaching schedule during the summer months. This is a perfect time to research new teaching materials for the next semester.

In my last blog, I talked about offering different “tracks” of programs in my studio for the next school year. Here are the descriptions of the four tracks:

1. Fun Track – for students that want to keep piano in their lives but can not commit to regular practice.
2. Recital Track – for students that want steady progress and opportunities to perform in recitals and non-adjudicated events.
3. Festival Track – for students that want to participate in adjudicated music festivals and exams.
4. Competition Track – for students that are interested in competitions and higher level music examinations.

I believe in selecting appropriate supplementary music for the different tracks. For example, students in the Fun Track are more likely to practice if they are given familiar tunes to play, while students in the Festival or Competition Track need to focus on the classics and good quality original music.

Here are some new resources I will be using:



1. Famous & Fun Deluxe Collections – by Carol Matz


I gave a detailed review of this series in my previous post “National Piano Guild Auditions Part 2.”

I am very pleased to find that two new levels are now available – Book 4 (Early Intermediate) and Book 5 (Intermediate). These are exactly what the title says – Famous and Fun, and are just perfect for my Fun Track students. The list of songs included in each book is enticing, there is something for both girls and boys, a variety of styles are included (Pop, Classics, Favorites, Rock, and Duets), and what has impressed me the most is the quality of the arrangements.

These do not sound juvenile. These are sophisticated-sounding arrangements, yet are technically very accessible for the designated levels. Students in the Fun Track want to play tunes they know – Star Wars, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Beauty and the Beast, Over the Rainbow. They want to play tunes everyone knows – America the Beautiful, Greensleeves, The Star-Spangled Banner. They may not have the techniques required to play the classics in their original form, but they will learn simplified versions – Pachelbel’s Canon, Debussy’s Claire de lune. They want to impress their Friends – Hey There Delilah, Don’t Stop Believing. Lastly, they want to have fun making music with others – duet versions of The Pink Panther and James Bond.

Read more…

Read More » Comments (8)

Posted in Product Reviews, Teaching Tips


Invoicing Feature Improved!

June 21st, 2014 by

We’re excited to announce that the invoicing feature has been improved and the new version is now available in your account. Here are the five changes:

1) Streamlined forms with fewer inputs/clicks
2) Convenient invoicing templates with pre-set settings
3) New Sidebar lets you preview the dates that will appear on the invoice.
4) Easier invoice scheduling – Only add a name to the invoice schedule now
5) Now schedule invoices right from the invoice form.

 Click Here to watch a 7 minute webinar on using the new invoicing system.

If you want to keep the old invoicing feature, you may revert back by clicking “Settings” in the top right corner of your dashboard and then “Studio Settings”. There you can choose to use the old feature. Make sure to click “Save Preferences” before navigating away.


Here is a step by step walk through, with screenshots, on how to generate invoices with the changes.

Read more…

Read More » Comments (5)

Posted in New Features and Fixes

General bookkeeping tools that operate as one size fit all for any industry can sometimes fall short. Here are three reasons scheduling and billing softwares made specifically for private lesson music studios are advantageous over generic accounting tools and spreadsheets:

1) Specialization: 

The financial features within Music Teacher’s Helper have all the proper terminology for a music lesson studio. That decreases the learning curve. QuickBooks and FreshBooks can make you feel like you need an accountingshutterstock_63218473 degree in order use properly.

Music Teacher’s Helper also makes family-based billing and adding recital or book fees easy.

Student facing invoicing features provide a professional touch for your studio. Students or their parents can receive custom invoices, text message payment confirmations, all with your branding and music lesson terminology.

2) Simplified Reporting:

For a teaching studio with just one teacher, a full fledged suite of financial reporting is generally not necessary. For most, a music studio needs to track income and expenses, how much students owe, mileage, and student account summary.

3) Support From Knowledgable Peers:

With 24/7 email, chat and weekday phone support, Music Teacher’s Helper users have access to excellent support staff – many of them private music teachers and experienced users that understand a studio’s needs.

Industry specific softwares tend to understand the needs of their users better than generic financial tools. In addition, these softwares (like Music Teacher’s Helper) come with scheduling, website, and many others features.

Click Here For Main Website &  30-day Free Trial.

Read More » Comments (5)

Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper