Category - 88 Creative Keys

Our next webinar will save you time and give you NEW resources!

Why make a point of joining us Monday morning (September 25th)  for our next 88 Creative Keys Webinar Workshop? How can this be worth your time when there’s a million other things to do?

I’ll save you time by getting right to the point. You’ll gain:

Insight into the journey of a classically trained pianist crossing over to the world of playing by ear and how you can do the same.

Tools for integrating contemporary styles into classical and traditional tunes. Ex: how can inspiration from John Mayer spruce up an old hymn?

A brand NEW resource to develop sight-reading chords and chord symbols made for group or private lessons.

An innovative method for employing the most popular chord progressions tabulated by the developers of Hooktheory.

A small but powerful gift for your students packed with essentials for learning theory and composition.

Hot apps that tantalize AND teach.

A top-notch, in-depth  review of triads, 7th chords and their symbols.

Permission to teach by rote before reading, the tricks to teaching by rote and suggestions for rote pieces.

Steps to building ear skills when the eyes want to take over.

A frame of mind to help you play and teach with a well-balanced approach.

It takes time and energy to gear up for creative-based teaching and playing. It takes more than just pushing a POWER button to get those gears turning efficiently.

The good news? Bradley Sowash and I believe your time can be cut in half by the productive study of chords and putting them to work! 

We promise to charge up your teaching and your playing for the year to come.

Register NOW so you can plug in and join us Monday, September 25, 2017.


Can you carve out a career by ear?

Jake Mirow is one of those students you don’t forget. Don’t get me wrong, I treasure all my current and former students but Jake was different. In fact, that’s how Jake came to my studio, because his mom and dad knew he was different and that he needed something different.

What does different mean? Jake has an uncanny ability to play by ear with style and flair. The best way to explain it? He’s hard-wired differently than most.

Example? After seeing the movie Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey in 2009, Jake returned to his lesson and played a jaw-dropping medley of the soundtrack. It’s like his ears have a photographic memory?!?

Mmm….what does a classically trained pianist trying to get over her own fear of improvising do with a student like Jake? Read More

Paul Myatt: One more reason to attend 88 Creative Keys Workshop

Launching an independent, tech-savvy, creative-based piano studio has been a dream come true for me.

Some dream bigger.

Over the last ten years, I’ve had the itch to move out, rent space, teach more group lessons and hire fellow teachers but I haven’t followed through for multiple reasons. Those who do are such an inspiration to me.

Some dream even bigger!

Paul Myatt not only co-founded and directs a successful, multi-teacher school, he’s franchised it! His Forte Music Schools which feature innovative group teaching, are located throughout Australia, New Zealand and have spread to the United Kingdom. I first saw Paul in action at Tim Topham’s blog. Follow this link to learn Paul’s Five Secret Ingredients to Successful Group Teaching.

Listen to all or part of this video to see and hear Paul in action. Read More

Let’s Meet Up at MTNA!

Are you heading to Baltimore next week? It’s too late to register for the annual MTNA conference held March 18-22, but, you can do so at the hotel. Here’s all the info.

If you are registered and ready to go, let’s get together!

I fly in Saturday and leave Wednesday. In between, I’ll be part of the Music Teachers Helper Showcase on Sunday morning at 8:00AM. Come join me and we can get coffee afterwards.

If you’re not crazy about your scheduling and book-keeping system, attend the showcase and learn about the ten things I can’t teach without thanks to ten years of being addicted to Music Teachers Helper. Learn more about the service and sign up for it here.

Tuesday at 11:00AM, I’ll be presenting a session called “Set Your Studio Apart On and Off the Bench.”

For those who attend and stay ’til the bitter end, I have a REALLY cool gift that you can use with your students to build strong practice strategies. Have you been using the six scientifically proven strategies in your studio? Read about them here and get a free printable to use with your students. These work and my students and their parents agree. The gift you’ll receive at my session will definitely enhance your student’s use of these practice strategies and will guarantee progress.

After the session, I’d like to get together with you! Bradley Sowash has agreed to join me and the plan is to “brown-bag” it. We’ll connect after the session is finished which is lunch time and we can plan to meet in the hotel lobby…where you can bring your own lunch or stay for a bit, bring your iPad and teaching questions and then head off to a favorite restaurant. This is definitely an informal gathering. If it grows into something bigger I’ll let you know. If you are interested, please leave a comment in the comment section below.

A couple of other housekeeping items.

We are hearing terrific feedback about our latest 88 Creative Keys Webinar: “Keys to Colorful Harmonization.” If you missed the live stream, you can purchase the replay here.

“You threw out several VERY HELPFUL hints that were worth my attendance in the first 30 paint-tubes-with-infominutes! “

“I thoroughly enjoyed listening to your ways of composition. This summer I am looking at doing a composition/harmonization series for both my piano and vocal students. Thank you for putting together this webinar.”

“I have taken all the theory of this before, but wasn’t sure how to apply it.  You’ve given me extra tools in my tool box.  You’ve also given me lots of ideas as to how to teach this to my students.”

During my portion, I use my original arrangements as examples of how I incorporated my favorite Groups and Campsharmonization tools. All of the sheet music is on sale–here.

Looking ahead

There are some exceptional resources coming your way in the near future at If there is a topic that you’d like to see addressed, please let me know in the comment section and I’ll add it to the list.

As always, thanks for tuning in, your support and most of all for sharing a passion for teaching music with me!



Register NOW for the 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop

Take a moment to check out the video below –you’ll learn what we’re cooking up this summer at 88 Creative Keys and get a chuckle, too.

Here we go!

The 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop Registration is open. If you’ve been thinking about attending, this is the year to commit. 

The first ten registrants get an extra discount–they are going fast (I mean SUPER fast) so press that blue button below.


Need more info before you commit? Here are some answers to the questions you may have. Read More

Essentials for the Worship Team Pianist

Equipping a student with reading and memorizing skills may develop a capable pianist but, nowadays those limited skills aren’t going to cut it. Most pianists are or will be called upon to play beyond the score and read chord charts and play with bands or worship teams. Preparing for this position requires good ears, knowledge of chords and a willingness to collaborate.


Drew Collins

In our next 88 Creative Keys Webinar, we (Bradley Sowash and me, Leila Viss) are excited to have Drew Collins join us. He’s spent over twenty years leading worship and training worship leaders and musicians. This past summer, I invited Drew to a worship team workshop for my students and found Drew’s ideas so worthwhile that we decided to feature him in our next webinar: “Essentials for the Worship Team Pianist.”


Drew sharing words of wisdom at my summer studio workshop.

Drew Collins has spent twenty years leading worship and training worship leaders and musicians. He earned his B.A. in Music from the University of Northern Colorado and his M.A. in Ministry Leadership from Crown College. A singer, songwriter, and liturgist, he lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, CO. I have the pleasure of being on staff  with Drew at South Suburban Christian Church, in Littleton, Colorado.

In the first portion of the webinar, Drew and I will discuss:

  • The three roles of a worship team pianist.
  • The latest tech tools used by most worship teams.
  • Tips on how to build required skills.
  • What worship leaders expect of a pianist.
  • Common mistakes pianists make when playing with a band.
  • Characteristics of a strong worship team pianist.
  • Some tricks of the trade.

Bradley Sowash

In the next portion, Bradley will cover:

  • What to play when unrehearsed background music is needed.
  • Heighten your awareness of thinking and playing in musical layers.
  • Tips for pianists about feeling the groove in a band.
  • Improvising and/or arranging a traditional hymn for contemporary worship.

Don’t miss this workshop! Even if your students don’t play in a worship band, with this webinar you’ll be able to coach those who may wish to play in a “garage band.” You’ll find all the ideas we feature in the webinar will crossover to any band experience. Your students will thank you. Bonus: it may give you the skills you need to play in a band yourself!




How to Boost Creativity with the Power of Chords

Perhaps you had a startling revelation like I did? Watch the video and see if your story is like mine. Click here if you can’t see it.

Take the challenge and take charge

My shortcomings were made apparent and a challenge came my way shortly after grad school. Ever since, I’ve plugged into chords and taken charge. Now I enjoy reading chord charts and I treat myself to improvising at the keys when all my “chores” are done.

If you want to feel more confident and yes, charged up about improvising, then you need to take the challenge yourself and learn your chords. The best place to do that is with me and Bradley Sowash (co-founders of 88 Creative Key Keyboard Improvisation Workshop and Webinars) at our next webinar called Chord Boot Camp. Click on the plug below to sign up.


What you’ll learn about chords

  • Why the four-chord pattern“Heart and Soul” is a shoe-in for improvisation.
  • How to boost your own improvisation skills using that pattern. If I did it, you can too!
  • How to teach your students to improvise with it.
  • How to explain chord spelling, quality, inversions and function with something that relates to musicians of all ages: ice cream.
  • What apps are best suited to reinforce chord mastery.
  • What off-bench activities to use to lock in understanding of chords.

Learn from one who’s paved the way

It’s too hard to measure the influence Bradley Sowash has had in my creative journey. His significant mastery of improvisation, his books, his music, his presentations continue to mold me into the creative musician I am today.

Bradley and I constantly brainstorm on how to connect those who own a similar story to mine with the wonders of improvisation. We both conclude it comes down to knowing chords.

Watch his video to learn what chords have in common with power cords and what Bradley will include in his portion of the webinar. Click here if you can’t see it.

What you will learn about chords

  • Understanding Chord Symbols – principles, common practices and variations in pop/jazz chord nomenclature.
  • Pencil Practice – how to practice chords “off bench” with just a pencil and paper.
  • Chord Drills – practical exercises for daily chord practice.
  • Roots and Birds in Chordland – three easy rules to keep in mind when playing 7th chords.
  • Scaling the Chords – strategies to send reluctant improvisers happily down the path toward more creative music making.

Look what happens when you plug in

Need some evidence of the impact of knowing chords? Below is a video of  me–a past read-only, recovering, classically trained pianist–playing my original setting of a favorite hymn tune. Click here if you can’t see the video.

The arrangement was completed soon after Bradley and I decided to hold our first 88 Creative Keys workshops in Denver in 2013. I’ve never forgotten it and I’ve finally written it down so I can share it with others.

Register for Chord Boot Camp and get something at NO CHARGE!

My setting of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” is brand new and for sale at $9.99 (studio license) but I’m offering it for FREE to all those who sign up and pay for Chord Boot Camp by Sunday, November 13th, 11:59pm.

Once you register, email me at and I’ll email your complimentary score.

Register by clicking on the boot below. We look forward to seeing you there!


Webinar on Rhythm: The to key to unlocking creativity

How many times do you ask, plead, bribe and perhaps even force your students to count aloud?

We may see the benefit of it but until they do, it’s a futile assignment.

Is counting out loud even that beneficial?

Why not come around your good intentions in a fresh way?

Reading from the grand staff becomes relatively easy as the pitch map becomes more familiar. Middle C will always be found right in the middle of it—that will never change! But, there’s no guarantee that Middle C will always be a quarter note. That’s why reading rhythms is difficult as there are so many variables.

Although we may be able to hear and correctly echo tricky rhythms, reading them accurately can be a challenge. In addition, we may be able to read and play tricky rhythms but struggle to keep them aligned with a steady pulse. I say “we” because in general, rhythm can be a problem for players at any level—both teachers and students.

As I continue to work with and learn from Bradley Sowash (keyboard improvisation expert), the ONE point that he drives home more than any other: improvisation requires strong rhythm skills and a steady pulse.

Now you know why our next 88 Creative Keys webinar is all about rhythm. Once you lock that into place you are free to unlock your creative voice (and count aloud!) That applies to both YOU and YOUR students.

Rhythm Webinar with pics

Join us on Monday, September 26th at 11:00am EST. Follow this link to find out what time that is for you.

If you need no further info and are sold, then…


Find solutions to puzzling rhythms with treasured trash

My portion of the webinar is called Understanding the IONS of Rhythm with Treasured Trash. I’ll have a vast array of household manipulatives and ideas that I use in my studio to build rhythmic understanding. It will include a rock solid method for teaching polyrhythms that you won’t want to miss.

These fun and unique activities will engage your students and maybe even talk them into counting aloud. I did it and so can you!

Be a drummer for your students

Bradley will take over with two segments: Rhythm Boxes and Boards and Drumming for Piano Teachers. He’ll show you how to cleverly master rhythmic note values and their location within a measure and give you training on how you can accompany your students with simple drumming patterns. 

Get a unique freebie and a handout that are packed full of help

 There will be a comprehensive handout with all kinds of tips and tricks for teaching rhythm AND a freebie that you’ll use every day in your lessons!
 We look forward to seeing you there Monday, September 26th. But, if you can’t make it, no worries, still register and the webinar recording will be available after it ends and will not expire.

Don’t let Halloween candy go to waste OR to your waist 🙂

The best way to teach subdivision is to share that bowl of candy!

Using the candy chart featured below (follow this link to get more details.) 

  • Clap a rhythm pattern in 4/4 time saying the candy names. 
  • Ask students to clap back the pattern saying the candy names.
  • Show them the chart so they discover how each name stands for various note values.
  • Clap and say a new pattern.
  • Ask students to clap it back and ask them to dictate the pattern with candy (that you share!)
  • Ask them to notate the same pattern in real note values.
  • Reinforce your instruction by using these candy names as students recognize and read rhythms in their repertoire.


Hope to see you there!


Make Candy Count

Reactions to 88 Creative Keys Workshop and What’s Next

Bradley Sowash and I just finished our fourth 88 Creative Keys Denver Keyboard Improvisation Workshop. It’s one of the most gratifying yet equally exhausting events of my life. I believe Bradley would agree. After taking a breather, we’ve begun to think about what’s next.  Before I share what’s on the horizon for 88 Creative Keys, it’s time to express our gratitude for those who attended and for the honest feedback offered in the completed surveys after the workshop.


The groups we hosted at both tracks and the record turn out for our very first ever Saturday Pedagogy created a dynamic bunch. Bradley and I were thrilled and exhausted and then recharged by everyone’s energy and enthusiasm!

If you want to know the details of our workshop, we made every effort to stick to this IMG_0586schedule allowing ourselves the freedom to improvise when necessary.

We were extremely honored to hold this year’s 88 Creative Keys workshop at Colorado Christian University thanks to Steven Taylor, Dean of the Music Department.

In addition, our attendees were privileged to learn from group improvisation expert, Debra Perez–a world-class teacher and wow, does she know her Clavinova!

What follows is an unexpected and unsolicited “bonus” from Marie Lee . She carefully compiled comments made by some of  this year’s 88 Creative Keys attendees.

Disclaimer: Marie Lee–friend colleague, extraordinary group teacher and one who is always thirsty to learn more–collected these comments and wrote some of her own without even a nudge from yours truly.  I do hope you will take the time to read her “coast to coast” collection.

The comments reveal what’s on the hearts and minds of the population of teachers we reach at 88 Creative Keys–from California to Connecticut . It could match your heart and mind as well and nudge you into joining us next time and look into what we offer between workshops. Read More

Ten Things Guaranteed to Rock Your Summer Lessons

It’s mid-summer for those of us in the States which means we are either enjoying time off from teaching or are desperate to keep things interesting during private lessons, group lessons and/or camps.

Dynamic teachers Lou Ann Pope and Anna Fagan provided some terrific posts about Practicia and group lessons for multiple ages while I’ve been away. Click on their names to check out their posts loaded with ideas for your studio. Thanks to both of you!

After a wedding in Canada (hooray, we have a daughter in the family!) I travelled from coast to coast (South Carolina to Oregon) and I picked up some additional ideas to share.

As our 88 Creative Keys Workshop begins this Wednesday–July 6th–I’m short on time but big on ideas so the list below offers limited descriptions of each idea, but…I figured it was best to show and then I’ll tell more later OR leave a question in the comment section.

1) Rhythm Boards

Read More