Category - Webinar

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.


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

Yamaha’s P255 Digital Piano: You’re Gonna Want One!

Are wondering which digital piano will fit your needs?

Are you looking to add your first digital piano to your studio?

Are you hoping to add an additional digital piano to your studio?

Have you noticed the “buzz” around teaching piano in groups? If you are gearing up to teach in groups, most experts in the field admit that you can do so with just about any kind of keyboard. Yes, even an old Hammond organ will do!

But, when you are–

  • done putting up with an old keyboard
  • ready to offer your students a serious and digital instrument
  • searching for a reasonable price tag
  • looking to upgrade the level of technology in your studio
  • wishing to add your very first digital piano to your studio

–whatever the case may be—you’ll want to buy Yamaha’s P255 digital piano.

The P255 recently joined my growing collection of Yamaha pianos. I wouldn’t trade my C6 or my Clavinova CVP 505 for the world. The P255 took the place of an ancient Roland keyboard. I set five requirements for the replacement of the ancient keyboard.

The P255 digital piano meets all my requirements and then some


1) Compatibility

The digital piano is MIDI capable (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) which means it can be wired to and “talk” to an iPad or computer. This feature is not unusual now-a-days, but is extremely important to me as I want students to be able to play Piano Maestro with head phones, and notate compositions using either Notion or Noteflight. Both notation programs are MIDI compatible and allow composers to enter notes by playing them on a MIDI compatible keyboard.

2) Portability

It is my intention to provide students more playing opportunities and to “play it forward” at various public and private venues. Since there is never a guarantee that a decent piano will be around, it is crucial that my new keyboard is light enough to carry with me on the go. At 38 pounds, this is not a problem. I purchased an X-stand so that it can be set up anywhere (see pic below.)

This also means that I can move the keyboard around in my studio to suit my needs when teaching in group settings. Read More

How to Teach Technique, Timing and Theory All at Once

The pressure

As teachers, we feel pressure to successfully teach our students to

  • play with a steady pulse
  • learn a scale with proper fingering and hand position
  • comprehend theory by showing proficiency in tests and exams.

And, all of this within a short 30-minute lesson!

The solution

There is a way to alleviate the time crunch by creating activities that combine these tasks– timing, technique and theory–into exercises at the keys. It’s called grooving your theory.

When studying jazz piano with Bradley Sowash, he assigns scales. These are not the typical scale assignments. His systematic routine called Squared Scales, requires the pianist to play scales in various rhythms, tapping the left toe on beats 2 and 4 while playing with a backing track. Whoa–talk about multi-tasking!

Ever since I began this routine in all the keys around the circle, my scale playing has improved immensely. I confess, I hadn’t played scales in years so there was plenty of room for improvement, but I also excelled because I enjoyed the challenge of aligning my technical and theory skills to a beat.

The results

Although just the idea of bundling technique, theory and timing into one lesson assignment may be valuable enough, there’s a specific reason why Bradley advocates this method. With all these skills locked into a beat, it provides the foundation for improvisation.

The idea

It got me thinking that this lesson curriculum bundle which ignites freedom at the keys should be anuse iReal Proaround the circle of keys essential part of lessons for my own students from day one. Not just for those at the age of Ms Leila!

This thought is what prompted my recent post Use iReal Pro to Circle the Keys.  While writing the article, it dawned on me that the connect between teaching and grooving theory to improvisation cannot be clearly communicated through mere words. It really calls for a presentation or even better, a webinar.

Therefore–you knew it was coming–Bradley Sowash and I will be holding our second webinar called Groove Your Theory for just $49.

The sales pitch

Bradley and I make a unique combination: one died-in-the-wool improviser and one by-the-book typical studio piano teacher. Together we team up as

  • One who systematically outlines what he’s discovered from years of improvisation. (Bradley)
  • One who simplifies and clarifies his findings. (Leila)

We’re a team that seems to work given that our first webinar was successful beyond our wildest dreams (Top Pop Tips) and that we are holding our 4th annual 88 Creative Keys workshop this summer in Denver.

Good News! If you are joining us this summer, register for the work shop here and the Groove Your Theory webinar is free. In addition, the $49 webinar is free for all 88 Creative Keys alumni.

The details

When you groove your theory it means combining it with technique and timing. These skills develop a sturdy canvas on which to create.

Bradley Sowash and I will show you how backing tracks can turn typical theory lessons and technical drills into dynamic activities that instill a steady pulse AND trigger creativity beyond the page.

You’ll learn how to use apps and software to create backing tracks for interactive lesson plans, innovative group activities and guaranteed home practice.

The webinar will include

  • The BEST way to create your own lead sheets in iReal Pro.
  • A bunch more ideas of how to use iReal Pro to teach and build theory, timing and technique simultaneously.
  • Grand staff notation of the drills included in the webinar.
  • Numerous resources and additional apps and software that help you reinforce theory and create backing tracks.
  • Specific exercises designed by Bradley Sowash that he uses at every lesson to enhance technical skills. Then he’ll go the next step and demonstrate how these fundamentals are the foundation for developing red-hot improvisational skills for you and that of your students.
  • Ways to motivate students to excel.
  • Tips for those who teach group lessons. You’ll learn how to incorporate ideas into your plans AND summer camps! (To learn more about how to set up group lessons and summer camps, follow this link.)
  • A jam-packed, well-organized handout.
  •  iReal Pro charts designed by Leila and Bradley.
  • Time for your questions.

 The registration

Get your groove on by registering below. Just push the play button to sign up now. Can’t wait to see you there!

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