Category - Sight Reading

Become a WHIZ at the Grand Staff with ONE game and TEN Ways to Play

The grand staff is a vast and scary landscape to those who first encounter it’s lines, spaces and ancient signs.

Getting to know and memorizing pitch names on this complex grid is like learning the names of 88 new best friends! In addition, musicians need to know the “homes” of all those “88 friends” on the piano keyboard.

How does an early learner become a “whiz” at memorizing the names and locations of 88 pitches? It starts by making REPETITION their best friend. As like to say in my studio:

Repetition is your best friend.

Mind you, it’s not mindless repetition! It must be strategic repetition which will help learners not only memorize but, understand that the grand staff is a map pointing the way to pitch locations on the keyboard.

Strategic repetition with a good dose of gamification and socialization is the perfect combination.

When graphic designer, Andrea West, told me she had designed flash cards to review pitch names, I was moderately excited. I’ve got plenty of flash cards in my studio and my iPad is full of apps to review pitch names. However, when she informed me that these were playing-card size and that she plays all kinds of fun games with the deck in her studio, I was intrigued. None of my flashcards come in a deck and I was eager to hear about her games.

Go Fish and War are her student favorites along with Snip, Snap Snorem and Snap. I couldn’t wait to hear how she played these!

Reading through her thorough instructions inspired me as well, and so I created games geared to help beginners. The games require little knowledge about the grand staff and build discrimination skills.

The instructions from both Andrea and me included with your purchase of the playing cards feature ideas on how to set limitations and set stages so that students of any level have fun, learn and succeed.

With Inspector Whiz Cards, you’ve got games to suit every student!

The purchase of Andrea’s Inspector Whiz Cards includes:

  • Clever “wizard-like” magnifying glass “back” for each card
  • Sheets with cards of every pitch in the treble clef and bass clef with most ledger lines.

You’ll need to print 4 sheets that feature the pitches. Print the back side of each sheet with the “Back of Playing Card” sheet. This will give you a deck of cards with four of each note, plus additional accidentals that can be used as wild cards in any of your games. 

You may wish to laminate your cards so they last for while. Scotch laminators are top notch.

Even if you own flash cards, you’ll want to purchase Inspector Whiz Cards so you can learn about and play all the games featured in the instructions.

With your small investment, you’ll gain a deck of cards and at least 10 games of guaranteed fun. You’ll also enjoy seeing your students gain confidence as they dig deeper into the landscape of the grand staff and become friends with all 88 pitches!


Get your Inspector Whiz Cards

HERE or click on the image.

On sale for $4.99 (price goes up to $5.99, November 1, 2017)



A Look Back at Trendsetting Piano Teaching Resources in 2016

Grab a cup of coffee–here’s 40 resources worth your time!

My friend and colleague Marie Lee and I compiled a list of winning resources that worked for us in 2016, and we can’t wait to share them with you. They are organized according to topic.

What did we forget? We didn’t include everything we intended–we had to stop some where.

What would you add to the list?

Professional and Creative Development


Piano Teacher Planning Center is a brand new component of I’m so excited to piano teacherplanning centerhave a store–no, a center–where teachers will find a growing collection of free and for-purchase teaching aids, some created by me but others created by fellow teachers who have great ideas.

In celebration of the new year, there’s a store-wide sale until January 15, 2017. By the way, if you have a cool game or product that you want to sell, contact me at and let’s plan to make it part of the PTPC in 2017. -Leila


I attended my first 88 Creative Keys Workshop in Denver this past summer. I waited almost an entire year and 88 CK was well worth it! It was one of the best things I could do for my continuing education as a teacher.  You can read reviews from 2016 attendees here and learn more about 2017’s workshop here. -Marie
Here’s a video of Leila leading a body beat activity with teachers.


Tim Topham’s podcasts keep me happily occupied on my Sunday afternoon walks. I look forward to them each week. Tim finds the best guests who discuss–you guessed it–trendsetting topics! Here are seven of my favorite podcasts because they deal with creativity at the keys. -Leila


I look forward to Amy Chaplin’s Piano Pantry Friday Finds. Amy is one of my new, favorite bloggers. -Marie


Even though I didn’t practice like I should have, I learned so much from Bradley’s online lesson session that I can use with my students. Bradley Sowash is encouraging and informative. It has opened up a whole new world of piano playing for me. -Marie


ForScore, Turbo Scan, the Air Turn Pedal and the iPad Pro is a combo I’ve used every Sunday since writing my December 2015 blog post. I’m not sure how I survived without this set up. In the post you’ll learn how I move hard copy sheet music to ForScore so I can enjoy hands-free page turns. This is the wave of the future for reading scores. -Leila Read More

Hot Tips for Building Rhythm Reading Skills with Cups

Tip #1

Thanks to Wendy Stevens, most piano teachers have a decent stash of colorful plastic cups AND their students are (or becoming) rhythm reading aficionados. Also thanks to Wendy, the cups don’t catch dust sitting on the shelves because she provides oodles of ways to keep them fresh and fun.

Her latest addition or “facelift” to her Rhythm Cups Exploration resources includes hip accompaniment tracks and with some classical tunes, too. Enough to please anyone’s musical tastes!


Wendy let me know that updates for the Rhythm Cup Explorations 2 Accompaniment Beats have arrived and they are bigger and better than ever! Based on feedback from her fans, here are some of the NEW highlights:

  • A super slow track for each page
  • 4 different tempo tracks for each page
  • 104 total tracks (because book 2 is 2x as long as Rhythm Cup Explorations 1)
  • A bit of silence at the beginning so that you are sure to hear the first beat!
  • Two measures of count off to better prepare your students!!!!
  • Strong and Weak beats emphasized in the count off track!
  • A little silence at the end so you can have time to stop the track.
  • Different styles of beats or instrumentations. They all still have a beat though!


Here’s the post with the sale prices and more details on how to download the tracks.

Tip #2

Pssst…if you have the app Anytune, you don’t even need all these different tempo tracks because the app slows down any imported MP3 file. I store files like this in Dropbox (tap on the link to set up your free account) which can then be easily accessed in the Anytune app. Leave a comment if you want to learn more about this process. 

Tip #3

Before you dive into Wendy’s Rhythm Cup Explorations, prime your pianists with opportunities to find their inner pulse, align it with a groove and tap into their creativity away from the page.

Turn on one of Wendy’s backing tracks in 4/4 time and follow these steps.

  • Create simple patterns with one or two cups and ask students to echo or copy them.
  • Label the cups with “R” and “L” for younger students to keep track of right and left hands.
  • Continue to create more complicated rhythms with a few more crazy antics–like tapping a cup on your head and all the other zany stuff Wendy likes to do in her books.
  • Ask one student to create a pattern that matches the length of yours and other students echo it.
  • Ask the group to choose some favorite patterns (up to 4).
  • Repeat and memorize each pattern to make a “cup combo” or routine.
    • You may need to turn off the backing track to master the steps!
    • Name each pattern after the student who created it so that students keep track of the pattern.
    • Call out the pattern name and students must play the pattern. Repeat many times!
    • When each pattern is mastered, play all patterns in the same order–over and over to secure memory.
  • Turn on Wendy’s backing track and perform.
  • Start with the slow backing track and challenge students to play the combo faster and faster.
  • Capture the fun on video and make sure to get the bloopers, too!

Does your teaching need a facelift?

Need more ideas to revamp, refresh, reboot your approach to creativity in your studio and in your own playing?

Join me and Bradley at 88 Creative Keys Keyboard Improvisation Workshop in Denver. Hurry, space is limited!


Tap on the picture for more info and to register!

Piano Teacher Planning Center coming soon

Did you like the tips above? Need more ideas to develop irresistible off-bench plans, summer workshops and camps? Stay tuned for a new resource that will be offered right here at

Yes, I’m setting up a shop. Not any ordinary store and not just ideas from me. This unique boutique will include inspiring AND creative ideas from innovative, dynamic teachers who are in the trenches and know what’s works best for their students.

Soon you’ll have access to what I’m calling Piano Teacher Planning Center.

Can’t wait to fill you in on the details!


piano teacherplanning center

Five Tips for Boosting Summer Practice

Summer can mean fewer lessons and less time at the keys. JoyTunes, the developers of Piano Maestro, are keenly aware of this and figured parents might like some suggestions to keep those fingers wiggling at the ivories. I’ve posted the article, originally written for JoyTunes, at as teachers may find these tips helpful during lessons and assign as home practice as well. A HUGE thank you to the JoyTunes’ graphics team who designed such adorable and fitting pics!

OOPS! Never heard of Piano Maestro? If not, you are missing out on the TOP piano app according to teachers, parents and students. Get your free version here and see why.



Shopping Cart

Next time you are waiting in line to pay for groceries and your young shopper asks for candy or a new toy, say yes. Qualify the yes by offering rewards with success on Piano Maestro (PM). As your young musician works his way through the Alfred Premier Lesson books or Jennifer Eklund’s Piano Pronto, let him earn one quarter when a new piece is mastered and receives three gold stars on PM. Once enough quarters are earned, let him add his favorite treat to the shopping cart.

721f2ecd-9135-4d28-82e9-a0ce3d899b2eOn the Road Again

If a long road trip is planned for the summer, there’s no excuse to miss a day of practice when you pack the iPad and Piano Maestro. Since there’s plenty of familiar tunes in the library, choose one and invite a family sing-a-long as your pianist plays the tune on the app. Tips: pack headphones and load songs prior to your trip as PM requires Wi-Fi for songs one has not played before.

Maestro League Baseball 

When its rainy outside play baseball inside.  Once a “batter” earns three gold stars on a PM song, she advances to first base. Every time three stars are awarded, the batter runs to the next base until she reaches home plate. The sibling (or opposing team) with the most runs at the end of the week wins a box of Cracker Jacks, a game of catch with Dad or maybe a trip to the ball park!

Extreme Makeover 

Building a young musician’s independence at the piano is the desirable and the ultimate goal of both teachers and parents. Select a song from the PM that is available as sheet music or one from the method books featured in the library that seems equal to or slightly more difficult than what your child is currently playing. You can download PM sheet music hereWith little to no help, ask her to read through the piece as accurately as possible. With her permission, video this initial and perhaps somewhat rough first-time through the piece. Then open up PM, locate the same song and using PM’s Learn Mode have her gradually master the piece. Track success with a follow-up video of her breezing through the piece using PM at the intended tempo. Don’t forget to watch both videos together and marvel at the extreme makeover!

Read More

Piano Mania: An International Award-Winning Studio Must

For years, sight reading triggered personal fear and insecurity. I feared I would fail and felt insecure whenmzl.hhqqeabm.175x175-75 I compared myself to peers who seemed undaunted by the task of reading new scores.

As I teach out of reaction to my own experiences and feelings, it is essential that my students become strong grand staff readers and overcome their fears of sight reading as I eventually did. Early readers develop solid skills with continual reinforcement; in fact, a great deal of reinforcement that I find dreadfully boring to include during lessons. Oops…probably shouldn’t have said that but it’s true.

Thankfully things have changed significantly since I was a child on the bench. Now methods to build AND teach grand staff reading skills are available on my favorite iDevice thanks to various developers. Yigal and Yuval Kaminka, the master mind developers behind Joytunes‘ latest app called Piano Mania have struck gold.  The innovative, musical brothers recognized that humans enjoy winning and took advantage of the addictive tendencies of top-selling video games and paired them with essential reading skills for musicians to master.  This combination coupled with appealing music and an elite technical team has created an unbeatable, magnetic AND educational app.

The app offers an elaborate system for building reading skills that benefit both students and teachers.  Let me explain.

screen480x480-1For the Budding Music Reader and Electronically Inclined Student: Musical Incentives

To begin using the app, players are asked to create a profile and the app then keeps track of personal progress. Pianists begin with the first chapter of songs and must watch notes on one or both staves stream across the screen.  They must play the correct keys on the iPad screen OR a keyboard of choice within correct timing. The catchy back-up tracks and engaging graphics make the journey through each chapter quite addictive. As students receive evaluation feedback from the app and improve their scores, they move up in rank and are even invited to skip to a higher rank if they feel ready for more challenging pieces.

The immediate appeal of Piano Mania is that students can look ahead to upcoming tunes which can be unlocked once current songs are “passed”. Joytunes has collected and continues to add current hits to the library. The lure of these student favorites and the carefully sequenced selection of exercises provides the perfect “carrot” to keep gamers playing and improving their skills.

Instead of me going into more detail, I’d recommend checking out the Piano Mania info page (click here). Next, click  here to download your free version.You and your students will be hooked immediately.

For the Caring and Curious Teacher: Convenient Record Keepingscreen480x480-3

Perhaps the most important feature of this app is the ability for players to use it with an iPad alone or with an acoustic or digital piano with NO additional fancy wires. Reading and practicing new songs on a real piano closely simulates the experience most pianists (and teachers) would prefer.

With the latest version, a new roaming profile feature allows students to access their profile and play on any iPad. This means that you can assign Piano Mania homework to students and have access to organized student records relaying progress. Ahhh…no more “dreadfully boring” sight-reading activities during lessons. 🙂

Want advice from the developers on how to use the app? Click here.

Looking for sheet music for many of the library tunes? Click here.

Want to stay up-to-date with all things Piano Mania? Make sure to register as a teacher.  You’ll be invited to do so once you become a Piano Mania subscriber.

For the Addicted Piano Mania Fans: Fresh Formatscreen480x480

If you are already using Piano Mania there are some terrific upgrades in the latest version. The shiny new graphics have been adjusted to suit the retina display for the latest iPad models. In the past, notes travelled across the screen on a slanted staff. The developers have listened to those bothered with this angled format and the notes now appear on a straight staff.

The new roaming profiles mentioned above just make this app even more appealing.

One more bonus, the support behind the award-winning app continues to become stronger and more personal. Click here to join the Joytunes Teachers Facebook Group.


Honestly, there’s little reason for me to carry on about Piano Mania. Joytunes is the recipient of numerous international awards which speaks volumes for the app. The most recent award: Piano Mania has been voted THE #1 education app in the United States and 20 other countries.


Need something for young pre-readers? Check out Joytunes Piano DustBusters. There’s no room to share more about this clever app featuring a grandma dusting germs from a keyboard. However, your gamers–oops, I mean students–will love this one! Watch the video below.


Leila’s Opinion of  Piano Mania: Free, with in-app purchases up to $49.99

Application Potential: 5/5

When learning is hidden behind the magic of game playing the result is progress. Considering the past projects of this award-winning app development team, the potential for Piano Mania and future apps is unprecedented.

What you may miss:

  • Customizable avatars for player profiles
  • Harmonic intervals and chords included within the tunes

Ability to Use with Ease: 5/5

As the Kaminko brothers take gaming strategies seriously and realize the need for an intuitive platform, even rookie players will find this app incredibly easy to use.

Assessment of Investment: 5/5

With new exercises and music including current pop hits added to the library on a monthly basis, this app is worth the investment towards enhanced, studio-wide reading and practice skills. Although some may prefer to avoid a prescription based app, this is the way of the future. Your subscription also keeps the app developers accountable to continual upgrades and excellent customer support.

Total Score: 15/15


Interested in a three-month Piano Mania subscription? To be eligible, order a copy of my book The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps between now and January 31st, 11:59pm. With the book you will learn how to integrate apps like Piano Mania into your instruction. Order your copy by clicking here.

PS: Make sure to like The iPad Piano Studio and Joytunes Facebook Pages!

iPad Revolution-Book-Comp-4 2

A Favorite App for Sight Reading

About a month ago, I posted a review about SightReadPlus, an app that provides thousands of sight reading exercises in all MAJORmzl.dsvzstko.480x480-75 five-finger patterns. Good news, the developers have just released a new version called SightReadMinor™ that features all the MINOR five-finger patterns. With a price tag of $4.99 for 2880 exercises, you can’t go wrong with this addition to your studio!

My favorite things about both apps:

  1. The selection of exercises is extensive and versatile.
  2. There is no need for cables as the app records the pianist at any keyboard–electric or acoustic.
  3. Immediate feedback and reinforcement are provided with a celebratory fireworks show for accurate reading.
  4. No in-app purchase is required.  I really don’t like surprises.
  5. The developers claim they have carefully sequenced the exercises: “advancing from stepwise movement and basic timing patterns to more advanced intervallic reading and dotted note values.” Thank you!
  6. The app tracks progress for multiple users so it can be used by many students and there is no need for record keeping on a separate score sheet.

The only drawback is that the app does not include hands-together drills, maybe someday technology will catch up to my wish list!

mzl.wcucgcqa.175x175-75More good news–Melissa Harris, of the developing team, has generously offered me two free codes for SightReadMinor. I’d be happy to give them away to two lucky readers.

To qualify for the drawing, I’m asking a favor. Please complete the contact form below and include the name of a favorite app and why you like it. I’d like to build up my Music App Directory and thought I might take advantage of some helpers. To be honest, I’m terribly nosy about people’s iPads. I’m constantly looking over a shoulder to see if someone has an app that I’m missing. So, if you care to share, please let me nose in on your iPad screen. I’d appreciate it!

Thanks to a faithful reader Drema, I just learned about a new one I just added to Rhythm (and some other categories as I try to cross reference as much as possible) in my Music App Directory. Here’s her explanation:

Symphonica is a conducting game where you tap the color/type of sounds that appear to famous tunes such as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik…etc. When you first start using the app, you will need to walk through the story in order to complete the pieces and once a piece is completed, you can access it without playing the entire story again. I haven’t thought of how it could be used for lessons, labs or group classes but it makes listening to and moving to the rhythm of the music fun and interactive!”

Thanks Drema, you are entered for the drawing! Does anyone else have a favorite?


Looking for ways to integrate apps like SightReadPlus, SightReadMinor and even Symhponica into your studioStay tuned as I develop lesson plans and units as part of my ongoing additions to my book , The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps. Visit the website at to pre-order.

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