Category - Theory

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.


Three MUST-HAVE Apps for Your Studio


Flashcards are a thing of the past thanks to Flashnote Derby. Rhythm Swing keeps students occupied for a full 30 minutes during Off Bench Time teaching rhythmic concepts with engaging tutorials and drills. Dragon Scales challenges students to spell scales before the dragon conquers the knight. They all offer SO much more than edutainment!


Off Bench Time is the perfect time to reinforce what you teach on the bench. You don’t need a lot of space to add this component to your lessons. You don’t even need a keyboard, you can use your acoustic piano! If you do want a MIDI keyboard so students can play games with headphones but, don’t’ have the space, this gal is using a small the XKey Portable Keyboard. Learn more about it by clicking on the picture.

I could not teach without these three apps. I thought long and hard before I wrote that sentence but, I know this statement is true so I want YOU to learn all about them. For these reasons, I made a point of contacting Luke Bartolomeo, the developer of the three apps.

In the “Here to Help” video below, you’ll hear how fellow piano teacher Luke, developed these apps because he saw the need for appealing apps that reinforce music concepts and has always liked video games. He steps through the process of how each app works. It’s definitely worth your time if you are not sure how apps can benefit your teaching and keep students happy and learning at the same time. I’m particularly excited about the new features just added to Flashnote Derby.

Here are the show notes which I quickly jotted down during the interview…

Show Notes

Learn about the new features of a favorite pitch recognition app called Flashnote Derby. See how the app Rhythm Swing teaches rhythm reading and learn how Dragon Scales builds scale playing skills and connects with students of all ages.

Rhythm Swing

For iOS only.
App that teaches basic note values, rests and rhythm reading.
Released a year ago.
The app is divided into Basic Notes, Rest, and Eighth notes.
Additional levels are planned for the future.

Three modes
Learn: Interactive videos giving instruction on note values and how to play the app.
Practice: Provides sample exercises which are perfect for using in a lesson.
Play: Exercises are given and students try to keep the monkey from the alligator by playing correct rhythms–perfect during Off Bench Time.
All exercises add melody to the rhythm and a backing track as the students play so it’s engaging and musically pleasing.

Tip: Ear icon on the right hand upper corner will play the rhythm if the student wants to hear it.

Tips on Settings:
You can turn off the pointer and it will reappear if student is off the beat.
Measure highlighting is an option if you the student needs help with tracking.
Required Accuracy can be changed so it’s not too difficult for first time players.

The Boss Stage: Like many other video games, this stage “makes it real” with much longer exercises.

Both Rhythm Swing and Flashnote Derby are iPhone friendly–great for students when they are on the road.

FYIRhythm Make it Count Facebook-2

Rhythm Swing is a major part of my Rhythm Make it Count resource. If you are interested in learning more about how to integrate apps, reinforce concepts and add more quality time to lessons, take a closer look at Rhythm Make it Count. It’s on sale for one week only so grab it now right here.

Flashnote Derby

Multi-platform friendly.

Happy 5th anniversary! Version three just came out at the beginning of 2017.

Treble, Bass, Alto and Tenor Clef drills are available.

Mistakes are reviewed after the race is completed letting students know what notes they missed.

Tips for Settings Gear
You can determine how many questions or tap “All selected” so that all notes that you select for the exercise are answered.
The time can be changed for how long students have to answer: Trot, Gallop…
Answer methods vary: onscreen piano, letter button, piano letters, listen mode.

NEW! The listen mode will hear the student play the pitches on an acoustic piano.
Sensitivity setting is important—make sure to adjust if needed.

NEW! There’s a MIDI option—this is perfect for those who want students to complete drills in the music studio with head phones. That would be me!

You can change the arrangement of alphabet letters to begin with C rather than A.

There’s an option for Solfege.

Two themes are available right now but, stay tuned for more.

Instructional videos give ideas on how to teach pitch reading. I GREATLY appreciate these!

Grand staff flash cards are available on the iPad so students get used to recognizing a note on the grand staff and not just on a single staff.

In the presets, you can create your own drills and send them to students.

NEW: you can set up Multiple User accounts and the app will track progress for each student.

Internet is required to download the exercises emailed from the teacher. Once they are downloaded, internet is not required.

Dragon Scales

This is a niche app that will have future versions. Students are asked to play scales correctly on an on-screen keyboard. This will help the knight slay the dragon and find the treasure.

There are presets for different tests.

Students of all ages like this “quirky” yet much-needed app.


Luke is happy to hear from you and can be reached at Thanks again to Luke for making three apps I couldn’t teach without!

This video is stored along with other “Here to Help Videos” found here.

Those who signed up for my newsletter learned about the giveaway Luke offered. Don’t miss another exclusive offer by signing up here.


If you can’t see the video, click here.


How to Use SproutBeat and a Special Offer

How would answer these questions?

Do you want to easily integrate the iPad into your curriculum?

Do you despise a paper trail of random worksheets?

Do you often run out of ink for your printer?

Do you find that theory book assignments are rarely completed?

Do you need colorful and helpful worksheets to reinforce concepts for your students?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of the questions above, then you NEED SproutBeat.

In a nutshell, SproutBeat™ is more than a collection of worksheets – it’s a digital workbook with unlimited pages. It puts 1000+ resources at your fingertips on the iPad OR, you can print them off. It makes the task of tediously searching for supplemental worksheets a thing of the past. And, you can easily organize and assign them to individual students. The video below shows you how it works!

Exciting news about SproutBeat and RMIC

My recent resource, Rhythm Make it Count or RMIC for short, correlates SproutBeat worksheets with rhythm concepts. Eik and James Mar, the developers of SproutBeat graciously created folders within the app so you can easily access the worksheets included in RMIC.

Tip: The RMIC folders are available for those who purchase the Plus plan.

In addition, Eik and James have generously offered these coupon codes good through October 15, 2016 for readers.

For the Plus Plan use the code 88KeysPlus ($72 for the year)
For the Standard Plan use the code 88KeysStandard ($48 per year)
Sign up for either of these as an annual plan (opposed to a monthly plan) using the codes above and the discount will be good for one year.
For full details on the plans and pricing, follow this link.

Order your subscription to SproutBeat here.

Then learn all about it in the video below as Eik gives us a tour through the app. If you can’t see the video, follow this link

What you’ll learn about SproutBeat in the video

1) Why Eik and James Mar developed SproutBeat.Sproutbeat_Site_v3-04

2) How to create folders of worksheets within the app.

3) A description of the three account levels in SproutBeat which can be set up on the website–not through the app!

  • Free: Limited Worksheets
  • Standard: 650 worksheets
  • Plus: all the content (always growing!) with the ability to reorganize
  • Studio: All the content plus the ability to set up accounts for each student which then allows you to assign and grade worksheets to single students.

4) How to use SproutBeat if you don’t have Wi-FI while teaching. Using the Offline option is handy but remember, this takes up storage on your iPad.

5) How to move worksheets from one folder to another.Sproutbeat_Site_v3-05

6) What happens when you tap on Refresh Library. Make sure to refresh the library to get the newest worksheets but do so before lessons begin because it takes a little time.

7) Words of advice: Take some time to look through worksheets and take advantage of the option to create your own folders. That way you can quickly find the ones you want organized the way you want.

8) Make sure to check the NEW folder for all the latest new worksheets.

9) Check out the GAME folder where Eik has designed games that can be played on the iPad with cute animal erasers OR they can be printed out for use at group lessons.Sproutbeat_Site_v3-03

10) Eik takes requests! If you need a worksheet, I bet she’d make one for you.

11) Find Eik and James Mar on Facebook and ask to join their SproutBeat Facebook group.

Did you get talked into SproutBeat?

Don’t forget to use these codes and save.
88KeysPlus ($72 for the year) for the Plus plan–which includes the RMIC folders.
88KeysStandard ($48 per year) for the Standard plan.
Make sure to sign up for the annual plan and the discount will be good for one year.


My resource Rhythm Make it Count is still on sale for $20 until October 1st. Get it here.
The recent 88 Creative Keys workshop called Lock In Rhythm Unlock Creativity is receiving rave reviews:
I really got so much out of yesterday’s webinar. The cups and “corn on the cob” saved the day for one student. -Tamy

Thank you so much for the great Rhythm Webinar this past Monday. I loved how you clearly and succinctly walked us through some very practical ways to teach rhythm. Thank you!! – Laurie

Okay, I have to say, this really helped me with creatively naming rhythmic patterns. –Rosemarie

If you’re wondering about the “corn on the cob” and “creatively naming rhythmic patterns,” the teachers are referring to the freebie included in the price of the webinar. Soon the same freebie will be for sale at Piano Teacher Planning Center for around $10. Why not get it for free and see fantastic ideas for teaching rhythm so that it sticks with your students?
Rhythm Webinar with pics
The webinar is over but the video is still available along with all the handouts and the freebies.

Order your video, handouts and freebies here.


This works like a charm when teaching 6/8 time. An index of “produce” words that correlate with various rhythms is one of the freebies with the workshop.

Use iReal Pro to Circle the Keys in Fives

As a pianist, there’s no way around technical exercises if you want to train fingers in the way they should go. Building patterns in the hands will build a strong player, reader and improviser. There’s no better way to work around these technical challenges than by circling the circle of keys. The theory-packed ring breathes life into and logically connects to just about every aspect of music theory.

Start with Five-Finger Patterns

This post is specifically dedicated to how I boost student knowledge and playing of five-finger patterns traveling around the circle of keys. It makes sense to begin with five-finger patterns as they easily fit under the hand. From beginners to advanced, I believe it is essential for all levels of students to know these pentascales as they are the building blocks for understanding chords, scales, modes, and more. I use the phrase “five-finger pattern” because it relates to students’ five fingers faster than the term “penta scale.”Also it is SO similar to another term I use a great deal—pentatonic—and I don’t want students to get confused.

Circle of Keys Drills (1) copy

Find a Groove with iReal Pro

Read More

New Ways to Use All Those Cups

If you haven’t caught on to the cup craze, make sure you do now by purchasing dart-solo-p16rlr-00011-red-16-oz-plastic-cup-50-packWendy Steven’s Rhythm Cup Explorations. Her series of cup rhythms and silly cup antics are the perfect solution to your summer camps or group lessons. Important Bonus: it will help solidify reading note values and keeping a steady beat.

Thanks to Wendy, I’ve accumulated an assortment of cups as they come in all kinds of colors and sizes. I’m a proponent of finding innovative ways to use manipulatives (I know this is not a word but I like it!) that I have on hand like cups, so I decided it was time to determine some additional uses for my growing cup collection.

Fresh Cup Routines

Read More

Tin Pan Rhythm App

If you haven’t yet purchased Tin Pan Rhythm because of my recommendation inicon175x175 a previous post of my 12 favorite apps, then make sure you purchase Tin Pan Rhythm now!

Here’s an extended tutorial provided by the developers so I won’t go into details on how to use the app. You may not even need to watch the tutorial as it’s so intuitive. I know you’ll enjoy learning the app as you go. Read More

A Free Ebook! A Perfect Tool for YOUR iPad Piano Studio

Are you looking for ways to offer your music students tutorials on theory concepts? Although there are excellent iPad apps that drill and improve ear skills, they don’t always teach. That’s why I’m so excited about my latest project: Understanding Intervals. With this interactive iBook platform you can offer a flipped classroom approach to learning intervals. It’s divided into parts so you can customize assignments to suit your students’ theory level. Bonus, I’m a huge shoe fan and thought it would make things more interesting by comparing intervals to shoes. I think you and your students will enjoy learning how intervals and shoes TIE together! Read More

The Eye Ear Revolution™ Lands in Denver

“Talk to the hand”, “doo bah zee dot”, “squared scales”, “safe notes”. This is a sampling of the lingo I’ve learned thanks to my exposure to and friendship withEyeEarBanner2Med my colleague Bradley Sowash.

When I attended my first NCKP (National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy) Conference in Chicago years ago, I had the privilege of attending a session led by Bradley featuring his That’s Jazz books. By sheer coincidence, I found myself sitting next to him that evening during a large-group happy hour. Not one to miss a moment to learn something new, I began picking his brain about the 12-bar blues and returned to my hotel room with a bar napkin full of his scribbles providing advice about how to teach the pattern.

Years later we met again at the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) conference held here in Denver. Again, never one to miss an opportunity, I enjoyed a pizza lunch with Bradley in the exhibit hall and yes, returned home with a napkin full of notes.

Fast forward to 2013. Bradley was appointed the Chair of the MTNA 2013 Conference Saturday Pedagogy Jazz/Pop track (that’s a mouthful) and he invited me to serve alongside him. Details about the day and handouts are available here. The fact that there was standing room only demonstrates that the tide is changing and many are seeing the need to expand piano education beyond the repertoire of European dead guys AND beyond the page–in other words, both current and creative.

While working on this project, Bradley felt the need to carry on with the goal of promoting a balance of eye and ear skills past the MTNA conference. He has coined his goal or movement the Eye Ear Revolution™. As we discovered we worked well together, we developed a branch of the Eye Ear Revolution called 88 Creative Keys. This summer in my home town of Denver, will be the first annual (yes, we hope to make it annual) 88 Creative Keys Camp for kids ages 10-18 and clinics for adults and teachers.

teetertotter3To set the stage for the upcoming 88 Creative Keys events, Bradley flew out to Denver and presented at CU Boulder and Rockleys 531905_10151415097373907_73602421_nMusic Center. As his appointed taxi driver, it was my pleasure to shuttle him to each location and of course listen-in on his savvy tips on promoting creativity beyond the page. What I witnessed (yet again) is that Bradley is not only a sparkling jazz artist but an extremely dedicated educator and author who knows how to teach his craft. While attending both sessions, I also learned that my note taking could be better. Revisiting my notes, I realized that most of my sentences were left uncompleted. With one bright idea after another coming at me faster than I could write, here are just a few nuggets of wisdom I salvaged:

  • Bradley’s favorite visual for the eye/eye revolution = a well-balanced teeter totter of eye and ear skills.
  • He believes that in order to develop comprehensive musicianship, students need instruction in  both.
  • Students are crippled by a “read only” curriculum that fails to honor both sides of their brain.
  • The number one thing Bradley hears from teachers interested in musical creativity: “I don’t have the tools to improvise or to teach improvisation.”

To demystify the art of improvisation, Bradley discussed the five myths about improvisation. My notes can’t compare to his brief video:

A good portion of his sessions focused on his That’s Jazz books. Bradley explained that many supplementary jazz books on the market are written out–so when reading these pieces you are playing jazzy, but not jazz.

His series of books include original compositions along with:

  • A warm-up page before each piece that forewarns the improviser about the “traps” to be found.
  • A going-further page after each piece which provides specific improvisation tools to be rehearsed.
  • An improv challenge that assigns students to plug in newly acquired improv skills into the piece.
  • Plenty of step by step and easily digestible directions.

When using his books in lessons, Bradley suggests the following (among many other things):

  • Sell the idea of improvisation as a reward to your students: “You played the written music so well that now you get to play it your way!”
  • Accompany students constantly and use a small hand drum or automated accompaniment to keep them on track with a steady pulse.
  • Never criticize–remember you are blowing on tiny creative embers that can be easily ignited or snuffed out depending upon your approach.
  • Always ask questions when guiding improvisers. For example, instead of saying “That was too loud”, ask , “How would it sound to vary the dynamics?”
  • Encourage with these words: “If you don’t like how something sounds, you are always only one note away from a better choice.”
  • Take away tip: The two most useful 7th chord positions: the “Bird” (7th chord in 2nd inversion) and root position.

What I’ll save for another blog: his incredibly savvy advice on teaching chords and chord symbols. If you want to know more now, go and purchase his Understanding Chord Symbols booklet. This is worth EVERY penny.

With a full-time church position, I’m always looking for ways to make my job easier and to offer some variety from Sunday to Sunday. So I took advantage of a colleague in town. A colleague who happens to be a concert jazz artist (I’m no dummy!).  His prelude ignited the congregation and the choir couldn’t help but swing along while singing Bradley’s anthem. It was thrilling for me to play with him on a couple of numbers as well. With a “power” lesson and some practice under my belt, I kept up with Bradley on the postlude showing some newly developed comping and improv skills.

Taking advantage of face time, Bradley and I spent leftover hours of the short weekend planning for the 88 Creative Keys events. I’ve learned a great deal about his teaching style thanks to his blogging. (NOTE: If you haven’t yet, now’s the time to check out his blog articles as they are jam-packed with tips and demonstrate his stunning success with his students.) As we continue our plans, it appears we balance each other well with our unique backgrounds and teaching styles.

We are extremely grateful for those who have seen the value of what we will offer. Spaces are filling up fast but there is still room, so if you are interested in learning to teach and play more creatively, we’d love to have you participate. Events run from July 29-August 3. Please check the site for exact dates, tuition, etc.

  • Learn more about Bradley Sowash and the Eye Ear Revolution at
  • Learn more about the 88 Creative Keys Events here.
  • Learn more about and purchase Bradley’s #1 best-selling  jazz method That’s Jazz here.
  • Learn more about and purchase Bradley’s Understanding Chord Symbols here.
  • Learn more about the 88 Creative Keys Events here.

I’ll leave you with Bradley’s performance of “In the Moment” one of many favorites featured on his CD In the Moment.

Interested in staying in touch with the latest news from 88 Piano Keys and the 88 Creative Keys Events? Now you can text to join our mailing list!


Leia’s Corner: What’s on Your Shelves?


Wondering what lives on those shelves? Does this pic look familiar? It was featured in the February issue of Clavier Companion.

If you’re new to or need a refresher, click here for the history behind “Leia’s Corner”.

Leia has been incredibly patient waiting for the answer to this question (slightly abridged):

How do you choose repertoire?

Before I share my answer, I thought it fascinating what she told me about her experience in India:

“I struggle most with finding repertoire for my beginning students. It’s even harder with my singing students because I don’t use a method book with them, but even with piano students it’s difficult. What supplementary repertoire should I use while they are still on the method books? When should I stop using method books? (A friend of mine makes her students complete every course from start to finish, but I like to move out of books once they’ve learned the basics and start working on stand-alone pieces.) What should come after the method books? 

 It’s quite tough for me as quite a new teacher, because there does not exist a ‘serious’ music community where I live. While there are hundreds of piano teachers and music schools, the teachers are not very highly qualified (usually they learn how to play for 3-4 years and then decide to make a career out of it), their curriculum is highly centered around the Trinity exams, and they teach by having the students copy their fingers rather than teaching them how to read music. It’s very frustrating for me, because I often get a student who has 4 years’ playing experience, but I still have to teach certain things from scratch, and often have to undo quite a lot of mistakes!”

Won’t go to the exam issue right now, later (whew…definitely another blog)!  My answer to her question concerning repertoire is completely dependent upon student preference as this is clearly connected to motivation levels. Read more about that here in my past blog.

A more specific question might be:  How do I choose repertoire for students that motivates and still provides the basics I deem “essential”? Better yet: What books live on my library shelves? Here’s a sneak peek. Read More

Did You Win an EasyScales Visual Guide?

The three winners of Jo Tee’s EasyScales Visual Guides were chosen by my son, Levi. All names of those who made a comment and 11signed up for my newsletter were placed in a jar and he drew them without peeking, I promise.
Drum roll please……and the winners are:
Congratulations! To claim your prize, please contact me, Leila,  at to exchange info. (FYI: The EasyScales are free, but shipping is not included. It is preferred that postage be paid via PayPal.)
If you weren’t among the winners but would still like to purchase EasyScales Visual Guides, here’s the pricing:
  • 1 set is USD$24.00 + Shipping USD$3.00 = USD 27.00
  • A total of 6 sets or more in a single group order will qualify for our bulk order quantity.
  • Order 6-20 sets and receive 20% discount off regular price (USD 19.20 per set excluding shipping)
  • Order 21 sets onwards, and receive 30% discount off regular price ( USD $16.80 per set excluding shipping)
  • Shipping for bulk order to be advised upon order quantity. We subsidised up to 60% actual shipping cost depending on quantity.

GOOD NEWS and HURRY! For the month of March Jo Tee is offering a special deal! Readers can receive 10% off the selling price with promo code ” MARCH10 “

The 10% offer is valid through March, 2013. Don’t miss out. Contact Jo Tee for all the details HERE