Is it cheating to teach a piece by rote?

Some may say that teaching a piece by rote cheats a student out of developing reading skills. I say teaching by rote is anything but cheating!

Keep reading and watch a recent Facebook live video to learn why and how I do it. 

Can you teach a Baroque piece by rote?

Since many 88pianokeys.me readers are Going Baroque this fall, I recently made a Facebook live video of how I like to teach “Musette” by rote. In the video you’ll learn why I believe teaching pattern pieces like “Musette” by rote is so important to developing student skills. I’ve added a few more reasons below.

What are the benefits of teaching a piece by rote?

The process…

Builds students’ confidence which leads to success which leads to progress which leads to pianists who stick to the bench.

Boosts confidence in playing skills because the “middle man” or the page is removed and students aren’t trapped in the middle of the piano reading from a limited amount of notes in the grand staff. They can explore the entire range of the piano which provides an exciting and more satisfying sound–especially when the pedal is added!

Elevates playing skills as a rote piece is usually more difficult and sounds more complex than what students can read.

Connects the theory students learn and puts it into action which reinforces and solidifies concepts.

Aids in memorization skills as students are required to remember the feel and the sound of patterns instead of relying on visual cues.

Develops ear skills. If you want to balance eye ear skills, teaching by rote is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Acknowledges the learning styles of students who may find reading a music score much more difficult than learning by ear. This may be the key to unlocking success for those usually stumped by the grand staff.

Enhances reading skills. YES! I firmly believe this is true if you teach by rote and IF you also refer to the score as students learn the piece. They’ll see the shapes and patterns on the grand staff. In addition, this is a great time to master locations of favorite notes like Deep Blue C, Cow C, Middle C, Face C and Cloud C. Watch the video to see what I mean.

Highlights from the video

An easy way to incorporate rote teaching is by assigning everyone in the studio to learn a pattern piece every year–one that is easy to learn because of repetition and patterns based on chords.

Relate patterns in the rote piece to patterns the students already know–like five-finger patterns and chords.

Use words to master rhythms. For the first line of Musette:

Mom, what’s for dinner?

Mom, what’s for dinner?

can be answered with :

Chicken soup and a grilled cheese sandwich

BBQ chicken with some coleslaw

Meatball, spaghetti with some red sauce

Tacos with cheese and guacamole.

For line three, use these words to match the rhythm:

Hurry up , hurry up, it’s so late

I just want some dinner and some ice cream!

Record yourself or students playing the piece correctly so they can listen to it at home.

There will be rhythmic gaps between sections. To eliminate gaps:

Learn the notes without leaps, then add the leap.

Use sticky notes to isolate large hand shifts and repeat over and over

Learn the pattern in the RH and then teach the LH the same pattern.

Lock in a steady beat and eliminate all gaps between measures with a rockin’ beat from a device or Clavinova.

To catch all the other tricks I use to teach Musette, check out the video!

Books I like to use for Baroque and Classical literature:

Keith Snell’s Essential Keyboard Repertoire

Faber’s The Developing Artist Series

If you do like hanging out on Facebook and enjoy talking all things pedagogy, join my group Piano Pedagogy On and Off the Bench. It’s where I house all my Facebook live videos and offer an environment of discussion and encouragement (no venting, whining or feuding here!)

-Leila

PS If you cannot see the video below, please email me at lviss@me.com and I’ll send you the file.

What are your favorite pieces to teach by rote?

-Leila


PS! Check out Andrea West’s spectacular graphic designs for Fall events in your studio! I cannot pick a favorite.

Check out all the designs and GET yours HERE.

-Leila

Practice Notes…Dispensable? Rethinking Practice Notes

When students finish a lesson, there’s no guarantee what kind of practice will happen at home. Although we’d love to be in control of every practice minute, that’s not reality. Instead of focusing on what’s impossible, it’s important that we teachers focus on what we CAN do to encourage the right kind of practice at home that will ignite progress between lessons. When students see themselves make progress, they want to come back for more. Read more about the impact of progress on motivation in this past post.

Below is a guest post by Roberta Wolff that offers spot-on tips and practical maxims for teacher practice notes and student practice. Roberta includes detailed information on her excellent resources that reinforce successful practice habits and is offering a special coupon for all 88PianoKeys.me readers.

Ms. Wolff has brilliant advice and I’m so thankful that she took the time to share it with us!

-Leila


To me, practice, or assignment, sheets are a vital tool in helping students sustain effort between lessons. Not because we expect a student’s work to be under par but rather in acknowledgement of the fact that practice can be a challenge, and one that requires a healthy dose of zeal and determination.

I am a UK-based piano teacher and for the last four years I have been researching how students learn and practice with particular emphasis on developing resources and ideas to support students and teachers.

My priorities have been:

  1. Teaching students how to be more efficient during their practice, including motivating students to practice regularly, musically and creatively with a healthy dose of fun.
  2. Creating resources which streamline the teachers work, including making notes clearer and easier to write, reducing planning time between lessons and educating parents and students on the art of practice.

This article will be useful to you if you are looking for:

  1. Tips to help your students practice.
  2. Ideas which you can incorporate in your own assignment sheets.
  3. New downloadable resources, be sure to use the coupon code below.
  4. Free downloads.

This article is written in two halves:

  1. A summary of my research
  2. A summary of the resources I have developed as a result.

Read More

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.

-Leila

Solemnity: A new and appropriate piano solo arrangement for the times

Hurricane Harvey etched a devastating path of destruction throughout the southern United States. Our son who lives in Jupiter, Florida, is now anticipating the arrival of Hurricane Irma. He’s on staff at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center which rescues and rehabilitate sea turtles.

A biologist cares for a 200-pound turtle injured by a boat.

The center is shuttering doors and filling and stacking sand bags. At the same time, our son Carter, is packing up his own things and plans to evacuate his 2nd story apartment today.

With 3/4 of a tank of gas, it looks like he’ll make his way to a friend’s house in Tampa on the west side of Florida. We are not sure if that will be much better than Jupiter (on the East coast) as Irma is twice the width of Florida. From all appearances, it doesn’t look good for any one in the path of Irma.

Sometimes words aren’t enough. On sobering days like these something more solemn is appropriate and strangely comforting.

Contrary to what you may think, my latest contemporary setting of Beethoven’s symphony movement was inspired long before these unnerving days. I was reminded of this pensive movement a while back when watching the movie, The King’s Speech. The music powerfully sets the scene when King George VI, played by Collin Firth, awaits the delivery of his speech announcing that Great Britain would be joining World War II. The repetitive melody and soulful counter melody made such an impact on me that I wanted to play it myself. After months of doodling with it, my abridged interpretation has been completed.

Over a year ago, I knew I wanted a cover image to fit the pensive mood of the piece, and decided upon a photo of a window painted with raindrops taken by my mom, Joanne Alberda.  It reminds me of one of those days filled with resolve to get through whatever the tasks and trials that lie ahead. Sometimes words just can’t express the determination and dedication of resolution. Music and images speak when words can’t.

Solemnity is an arrangement “owed” to Beethoven and dedicated to all those resolved to get through a day, a month, a year,—a storm—that is anything but sunny.


ALL the proceeds generated from the sales of Solemnity during the month of September 2017 will be donated to the MTNA benevolence fund which supports musicians and teachers devastated by disasters like Hurricane Harvey.

Because of this, I’m offering only a studio license priced at $10.


When a “feel-good” tune just doesn’t seem right, Solemnity will. Listen to Solemnity here.

-Leila

Purchase it here and your $10 will be donated

In case you’d like to hear the full symphony, I’ve included a video of it below.

Promote your studio with this Free Graphic Design

Sometimes those last time slots in your music studio are the toughest to fill. Andrea West has a free graphic that may get the job done for you. Keep reading…


Is your music studio full, or do you still have a few slots you would like to fill? We all have years where we are full and have a wait list, but there are times when you want to increase your studio size.  If you don’t have a large advertising budget, you may need to rely on referrals, word of mouth, apps like Nextdoor (a free private social network for your neighbor hood) and your website.

Another fairly inexpensive option is flyers.  These can be used as a leave-behind at local events, sent in an email as an attachment, posted to your Facebook page and distributed by your own students to their friends.

It’s important that your flyer be eye-catching. Start with a cool graphic design.  If you don’t feel up to creating the design yourself, I’m offering a free one during the month of September (starting today!) with the purchase of any graphic design. Print two designs to a page, so that you get two 5.5” x 8.5” flyers per page.  Be sure to include your studio name, a clever tagline is always a good idea, a call to action, and your contact information.

You can easily print these at home, or take it to a local printer.  If your budget is tight, you can use any paper you have, but if you want to take it up a notch, print on a heavier weight paper or even card stock.

-Andrea


Purchase at least one of Andrea’s design (I dare you to stop at one!) and receive her clever “Chalkboard with Quote” graphic for free!

Check out all the designs HERE!

 

 

Do Simple Better

As teachers, it’s our job to make things clear. This often requires introducing new concepts by breaking them up into bite-sized nuggets that can be quickly understood. We must make the seemingly difficult appear simple.

I recently stumbled upon this quote by Joe Maddon, the manager who led the Cubs to their first World Series title in over 100 years:

“Do simple better.”

It got me asking: what would Maddon’s challenge look like on the piano bench?

I came up with four examples of doing SIMPLE better and labelled them:

  • Expand then extract
  • Play then say
  • Explore then explain
  • Lead then let go

The video below (click here if you can’t see it) expands on these four items. Read the article found here and then watch the video.

Make sure to READ MORE so you can learn about a fantastic idea for your next piano party or studio event…

Read More

Take the Sweat out of August with a Freebie and a Super Hot Tip!

After you’ve worked hard to set the studio calendar, do families still seem to forget the dates of important studio events?  Andrea West has a timely solution that will help you stay cool and avoid the heat that comes with this time of year. You’ll want some of her lovely program designs to implement her tip. In addition, she has created some dynamite editable covers for your student binders, too. The good news? The downloadable binder covers are free with any purchase here at 88pianokeys.me!

First, read her super tip below and then you’ll want to check out her colorful recital covers. 

-Leila


It’s the hottest time of the year for many of us. And, for piano teachers everywhere, it’s when we start sweating over the scheduling of the fall semester!

We build slick calendars, we shuffle students around like a seasoned pro, we design gorgeous spreadsheets, and then we email everything to our families. Most of us feel inordinately accomplished when we are done. Especially because more often than not, only a few people have emailed back asking for a change or clarification.

But then you start to wonder if they even read your email. You get a text from one parent asking when the semester begins; another asks if there will be a fall recital this year. It was all in the email you sent out.You can send your emails, adding a “Request a Read Receipt”, or print all your documents and send them home with students during the first week of lessons, but chances are you will still have a good number of parents asking about recital dates just weeks before your concert. It’s enough to make you get a little hot AND sweaty, too!

This year I decided to do what brides have been doing for years. I’ve created Save The Date magnets. It’s such a simple solution; I don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago. Using the same cover art that I will use for my program cover, I imported it into VistaPrint.com. For less than $1 per magnet, I have a beautiful 4”x5”recital reminder that will most likely reside on refrigerators in all my families’ homes.

For those who enjoy doing crafts, you could easily print as many as four to a page, laminate them, attach a magnet to the back, and create your own Save The Date refrigerator magnet.

For the super crafty teachers out there, it would be cute to design a clothes pin to look like a snowman or scarecrow. Then, simply attach a magnet to the back, and families can clip your reminder to their fridge.

The possibilities are endless, but in the end you’ve not only created a fun and unique keepsake, your families are sure to remember the date of the recital!


Remember, with any purchase of Andrea’s designs at 88pianokeys.me, you’ll receive two free editable covers for your student binders. This means you can type in them and change the info as you please.

Make sure to take a peek at all of Andrea’s designs for Fall, Christmas or Winter theme recitals. Did you know that she also creates black and white designs to color? Check them out here.

To get your freebie, go shopping at the Piano Teacher Planning Center and fill up your cart with at least one program cover (and any other product) and then when you view your cart, there will be a pop up window inviting you to take advantage of the free gift.

Make sure to check the small box on the image and then

click “ADD GIFT” and the free download will appear in your cart.

Stay in touch and stay cool,

-Leila

 

 

What does GRIT look like in the music studio?

Believe it or not, talent has little to do with success. The extensive research by professor Angela Duckworth has found that those with grit will have more success.

Watch the video (found on the Facebook page of Illumeably.com ) to hear more.

After watching Duckworth’s video, it got me wondering what grit would look like in the music studio and made me want to dig deeper into the topic.

“Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance.”

According to Duckworth, “grit has a more significant correlation to high school graduation rates than things like family income and social status do.” Read More

Keeping Safe with Password Safety and Online Security

Do you panic when prompted to enter a password?

I feel your pain to remember them all and therefore took the advice of a high-tech guru. Believe it or not, she advised me to keep things simple and write down all my passwords in a small notebook and keep it in a safe place. The comfort of this precious notebook soothes the soul when it’s time for a password. It’s pretty old school but, it’s been working for me. I’d suggest the same system for you UNTIL you are ready to jump into a more up-to-date solution.

There, I’ve made a confession, my life is not as “techy” as one might think. I tend to wait for trends to be set before I dive in. From what I’ve gathered from friends and colleagues, it’s evident that a tool called LastPass is THE way to go when you are ready to shed the notebook and save passwords in 21st-century style. You’ll read more about it in this guest post written by Nathan Hughes at SecureThoughts.com.

Nathan supplies excellent information that we all NEED to know in this digital age. You’ll learn about the need for password security, what makes a good password, what’s the best way to manage passwords and how to avoid scams.  

-Leila


Technology makes today’s world go round—it is the oil that greases all modern trade and social interactions. It helps businesses promote their interests and it keeps us in contact with the people we care about.

Yet technology is evolving at an incredible pace. Whereas at the turn of the century few of us had mobile devices (and those that did were limited almost exclusively to basic calling), nearly everyone today carries a phone, tablet or other device.

Even our children are armed with the latest tech, with some studies suggesting over half of kids in elementary and middle school own a cell phone. For all the benefits we derive from technology, there’s one little issue most of us still struggle with: security. Read More

What We Can Learn from the Parents of Condoleezza Rice, Pianist and Politician

Last week I had the privilege of hearing Condoleezza Rice give the keynote address at the MTAC (Music Teachers of California) conference where the theme was “Breaking Barriers.” It was an honor I soon won’t forget; first, of course, because of the spectacular story of inspiration Ms Rice wove and secondly, because I took notes! Not copious notes but, enough to build an outline to share.

After a week of musing over Ms Rice’s speech, I made some insights about her story and parenting styles. I hope you’ll read to the end as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(Here’s a link to a free download of the article if you’d like to share a hard copy with your families.)

Read More