Created by Kent State University’s School of Music, this inforgraphic shows that music not only has educational merit, but that it can be used to close the educational gap among students and schools. As a private teacher, how much do you value the importance of music in schools? Or what is your reaction to the data in the below visual? Let us know in the comments.

Using Music to Close the Educational Gap
Kent State Online Master of Music in Music Education

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Music Theory

Robin Steinweg

Games/Activities Binder

November 4th, 2015 by

I need help to stay organized. I need inspiration to stay creative. To that end, I keep three binders near. My Command Central binder (studio administration) and Student Files binder (information) help with efficiency. But this one is pure fun. Educational, of course. But fun! My Games/Activities binder.

Games/Activities Binder


When a student needs help with rhythm or note identification, there it is. When I want group games, it’s there. A wiggly youngster in need of off-seat time? There.

I tend to live in the moment. If an item is out of sight, it can cease to exist. The binder nudges my memory.

The Games/Activities binder has a 3-ring pouch of colorful dry-erase markers. Plastic sheet protectors make activity sheets reusable. Write on and wipe off. Pages can be swapped quarterly.

highlighters kept in the games/activities binder

Activities may include:

  • Mazes
  • Search-and-Find (like Where’s Waldo?)
  • Flash card games
  • Card games
  • Color-by-Code
  • Note-identification word games
  • Word searches
  • Crossword and other puzzles
  • Trace the symbols
  • Match the ______________
  • Find the patterns (snatches of music)

screammatchboxnew              game, music 1


  • Notes
  • Rhythm
  • Intervals
  • Ear Training
  • Symbols
  • Assignment Sheet masters for piano, voice and guitar
  • Theory
  • Scales & arpeggios
  • Sight-reading
  • Key identification
  • Improvisation
  • Composition
  • Famous composers & their creative friends (authors, artists…)
  • Music history
  • Ideas (for future group classes/games)
  • Snacks (for group classes/recitals)
  • Resources and wish list


I use an Excel spreadsheet as an index. At a glance, I have the title, supplies needed and location of each, skills/areas covered, age and level, season, and number of players.

Bulky games might be on a shelf or in a drawer.


Certain game pieces are stored separately. Then they can be used for several games. Some games are on iPad.

A number of music teacher bloggers include games and activities on their sites. My resource page includes their links. I highlight games I’d like for my studio.

Here are just a few:

Wendy Stevens                             

Three Cranky Women                  

Joy Morin—Color in my Piano     

Office Playground (desk toys, etc)

Teach Piano Today (Piano Game Club)

Diane Hidy’s Toolbox                   

What methods help you manage your studio? How do you keep the creativity in your teaching? Leave a comment!

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Posted in Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

“Raise a Cup…”

September 6th, 2015 by















This month, my blog is a simple one (like me!). I’ve stumbled on a cheap idea for teaching anything involving sequencing and I’m loving it (and my students too)!

Enter the mighty…(drum roll)…cup!

Yes, some easy to come by disposable cups can quickly be transformed into some really fun teaching aids. Why not lay out the cups in a random fashion and challenge your pupil to stack them into the correct order.

Think about how you could use this technique in your lessons. Here are some ideas for organising musical concepts:

• Dynamics (from quietest to loudest)

• Rhythm notes and rest (from shortest to slowest)

• Periods of history

• Technical names of the scale

• Key signature sharps or flats Read more…

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips


Count on Tin Pan Rhythm to boost your budding musicians’ understanding of harmonic progressions. Count on the app to trigger arranging skills thanks to the app’s intuitive interface. One more, you can count on students catching on to using the Tin Pan Rhythm  in seconds–I’m not exaggerating–and charge up their creative juices.

Here’s an extended tutorial provided by the developers so I won’t go into details on how the app works. 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…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews


Imagine a pink elephant. You’ve just used your mind’s eye. Now imagine the tune “Happy Birthday.” You’ve just used your mind’s ear. If you struggled to recreate the tune in your head it means your audiation skills could use some help. Perhaps you (like me) favor reading the score over using the ear. Perhaps you recognize your need to dedicate more time to developing your mind’s ear to build a comprehensive musician skill set? If so, you (and your students!) need Meludia. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews

Keyboard Ruler

Getting Creative – My Students’ Rulers

Learning and practicing scales at the keyboard can be relatively easy and enjoyable with the aid of some simple visual aids.  Yet music students often feel daunted with the learning of scales, chords and arpeggios, thinking that they are either difficult, unnecessary, time-consuming or irrelevant.

Difficulties for students are most often seen when first trying to cross fingers over/under for piano scales and especially when playing both hands together, trying to remember which fingers to use and which white/black notes and more.

Practising scales plays an essential part in developing skills with the sense of key and pattern acquired through familiarity, speeding up the learning of new pieces, developing aural awareness and increasing familiarity with the geography of the instrument.

From my perspective and personal background, I have always felt that scales, chords and arpeggios are very important for finger dexterity and a better understanding of analysis of musical compositions, particularly with regard to modern music.  Yet some teachers put technical exercises somewhat in    Read more…

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Posted in Music Theory, Practicing, Teaching Tips, Uncategorized

Drum Sticks“I got rhythm…Who could ask for anything more?” – Ira Gershwin

Teaching rhythm to students is a real challenge. Some just “pick it up” naturally and others need, in the words of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “hitting with the rhythm stick!”

So if you have a theory student preparing for an ABRSM exam (or similar), what can be done to inspire them to write a good rhythm worthy of a full 10 marks?


Tip 1: “Follow my leader!”

I like to switch my metronome on at around 80 BPM or better still, I’m now using “Drum Beats+” on my iPad. This really easy to use app generates drum loops. A favourite preset of mine is “Phat N Hairy 90,” probably because it describes me quite well! The age I mean!!!

Firstly, I clap or beat out on a percussion instrument a Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Teaching Tips



It’s amazing how much can change in a year. I just returned home from the 2015 Music Teachers National Association conference in Las Vegas. When I asked a roomful of teachers to raise their hands if they owned an iPad (yes, I’m partial to Apple products), there was a forest of proud hands. I’m not sure that would have been the case last year. It seems more and more music teachers are favoring the user-friendly device and realizing that apps can truly enhance their teaching. As the app world can be overwhelming,  it’s good to start with those that are recommended by others. That’s how I developed this list below. These are just a few of the many that I integrate regularly into my teaching. I’ve listed only two or three per category and omitted some favorites to keep the list reasonable. To view a more thorough directory of apps for your digital tool box, click here. Links are included but prices are not as they fluctuate frequently. I’ve included a brief sentence on how I use each one or links to posts with further explanation. If the app is available for other operating systems, I’ve indicated that with an asterik.* Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Music is for Life

March 27th, 2015 by

By Robin Steinweg

How can I impress on my students that music is for life? Few sports can be played into later years. But music is for life. A job might be fulfilling until retirement. Music is for life.

I’ve started a master class series in which I’ll invite musicians to share their music and their stories.

Martha Nelson shares why music is for life

Martha Nelson shares why music is for life

The first was Martha Nelson, a drummer/singer/pianist/accordion player who entertained in all-girl bands in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Martha practicing accordion

Martha practicing accordion

Martha sang weekly on the Jerry Blake Show for Madison, Wisconsin’s WKOW TV its first year on the air.

Martha Nelson about to sing on WKOW-TV Madison, WI in the 1950s

Martha Nelson about to sing on WKOW-TV Madison, WI in the 1950s

She passed her music on to her daughters, who are both working musicians (and one of whom is yours truly). She drummed for our family’s dance band through the 1980s.

Mom, daughter master class 2-11-15

Martha played several pieces for my students (including the Glenn Miller hit “In the Mood”), and shared the story of how she got her start. She went all the way back to her mother. Grandma planned to travel to the U.S. from Sweden to join her husband. She was booked to sail on the Titanic. But her first-born, my Aunt Vicky, got sick, and they had to wait. Mom told my students their teacher wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that.

She taught herself piano. One of ten children, her dad brought a drum home one day, handed it to her, and told her that would be her instrument.

Now at 89, she still plays piano and sings. And one can often see her foot going or hear her fingers tapping in true drummer fashion.A year ago she joined me singing in a coffee shop—and I gotta tell you, she’s still got it! Her voice hasn’t really aged. Music helps keep her young.

Martha master class 2-11-15 Guest artist Martha Nelson 2-11-15

Yeah, play it!

After Martha’s presentation, my students entertained her. The final song, by Chris, was—“My Heart Will Go On”—the theme from the movie Titanic!

Dane & Chris

Dane & Chris













Ava, Sam & Sara, seated

Ava, Sam & Sara, seated

Music is good for many things: for background, for relaxing, for accompaniment to shopping or working,

for inspiration, entertainment, making a living,

passing on to another generation,

Passing the gift of music on to the next generation and the next...

Passing the gift of music on to the next generation and the next…

and enjoying—from the womb till one’s final breath and into eternal life.

Music is for life!



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Posted in Financial Business, Music Theory, Performing, Practicing, Promoting Your Studio



After you received your undergrad music degree, performed a stellar recital of the classics, turned in that
lofty thesis, passed a professional accreditation exam or somehow earned shiny, new initials behind your name, you probably felt a great sense of achievement. Perhaps you felt like I did? After I received my Master of Arts in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, I felt my career was professionally wrapped up and ready to launch. Although my intent is not to discount the importance of the academic achievements listed above, I’m wondering if you–like me–had your bubble burst, your box tipped upside down and your bow unraveled when you entered the real world of piano teaching? Yes, I could play and teach Beethoven and Ravel, I could design a sequential curriculum for early learners but when asked to read from a lead sheet, my skills fell embarrassingly short. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Teaching Tips