Reuben Vincent

Ninja Scales!

October 6th, 2015 by

Ninja ScalesI didn’t understand my teacher!

Each piano lesson was the same. Half an hour of scales followed by half an hour of Bach! I hated it!!!

Needless to say, I didn’t want to practise scales between lessons. What was the point? He certainly never told me if there was one. It just seemed like a pointless half hour of boredom each week.

Fast forward on. Now I am the teacher trying to encourage my students to practise scales!!! How ironic!

Sell the Benefits

As humans, we are much more motivated to do something if we think it will benefit us.

So what are the benefits of scales? Have we discussed them with our students? What do they think the benefits are? Here’s a few to get started: Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Music Teacher Resources

In 2012, a UK survey commissioned by Disney uncovered that 75% of parents who owned ‘app-capable’ devices shared them with their children, and that, “…37% considered apps to be an ‘integral’ part of their family life.”

It’s no secret that introducing children to music at a young age offers numerous benefits. Many studies carried out over the past decade conclude that children who learn to play an instrument benefit from improved language-related skills, along with increased emotional and cognitive processing skills.

With the prominent rise of mobile devices being used in schools and the household, not to mention the hundreds (if not thousands) of children’s apps on the market, how can parents and teachers fully take advantage of this unique approach to learning?

One of the biggest challenges with musical education among children is that parents may not have the prior music knowledge required to introduce the basic elements to them. This means that many children don’t begin their musical training until the ages of five or six, after they’ve started school.

What Can Music Teachers Do?

Teachers can start developing educational programs based around these apps, which will allow them to take on more students at a younger age. This makes individual music lessons a much more viable option for kids, even as young as three, since it provides an easy entry point to kick-start their musical education; which is a huge plus for everyone.

With an increasing number of children being introduced to mobile technology each year, music-based apps have made the learning experience for kids more accessible than ever.

At a minimum, suggesting app-based learning into their playtime schedule of students’ younger siblings, they can begin to grasp key concepts that will encourage further musical development later on in life and potentially make them ready for music lessons sooner.

About the author: Ernst Renner is the founder of, which make apps designed for children to learn on their own. Their apps are made by music teachers with 20+ years of teaching experience. Little Composers apps are available on all touch-screen devices (including iOS9), laptops, and desktop computers. Learn more about their educational music apps by clicking here.

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

There are four secrets of a successful studio. I realize it’s a bold claim to narrow it down to just four and you may be asking, what does successful mean? Keep reading.

Four SecretsFB2

Like any other human being, your bottom line comes down to:

  1. food on the table
  2. a roof over your head
  3. decent clothes on your back.

These three essentials require an income and as a music teacher that means you’ll need students and preferably, lots of them.  The trick is figuring out how to attract and retain them. When you have met and exceeded your bottom line and enjoy a waiting list, I believe you have made a success of your studio.

After extensive research, David Cutler discovered that music teachers who generated substantial (successful) incomes were more likely to integrate these three elements (OK, they are not really secrets but it caught your attention, right?) into their instruction compared to other teachers who did not. They include: Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

Bella Payne

Piano Practice Incentives

September 21st, 2015 by


Piano LessonsSome time ago, I realized my students were getting a little bored of the same old routine. I thought they needed some stimulation, so I decided to re-think my rewards system. For a long time, I mostly focused on educational music games at the end of the lessons as being a good enough reward. But it didn’t help with energy levels throughout the lesson. I needed some help.  Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

teaching guitar lessons

A version of this post originally appeared on the Music Teacher Info, written by Martyn Croston.

Starting any business takes a lot of perseverance and patience.

Some people compare it to bringing up a child or having a relationship – more often than not it’s a total rollercoaster!

But if you strongly believe and enjoy what you’re doing, it can be the most rewarding job in the world. Music teaching, like any profession, requires the right approach and strategy in order to succeed.

Here are eight factors you need to bear in mind when setting up a successful music teaching business.
Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

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

wide paper LB

Last month I wrapped up my first year of chairing the inaugural Creative Pianist Track at NCKP 2015, the National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy under the auspices of The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

It was an honor to work alongside master improvisation teachers Bradley Sowash and Forrest Kinney and the patriarch of piano pedagogy, Dr. Samuel Holland. Their wisdom and insight continually influence my philosophy and approach to teaching.

The session that I presented on Friday afternoon was entitled “Finding Time to be Creative.”  My presentation offered ideas on how to find TIME to BE CREATIVE, but ultimately it morphed into the importance of FINDING a CREATIVE STATE of MIND.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’m wondering if you are like me and are enjoying a renewed sense of purpose beyond the page? Do you find yourself encouraging students to play by ear, read lead sheets, improvise arrangements and compose their own pieces? If not, are you at least wondering if you should include more of these activities in your lessons? Personally, I’ve never felt so strongly as I have right now about equating eye skills and ear skills. I believe this combination will encourage the development of well-balanced and lifelong musicians. Many of my new friends made at NCKP seem to feel the same way. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music News, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Day 283 / 365 - SkillsI remember it as though it were yesterday. The song was called “Moonlight and Roses.” I hated that piece. I still do!

With tears streaming down my face, try as I might, I was getting nowhere. My mum patiently sat with me, trying to coax me to work through my frustration but to no avail.

Things just went from bad to worse. As my progress on the song deteriorated, frustration turned to anger. “I HATE this song!” “I HATE my music teacher!” “I want to QUIT my music lessons!” “I GIVE UP!” I screamed, red in the face, anger exploding from every fibre of my 8-year-old body.

What happened next was my mum’s worst and finest hour of parenting! In hindsight, she should have Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Prepare for Fall

July 28th, 2015 by

By Robin Steinweg

How do you prepare for fall? A vacation from lessons or a lighter teaching load can offer opportunities to create a master list.

Prepare for Fall

Prepare for Fall

Here are some of my to-dos:

  • Determine available teaching times
    • Will I offer 30, 45 or 60-minute lessons?
    • How many weeks will I teach?
    • Will I give myself weeks off?
  • Send my policy, schedule, and registration forms to students
    • Let students sign up on MTH!
    • Will I get a raise?
    • Does my policy need tweaking or firming up (See other teachers’ policies for ideas)?
    • Will I require parents to initial sections and sign an agreement?
  • Weed my files
    • What haven’t I used in a year?
    • Are files titled for easiest retrieval?
    • Shall I divide by grade level or genre? What works best for me?
    • Might I use a retrieval system—such as Paper Tiger online?
    • Will I donate or sell what I don’t keep?
  • Clean/organize my studio
  • Attend workshops
    • Plan so I don’t purchase duplicates or binge
  • Check instruments for needed maintenance
  • Consider a theme for the year or season
    • Will group classes, recitals and special pieces reflect this theme?
    • Will I decorate according to the theme?
      • (a bulletin board labeled “Prepare for Fall” could contain notes/symbols to identify, or a picture with hidden music symbols. A football field with lesson “yard lines” might make for a prepare for fall practice push)
    • Choose new activities or games
      • A studio-wide motivation chart to record goals met
      • New game for group lessons
    • Contact waiting list if there are timeslots to fill
    • Look for décor, incentives and teaching aids at garage sales, thrift stores or a dollar store
      • Laser pointer
      • Stick with pointing hand
      • Shaped erasers
      • Stickers
      • Prizes for goals met or to add to the studio “store”
    • Waiting area materials
      for the waiting room

      for the waiting room

      • Puzzles
      • Books
      • Music magazines
      • Coloring books and crayons or colored pencils
      • Water bubbler or bottles
      • Swap out materials monthly or quarterly?
    • Add technology—for the techno-challenged, push yourself to try just one!

What would you add? Or do you prepare for fall in a totally different way?

In my August 28th post I’ll have ideas for creating teacher binders. See you then!


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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Sandy Lundberg

Motivation Podcasts

July 26th, 2015 by



Student motivation is an ongoing discussion and concern for every music teacher. We debate internal versus external motivation, parent involvement, the role of talent, and the million ways to structure home practice. Students Luke Jones and Matt McKeever at the University of Missouri at St. Louis are taking a summer graduate music education class with Jennifer Mishra and they have created a series of podcast interviews with musicians around the country addressing the issue of student motivation. You can check out their project here:

My interview encouraged me to once again write down a few of my thoughts about motivation.

The student has to own the lessons, not feel forced into them. If he or she does not arrive excited to start piano lessons do your best to sell the idea that studying music is an awesome, amazing experience. It helps if you can find ways to connect music to areas in which the student already has an interest. Our goal as teachers is to nurture and develop the student’s own personal value of the music study so they are not as dependent upon our external motivation.

Parents need to be educated about the value of lessons and how critical their role is in the child’s success. Compare the support they give the child on a sports team to the level of enthusiasm they need to show for music lessons. Give parents specific things they can do to be supportive and involved. Even non-musical parents can ask questions about the music, sit down for a living room concert, negotiate a motivation system, and show their child how much they value a musical education.

Taking music lessons will rarely go well if a student feels a loss of peer respect from the activity. Help students to develop friendships with other musicians, let them invite friends to a fun musical event, introduce role models, include fun popular pieces in their repertoire, and make sure students always have an impressive short piece to perform on the spur of the moment. Find ways to make their music relevant and useful in their life.

The student and teacher relationship is critical. Students need to know that you care about them as a person and are willing to listen to them. Share appropriately about your life as a musician. Be respectful, honest and trustworthy. Work hard, but be an source of encouragement, not a drain on their self-esteem. Personalize their program to reflect their unique gifts, interests, and learning style.

Learning has to include some fun, especially for the young. Include games and laughter in your teaching. Plan some group activities. Tell stories that make the music come alive. Every once in a while do something unexpected. Plan a surprise! Andrea and Trevor Dow are full of great ideas at

Students need to know they are making progress.  Remind students how far they have come. Play old recordings and look over old play lists. Remind them of the goals they have already accomplished. Judging the correct speed with which to move a student forward is always a critical decision on the part of the teacher. Too fast and the fundamentals are not established deeply. Too slow and the student loses heart.

Create a vision for the future with the student and talk and dream about it. Point out harder pieces that they will be able to play one day. Take students to hear more advanced musicians and attend live music events.

Keep their vision alive with goal setting. Short term goals can take just a week or so— “See if you can memorize this to play for your grandmother when she comes to visit in two weeks.” An annual theme can keep motivation going throughout the year. Michelle Sisler has created a wonderful series of games at The Music Teachers National Association offers a music achievement award program to help students set personal goals for each year. Don’t forget to set long term goals too, such as being ready to join the jazz band in high school.

When a student quits, all forward progress stops. Those that continue, even at a seemingly slow pace, will keep learning and growing. The longer a student sticks with their instrument, and the more independent and self-motivated they become in learning, the more likely they will have music in their life for as long as they live.

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Posted in Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips