“Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More.” Just the fall theme to carry out my goals for students.

I wanted to avoid the crunch of pre-Christmas activities for once. But an earlier recital meant I had a month less to help them prepare. How could I help them shine? How could I motivate the third-year students hanging on the fringes? How could I involve the earliest beginners?

Sonatinas for levels two and up are available (here’s one book). But I found none for my first year students. Some weren’t even reading notes yet.

So—I wrote them! A couple had two movements, but most had three.

I asked questions to discover their likes, hobbies and activities. And I wrote custom-made sonatinas for my beginners.

For Soccer Sonatina I used only six notes. This was for my youngest little one. He conquered “Dribbling” and “Passing Drill.”

For Sonatina Minecraft, I listened to Minecraft’s music. Then I wrote in a similar style. My student thrilled to play “Moving Boxes” and “Oh, Share the Night” and “Find the Path.” One student enjoys mythology. For her I wrote “Flight of Pegasus,” “The Loss of Persephone,” and “Puckish Mischief.” There were also Zoonatina, Puppy Sonatina and Canine vs. Feline Sonatina, among others. I even wrote sonatinas for my beginning guitar students. For Ballet Sonatina I read up on it first. Then I wrote “Allegro,” and “Pas de Valse.” My young man was excited to realize “En L’Aire” made a sound picture of leaping and landing lightly. One student wrote her own piece for the recital.

What about the title “Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More?” Halloween songs are easy to find for all levels. The “S’More” part included Christmas songs and general-themed pieces. It also included non-messy s’more treats later at the reception.

I’ve never had students more motivated. They couldn’t wait to share “their” pieces. As a bonus, the sonatina theme can grow along with their musical skills.

The down-side?

It’s one week later. Now they wonder, “When is our Christmas recital?”

Do you write songs or arrangements for your students? If not, give it a try. Consider the techniques each one is perfecting at the moment. Give it a fun title. I’m sure MTH blog readers would love to hear about it!

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Performing, Promoting Your Studio

SAKURAKO - Piano lesson.

It’s a harsh reality that the private music students you’re teaching right now will not be the same students you’re teaching a year or two from now. Every business goes through it. In the recurring revenue business world we call it “churn”, that is what percentage of your students quit from period to period. If you don’t refill the coffers with new students, eventually you won’t have a studio left. But what if you could just reduce your churn? What if you could keep your students much longer?

I’ve connected thousands of students to music teachers over the years, and have heard every reason in the book for why the student has to quit. Don’t just accept it! You can have a lot of control over whether or not your students continue.

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

The Savvy Music Teacher is a new book just out this month, offering a comprehensive look at what goes into making a decent living as a music teacher.  The goal of the book is to provide a strategy for making a positive impact on your community and translating that into a good income for yourself.  The book includes detailed discussions about music teaching options, a variety of income streams, financial explanations and strategies, and stories about successful experiences from over 150 savvy music teachers.

savvymusicteachercoverAuthor David Cutler, the Director of Music Entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina, starts by asking the readers to become aware of their own teaching formulas and priorities, while highlighting numerous ways to freshen or rethink methods and content.  For many teachers, this discussion might inspire some new ideas about how to match teaching approaches and formats with their personal interests and style.

A review of Cutler’s previous book, The Savvy Musician, can be found in an earlier Music Teachers’ Helper blog post at this link.

Read on, and enjoy an overview of the book, as well as a look at the book’s companion website…
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Posted in Financial Business, Music & Technology, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, 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.
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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

New Updates for Existing Themes to help out mobile visitors.

We’ve updated the “Music Staff”, “Piano”, and “Balance” themes so that they adapt to fit mobile screens, and include a mobile menu.




Last week we’ve also made improvements for 50 requests made by customers and the MTH Quality Assurance team.


Please do let us know which themes you would like to see updated next!




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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Promoting Your Studio

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

marketing your music studio

“Every day people spend more for products and services that they believe have been created or designed specifically for their particular needs or situations. –Sydney Barrows

If you’re like most music teachers, you’re probably resigned to the fact that certain types of students are attracted to your studio, and others aren’t. And as long as enough of these students come along, you may be content with this situation.

There’s nothing wrong with this. But what if you tweaked your marketing and your teaching approach to find and serve one or more niches that you don’t currently reach, perhaps even developing a unique way of teaching them (or at least a unique way of describing how you teach them)?

Along with the extremely helpful step of articulating your unfair advantage, developing one or more specific niches can be a powerful way to build a music studio. There are countless ways to do this. Here are a few ideas:

Reinvent What Music Lessons Are

Music teachers, like most business people, often assume that there is a finite group of customers that we are all competing for. But what if there were a group of potential students in your area that no one is competing for because no one has yet captured their interest in music lessons?

For example, have you ever considered that there may be potential students who have the idea that music lessons are only for those who are willing to practice for hours every day with the goal of becoming a world-class virtuoso?

What if you reached out to this group by marketing lessons that are focused on cultivating personal creativity and expression, rather than high-pressure performance expectations?

And if you like teaching those budding virtuosi? Your studio could have two learning tracks – the serious “virtuoso track” and the more fun “creative track.”

Create a Proprietary Version of Lessons For Your Instrument

You’ve probably seen music teachers and schools that claim authorship of the very special Method X. But consider how unlikely it is that they’ve developed something truly original. In fact, all they’ve probably done is combine pedagogical techniques and other methods in a novel way. (Combining already-existing information is the basis of creativity generally.)

How could you develop something proprietary for your studio? I‘ve personally taken steps in this direction by developing a piano method that I use with many (though not all) of my students. While I originally began developing it as a creative outlet and to fill a gap that I perceived among published methods, it also differentiates my studio from others, and helps me to reach a specific niche – beginners who are interested in blues-style piano.

Find underserved niches and develop unique approaches to teaching them, and watch your music studio thrive.

Might there be a certain demographic in your area that no other studios specifically market to? For example:

  • Boomers/Recent Retirees
  • Preschoolers
  • Homeschoolers
  • Teens who want to become professional musicians without following a formal track of college-based music education

Once you explore whether such underserved niches exist in your area, figure out how you can most easily (yet profitably) reach them, and how you might present your teaching approach as unique, maybe even exclusive. Marketing guru Dan Kennedy puts it this way: “People want and respond best to whatever they perceive is for them, preferably exclusively for them, relevant specifically to them, and offered by somebody who really understands, respects, and appreciates them.

Find underserved niches and develop unique approaches to teaching them, and watch your music studio thrive.

Doug Hanvey writes about music teaching and marketing at The Piano Lab Blog.

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio

marketing your music studio

You most likely decided to pursue a career in music education because you love music and you want to share that passion with the world.  To be surrounded by music every day and to be completely immersed in that world, while shaping student’s lives, is what makes music education such a rewarding career.  Maybe you are just starting or maybe you’ve been in business for a while, and you’re waiting for that moment when the phone starts ringing and your business really starts taking off.  Then the reality sets in.  You’re not sure how to get students or how to make your business profitable.  If you plan to make this your main source of income, then being profitable is important.  The truth is that you can be extremely profitable in music education whether you teach independently or you own a studio with several teachers working for you.

I’ve built my studio several times from the ground up.  As to why “several times”….well, it is a long story.  But the short story is we had to pick up and move to a different state a couple of times and start all over, and I’m happy to say that each time, within a couple of months, I would have my studio built up again to full capacity with wait list and all.  Now I help other music educators to do the same as a music business consultant and coach, and through my music teacher’s database.

So how did I do it?  How did I start from zero and explode my business every time?  I’ve narrowed it down to 4 key things that you can start doing to grow your studio’s profitability and quickly.  Here they are:


I have a business background, so I tend to use terms like “branding” a lot when I am coaching or consulting with my clients.  It helps to think of yourself and your studio as a product, just like any other product that someone would create, package, and sell, because whether you like it or not you need to be able to sell your services to clients or you will never be profitable.  In order to get the attention of potential students, you will need to let them know why you are the person that they will want to invest in.  This all starts with branding yourself and your company.

How does one do this?  You need a Unique Selling Position (USP).  Start by making a list of all the things that make you or your studio unique.  Perhaps you have a doctorate in music, with years of performance experience.  Or maybe you teach in-home lessons to working, busy families.  Or maybe you were a contestant on a tv talent show or are a recording artist.  Or maybe what makes you unique is that you offer games, pizza parties, and a fun music summer camp each year.  Whatever it is that makes you unique, figure it out and write it down.  Then let people know about your particular expertise.  You have now positioned yourself as an expert and given people a reason to call you.

Know Audience

Now that you know who you are and what makes you unique, you should spend some time thinking about who your potential students are.  This will help you figure out where you should advertise and also what to say to get them interested in working with you.  For example, if your ideal client is someone who is looking for a discount, the location in which you place an advertisement will be very different from if you live in a wealthy neighborhood or if you will be working with students studying for competitions or who are recording artists, etc.  Figure out who your “ideal” client is and then you will know how to reach them.

Some great places to advertise for music students: local music stores, Craigslist, newspapers, handing out flyers, online through teacher databases (i.e. Takelessons.com or ilovemusiclessons.com, etc.), social media, and I also highly recommend having your own website in which you can have a photo of yourself and highlight your skills and qualifications.  Once you are established, you should create a referral program, such as offering a free session to any of your current students who helps you sign up another student.

Be Organized and Professional  

One of the top complaints I received from my students regarding past instructors was that they were not organized and were not professional.  Unfortunately, many music instructors do not take their businesses as seriously as they should.  Whether you are teaching kids in your apartment or you have a large studio, you have a business.  And potential and current clients will know whether or not you see it that way or if you are simply teaching as a hobby.  Either one of those things is fine, but if you want to be profitable you need to treat it as the actual business that it is.

The most successful teachers and studios treat everything they do as a business and they take it seriously.  They answer their phones, promptly return phone calls, plan lessons in advance, keep detailed records, keep their schedule organized, print out the materials they need on time, keep studio policies, make sure their students are kept informed of changes, are on time for lessons, and are consistent from week to week so students know what to expect.

Be Young at Heart

Although students range in age from 3-99, most of the students you will have throughout your career will be young, in the 5-12 year-old range.  The more that you are able to accommodate that age range, the more you will have a marketable business.  Letting students play musical games, offering fun parties for students, giving prizes and stickers, and in general simply being upbeat and energetic go a long way.  Even if most of your students are adults, most clients will prefer to work with someone who is fun, interesting, and enthusiastic about what they are teaching, and gets them excited each week as well.

Amanda Becker is a musician, a music business coach, and consultant and is the founder of ilovemusiclessons.com, a music teacher database for teachers nationwide.  She holds a bachelor of arts in music and psychology, and a masters degree in business administration.  She is passionate about music, writing, and education.  For more tips and strategies or to ask a question about making your music teaching business successful and profitable: facebook.com/ILoveMusicLessons

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio