Product Reviews

Guitar methods are out there. But how can I tell whether they’ll fit my teaching style and my students’ needs? Will I end up reinventing the wheel anyway? What will work best for me and my students?

In the past couple of months I wrote about starting up a private music teaching studio. And I touched on the plethora of piano methods out there.

The guitar teaching method question is, to my mind, a tougher and more complex one.

Asking some questions might help zero in on who you are as a teacher of guitar students.

Questions to Ask 


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Hi everyone,

This is Rock Robbins, the Community Manager from Music Teacher’s Helper.

If you don’t know me, I’m an author, music teacher, tech geek, singer, saxophone and piano playing karaoke loving husband and father of 2 boys. I’ve been playing, singing, or teaching music for many years. Nice to “meet” you here online.  


This week, I’m reviewing Piano Marvel.

You likely have already heard about this really cool looking online tool for teaching piano to students. Brandon Pearce, the founder of Music Teacher’s Helper, shared this service with me and asked me to review it.

I’m bit of an old school type where you just use the piano and piano book and work out your sections the old fashioned way. But I’m also a bit of a geek as well, so when I saw a video of the service in action, I thought…

Oh yeah, this is really the evolution of music teaching tools for the generations that are born with gadgets and apps around them.

Remember — most of these young students have never known a time without the Internet. Wow. This really is second nature for them to use these tools.


Ok, here we go — so, Piano Marvel just sent out an email saying…

Can you learn this song in 5 days?

Impossible? It is not as hard as it looks, but don’t tell your friends that. We will make it easy for you.

Just follow the steps below and you will have this song mastered in 5 days. (Ages 8+)


Step 1 – Watch this Instructional Video (Printing the Sheet Music and Smart Practicing)

Step 2 – Get a Free Account with this link:


So, I’m going to jump into this service and see what it can do

Now, I have two boys (13, and 15) who are musical as well, and have had some basic piano lessons from my wife and I. I’m going to have them try this out and get their input too.

What do you need to try Piano Marvel?

This was my first question, and the basic set-up you’ll need is…


  • A Digital Piano or Keyboard
  • A Computer (PC or Mac)  Sorry, Chromebooks won’t work
  • A MIDI or USB cable (to connect the computer to your keyboard)
  • Internet Access (Basic Cable or DSL speeds are fine)

(See here if you want to know more of those set up details)

(Believe it or not, you can actually try Piano Marvel if you only have a piano and a computer — it’s called book mode and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but you can follow the video tutorial for each song and learn from that.)

Now, it just so happens that I have a Roland digital piano, and I have an older MIDI adaptor I can connect to my Windows laptop.

I’m going to create my own free account, and we’ll test this out together.

If you want to play along at home, click here to set up your own Piano Marvel account.

I personally think I can learn the song sooner than 5 days, but I’m interested to see how my boys do with the service. Since they like games, and this makes learning piano a bit like that with Stars and Percentage Complete that encourage you to keep going to get the “high score”. I think this will be HIGHLY effective for them.

I’ll let you know how it goes here soon — stay tuned for more in my next post.

Rock Robbins


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In this modern age, there is an app for everything. As you trudge through the endless offerings in your app store, it does make you wonder which apps, if any, are of practical use.

Having said that, there are a few golden apps that can add real value to our music lessons and our students home practice.

Recently, ABRSM (The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) released a new app called “Sight-Reading Trainer” Knowing how some of my younger students love using music apps, I decided to investigate! I am very pleased to report that the app is not a disappointment but a genuinely useful tool to train the upcoming musician to read music at sight.

Several of my students have been using the app now and the results have been excellent. All have commented on how they have learnt to look more carefully at new music before starting to play. The most amazing thing is that some who used to hate sight-reading have now had a change of heart and love it! Yes, I know!!!


• “Streak” page. When you open the app you are greeted with the number of days that you have been practicing sight-reading with the app continuously. This has really encouraged my pupils to practice daily so that they can maintain and increases their “streak.”

• Grades 1-5: in effect, 5 apps in one!

• A generous 31 sight-reading projects per grade

• Every project starts with three engaging “games” that teach awareness of rhythm, pitch, and other musical features

• Each game comes with a three-star rating, encouraging students to revisit to improve if they scored less than three stars

• After completing the three games, the student then plays the piece on which the games were based

• Useful tips about effective sight-reading are given for each piece

• Available for Apple & Android


Lots of students are now using this app. None of them have abandoned using it but are very motivated, systematically working their way through the projects. The fact that previous sight-reading “haters” have been converted to enjoy this activity is nothing short of miraculous. Several older students have also been enjoying it, coping admirably with the simple design. Those students at higher grades have enjoyed going back over the early grades to gain further confidence. This app has become a welcome addition to my music teaching toolkit. To learn more, click here.


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