Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Investing Time for Lesson Notes….and the Best Advice My Voice Teacher’s Voice Teacher Ever Gave Her

I wanted to post a couple of quick things that I hope will be helpful to you, my fellow teachers. "The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes and hour, whatever he does, whoever he is. --C.S. Lewis

First of all, I recently posted an article on how to get your studio fully booked. One of the items on the list of to-dos was to utilize your lesson notes.

Recently, a few events in my life have required me to take some of my focus away from my studio. One thing that temporarily fell by the wayside was my use of the lesson notes. I reconciled my lessons to keep my clients’ accounts current, but the lesson notes had to go on sabbatical for about six weeks.

It was something I did have to prioritize out for a while, but I do want to share with you that my number of teaching hours did drop as a result.

The extra five minutes we take to write lesson notes to our clients makes a big difference to keep the client encouraged and on track, and it gives us a moment to give their progress one extra brain cell. That investment yields a great return on relationship as well as the financial success of our studios.

So, just an experiential report from the field: lesson notes make a difference. Having used them and then having to back-burner them, I see clearly that they are a very valuable resource for us and our clients.

When you invest time into someone, you are investing in that relationship. And that is one of the richest investments you can make.

And before I’m off to catch up on lesson notes, I want to share this video of Catherine McNeela, Coordinator of the BFA Musical Theatre Program at Elon University, and my voice teacher when I went to college there.

She truly gave me a safe space to find my voice. When you watch the video, you will see why that’s true.

Cathy is an incredible teacher, and I owe so much of where I am as a teacher and performer to her. Enjoy!



About the Author


  1. Valerie

    Thanks so much, Dan- I really enjoyed hearing from your teacher and agree with what she says- although I know it’s easier said than done to trust and get out of your own way! I’ve just started an impro class, as a complete beginner, and I’m learning that all over again…

  2. […] This comes from a helpful music teacher’s blog […]

  3. Tiffany

    Dan, could you give a few pointers on what to include in lesson notes? Do you have a specific format that you use?


  4. Edna Bloom

    Here’s what workes for me. I list items that we worked on in the lesson with a specific goal for the practice week. Even though I also write things in the students’ notebooks, glancing over my notes prior to lessons usually helps me to remember to evaluate the main project for the week. Also, I use the private notes to remind myself of materials I need to get ready for the next lesson. It’s so quick to check the notes when using the daily summary e-mails.

  5. Dan Callaway

    Hi All…Sorry for the delay in commenting back.

    Edna, thanks for contributing to the discussion. Really helpful tips on the lesson notes.

    Tiffany….I don’t really have a specific format. Lesson notes vary from client to client. Usually it’s to praise what they did well in the lesson and follow up with two or three things to continue to think about as they practice until our nest session. Also a chance to remind them what our goals are, repertoire, etc.

    On a practical level, it’s also a reminder for the client to let me know a good time to come back in in case we didn’t rebook a lesson time that day.

    For me really, it’s a chance to spend five more minutes of focusing attention on the client…and they know I took the extra time to help them, and lesson notes are as individual as the client.

  6. Dan Callaway

    Valerie…How right you are…the real trick as a teacher is to help clients know the tools and techniques for actually getting out of their way.

    I use a lot of great tools that a coach of mine taught me. Barbara Deutsch. She’s excellent. Here is the link to her basic tools:

    Have fun in your improv class…or impro as it’s said on your side of the pond 🙂

  7. Lisa

    I love Catherine’s advice.

    “Don’t copy anyone else, trust to let my sound be my sound, don’t be something I wasn’t or copy anyone else’s sound.”

    It works well for visual artists but unfortunately, they’re too busy copying someone else’s work that they refute the inner voice showing them their true way.

  8. Melody

    Dan–only five minutes on your lesson notes? I guess I am the exception–if I have a 30 minute lesson then it takes me at least that long to write my individual lesson notes. I keep an index card on each student in my studio. If I have an upcoming voice lesson I write an individual lesson plan including warm-ups and music we are currently studying. For my piano students I write the titles of songs during the lesson. I flesh out our lesson in the lesson notes and they are DETAILED. I have had parents say that it is a vicarious experience reading my lesson notes–it is as if they were there! Some pass my notes on a a selling point to parents considering my studio. Some bring them up on their iPad and place them on their piano/keyboard as a practice guide; others print them and keep a file.

    It is an invaluable tool for me–it helps me to know where I am with each student.

    I also have a MacBook Pro, so I utilize the GarageBand program to record my voice lessons. I either burn the lesson to CD right then or I save it as an MP3 and email it to them.

    I sometimes use PhotoBooth to make videos to email to students and parents. They enjoy sharing these with family members who cannot attend lessons. It, too, is an invaluable teaching tool.

    My studio has grown fairly quickly–I first credit God, and then I credit Music Teacher’s Helper. Keep up your great work and thank you for sharing!

  9. Mark Flegg

    A solution that works well for me is to write the lesson notes during the lesson. I always have the laptop on the desk next to me as I teach. That way I can refer to last week’s notes as we go, plus write in this week’s notes. That way nothing is forgotten. I read aloud as I type and make sure the student understands what the message is (that way I don’t have to type a novel to get the point across).

  10. Theresa

    I agree Mark, having the electronic resource right there makes keeping up with notes to students easy and ensures that they understand completely.

  11. Chris Foley

    Great article, Dan. Lesson notes are an integral part of my teaching process and both students and parents have come to expect them every week. Although I’m a huge user of MTH, I actually use Evernote for lesson notes, using the following setup (which allows for much quicker and effective practice and lesson planning):

    Title: [student name] Progress Report

    Mail to: [email addresses]

    Grid with weekly, monthly, and yearly goals

    Current rep list

    Weekly lesson notes, with the newest at the top and previous lessons below.

  12. Cross Post from the Musical Home

    […] comes from a helpful music teacher’s blog Filed Under: […]

  13. Amanda

    Thanks for the idea – I’ve been thinking about adding lesson notes to my lessons. I always forget what the students have been working on! This would help me be more prepared and help the students be more prepared.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.