Monthly Archives: May 2009

Standard Size Staff Paper

Staff Paper130_10This is the size staff paper I use when I compose at the piano. Your older students will prefer it to the 8 stave paper I posted yesterday. The left margin is wider so students can put it in a binder.

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Filed under Staff Paper

Staff Paper with 8 Staves

Staff Paper180_8I’ve posted some  staff paper for my younger students that is big enough for their small hands but not too big for a grand staff. I left a little extra room at the top for a title.  As with all of my material, click preview to print.

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Filed under Staff Paper, Theory

Keyboard Labels to Write a Full One Octave Scale

Keyboard labels_octave

Two Octave Keyboard Labels

I really have enjoyed using the keyboard pentascale labels I made a a few weeks ago. However, some of my readers  asked if I had thought about making two octave labels so they  could write out full scales. Click here to get to my website and then click preview to print.

At first I was afraid they would be too small for the size label I have, but after trying it out,  I think they are big enough to at least put dots on the keys. You might not be able to write in finger numbers. If you don’t want to buy 1″ X 2 5/8″ address labels, you can cut them out and tape them on your student’s assignment books. That is what I did when I first tried them out.

There is a wonderful 3M Scotch™ brand tape that is removable. It’s rather hard to find, and more expensive than regular tape, but I always keep some on hand. You can tape one of these little keyboards on their assignment book and the next week remove it and place it on a new page. If you do this, you won’t have to buy labels, and the tape is a lot less expesive than buying adress labels. The tape works like those little yellow sticky notes that teachers love so much. It is sold in either a roll that you have to put in your own dispenser, or sometimes I find it in a plastic dispenser like regular Scotch™ tape. I think I usually buy it at craft stores, and when I do I stock up. It lasts me a long time, because after all, you can move things around and use them over and over!


I made the octave labels in brighter colors than the pentascale labels to help from getting mixed up.  The pentascale labels can be found here.  If you have any questions about how to print out these lables, contact me!


Filed under Picture Scales, Theory

One Minute Club

One Minute Club2009

One Minute Club Cards

I’ve mentioned before that I owe the esteemed pedagogue Jane Bastien a big favor, because she is the teacher who gave me the idea for the One Minute Club that I have been doing in my studio for years. If my students can say and play grand staff flash cards  in one minute or less, they become a “member”. The student who is the fastest is the overall winner and I give some sort of prize. This year it was a gift card to an ice cream parlor. To allow more winners, once a student has won, he or she never has to do it again, so someone else gets to win. The winner is always a high school student because at this age their motor skills are highly developed.  This year a student was able to say and play all the notes on the grand staff in 17 seconds. That’s pretty fast! I only spend about 6 weeks of the year on this activity because otherwise it becomes predictable drudgery and isn’t fun.

Elementary children have to really work to be able to get their time under a minute. I keep a yearly record and sometimes it takes several years, so once they can do it they are very proud of themselves. I make a business size card that I give to the elementary students and in the little star-burst on the right side of the card I put in the number of years they have received it. No one seems to mind that it is always a high school student who wins. It gives the young students something to look forward to, and adds a little hero worship to my studio.

One year a very young student was able to be a member and a few weeks later he told me he got a wallet just so he could put his card in it. I make a different card each year and I think they enjoy seeing what the card will look like each year. I tell them the cards are “collectible”. This year I used a drawing of a piano that my daughter painted for me.

My cards are made to be printed on Avery Business Cards #5371, or a template that size.  However, if you have one of the easy to use graphic programs such as Print Shop or Publisher you can make your own cards. You can even make them in Word because there is a business card template built into the program.  You can download cute clip art from the web. If you don’t have a color printer, you can make it in black and white and use colored card stock to print the card. Write me if you need some help making your own.

I don’t have time here to go into how I prepare students to learn their notes, but this activity is not the only thing I do, especially with young students and beginners. I use all kinds of activities to get students to this point, including the games and activities I’ve posted as well as a lot of other activities. That is one reason we wait to do the One Minute Club at the end of the spring semester. What I have found over the years is that if students know the names of the notes and where they are located on the keyboard, they do better in piano lessons. While I teach by intervals and I think that is very important,  students who know their notes quickly learn their music faster and enjoy piano more, especially when they are no longer in 5-finger positions.

By the time they are teens they don’t really care about getting this card, so don’t bother to make one for this age group. They do, however, enjoy trying to beat the other high school students in how fast they can play the notes!


Filed under Note Identification, Teaching Business

Increasing Tuition

 Every teacher has to increase tuition at some point. If not, we would still be charging $2.50 a lesson like I did when I first started teaching. If you are a new teacher, have you given any thought to how you plan to raise your tuition when the time comes? Here is an example of what not to write:

 Parents, as you know my husband lost his second job when he fell off the bull at the rodeo last month. With the economy like it is, this has caused a hardship to our family, especially since Grandpa is missing again and not sending checks for Judy’s kick boxing lessons. Plus, Johnny has been selected for the select polo team and while we’re excited, it’s not cheap!!! So please, if you don’t mind, be sure to give me $5.00 extra in lesson money starting next week. I know it’s going to be a hardship for you, but my husband said if I don’t bring in some extra money soon, I’ll have to give up my iphone and go back to greeting at Walmart. Thanks!!!  :)  –Suzie

The above letter is a humorous attempt to break  every rule of professional business communication. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional piano instructor, get in the habit of using the word “tuition”. When it is time to raise your rates, do it in a business-like manner. Even with the cost of postage going up, send your letter through the mail.  Don’t hand it to the student or the big sister because it will probably never reach its destination. Email is fine for notices and reminders, but a tuition increase is one of the few things that  should be snail mailed.

Here are some more pointers.

Keep your letter short and to the point.  You should not give a reason to raise your rates, even “the current economy”.  Keep your personal life out of your business.  Don’t be apologetic; this is your business.  Give parents plenty of notice and do not make a sudden decision to raise rates at the last minute. Never give more information than is needed. If you teach by semesters, then it is best to inform parents that tuition will raise the next semester, or the next fall.

Tuition increase exampleThis is an example of a professional letter to increase piano tuition. 

Dear Parents,

 Effective September 1, 20– monthly tuition will be $xx.00 or $xx.00 per semester for 45-minute lessons.

 Monthly tuition for 30 minute lessons will be $xx.00 or $xx.00 per semester.


Piano Teacher


Filed under Teaching Business