Category Archives: Teaching Aids

Grand Staff Binder Covers and Using Binders in Music Lessons

Covers for Student Music Binders

 Binder Covers

The front and back covers of binders are valuable real estate for learning. I noticed when I started incorporating theory information on the binder cover, they learned it easier because they see it all the time. Well, that is, if they practice they see it all the time! :)

It is well worth the few extra dollars to buy your students the kind of binder that works the best in your lessons. In my studio, the cost of the binder is deducted from their book and activity fee. However, some teachers include the price in either a registration fee or build it into the tuition fee.

I use one inch binders, and I buy the more expensive  “Clear Cover Heavy Duty” binders made by Avery. (I’m including a link to Amazon for those of you who can’t get to a store.) These are often a lot more expensive, but you can get them at the big box stores in the Back to School section for a few dollars this time of year. The thing I really like about this particular binder is the “one touch” open and close. It easily opens with one hand and I do not need to take the binder off the music rack to open it.

I print my assignment sheets on both sides, and I punch holes in both sides of the page. Then all I have to do is turn the page over to reuse it. All that page hole-punching is a lot easier since I bought an electric hole puncher  on Amazon. I’ve had it now for 3 or 4 years and it’s still going strong. It punches about 15 pages at a time. My advice is to keep it cleaned out and if your paper is thicker, such as card stock or 24 pound, put in less than recommended. My assignment page is a free download. The early childhood one is here.

The binder covers you see today match the design I posted two weeks ago. I have some students who are too young for key signature charts, so I use the grand staff binder cover instead.

Included in today’s PDF printable are:

  • A front cover with the notes of the grand staff labeled for students who are too young for a key signature chart.
  • A black and white version of the same staff.
  • The grand staff in landscape view with the notes labeled.
  • The grand staff in landscape without the note names so students can write them in.
  • The grand staff in landscape in black and white.

The version of the landscape grand staff  is similar to the one I posted last year, but it uses less ink. I laminated it and made a poster out of it but it also makes a nice binder cover. The unlabeled one is great to put inside a clear sheet protector to practice writing note names with a dry or wet erase marker. It also works on an iPad. If you don’t know how to print one page from a multi-page PDF, please see my FAQ.

When I decided to switch over to using binders, I was a little worried it would be too cumbersome and a lot of trouble. Now I have it down to a science and it works great. Teachers have a place to add Picture Scales, (legal) music downloads, and theory sheets. The pocket on the front makes a great place to store sheet music. Many teachers add a small yearly charge for the cost of ink and paper.

[Disclosure: If you buy something from my link to Amazon, I make a few cents to support the expenses of maintaining this website, so thank you for your support.  However, I encourage you to check out prices to find the best buys in your area. I absolutely do not link to something unless I have it myself and I think it is a good price.]



Filed under Music Printables, Teaching Aids, Teaching Business

Color Coded Rhythm Pattern Cards

Rhythm Strips-3

Rhythm Cards Set 1

Rhythm Cards Set 2

Rhythm Cards Set 3

I’m back from a wonderful piano camp with Elizabeth Gutierrez and the nicest group of teachers you could ever want to talk to! I am so glad I got to meet them and to visit San Antonio again. Today I am posting a set of rhythm flash cards that are *color coded* so that I can quickly pull out the ones I need. That really helps me save time.  The flash cards start at primer level and progress up to intermediate. The levels below are not meant to go along with any specific method book, but are simply the progression I made the cards, especially at the later levels.

  • Red = Beginning Set
  • Aqua = Set  2A (8th notes)
  • Green = Set  2B (dotted quarters)
  • Purple = Set 3 (6/8 and triplets)
  • Yellow = Set 4 (16th notes)
  • Blue = Set 5 (dotted eighths)
  • Magenta = Set 6 (5-note tuplet and quarter note triplet)

These cards are in 3 separate PDF files to make it easier to print just the levels you need. There are 2 cards to a page. (My web go-to guy told me not to make my PDF files too big because it might cause the site to crash.) Remember to set your printer in landscape orientation. I can think of about 50 ways to use these cards, but that is a future post. I bet you can come up with lots of ideas!


Filed under Rhythm, Teaching Aids, Texas State Theory Test

New Assignment Page With Color!


New Assignment Page

I made a new assignment page (assignment sheet) and I’m going to share with you why I revised my old one, which had also been revised.  I have an assignment sheet for my younger students with ladybugs and lots of color, and they love it. But when they progress and it’s time for one with more detail, all I had was a very serviceable, but boring looking black and white page. So I decided to upgrade the old one, but keep everything I like. I still use my early childhood assignment sheet for my little ones, but now when they are “promoted” it doesn’t look so intimidating to them.

I included all the bells and whistles that made my original assignment page so unusual when I first posted it. Here are all the features:

  • Print in color or grayscale (black and white)
  • Upcoming events line
  • Deadline to memorize a special piece
  • Separate major and minor circle of fifths
  • Keyboard to write scale names and fingering
  • Line for labeling the scale
  • Line for a note to parents
  • Do not forget line
  • Line to write scales, chords, or arpeggios
  • Theory, technique, and lesson book assignment lines
  • Blank staff with treble and bass clef written in
  • Two weeks worth of practice time check off boxes
  • Line for a message to the teacher

I didn’t say anything when I tried this out with my students. But the reaction was everything I hoped because they really liked it! Several mentioned that it was a lot easier to understood the major and minor circle of 5ths. They like the fact that it is in color, even though there is not much.  I tried to design a graphic that looks like it uses more color ink than it really does.

I made this as a 2 page printable, but both pages are the same.  This is because I have a duplex (prints on both sides) printer.  I select “2-sided printing” in my printer dialog box, and the number of copies I need. The printer automatically prints on both sides. That is a very nice feature if you are in the market for a new printer. I punch holes on both sides of the paper and every other week I give them a new page. Not only does it save paper, but it saves space in their binder!  If you only want to print  on one side, use these settings, and under “Copies” select the number you want to print. The arrow pointing to “1″ indicates that you are printing page 1 of my printable. Then you can reinsert your pages to print on the back, if you wish, following the same instructions. (Your dialog box might look  different than mine, but I hope this will give you the idea.)

PDF printing illustration


Filed under Teaching Aids, Teaching Business

Piano Play-Along With Elizabeth Gutierrez


Piano Play-Along

There is a wonderful new resource that Elizabeth Gutierrez has put on her blog, freely available to anyone who wants to take advantage of it.

It is a Piano Play-Along on her website Piano Camp for Piano Teachers. This wonderful resource will help us be better teachers by virtually working together on the same music.  If you have heard of an internet “sew-along”or “quilt-along,” well, this is the same thing, but for pianists. There are videos of children demonstrating on the piano, and lots of explanations and helpful hints to help your students play with artistry. I am very impressed at how well-done it is. It is like a high quality piano pedagogy class!

The music we are going to work on is Kabalevsky’s 24 Pieces for Children Op. 39. This is a collection of quality short pieces at the late elementary to early immediate level.

Now don’t dismiss this because you don’t like contemporary music or you think you don’t like Kabalevsky! Students love to play his music and can relate to it. I think every composer who writes for children at will say that Kabalevsky is an influence. And even if you don’t plan to give your students his music in the future, learning the secrets to playing it well will help with everything else your students play.

How many times have I heard students play the notes and steady beat correctly, and even some p’s and f’s, but the piece just isn’t there yet. It’s not polished; it’s not what the composer wants. But the teacher is not sure how to get the student to take it to the next level.

I always tell my students that learning classical music correctly is like what good jazz dancers do. The ones who study classical ballet are such better jazz dancers. They have more finesse and are technically better than the students who only study jazz and tap. The same is true of learning classical music.  Not only that, but Kabalevsky’s music makes sense and it is easy to understand. Every little piece teaches something, but it is still fun to play because of the way the music fits under the hands.

Because of copyright restrictions we don’t see too much of Kabalevsky in our method books, so this is a great way to learn about this wonderful master composer. You can take the ideas and apply them to your recital pieces or your method book music.

Even though I am really busy now, I went to my local music store and picked up a copy of the book and I’m going to be playing along. The fact that it is being offered as a free resource is just an amazing opportunity for teachers and even amateurs who want to learn more about how to play with artistry. On top of that, Hal Leonard has generously donated a prize that will go to some lucky participant.

If you want to get your students excited about Kabalevsky’s  music, go to YouTube and let them listen to Kabalevsky’s Gallop, such as this version. It’s short and fast, you can move and dance around to it, and it is something that no child can resist.

Elizabeth is truly a teacher’s teacher, and all you need to participate is the music and a piano! For a while this summer, let’s forget about policy sheets, tuition, how to get kids to practice, and just focus on playing the piano.

[Disclaimer: this review is my personal opinion and I was not compensated or solicited in any way. I am posting it because it is an excellent resource for pianists.]


Filed under Teaching Aids