Motivate More Practice

I recently ran across this great article called 50 Ways to Musically Motivate Your Child written by Heather Hale on her site called Moderately Crunchy.   She’s a Mom and a music teacher.  I thought this list was excellent.

Motivating More Practicing
1. Use a sticker chart.
2. Put a marble or craft pom-pom in a jar for every 10 minutes practiced. Trade a full jar for a prize or treat.
3. Have a treasure chest and let them pick an item for each song passed.
4. Trade practice time for screen time (TV, computer, tablet, video games, etc).
5. Have them give you a lesson to reinforce new concepts.
6. Set a goal for number of days practiced each week.
7. Set a goal for number of minutes practiced each week.
8. Trade practice time for a later weekend bedtime.
9. Fill a jar with dollar bills and remove one for each day they don’t practice. They get what’s left over at the end of the week for allowance.
10. Let them choose their favorite song to play the last 5 minutes of practice time.
11. Let them play along with a recording of their pieces.
12. Print out a fun practice chart like the ones at Making Music Fun or design one yourself.
13. Have your child draw a picture to tell the story of each piece they are working on.
14.  Let them pick an after dinner treat each day they practice.
15. Practice along side them and learn their songs with them.

If you’d like to read more, here’s the link:

Popular Music Resource

One of the things that I loved when I was a teenager was to go to the music store and purchase popular piano music. Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles were two of my favorites.  I liked learning these pieces on my own.  I never bothered to take them to my lesson.  I guess it never occurred to me. Or, maybe I just didn’t really want my teacher making corrections.

Now a days, you don’t have to go to the store to purchase pop songs.  You can buy them online and instantly download them.  It’s a wonderful thing!  My favorite site is Here’s the place to find Taylor Swift’s newest songs, or Snow Patrol, or Coldplay.  You name it, they’ll probably have it.  I’m happy to help my students learn them, but if they want to leave them at home, that’s perfectly fine too. Encourage you kids to check this site out.  It may give them a lift!


This is one of my favorite piano pieces called La Campanella, or The Bells, composed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886).  My older students learned a bit about him at our last piano party.  I like to refer to him as the original Elvis as he was quite the sensation during his time.   Women swooned and cried when he walked onto stage.  We can thank(??) Franz Liszt for our modern day piano recital practices, ie. the stage (as opposed to a private salon), a darkened stage, the pianist sitting profile to the audience and memorization of performed music.

Yundi Lee, the pianist, is one of our great concert pianists.  He’s had a huge international career and I really enjoy the way he plays this particular favorite of mine.

Lang Lang and His flying fingers

The students have some listening assignments over in their little corner lab.  One of them is the pianist phenom, Lang Lang.  He’s performed all over the world, including Denver with our Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

This video is from the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  It’s a medley of classics that begins with Lang Lang solo, and finishes with him collaborating with 4 young amazing talents from his school.


Effective Practice 101

How many of you think that the world’s greatest achievers, whether it’s in golf, tennis, music, downhill racing, or chess, are born with an amazing gift that few possess?  Well, I’ve been reading The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, that makes the case  that this “ain’t necessarily so”!  After much study of our brains and in depth research into hotbeds of talent (i.e. Florence, Italy, 1440-1490), Mr. Coyle presents the case that building skills is much more about the myelin sheaths surrounding our brain’s neurons that than innate ability.  As it turns out, Tiger Woods, Michelangelo, and Yo-Yo Ma, have really dense myelin sheaths surrounding their neruons.  With each firing of brain circuits (attempts at learning), the myelin builds up.  The thicker it gets, the quicker the impulses travel and the better a skill becomes.  This is all to say that practice, over and over and over, is the crucial factor in achievement.  But not just any kind of practice.  Coyle refers to it as deep practice.  One of the main components of deep practice is called chunking.

Chunking is:

Breaking up a large challenge into small, and smaller, chunks and then reassembling them into a whole.  You should not be hearing an entire piece of music coming from the music room.  You should hear small chunks in crazy order, with mistakes.   When a mistake is made, the student should stop, figure out the problem (almost always related to fingering), and try again.  If the mistake persists, the chunk should be broken down further.  It may require hands alone practice, or dotted rhythms, or practicing only downbeats.

I spend most of our lesson time reinforcing these ideas of practice and chunking.  I hope you hear them from your piano at home during every single practice period!

How To Motivate Your Students

As parents and teachers, we know that worthwhile endeavors take lots of time and hard work.  However, getting that across to our students is a tough challenge.  I ran across a great article that should help, How To Motivate Your Kids To Practice.  I’ll try to keep the music interesting and challenging, and offer some fun incentives.  If you can incorporate some methods for consistent home practice, we’ll see lots and lots of progress this year.

Welcome families!

Welcome to my new Studio blog!   I’ll be posting photos, resources, and fun stuff on it throughout the year so keep it handy.  You’ll also find a calendar with important dates for reference.

I’m excited about beginning our new school year.  I’ve been busy writing out goals and curriculum for each of my students and will be happy to share these with you.  Also, I have a great new motivational game that will be introduced at our 1st piano party of the year, August 25. All students will come from 9:15-10:15.

I am honored that you’ve placed your confidence in me and I will do my best to give your children the best music education possible.

See you soon!