Making Piano Teaching a Little Easier

If you are reading this post I sincerely hope that you are doing Ok. I hope that you and your family are healthy and that your business hasn’t been impacted badly. But I have heard from more than a few teachers that this COVID pandemic has been problematic.

There is no debating that life has been challenging lately. Who could have imagined at this time last year that so many of us would be teaching online, or trying to figure out how to teach with masks on while social-distancing from our students. The bottom line is that things are challenging for us, for our students and for their parents and for us as well.

Here are some things that make life a bit easier.  I will include links to the products and resources mentioned in this post.

1 – Get comfortable. Look around the house and find a good soft chair. You don’t want to spend three of four hours on your piano bench. Dress comfortably. Sweatpants and slippers are great. Besides, your students only see you from the waist up anyway.

2 – Grab your favorite beverage. I love coffee so I treat myself to a fresh hot cup before I begin teaching. One teacher jokingly said as long as you use a mug, they can’t tell what you are drinking. Pretty funny right? Well still, I think we’d better stick to coffee, tea, and nonalcoholic drinks.

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The Happiest Online Piano Teacher in Town

The Happiest Online Piano Teacher in Town

Yep, I am teaching online these days and so are a lot of you. It’s not going too badly, actually, for me it’s going pretty well. Online teaching may have its limitations but there are many good things about it too. Here are the tips I use to be “The Happiest Online Piano Teacher in Town”

Read my book “The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town”

1 Stay positive.

I always remind myself that “Words have power.” I believe this starts with the words we say to ourselves. I remind myself that online teaching is a blessing because I am still working, and I am still able to give the gift of music to my students.

2 Remember that you are still the same teacher whether in person or online.

Approach online teaching the same way you do in person teaching. Online teaching isn’t second best right now it IS the best and you are still the excellent teacher you were before. Maybe even better! I suspect virtual learning is here to stay and it opens up the whole world to piano students. More people have access to your excellent teaching than ever! Remember this and take it to heart.

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Teaching Piano Students to Read Music

What is the number one reason students don’t practice?

They can’t read music well.

Having to figure out every note as you play is no fun at all. It’s like reading a book in a foreign language where you have to stop and look up every other word. It’s a tedious chore.

Teaching students to become fluent readers is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching the piano. There are just so many notes! But it is possible, and it is well worth the effort.

After much research, trial and error, and many years of teaching I can honestly say that I have figured out how to teach my students to become competent readers. My students can pick up their music and read it. This makes learning much more enjoyable for them and teaching much easier for me. In this post, I am going to share with you exactly how I teach my students to read music.


I love to start students as young as possible. I start students at three-and-a-half to four years of age. I don’t teach reading to very young students. We work on lots of listening, ear training, and hands-on activities. Around the time a child begins to read words is when I start teaching music reading. Here’s how I do it.

Know your Student

In my experience, most piano students fall into one of two categories: visual learners and auditory learners. Because it is human nature to take the path of least resistance, visual learners tend to look at the score and auditory learners tend to try to pick things up by ear.

Some kids take to reading easily. They have an easy time connecting what’s going on in the score with what happens on the keyboard. Others have naturally great ears and can hear something and learn it without looking at the music very much. For these students reading seems counterproductive.

As a teacher, it is crucial that I watch and listen carefully to see how my student is learning.

How to Begin

I can honestly say I became so frustrated with many of the available piano method books that I wrote my own. I recommend that you stay away from any method books that have hand positions and fingerings over every note. Use a method that introduces new concepts slowly and gives students plenty of time to absorb what they are learning. You may also want to use more than one method and always have lots of supplemental music.

Downplay Mnemonic Devices.

I start my students start with middle C and we go from there. I don’t even mention “every good boy does fine” I use this only as a reference, it can be helpful to help a student find the first note of a piece. That’s it though, no counting lines and spaces.

How Music is Read

Piano music is read by seeing patterns and transferring those patterns into music on the keyboard. Think about it. As an experienced pianist, do you ever think about note names while you are playing?

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Positive Perspective Piano Teaching

This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book

“The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town” Empowering Teachers to Inspire Students.

“A Miracle is a shift in perspective.” The Monarch System

So what is perspective anyway? I think we all have some idea.

“A simple shift in your perspective about the importance or meaning of a particular event, or a shift in your belief about your capacity to cope with it positively, can change your focus and your emotional reality”. Definition from

I have discovered that perspective is just about everything in teaching and in life. My perspective is powerful. It determines what I believe and what I believe determines how I feel. How I feel impacts my outlook on life and my outlook on others. If I am feeling good and peaceful I can focus and get more accomplished. If I am enthusiastic and energetic I am more creative. My perspective is also contagious when I am happy and motivated the people around me are likely to be happy. and motivated, If I am excited they probably will be as well.

In short, I have found that the world around me turns out to be a reflection of what is going on inside of myself.  This means that if I wish to have a vibrant joyful studio, I need to be a vibrant joyful teacher. For me, the key to this is to be able to maintain a positive perspective in any situation. Not only to think of new ways to do things but to see things that could be perceived as negative in a positive light.

I read this story some time ago.

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