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Pencil & Paper. Maybe… Maybe Not.

Worksheets and drills are an accepted part of piano lessons. Theory books are available for most methods and then, of course, all the stand alone theory series and sheets. On the Teachers Pay Teachers site, there are so many worksheets and activities that it can make your head explode. They are also the most often forgotten materials in the world IMHO. Online music games and drills are more attractive to students and mitigate the forgetting situation somewhat.

Enter SproutBeat. This app from Fun and Learn Music offers over 400 worksheets and games right through your iPad, with more being added each week. You can do the worksheets right on the iPad and the screen can be cleared after use so they are ready for the next student or for review. (Yes, you can also print out the worksheets and send them home with your students.)

But wait a bit…

Do you believe that pencil and paper work tells the whole story about what a student understands or is it only a tool in total learning process?

Here are a couple of graphics from Edutopia which might help you on your way to answering that question. (Notice how I did that? I’m not sorry btw. Ask any of my students. It’s how I roll.


I use the question, “How do you know that?”, all the time (rolling of eyes has occurred). But, I really want to know how students arrived at the answer they gave me. When I ask a student what the pitch is, or how long a note lasts, or what a certain chord is, I want to know that they weren’t guessing. It also helps me to clear up misconceptions.
Another go-to for me is having students generate questions and activities for each other. This works in both class/group and individual lesson settings. One time I had two students who were both studying for the same level in their evaluations but they lived over 2.5 hours apart. They used Finale NotePad to design and send questions back and forth during the entire spring semester and both aced their exams.
So think about using both traditional worksheets, apps and games, and student generated questions/activities in your studio. Yes, it is a bit more work for you but the results will make you smile.

SuiteLinks: July 19

Sunflowerweb_In this SuiteLinks: Gerstein & Dashenpour stun, Vietnam International shuts down, Tree rings become piano music, Golandsky pianists maintain individual styles, Otter pianists, and more!

Epic classical fails

Gerstein’s got rhythm

Teenage composer paths

Daneshpour at the American Art Museum

Otter pianists

Tree rings as piano music

No conformity for Golandsky Institute pianists

Vietnam International Piano Festival shuts down


PA Shorts: The Children

This seems to be the week of children in my corner of cyberspace. Several articles and posts really hit home for me and so I decided to share them here. Enjoy!

On Parental Anxiety: from Diane Hidy

The Window

On the many ways of being smart: from Message with a Bottle

The Greatest Letter Ever . . . → Read More: PA Shorts: The Children


SuiteLinks: July 12

In this SuiteLinks: Jarrett, Locke, & Evans / Chilly Gonzales helps beginners / Piano, music & the Paralympics / Piano art / and more!

Piano Lawn Art

Who was Bill Evans?

Seven Beauties by Joe Locke

Keith Jarrett walks out in Paris

Concert behavior then and now

Chilly’s rules for beginning improv pianists

Artistic piano . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: July 12


Great Finds: Arabia, Practicia, & Another Shameless Plug

ARABIA Etude Tableaux (Late Int. – Adv) Elena Cobb If you are looking for a something exotic and fun, this might just be the piece. Students will love the way the free introduction and transitions contrast with the brilliant passagework (which btw looks and sounds much harder than it actually is).

Elena has cleverly written . . . → Read More: Great Finds: Arabia, Practicia, & Another Shameless Plug


SuiteLinks: July 5

In this SuiteLinks: Ozone talks, Meet The World winner, Interactive piano garden, Levit’s late Beethoven, A memoir many years late, and more!

Levit’s late Beethoven

Meet the winner of the World Piano Competition

Composers in everyday life

Interactive piano garden

Tradition & Craft in Piano Playing: a memoir

Piano turns live streams into new pieces . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: July 5


Vintage PA: Jocularity! Jocularity!

Stuff happens. Life throws you curveballs just to see if you are paying attention. Music Life Lessons 101. We don’t always have the optimum conditions for practice, rehearsal or performance but we have to tough it out and do the best we can.

Here are some of my favorite stories of musical life lessons from . . . → Read More: Vintage PA: Jocularity! Jocularity!


SuiteLinks: June 28

In this SuiteLinks: Han on Love & Longing, Gugnin wins Bachauer, Henry E Steinway profiled, Roland recalls pianos, Hiromi’s mixed influences, and more!

Meet World Piano finalists

Henry E Steinway profiled on Smithsonian Channel

International Jazz Piano Weekend

Roland recalls digital pianos

The mixed influences of Hiromi

Gugnin wins Bachauer

Elgort to play Van Cliburn . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: June 28


Ode To My Central Sulcus

In my time, I’ve certainly been accused of being a little different. The exact wording usually goes something like, “I’ve never heard anyone play/think of/say it like that before,” or “You are so original,” or “You’ve always been on the edge.” They don’t specify the edge of what. If I had a nickel every time . . . → Read More: Ode To My Central Sulcus


SuiteLinks: June 21

In this SuiteLinks: Piano teens go for greatness, Remembering Horace Silver, Pianist faints mid-round, Meet Yundi, Wine & piano music, Jazz+Psychiatry, and more!

Launching the Evolutionary Piano

Remembering Horace Silver

Pianist faints mid-round in competition

Meet Chinese piano superstar Yundi

Teen going for World Old Time Piano Player title

World Piano Competition gets going

Pianist . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: June 21


PA Shorts: Onwards & Upwards

Recently, while in the preparation phase of a presentation, I asked what some of our college students wished they had known before coming to study at a more advanced level. Some of these students were still in High School, some were college music majors or non-majors, and others were adults from the community. They were . . . → Read More: PA Shorts: Onwards & Upwards


SuiteLinks: June 14

In this SuiteLinks: A pianist pig, VERB for piano LH, 3D musical score for blind, From Joplin to Jarrett, and more!

VERBS for piano LH

The practice effort meter

2 cents on virtual orchestras

3D musical score

Transgender pianist finds musical home in Canada

From Joplin to Jarrett

New world of music opened for some . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: June 14


Long Distance Collaboration

So, for the past few years I’ve been collaborating with this guy I met on the internet.

It’s true! When I said this to a group of teachers a few weeks ago there were laughs, like I was joking. But, I wasn’t. My partner and crime, Neeki Bey, and I had just met face to . . . → Read More: Long Distance Collaboration


SuiteLinks: June 7

In this SuiteLinks: Poetry, music, & memory, A jazz response, Master of the Night, Piano goes from trash to treasure, Hodges on the modern approach, From Bestor to Bachauer, Pieces for East River piano, and more!

Jeff Goldblum and jazz go way back

Pieces for east river piano

Jazz pianist Randy Porter to improv response . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: June 7


Bonus: An Eggciting Contest! Congrats to Winners!

Here are the winning entries in our Chicken yolk contest. Both entered via Facebook.

Why did the chicken cross the piano keys? The drummer wanted it’s drumsticks. (drum roll please for Amy Hansel)

Which came first the chicken or the piano? The piano came first. Then came the chicken who proceeded to peck out a . . . → Read More: Bonus: An Eggciting Contest! Congrats to Winners!


Artist Portrait: Nathan Williamson

Nathan Williamson is a pianist, composer and conductor with ties to both the UK and the US. We chatted via email about his musical growing up, his musical mentors, balancing a varied career, his current projects, and more. Enjoy!

What was growing up in music like for you? Was there a special moment when you . . . → Read More: Artist Portrait: Nathan Williamson

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