The Practice Tool You AND Your Students Want

How many times have you had a student tell you, “I wasn’t sure what to do.”?  With further questioning, it wasn’t so much that the student didn’t know WHAT to practice.  They didn’t remember HOW something was supposed to sound & didn’t have the confidence in their skills to figure it out on their own.

For a song, it’s not a problem to hop over to YouTube & find a version of the song.  But, what if that isn’t quite the right solution?

Continue reading “The Practice Tool You AND Your Students Want”

Music Learning Theory: A Different Approach to Learning

Music Learning Theory (also known as MLT) is quickly becoming a buzz word in music education.  But, what is it?

According to GIML (The Gordon Institute for Music Learning), MLT “is an explanation of how we learn when we learn music [that] focuses on the teaching of audiation …. [which is] hearing music in the mind with understanding“.

Continue reading “Music Learning Theory: A Different Approach to Learning”

Halloween week … oh, my!

This summer as I sat down to plan, I thought about how Halloween usually is at the studio.  The excitement for trick or treating, the sugar rush (& crashes) from all the candy, & all the accompanied redirecting that goes into a lesson.  “Yes, I think you did get a lot of candy.  Congratulations!  Now, let’s see if we can burn off more energy playing keys on the piano … in the semblance of a song.  Any song … made up or written.”  It can be exhausting for everyone.

This year, I decided to go with it & embrace these challenges!  If you can’t fight ’em, join ’em.

Continue reading “Halloween week … oh, my!”

The Travel Teacher's Guide to Fall Lessons

If you are in the northern hemisphere, chances are you have been teaching for a month or two & noticing a few changes.  The leaves are changing colour. There is a definite nip to the air in the mornings & evenings.  Perhaps you have been lucky enough to see the harvest moon!  Students are settling into lessons & your lesson routine is flowing smoothly.  Parents are happy to see you each week &, hopefully, telling their friends how amazing you are.

But, as the weather changes there are a few things that need to change for us as well.  This is your guide to have the best fall ever in your travel studio!

The Travel Teacher's Guide to Fall Lessons

Travelling tips

When you travel to your students’ homes, it can be a stressful part of your schedule once the weather starts changing from early to late fall.  Where I live, we usually get at least one big snowfall before the end of October that goes away as quickly as it came.  I have a photo of the boys from a few years ago going to the first day of school (in September) in full-on snow gear.  This year, it was tank top & shorts.  But, the real cut-off is Halloween.  Right around the end of October we get the first snow that stays for more than a day or two.  And, THAT changes how I get from home to home.

If you live somewhere that gets snow, don’t wait for the snow to arrive.

  • Make sure those snow tires are on.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times my snow tires have made it possible for me to get up hills in residential areas that haven’t had the snow plows go through yet.
  • Get your winter gear ready in the car.  I have a collapsible shovel, blankets, extra gloves, a scrapper/brush for the windshield, plus jumper cables.  The collapsible shovel came in very handy a few years ago when I client & I spent over an hour digging out my vehicle after lesson.  Fun times.

If you are dealing with non-snowy weather,

  • Keep sunglasses in your vehicle.  I know it sounds odd when I am talking about the weather getting colder.  But, this is a time of transition for the weather … and, at least where I live, the sun tends to hang out right under the sun visor blinding many a driver.  Sunglasses at least make it bearable.
  • Let it go.  I completely empathize getting frustrated when someone else cuts you off, doesn’t bother signalling as they veer across multiple lanes, or is driving substantially under the speed limit.  But, we will drive ourselves crazy if we get upset about those things.  Not a great thing when we want to arrive at our clients’ homes in a positive frame of mind.

My father-in-law said something that really resonated with me.  He also drives a lot for work & experiences the same frustrations.  “When someone does something I don’t like, I just remember that I’ve made mistakes driving too.  Today, it was that person.  Tomorrow, it may be me.”  Taking this mental approach has helped me remember that it all works out in the end & lets me go of the frustration much faster than in the past.

Remember that it’s important to get to each home safely, not “on time”.

Client reminders

Hopefully, when you signed up clients you let them know there would be some change in the time you arrive for lessons depending on the weather & traffic conditions.  This is the time to remind them!

Below are the reminders that I give all my clients around this time of year.

  • Depending on traffic & weather conditions you may be 5-10 minutes later than you have until this point in the academic year.  For clients later on in your afternoon/evening schedule that may possibly mean rescheduling a bit later if its an especially bad winter.
  • Please leave a light on outside so it is easy to get to the front door & back to the vehicle safely.
  • Please ensure that the driveway or sidewalk (depending on where I park) & the walkway up to front door are cleared of snow & ice before lessons.

Your travel bag

You’ve had a bit of time to settle into lessons.  Is there anything that can be taken out of your travel bag?

On an older Top Gear episode, the guys were tasked with purchasing camping gear for a challenge they had been given.  Jeremy Clarkson & James May picked out things based on … well, I’m not quite sure what criteria.  However, Richard Hammond, who camps extensively, had a very specific list of items he wanted AND was checking the weight of each item so it wouldn’t be too heavy to carry or load down his vehicle too much.  We want to be Richard Hammond.

Be very selective about what goes in your travel bag both item-wise & weight-wise.  Not only does it save our shoulders & necks from strain over time, but it’s a safety issue once the snow & ice are here.  Anything that throws off your balance makes injury all the more likely.

Your fall tips

What are the tips you have to make your fall travel teaching a breeze?  I would love to read your ideas below!

Have a great weekend!


New Teaching Resources Every Week!

I LOVE reading blogs & follow quite a few so that not a day goes by in which I am not exposed to a new idea or way of doing something.  It keep me excited about my chosen profession … teaching music!

This meme popped up in my Facebook feed recently & I think it exemplifies what many teachers, including myself, believe about education … both for our students AND ourselves.

Educating yourself does not mean meme

This week, I thought I would share 5 resources that get my creative juices flowing with new & engaging ideas!

4D Piano Teaching

No, this is not 4 dimensional teaching though that would be pretty cool to have an incredibly powerful tesseract … unless Loki is trying to steal it in which case I’d be giving it to Thor right quick.

What 4D Piano Teaching stands for “Discover”, “Develop”, “Drive”, & “Delight”.  For the last several weeks, I have looked forward to a series of entitled “Teaching Tactic“.  These are short ideas to change up our teaching & help our students engage with their musical learning on a deeper level!

Tuesday Teaching Tips

One of the resources that I look forward to each week in my inbox is The Curious Piano Teachers.

I just discovered this weekly Facebook live session.  And, I was so happy to see practical solutions with demonstrations for a wide variety of reader questions.  In fact, I was able to take ideas from the tension in scale playing session for our technique challenge right now.  Plus, the keyboard geography games session gave me some fun ideas that we will use in our warmup activities later on this academic year!

While I haven’t had a chance to watch all of them yet, I am really excited to continue watching the back episodes of this series!

Cult of Pedagogy

First of all, the name of this podcast is fabulous!  The Cult of Pedagogy has been a great find for my work drive & I look forward to each podcast episode.  While the information is more geared towards teachers in a classroom setting, there are SO many takeaways for studio owners & teachers as well.  Just recently, I listened to “Why It’s So Hard For Teachers To Take Care of Themselves” & was reminded of ways that I can streamline my work week to be more efficient & leave more time for the things I love (like looking into new ideas).  Since my family life has been especially hectic for the start of the academic year, I was able to apply some ideas to get back a bit more balance.

Truth For Teachers

Angela Watson tells it like it is in the Truth For Teachers podcast.  The episodes are short (15-20 min.) & get right to the heart of the matter.  I think what I like most about this podcast is that it’s about doing the right things, not more things.  Angela Watson is the creator of the 40-Hour Teacher Work Week Club & is very focused on teachers having a balanced life that goes beyond our teaching & administrative lives.

Disclaimer:  I have not done any of the courses because I have found great value in the podcast itself.  However, feel free to check out the club if you want more support in this area.

The Google Teacher Tribe

If you are using Google G-Suite or Google tools in general, this is a great podcast on … well, everything Google.  The Google Teacher Tribe is 2 teachers that share new ideas, new features, & so much more.  I like that it is about engaging students, but in a pedagogically sound way.  Tech is there to help, but if it doesn’t really fit into what you are doing then leave it out of the lesson.  Again this podcast is geared to teachers in the classroom, but there are plenty of ideas we can use in our studios.  For example, the “Google Slides Gains New Superpowers” episode had me thinking about how I could perhaps create some resources for my students, or even better have my students do the creating.  At this point though, I am collecting ideas that will become projects down the road.

Your Favourite New(ish) Resources

Do you read or listen to any of the above resources?  If so, tell us about a favourite blog/episode!

If these are new to you, what is a resource you’ve discovered recently that is taking your teaching to the next level?

Have a great weekend!

Top iOS 11 Features For Music Educators

Last week, I talked about what iOS 11 means for music educators.  It’s tough when a big update comes along.  Especially when it means saying goodbye to favourite apps, which is the big story with this latest update.  However, most things in life come with a bright side as well.

There are several really great features with the new iOS that I am looking forward to delving into more & will help my productivity both during lessons & planning.

In the world of tech, nothing lasts forever.  I’m actually surprised that my student iPad has been supported as long as it has.  And as I tested out different features, I realized that depending on the age of each of my devices I couldn’t necessarily do everything that was available.

Before reading, check to see if your device is compatible with the new iOS.  To find out which generation of iPad you have, use Apple’s handy guide.

Now, back into the fun stuff!

Top iOS 11 Features For Music Educators

When I looked into the features of iOS 11, what really stood out to me was the POSSIBILITIES.

How we interact with our students & their parents,

how we do those little tasks that take up so much time,

& how we get our devices to work for us … not the other way around.

Calling All Travel Teachers!

Share wi-fi passwords with nearby devices

No more handing off the iPad to a student that wands the house looking for either a parent or the password. (This happens a few times a year when families forget they have changed the password or wireless connection.)  If the student has wifi connected on their iPad, it’s as easy as pressing a button to give you permission.

If students come to your studio, there is no need to share your wifi password with families as you can just give permission directly from your device.  No more interrupted lessons!

Do Not Disturb While Driving

I tested out this setting while teaching last week & was happy with the results.  More & more cities are implementing distracted driving laws.  And, getting a ticket for checking your phone just eats into your profits.

When my phone connected to my car’s Bluetooth, it asked if I wanted to turn on the setting.  Yes, please!  Any text messages, emails, notifications … they stayed hidden & didn’t disrupt my drive.  But when my husband called me, I got the phone call through the hands-free Bluetooth setting in my vehicle.  The downside?  I had to turn off the setting to text my husband that I was on my way home …. while my vehicle was in Park.  The easiest workaround will be to send a text BEFORE I turn on my vehicle.

What if I client texts you while you are driving?  Make sure they are on your favourites list & they will receive a message letting them know you are driving & will get back to them.  If it is urgent, they can type that in to let you know.  Now, whether you want to give your clients the right to decide if their text is urgent is completely up to you.  It could be a dangerous power to give.

Emergency SOS

When I saw this feature I thought, “Hallelujah!”.  However, if your phone is somewhere that it could potentially bump the sleep/wake button please don’t use this feature!

Chances are nothing is going to happen while I travel for work.  That being said, I like the idea that if I need to call 911 it’s not the process it was before.  Five taps of the on/sleep button & I can get connected to emergency services.  Just to be safe though, I’m checking where my phone is placed to ensure I don’t end up calling by accident.

SOS Sign

In-Lesson Help & Practice Aids

Draw on screenshots immediately

In previous iOS versions, we could take a screenshot, save it as a photo & then use Markup.

I used this feature in a FaceTime lesson to show a student the app settings I wanted him to use this week for his lab time assignment, then texted him the marked up photo.  Easy peasy!

Staff Wars screenshot

Markup … the first time

This covers so much more than it used to.  Now, you are able markup webpages, notes, photos, etc. by using either “Create PDF” or “Markup as PDF” buttons.  Either way it will show a marker in the top RH corner to get your artist side going & you can choose whether to save the PDF or just send it off.

I’ve already used this to markup manuscript paper with the student’s first note drawn in for writing out scales, but could see this as useful also for highlighting your policy on your website it a client continues to ask for the same exception over & over.

Marking online manuscript paper for student

Lab Time


Camera now scans QR codes

We (or our students) all have had the occasional issues with QR scanner apps.  Most of the time they work.  Except when they don’t.

Forget having students open another app.  Point the camera towards the QR code & it gives the option of opening it in Safari.  It doesn’t look like you are able to change the setting to another browser at this time.

Using camera to read QR codes
This is an assignment from Music Lab Task Cards at I highly recommend this resource!


File Manager

This is another game changer for me.  Imagine all your recent files in ONE place.  That’s right.  Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud & more all in one place!

We all have PDF’s that we share often with students or parents.  Rather than going to each storage app, once the PDF has been opened on your device it will show in “Files”.  It’s located at the bottom of the screen so it’s easy access whenever you need it.

Files app in iOS 11


Saving space

Your device now can tell you how to save space.  If you are like me, space is at a premium on my devices.  Now I can see what will help me free up space on my device … without plugging it into my computer.

One of the best parts of this?  Offload apps you rarely use WITHOUT loosing any documents or data.  How many apps do you keep because you don’t want to lose the data, but don’t use only rarely?  Now it isn’t an either-or situation.  This is something that I will be testing out in the next few weeks; starting with the apps that I won’t worry about losing the data, just in case.

Want to delete attachments from text messages?  I get all sorts of texts from students & often I just don’t need to keep the images (i.e. practice page).  Now, there is a easy way to go through all the attachments in one place rather than contact by contact.

Mailing just got more interesting

The look of the native mail app has changed a bit.  I’m still getting used to, but have to admit it is nice to have a wider area set aside for reading emails since the list of emails hides when you don’t need it.

Now, you can add drawings to emails.  Say a parent emails that their child is having trouble with telling which clef each hand needs to play for a particular song & no one can remember what the clefs are called.  Not a problem.  Send an email back with a drawing of each clef along with a label of the musical term & which hand plays.  It makes it easy for non-piano parents to support their child(ren) without knowing a lot of music terms or symbols.

Adding a drawing-picture-attachment to email  Insert drawing into email.JPG

Photos & Videos

To be honest, there are more features than I can list here.  This seems to be a big update area of iOS 11.  Between saving device space on photos, adding all sorts of cool features to pictures & so much more they have covered a lot.  In experimenting with the features, I found that they did not work on all devices that support iOS 11.  If you have a new device though, the world is your oyster!  Check at the end of this article to see the full listing.

Photo Tip

Images can also be dragged & dropped (like apps) into new folders.  This is dependant on how old your device is.  While my iPhone is too old to use this feature (even though it has iOS 11 & in theory should work), my iPad Pro did it just fine.  I can see how spring cleaning my iPad will become a whole lot easier.

Screen record (with sound) right from the iPad!

Cue the squealing.  That’s right.  No longer will you need a 3rd party app to record your screen.  No longer will you be limited to a whiteboard app.  This could very well be a game changer!

I tested out this feature & was so happy!  Hit record, move between any apps I want DURING the recording, & stop when ready.  Whether you prefer to record a voice over during or after recording, it’s simple to change with the tap of icon.

An Interesting Possibility

Augmented Reality

AR (augmented reality) is coming to more & more school classrooms.  It isn’t a stretch to think that it could eventually find a place in our studios.

Now, app developers have the framework to build AR into apps & games.  Can you imagine the types of apps we could get in the future?

While I know that my current student iPad will not be able to handle these apps, I am thinking that it could be a possibility at group lessons.  What student wouldn’t want to come to that lesson?

Want to know more?

I do want to mention that not everything about iOS 11 is rainbows & pink unicorns … or even pink unicorn-llamas.


There are glitches that will get ironed out with time, hopefully.  But rather than focusing on the apps I am losing, this article is meant to be a look forward & focus on the positives gained from this new update.

For more details on what these new updates are & how to implement them on your devices, read “91 Cool New iOS 11 Features You Didn’t Know About“.  (Yes.  I did actually read all 91 features.)

Have a great weekend!

Let me know below what you think the most exciting or useful new feature is for this latest update!

Top 12 Tips To Stay Healthy This Year: Part 2

Well, it is week 3 of school & one of my kids has a cold.  We are having more soup as a family & everyone is upping the ante in order to keep the cold from spreading.  Except my son who has the cold & has taken to absentmindedly leaving Kleenex lying around on all the surfaces.  Sigh.  Please tell me I’m not the only parent dealing with this.

If you didn’t read part 1 of this article, read it here.  Part 1 lists the top ways I keep my immune system healthy & ready to fight of the hordes of viruses that come with back-to-school season.  Perhaps not hordes, but they are definitely trying to sneak around the defences in a ‘sidle’ or ‘backal’ attack.  (For those of you who are Terry Pratchett fans this may sound familiar from Carpe Jugulum.)

Continue reading “Top 12 Tips To Stay Healthy This Year: Part 2”