Should I Give My Student A Piece He Doesn’t Like?



I’d always been a student who was really passionate about the music I liked.

And I liked drama. Fast. Loud. Minor keys, plush chords, extravagant bass octaves, quadruple fortissimos, sweeping arpeggios. I loved Beethoven, Liszt, Debussy.

I was also really passionate about the music I didn’t like.

And I didn’t like Bach. I mean, he was okay… too busy, too frilly, too cold. Not enough emotion. Chopin was monotonous. Too slow. Too many “oom-cha-cha“s.

But Mozart? He was the worst. OH. I HATED HIM. What a horrid jumble of frilly, trilly, bouncy, sissy nonsense! yuck. Where was the passion? I couldn’t stand to listen to him, much less play him.

That was 8 years ago. Today I love Bach. Chopin is glorious. And Mozart? I adore him.

So what happened?



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Should I Give My Student A Piece He Doesn’t Really Like?

As music teachers, we’ve all labored over this question. And there are times when the answer is no. Very much no. We’ll talk about those further down.

But I think there are also times when the answer is yes. Very much yes.

Not to be cruel, not to be insensitive, not to make our students hate music.

Then why?


Why It’s Important to Give Your Students Pieces They Don’t Necessarily Like


Our students aren’t going to love everything. And you know what? That’s okay. No one person is going to like every style or composer, and everyone will have a one or two that they love more than all the rest. It’s called personality, and it’s a good thing. Loving everything isn’t necessary, and it’s not the goal.

But a well-rounded appreciation for a variety of musical styles is important. Very important. And it is the goal.

Every once in a while, we’ll get a student who loves everything they hear. But much more often we find ourselves with a student who only likes one or two styles – fast, slow, soft, loud, major, minor, showy, waltz-y, Baroque, Romantic, Beethoven, Scarlatti, or Cage

Okay. Maybe not Cage.


When a student does have one or two favorite styles, it often means they don’t like all the rest. Or worse, they just plain detest the rest. Fiercely.

So when we do find ourselves with a student who has narrow musical taste, it’s up to us to nurture an appreciation for a broader range of style. Sometimes that means just listening to new composers with them and explaining what makes them unique from others. Other times it actually means giving them new styles to learn, even if they don’t like them up-front.

Sometimes students like new styles as soon as they hear them; other times it takes a while to see fruit. But even if it does, don’t get discouraged.

It took me two years of actively studying Bach’s music and style to learn to love him. I learned his Italian Concerto and disliked it every bit as much when I was done as when I started. So I left it. Then I came back to it a year and a half later, and you know? I loved it! And once I did, the whole world of Bach was opened up to me. Now he is the single composer into whom I have invested the most time. And, you know, it was well worth the countless hours of practice when I “didn’t like that bothersome piece.”


Musical taste, musical experience… they go hand-in-hand. Why? Because only by experiencing new music can our student’s taste be broadened.

Experiencing a variety of composers is important because it gives musicians a better understanding and appreciation for music context, stylization, and history. Our students need exposure to a lot of music… Baroque, Romantic, Classical, Impressionistic, Renaissance, and even a little modern. Sometimes exposure all that’s needed for a formerly “picky” student to discover that he loves other styles, after all.

Every single one of us has to be stretched before we can grown, and as teachers, it’s up to us to make sure our students enjoy the richness of that experience.


It’s also up to us to make sure our students have well-rounded technique. And let’s face it… some kids just don’t like certain techniques. Arpeggios, left hand melodies, octaves, rubato, runs, triplets, various key signatures and chords… They’re all challenging in their own unique way, and some students want nothing to do with them.

But if we’re wise, we will make sure our students can play all of these things and play them well, whether it’s in a waltz, etude, programmatic piece, fugue, sonata, polonaise, minuet, scherzo, or even an occasional rag-time tune.


Is It Always Necessary?

No. Some students just love music and are literally ecstatic to play anything in sight.

Remember, the goal is to help our students experience and appreciate a variety of good music. If they already do, then the goal is already accomplished. Don’t go scouring for a piece they don’t like just for the sake of it.


When NOT to Give Your Student a Piece He Doesn’t Like

There are definitely situations when we shouldn’t give our students less-than-loved pieces. Here are a few of those times to keep in mind:


Performances are your student’s chance to share his musical passions, technical strengths, and artistic maturity with his audience. If he is emotionally disconnected with his piece – or worse, emotionally hostile toward his piece – he will struggle to do all of these. (Even more so for competitions.) Instead, give your student a performance piece he will be excited about, will enjoy practicing, and can perform with an enthusiasm that’s contagious.


Launching into your most difficult piece takes an extra measure of stamina, even if you love it.  Giving a student a really hard piece that he doesn’t like is asking for trouble. Slump Alert!


Goodness me, if your student is already struggling to hang in there, please don’t give him a piece he doesn’t like. It will seal his doom. Instead, give him lots of encouragement and a piece or two he really, really loves.


When, What, & How to Do it Right


Between performances is usually the best time to give students a less-than-loved piece. It gives them the opportunity to focus on mastering it without distracting them from more pressing performance repertoire.

Immediately after a successful performance is ideal because the student is on a high note and ready to take on anything. When unlocking new music to our more skeptical students, timing is definitely key.


When introducing a composer or style your student doesn’t like, keep it a level or two below his current repertoire capabilities. Start with something short and sweet, especially for young students. Remember, the goal is to stretch them musically, not to make them panic!


My teacher made me play stuff I didn’t like, but she was never mean about it. She never spoke harshly to me or ignored my thoughts or told me that I was ignorant and didn’t know what was good for me. She was kind. She respected my struggles. She was even sympathetic. But she was firm. And by firm, I mean SHE DIDN’T BUDGE. And I benefited because she didn’t.

Remember, we’re doing this to help our students. We are their music teachers. It’s our responsibility and privilege to help them cultivate a well-rounded appreciation for good music, and hopefully, they will learn to know and love music better in the process.

So how do we do this well?

To start, here are a few things NOT to do:

– Never be forceful.

– Never disregard their feelings.

– Never treat them like they are ignorant or need to be enlightened.


– Be gentle. Be patient. Be sensitive. Be kind.

– Listen to their woes. Be understanding. Make sure they know you aren’t ignoring their feelings or don’t care what they think.

– Explain to them why it’s important. Help them understand the goal. Keep communication open and work with them as a team, not a taskmaster.

If we can do all of these things, we’re well on the road to doing it well.



We’ve got to keep this question at the forefront. Remember, the goal isn’t to get them to love every piece ever written or every composers who ever lived.


1) A Well-Rounded Musical Experience
2) A Well-Rounded Musical Appreciation

I still don’t love Prokofiev. And I’m not that crazy about Haydn or Brahms. It’s just personality. But you know what? I recognize the significance of their lives and work, and when I do play them I want to play them well.

Once our students are willing to try and appreciate composers who aren’t their favorites they’ll really start to grow. Why? Because they’ll better understand musical context, style, and history. They’ll have the complete musical picture instead of just their favorite fragments.

So, if we can do it well, then yes – let’s give our students pieces that will stretch their taste. Their musical experience will be far richer and deeper than it ever could be if we don’t.


Have any thoughts? Share them in the comments below!

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9 Music Books to Read in 2015




There are so many amazing books about music out there, and sadly, there’s not even a fraction of the time we would need to read them all.

So, while you’re prioritizing which music books to read this year, here’s a list of 9 to help you get started. They are some of my absolute favorites.

1  |  The Perfect Wrong Note

This is one of the best books I have ever read. At it’s core, it is an exposition of Beethoven’s “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” The author shows the importance of involving body and emotion (not just brain)  in the execution of a piece and teaches really practical ways to avoid tension and let your body follow its natural flow without sacrificing mental alertness. The goal is this: if you’re going to play a wrong note, play it well.

2  |  Music at Your Fingertips

This one is every bit as good as The Perfect Wrong Note, just in a very different way.  I appreciate so much about the advice in this book. The author is an experienced, international pianist, and she gives extremely practical advice on practicing, musicianship, memorization, developing finger control, preparing for performances, listening, teaching, sight-reading technique, selecting repertoire, and more, and it’s wonderful. This is NOT a how-to-play-the-piano-in-5-easy-steps kind of book. It’s about learning how to handle your instrument like an artist.

Mini-Reviews for 9 Music Books to Read This Year. The Gift of Music. #book #reviews #books #classical #music3  |  The Gift of Music

I have used this book so many times when studying composers.  Each of the 42 chapters is devoted to a composer and includes a quote, mini-bio, recommended reading list for further study, and recommended listening list.

As a musician, I appreciate the scholarship, history, and education in this book.  As a Christian, I appreciate the authors’ analysis of the composers’ lives, priorities, and standards. Using the recommended listening lists as a guide is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with the great composers’ most known works. Definitely add it to your library!

4  |  Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff

If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be adorable. It’s a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life and musical career, and it gave me a greater appreciation for his work. It’s a kids’ book, true. But it’s great for adults and families, too.

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog. #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

IMG_8990-25 | What Makes Music Work

This is the most comprehensive book presentation of basic music theory that I’ve read to date. Most “Introduction to Theory” books confuse even the most basic concepts by using the most technical and musically scientific terms possible. This book was radically different – simple, concise, and in plain language that beginners can understand. Music theory is only confusing if you make it so, and this book doesn’t.

This book is intended to be a informal course for beginners, though it does venture into some relatively intense theory by the last third of the book – particularly advanced chord structures, harmonization, and composition. These more advanced concepts are taught extremely well, but if it is confusing for the time being, lay that part aside for a while and come back to it when you have worked your way to that point.

6 | The Joy of Music

Actually, I recommend that you read half of this book. Specifically, these chapters:

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
The World of Jazz
Introduction to Modern Music
The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach

These are a collection of scripts from various radio/television interviews the famous conductor / composer Leonard Bernstein gave over the course of his life. So, while half of the scripts are hard to appreciate because they lack the musical context that would have been present in the radio programs, the four chapter listed above are amazing. It’s extremely educational (Bernstein often jumps into conversations on chord structures, compositional forms, and stylistic specifics, complete with musical scores), but the conversational style of the chapters keeps it easy to understand.

Note: There are a few issues with the other chapters in this book, namely language and morally questionable operatic scenes.

7 | What to Listen for in Music

This book is a listener’s introduction to fundamental elements and forms of music, written by 20th-century composer Aaron Copland. First, he talks about what makes music: rhythm, melody, harmony, tone color, texture, and structure. Then he goes on to explain fundamental music forms: sectionals, variations, fugues, sonatas, free form, opera & drama, contemporary, and film scores.

It’s a great resource for music students and music enthusiasts. Although… if you’re an enthusiast, you’ll be a student by the end of the book. ;)



8 | Glory & Honor: The Music & Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach

This is a unique biography because it is divided into three parts:

PART I is a great overview of Bach’s Life and Musical Career. It outlines the highlights of his career without getting bogged down on unnecessary details. And the best part? It’s interesting. It’s worth reading just this section if you’re short on time.

IMG_8902PART II is a close look at Bach’s Character. The author talks about his many strengths and a few of his weaknesses. This is the longest section and does feel lengthy if you’re trying to hurry through it. Still, if you take your time, it is interesting to get such a close look at the person of Bach.

PART III discusses Bach’s Legacy – the way his work affected classical music, history, and us. It really is incredible how great of an impact one person can have on so many other lives.

It’s a great book. I would NOT recommend trying to plow through this one, or it will feel dry. This book has a lot to offer, and it would be best to spread it over a month or two. Definitely a valuable book for Bach lovers.

IMG_89619 | Classical Music

This one is similar to The Gift of Music, only it is twice as thick, covers more composers, goes into greater depth, has fun Q & A boxes, gives more thorough listening lists, and is written from a secular perspective.

Classical Music covers 50 composers, and each with a detailed mini-biography. The author also gives four listening lists for each composer:

The Starter Kit (5 pieces)
A Top Ten (10 pieces)
A Master Collection (25 pieces)
A Beethoven Library (A LOT)

The author is a good writer and has a touch of humor to boot. It’s really an enjoyable book. I have not read all of way through this one, so I’m not able to comment on any problems that may present themselves in the later part of the book. However, the scholarship is excellent, and it is definitely a fabulous resource for musicians.

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I hope you are able to enjoy some of these wonderful books this year. If you read any, I would love to hear your thoughts on them!



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How to Prepare Your Child for Music Lessons



Nurturing a love and appreciation for music in your child is an important and beautiful preparation for formal music lessons. Someone has to invest time into developing their interest in music, and there is no better person than their own Mommy or Daddy!

When preparing your little people for music lessons, keep these three goals in mind: 

  1. Nurturing their interest in music.
  2. Giving them a head-start on understanding foundational musical concepts.
  3. Helping them develop the hand/body coordination they will need to handle the physical requirements of their instrument.

There are so many great exercises and activities you can do with your little ones at home to prepare their minds, fingers, and hearts for music lessons. Let’s look a few practical ways you can do that.


Nurturing Musical Interest 

Play Classical Music Around the House.  

Children aren’t likely to develop an interest in music if they rarely hear it, so make music a part of your daily life.  It doesn’t have to be at the forefront – play a variety of composers in the background during playtime, and your little ones will be influenced by the atmosphere.

Attend Real Concerts…

…and make a big deal about it! Talk about it ahead of time, get dressed up, take pictures — show excitement! When it’s over, talk about it some more. Concerts are an invaluable learning opportunity for you and your children and can be a memory they will always treasure, if you make it one.

Make the Most of The Internet.  

Thanks to Youtube, we can give our children musical experiences on the days, weeks, and months we can’t attend concerts. Pull up some chairs, huddle around, listen, watch, and talk about what you’ve heard. Oh, and don’t forget… Popcorn!

Read Stories of Great Composers, Hymn Writers, and Musicians.  

Few things will bring music to life for your children like the fascinating stories of the real men and women who spent their life studying it. Plus, kids love story time. So grab a blanket, snuggle up, and read, read, read, read, read…

Teach Them to Respect Instruments.  

Children won’t have a lasting interest in something they think is just another toy. Teach them how to approach instruments with care, gentleness and respect. It will intrigue their little minds more than you think. (And save your instrument much heartache in the future. ;)

Sing, Sing, Sing!

What child doesn’t like songs? Even my 10-week-old would crack up when I started singing to him! Kids can usually handle simple tunes long before the complexities of an instrument, so when your kids are infants sing to them. When they’re toddlers sing with them. Your voice doesn’t have to be great… just sing – they’ll love you for it!

Celebrate Music

Pick a composer’s birthday to celebrate each month, and have a party! Spend the morning or afternoon listening to that composer’s music, reading stories about his life, enjoying a meal or treat from his culture, studying his time period, and anything else you can think of. If you’re really into it, some birthday cupcakes will be a hit, too! This one is more elaborate than the others, but if you’re up for it, you’ll have a blast!


Fostering Musical Understanding

Teach Them Basic Music Terms & Symbols.  

If a child can learn to recognize ball, chair, and cookie, he can learn to recognize note, staff, and “twebble clef”.  Give him a jumpstart on the stuff he’ll need to know when he begins music lessons – it will help him feel less overwhelmed at the first lesson.  Start with helping him to recognize these, and he’ll have a great head start:

  • Staff, Treble Clef, Bass Clef, Measure, Barline, Time Signature
  • Quarter Note, Half Note, Dotted Half Note, Whole Note
  • Quarter Rest, Half Rest, Whole Rest

Ear Training

You can never start training a child’s ear too early. Even the most basic ear training will make a tremendous difference. I’ll be sharing some beginner ear training activities soon, but in the meantime, try starting with simple exercises like these:

  • Loud/Soft, Long/Short, High/Low, Same Note/Different Note, Notes Going Up/Notes Going Down

Help them Learn the Names and Sounds of Instruments.  

This one might just be the most fun of all! Look at pictures and illustrations of instruments online or in a music book together.  Help your children recognize different instruments and instrument families. Watch solo and orchestral videos on youtube to help them learn the sounds of each instrument, then switch to recordings where they can only hear the instrument sounds. This can be a super fun and educational guessing game!

Teach Them the Names of Basic Instrument Parts…

…and what they do!  Kids are fascinated by how things work, and instruments are no exception. If you’re not sure what’s what, do a wink or two of research and then let them learn with you! (Online is an excellent resource.) Keep it interactive and try to get around as many instruments as possible. Your kids will have a blast, and you know what?  You will too.

Names of Keys

They’ll need to know how the music alphabet works, and the piano is a great place to learn.  The keyboard is arguably the easiest instrument to learn how the music alphabet works – partly because of its simple visual patter (it is straightforward and repetitive, unlike the violin or trumpet), and partly because it’s right in front of your face instead of left, right, up, or down, like the violin, flute, trombone, or cello.



Developing Physical Coordination

Clapping their Hands to the Beat in Music

This one is important! Clapping their hands to the beat will not only help them recognize where the beat is, it will also help them learn to coordinate their body movements with the beat, which is a crucial part of understanding and executing rhythm on an instrument.  You can do this one with classical music, or your favorite hymns, folk, or pop tunes. P.S. …it’s lots of fun!

Holding a Ball

If your child is starting with piano lessons, holding a small ball will help to prepare his hand for the correct playing position.  The ball should be small enough for him to wrap his fingers around in a curved position, but large enough that his fingers aren’t touching. (A $1 bouncy ball from Dollar Tree will do the trick!)

Learning Good Posture and, um… Sitting Still

Help your child understand what it means to sit with his back straight and his legs not twisted into a knot.  His teacher will be thoroughly impressed if you get this one down.  ;)


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And last, but not least… Remember that Your Attitude is Key.

You don’t have to be an expert in music to encourage a love of music in your child; you do have to have a love of music yourself. Your attitude and actions alone will make a difference. Your children learn what it important by watching what you get excited about. Watching you approach music with enthusiasm will show them that it is something to be valued. 


“Make delighting in music a part of your daily life,
and your children will learn to delight in it too.”


Have any question or additional ideas? I’d love to hear them. Comment below or send me an email through my contact page. 

16 ways to prepare you child's mind, fingers, and heart for music lessons., Lacie Bowman Music #music #musiclessons #musiclessontip #musictips #musiceducation #musiced #piano #teaching #homeschooling #homeeducation

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One year ago today, The Music Blog said hello to the Internet!

In celebration of The Music Blog’s 1st Birthday, I’m giving away
3 of my favorite music resources:

Music At Your Fingertips, for musicians.
The Gift of Music, for music-lovers.
Great Composers Coloring Book, for the little ones.

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…leave a comment and tell me which book you would like to win. I will choose 3 winners at random next Saturday, January 10th.

 Please Note: I am only able to ship to the continental US and Canada.

For Extra Entries in the Giveaway…

// For 3 extra entries       Like The Music Blog on Facebook.
// For 2 extra entries       Share the link to this giveaway on Facebook.
// For 2 extra entries       Follow my music profile (@teachlearnmusic) on Instagram
// For 1 extra entry          Regram my giveaway photo on Instagram
                                        with the hashtag #2015classicalmusicgiveaway
// For 1 extra entry          Tweet a link to this giveaway.
// For 1 extra entry          Pin this giveaway on Pinterest.
// For 1 extra entry          Share a link to this giveaway on Google +.
// For extra entry          Post about this giveaway on your Blog.
That means you can have up to 13 entries!  

Make sure to leave separate comments on this post for each entry you complete, or they won’t all count as extra entries! When you share the giveaway on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, or a blog, be sure to include the link to your post in your comment below.

||  The give-away ends next Friday, January 9th at midnight CST.  ||
Winners will be selected and announced January 10th here on The Music Blog!

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Now, here’s a bit about each book…  Have fun choosing!

IMG_8629For Musicians | Music at Your Fingertips

Ah, my musical friends, I love this book. The author is experienced, extremely practical, and to-the-point. In this book she talks about productive practicing techniques, musicianship, memorization, developing finger control, preparing for performances, listening, teaching, sight-reading, and more, and it’s wonderful. This is NOT a How-to-Play-the-Piano-in-5-Easy-Steps kind of book. It’s about learning how to handle your instrument like an artist.  Read my full review here.

IMG_8615IMG_8635For Music Lovers | The Gift of Music

I have used this book SO. MANY. TIMES. when studying composers.  It features 42 composers, and each chapter includes a quote, mini-bio, recommended listening list, and recommended reading list for further study. As a musician, I appreciate the scholarship, history, and education in this book.  As a Christian, I appreciate the authors’ analysis of the composers’ lives, priorities, and standards.



For Little Ones | Great Composers Coloring Book

I REALLY like this coloring book.  Each page has a illustration and a short description of the composer, so your little peeps can get to know the composer’s significance while becoming acquainted with his face.  The Illustrations are classic, and the descriptions (50-70 words each) do a great job sharing the most important aspects of the composers’ lives and work, along with a few fun music history tidbits to boot – a great way to spark your little ones’ interest in music history!
Read my full review here.

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Have fun, friends! :)

6 Reasons to Have a Rehearsal For Your Studio Recital


It’s mid-April, and that means only one thing to music teachers:  Recital Season!

While you finalize your recital plans, work through logistics, and look for ways to make everything flow as smoothly as possible you might be asking yourself if you should have a rehearsal.

That’s a good question to ask.  And in my opinion, the exuberant answer is YES!  A hundred times yes!

I love having recital rehearsals for so many reasons, but here are six reasons why I appreciate rehearsals the most.


1  |  Early Preparation

6 Reasons to Have a Rehearsal for Your Studio Recital | The Music Blog

This one might just be the biggest.

A trying-to-put-the-last-page-hands-together-the-night-before-the-recital approach is never fun.  It’s usually not successful, either.  Early preparation is absolutely invaluable, and no amount of last minute cramming will make up for a lack of it.  If preparation is key, early preparation is a battering ram.

Having a rehearsal 2-3 weekends before your recital date sets a reasonable goal and an effective incentive for your students to have their pieces prepared and ready to perform well before the recital.  It helps them avoid procrastination and allows the few remaining weeks between the rehearsal and recital to be devoted to enhancing presentation, refining artistic details, and building confidence.


2  |  Working Though Logistical Kinks

Does the program flow?  Are there too many slow pieces in a row?  Did Johnny remember how to bow?  Does everyone know what they need to bring?  What time to arrive?

The rehearsal is a great time for you to see what logistical details need to be smoothed out between now and the recital (take notes!) and to make sure that everyone in the studio knows all of the important details for the recital night.  At the rehearsal you can hand the parents and students neatly-printed sheets with all the information pertinent to them or follow up the rehearsal with a concise email.  It’s also a great time to work through reception plans with your studio parents.  Now, THAT’S the fun part!


3  |  Discovering Hidden Weak Spots

Sometimes pieces that appeared solid during lessons suddenly become a bit shaky when performed “cold” for a roomful of people.   Because rehearsals have so many of the same dynamics as recitals (audience, formal performance only one time through, etc.) they help to reveal those hidden weak spots that don’t usually manifest themselves during practice time or regular lessons.

As teacher, you’ll have the opportunity to target those areas during the rehearsal…  And the best part is that you’ll have time to work through those spots with your students in the lessons between the rehearsal and the recital, find solutions, and get those sections in tip-top shape by recital time.


4  |  Confidence  

The rehearsal gives all of the students a chance to get familiar with the program and to practice everything that’s expected of them in an formal, recital setting.  Audience, bowing, applause, smiling, order of pieces, memory, seating arrangement, presentation…  it’s all there.  Repetition builds confidence, and knowing that they have “done this before” will give a huge boost to their confidence on recital night.

The rehearsal also gives your students the chance to find out if there is anything they’re unclear about relating to the recital.  Talking over these things with them (and their parents!) will ease their minds and help to prevent confusion come performance time.

6 Reasons to Have a Recital Rehearsal | The Music Blog
2008 – Some of my students performing their violin ensemble during rehearsal.

5  |  Parental Involvement

Ideally, your studio parents are involved all semester and not just during recital season.  But if not, the recital rehearsal is a perfect time to help them get connected!

For your student, having a parent physically present at the rehearsal can go a long way in making them more focused during preparation and more confident once performing under pressure.  Most parents are excited to come – it’s a great opportunity for them to see how their child is handling preparation for their upcoming performance, and it’s also a perfect time for them to talk with you to find out how they can help their students maintain confidence and overcome weak spots between the rehearsal and the recital night.  Plus, they get a fun sneak peak at the recital program!

Ask that at least one parent per student attend the rehearsal to hear the performances.  Encourage your parents by reminding them how invaluable their verbal encouragement and physical presence really is to their student and to you.


6  |  Camaraderie

Students are usually too preoccupied on recital night to make new friends, but rehearsals lend the perfect atmosphere for them to connect with other students in the studio, mingle, and develop friendships.

Never underestimate this one!  When students relate to each other like they’re “in this together” instead of like fierce competitors trying to see who can come out on top, charming things happen.

I have had so much fun watching friendships develop between my students.  At rehearsals, I hear them chattering about the upcoming recital – what they’re looking forward to, whether or not they’re nervous yet, and a host of other little excitements and woes.  At recitals, I see them huddled on rows together giving each other pep talks, encouraging speeches, and comforting hugs.  Just the sort of thing to make a teacher’s heart melt into pudding.

So actively encourage camaraderie between your students.  Rehearsals are a perfect place to start!

6 Reasons to Have a Recital Rehearsal | The Music Blog.jpg
2013 – Four of my little Texas students having a right jolly time together after rehearsal.


BONUS  |  Group Pictures!

If you’re planning to put a group picture in the printed recital program, the rehearsal is the ideal time to take it!  I usually pick a color theme and request that the students wear it to the rehearsal so everyone is matching.  They love it!

6 Reasons to Have a #Rehearsal for Your #Studio #Recital | The Music Blog.  #music #studio #teaching #piano #tipsIF YOU HAVEN’T had a rehearsal for your recitals before, give it a shot!  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It can just be on a Saturday afternoon in your home or studio – short, sweet, and oh-so-effective!

It lifts a huge amount of pressure from the recital evening and provides a great comfort cushion for both you and your students.

If you decide to try it out, let me know how it goes!

Happy recital planning, friends!


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How to Get a Bigger Audience for Your Next Studio Recital

\The Music Blog | How to Get a Bigger Audience for Your Next Studio Recital

Studio Recitals are important!  They give your students the opportunity to share their hard work with others, and they create some of the most rewarding memories you’ll ever make as a teacher.  I love them!

But it can be disheartening to pour everything you’ve got into preparing yourself and your students for your recital only to have a handful of people show up.

Here are are few things you can do to share the excitement with guests and fill those empty seats at your next studio recital!


Pick Your Date Early. 

The Music Blog | How to Get a Bigger Audience for Your Studio RecitalsHave your date, time, and location finalized and on the books at least two months in advance.  Few guests will take an invitation to a “tentative” recital seriously no matter how far in advance, and even fewer people will be able to make room in their schedules when they hear, “Hey, by the way, I have a recital next week!  Want to come?”    Waiting until the last wire to finalize plans is unprofessional…  Plus, it makes it nearly impossible to assemble a good audience.

Planning ahead is key to a relaxed evening for you and your students, a well-done event, and a large audience. 


Make Sure Your Students Are Confident.

Most of our students will not inspire themselves to invite a list of guests.  There are definitely exceptions, but students are often timid about inviting friends because they are nervous or lack confidence in their own performance. As teachers, we are responsible for making sure our students are prepared and for building their confidence.  (I hope to write a full post on this topic soon!)

So, encourage them!  Talk to them about their fears, remind them of their strengths, and help them realize that their family and friends will be at the recital to cheer them on, not count their mistakes.  Tell them that you enjoy hearing them play and that their guests will, too.  Your encouragement will make a more confident performer and a more enthusiastic guest-inviter!


Ask Your Students if They Have Invited Guests

Sometimes students are so wrapped up in thinking about their performance that they forget to invite guests and need to be reminded.


Start asking a month in advance if they’ve invited anyone yet, then keep asking, smiling, and encouraging them every week until recital time!


Ask Your Student’s Parent to Help

It may seem like a given, but many parents don’t actually think about inviting guests until you ask.  And once you mention it, they love the idea.

So get them calling up the aunts, cousins, grandparents, and friends, and you’ll have a full house before you know it!


Invite People Yourself!

Remember, your studio recital isn’t just about your students – it’s also a showcase of what you have accomplished through your students, and many of your family and friends would love to see how you have been investing your time.

So take a few minutes to look through your email contacts, social media connections, and old-fashioned address book, and let your friends and family know about your recital.  Don’t be hesitant – you will probably be surprised at how many of them are interested in coming!

If you’re unsure about who to invite, start with your extended family and close friends, and branch out from there.


Mail or Hand Out Invitations.


The Music Blog | How to Get a Bigger Audience for Your Studio RecitalsMail or hand out small invitations as a follow-up after you’ve personally told your friends about your recital.  This is a perfect way to help those well-meaning friends who wanted to come to your recital but quite simply forgot.

The invitation doesn’t need to be extravagant – a simple, decorative, one-sided sheet works perfectly.  Include the title – ‘Spring Recital’, etc. – date, time, location, your email or phone number, and a very brief paragraph or sentence inviting them to attend.

Physical invitations are more memorable than email invitations (which get lost in the inbox), and many of your guests will appreciate having one place where they can reference all the details at a glance.   Besides, everyone loves getting invitations…  They’re just plain fun!



That’s right.  Consider performing at the end of the program!

It does NOT need to be your most recent or most complicated piece, but an engaging, well-done performance will delight your guests and be just one more reason for them to come.  Plus, it will motivate your students and encourage their parents.

[box style=”white” ]KEEP IN MIND…  Performing does require an extra measure of personal preparation beforehand and concentration on the night of the recital.  Remember, your first duty is to your students, so if performing means you won’t be able to give them the full attention they need, then don’t do it.[/box] 

Have a Nice Reception.

Why this one?  Two simple reasons:  1. People love food.  2. People love to visit.

So, first, make sure there is plenty of food.  Put some thought into the reception, and make it nice!  It doesn’t need to be candle-light-cloth-napkin-three-course-meal kind of nice, but it does need to be more than store-bought-cookies-out-of-a-plastic-container kind of nice.  Ask each of your students’ parents to bring something sweet or savory, and have fun bringing a number of treats yourself!

The Music Blog | How to Get a Bigger Audience for Your Studio Recitals

Second, make sure there is plenty of time to mingle.  Guests will be more eager to come if they know they will be able to visit awhile with their little musicians instead of having to leave the building as soon as the performances are over.  Besides, some of the most encouraging, motivating memories for students come from their recital receptions when they are praised by their family, friends, and strangers on a performance well done.  Allow plenty of time for you, your students, and your guests to mingle, visit, and make memories!


Pay Attention to Detail.

This one is important whether you have a huge crowd or just a handful of close friends.

BUT… it will set your recitals apart and help your audience grow from one recital to the next.

Remember, most people have dire impressions of music recitals and dread the thought of going to one.  Why?  Because so many recitals are scraped together at the last minute, they start late, the kids bumble through their pieces, there’s no program, you hear the same piece 5 times in a row, and the teacher looks frantic the entire time. Simply put, they’re unprofessional. This does not need to be you!

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The Music Blog | How to Get a Bigger Audience for Your Studio Recitals

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Select repertoire that is interesting and widely varied.
Print a lovely program.
Add a vase of flowers and tufts of greenery to the reception tables.
Be organized.
Take extra time to prepare your mind and think through what you’re going to say so you will be relaxed and confident on the recital evening.
Make sure all of your students know how to bow and smile.
Be a gracious host.
Have a dress code for your students.
Talk to your guests and thank them individually for coming.
Enjoy your evening, and help everyone else to enjoy theirs.
And, by all means…  make sure there are lots of tasty treats at the reception!


Make your recital evening memorable, and your audience will want to attend again!

The Music Blog | How to Get a Bigger Audience for Your Studio Recitals

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Recitals are a lot of work, but they’re worth every. single. bit. of it.

So, relax, plan ahead, make memories, and put your very best effort into creating a professional, well-done night of music.

And don’t forget to tell your guests that you hope to see them again at the next recital!

Have any other tips?  Share them in the comments!

How to Get a Bigger #Audience for Your Next Studio Recital | The Music Blog. #music #studio #recital #tips #teaching #piano


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Sharps, Flats, & Naturals: 3 Free Printable Worksheets


Hi friends!  Here is the last set of worksheets for the “week of free downloads”!   I intended to share these worksheets on Saturday, but I was sick and unable to post them.  Better late than never, though!

These three theory worksheets are focused on strengthening the student’s ability to recognize and write out sharps, flats, & naturals.  You can print them out and use them during lessons, or give them to your students for extra practice at home!  Complete descriptions and download directions are below.

I’ll continue to post free printables every other Friday here on The Music Blog, so be sure to check back January 31st and every other Friday after that for more free theory worksheets and more!




This worksheet gives students practice in identifying notes with sharps, flats, and natural signs.  

 Identifying Sharps, Flats, & Naturals | Free Printable Theory Worksheets on The Music Blog


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This worksheet gives students practice in writing accidentals by adding assigned sharps, flats, and naturals to the given notes.

Adding Sharps, Flats, & Naturals | Free Printable Theory Worksheets on The Music Blog


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This worksheet gives students practice writing notes with accidentals.  Exercises include writing sharps, flats, & naturals in the treble and bass clefs.

 Writing Notes with Sharps, Flats, & Naturals | Free Printable Theory Worksheet on The Music Blog


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Please PRINT them, USE them, & SHARE them freely with your friends!

[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]


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2 Free Printables: Naming Notes in the Treble & Bass Clefs


Hi there, teachers & parents!  Today’s two printables are exercises that every beginning student needs – reading notes!  I find that I almost can’t give my little students too many of these!  

Download directions are at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy them!



This worksheet gives students practice in identifying notes in the Treble Clef.   Notes in exercise range from Middle C to A5.

 Reading Treble Notes Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog


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This worksheet gives students practice in identifying notes in the Bass Clef.   Notes in exercise range from E2 to Middle C.

 Reading Bass Notes Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog


Please PRINT them, USE them, & SHARE them freely with your friends!

And remember to check back tomorrow for more free theory worksheets!

[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]

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2 Free Theory Printables: Time Values & Note/Rest Identification


Here are 2 NEW printables for you to use with your students during the lessons or with your children at home!  

Download directions are at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy!



This worksheet requires students to circle individual notes & rests that are mixed into a variety of others.  One line each is devoted to quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, quarter rests, half rests, and whole rests.  

Free Printable Theory Worksheet NOTES & RESTS | The Music Blog


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In this worksheet gives students practice in identifying the time values of basic notes and rests.  Drills include quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, quarter rests, half rests, and whole rests.  

Free Printable Theory Worksheet Time Values  |  The Music Blog


Please PRINT them, USE them, & SHARE them freely with your friends!

[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]

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to get our NEW music freebies as soon as they’re published! [/box]

3 Free Theory Worksheet Printables: Major Scales

Free Printable Theory Worksheets MAJOR SCALES | The Music Blog


Here are today’s 3 free printables!  These three theory worksheets are focused on strengthening the student’s ability to recognize and work with white-key major scales.  Complete descriptions & download directions are below.  Enjoy!



This worksheet on is designed to help students identify scales as they are notated on the staff.  This exercise includes the white key major scales written in one-octave: C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, E Major, B Major, & F Major.  The order of scales are scrambled, and some of them are included twice.



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In this worksheet the student is asked to add the sharps and flats needed to complete the major scales.  Scales are one octave, ascending in the Treble Clef and include the white-key majors: C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, E Major, B Major, & F Major.

Completing Major Scales Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog


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This worksheet gives students practice in writing out scales on the staff (Treble Clef).  The directions ask for scales to be written one octave, ascending and descending.  Scales included are all white-key majors:  C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, E Major, B Major, & F Major.

Writing Major Scales Free Printable Theory Worksheet | The Music Blog


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Please PRINT them, USE them, & SHARE them freely with your friends!

And remember to check back tomorrow for more free theory worksheets!

[box style=”white” ]Download Directions:  Click “DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET” link.  When file loads, press ctrl+s [PC] or command+s [Mac] to save file to your computer.  Press ctrl+p [PC] or command+p [Mac] to print. [/box]