Indispensables of Piano Teaching #6 – Good Lighting

This indispensable seems like a no-brainer, but how many of us really give our studio lighting proper attention?

I used to think that a “proper” piano lamp should be one of these:

pianolampWhile it does look lovely on a grand piano and illuminates the music rack quite well, I later discovered just how hot these little babies get when I accidentally burned my hand on one.  Ouch!  I learned fast not to reach up and adjust it while it was on (!).
As I started adding more young students to my studio, I began to worry about their little hands reaching up to adjust it and forgetting about my warning to them about the lamp’s heat, so….. I now use this one instead:
Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 9.42.43 PM

OttLite Battery Task Lamp

I originally purchased this compact Ottlite for my needlework (it’s intended for craft work), but it’s been wonderful sitting on the left side of my music rack shining clean “daylight” on sheet music.  I can see all the fine print with ease with hardly any glare and almost no heat.   And who needs more heat while teaching during a Texas summer?

I also like that this little lamp is energy-efficient and I just fold it down to turn it off like this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 9.43.10 PMMine can run on a rechargeable battery so I can move it around to wherever I need it, but not all styles have that feature.    It weighs only 4 lbs with a very stable base and so far it hasn’t fallen over.  There are some that weigh less, and besides black or white, Ottlite offers them in some cool nifty colors.  I purchased a floor lamp style (for almost 1/2 price!) which I now use for my needlework and sewing.  Love it!

BEST PRICE:  23.68 to 49.99 for a desktop version at Amazon HERE, depending on the particular features you desire.  Joann Fabric and Craft stores has them on sale this week HERE and in their stores. The store will always honor the online price. If you miss the sale, check for weekly coupons at their site.  They come in handy! 

So do you have a particular lamp you really favor for your studio or studio piano?  Please share if so.  Remember….be kind to your eyes! And that of your students as well!







Indispensables of Piano Teaching #5 – EVERNOTE

Evernote AppI just recently discovered EVERNOTE and I really, really wish I would have known about when it was first released in 2011.  It has cleared clutter from my desk, my desktop, and my head!  I have all sorts of teaching-related info stored there now instead of on my computer desktop or on paper (studio to-do list, music to purchase, students’ festival/contest application info, etc.)  If you use Evernote, please share ideas of how you find it valuable for your studio or day-to-day organization as a busy professional.


Evernote is digital software that helps you store information so it can be at your fingertips wherever you go.   Think of it as a highly organized digital filing cabinet that you dump anything into — reminders, to-do lists, vital info, receipts, business cards, audio, photos, and on and on…..

You’re probably thinking: “Not another tech learning curve, please!”  I hate learning curves too, but Evernote is incredibly easy to learn, rather intuitive, and it’s FREE!

Everything you store in your Evernote account (stored on the web) is automatically synced across all of your devices, making it easy to capture, browse, search and edit your notes everywhere you have Evernote, including smartphones, tablets, computers and on the Web.

I found this video tutorial quite helpful in getting started.  I learn so much faster with a visual demo rather than by reading a guide. 

Sign up for your FREE  Evernote account HERE.  All you need to is your email address and a password.  You can sign up via the web, like I did, and then download the app afterwards, or just download the app first.  Either way works and it will all sync up between your devices.

I like Evernote’s clever use of an elephant for their logo.  See how the elephant’s ear flaps over like the page of a note?

And an elephant never forgets, right?


Indispensables of Piano Teaching #4 – Interlocking Plastic Keyboard

Interlocking Plastic Keyboard
Here’s an oldie, but a goldie tool for studio teaching, especially if you teach in groups once in a while.  I recall using these in group theory classes when I was child.  How’s that for dating this item? and myself….


I didn’t really think I’d have a need for these in my private piano studio since I have 2 pianos in the studio, several flat laminated keyboards, a floor keyboard, and even a fabric keyboard, but this plastic dimensional keyboard has really come in handy.

This interlocking keyboard features full-sized white and raised black keys. Each two-octave keyboard can be interlocked to make a longer keyboard.

Here’s a close-up of how two interlock: Interlocking keyboards copy

I occasionally take this little keyboard with me to piano teacher workshops especially when I know there won’t be a projected view of the piano keyboard on an overhead screen. I just hold this up in the air for all in the audience to see as I demo a maneuver with my opposite hand.  Of course it goes without saying that these are great for any sort of group teaching you might do when there’s just not enough keyboards to go around.  They are light and sturdy, and they store easily too.

Here’s a few photos of how I’ve used them:


I.D. of black-key groups


I.D. of Half and Whole Steps using Susan Paradis’ clever Robosteps


Excellent silent-practice keyboard while at the dining room table waiting for your lesson!

The possibilities are endless….

BEST PRICE:  $9.95 at Valentine’s House of Music in Houston, TX.   Amazon or other online retailers in my Google search couldn’t beat Rick Valentine’s price. I don’t see it listed on Valentine’s website at this writing, but you can call (713) 868-7447 to order.  He says he has plenty available. Rick is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about educational piano music and keeps his shipping affordable for piano teachers (free shipping on all orders over $50).  Certainly try your local sheet music retailer first.  They may be able to order them for you.

If you’ve used these keyboards in your teaching, please comment and share your ideas!


Indispensables of Piano Teaching #3 – Online Music Teacher Directory Service

Online MT Directory

Every music teacher’s studio needs some type of web presence these days. An online music teacher directory is a key tool if you want to maintain a steady flow of interested prospects headed in your direction.  And of course if you’re new to an area, this is definitely an indispensable!  Plain and simple — people interested in musical education need a way to find you and online directories work for you 24/7. Read More


Indispensables of Piano Teaching #2 – Music Dictionary

Hands down I believe this is the most useful at-the-piano dictionary a student or teacher can own.  It came highly recommended to me by a music professor during my first year of college. She mentioned then that it would be the one book that we would probably reach for most during our music study, and she was right!

The author, Christine Ammer, has compiled the most complete musical term dictionary I’ve ever seen.   It contains over 3,000 English translations of foreign terms from a variety of languages including French, Italian, German, Spanish, and even Portuguese!

Whenever I come across a word or even a phrase in a musical score that I’m unsure as to its meaning, I open this book.  This handy paperback has never left my bench side for years.  I made it a required text for all my college piano students in the past and now I require it of all my middle-school and high-school piano students. And better yet, several students have come back to thank me!

Now all I say to my intermediate to advanced students: “Be sure to look up all the terms in your new music and write their meanings in the score.”  No more excuses about not being able to locate a term!

PUBLISHER:  ECS Publishing. Catalog No. 4469.  ISBN: 0-911318-15-1  Size: 8.8 x 5.5 inches approx.

BEST PRICE:  $9.68 at  List price:  $10.75  You can order this through your favorite sheet music dealer since ECS Publishing is a music publisher.

Disclaimer:  My link includes a referral ID that allows a portion, a very small portion, of purchases made through the link to go towards funding for this website, giveaways, and other surprises.   Thanks for your support!

I know you’ll wonder where you’ve been all along without this book!  Enjoy!



Indispensables of Piano Teaching #1 – Highlighter Tape

Indispensable_  TAPE
Welcome to the new weekly series “Indispensables of Piano Teaching.”  Like me you probably have several teaching manipulatives, tools, gadgets, or maybe a reference book that you always find yourself reaching for during lessons.   I’ll be sharing one of my “can’t do without” items each week here on the blog for the next several weeks (not games or a specific activity, but an actual tool or gadget that I can’t do without). Please comment if you use any of the same tools and don’t hesitate to tell us how you use them in your studio.   And maybe later I’ll highlight one of your favorite tools!


I have found more uses for this tape than I could have realized!  It’s fantastic for highlighting troublesome spots in a student’s music.  You can write on it, see through it, remove it when a problem is corrected, and then reuse it!  Students love the colors (pink, green, blue, yellow, red or purple) and I find it the MOST useful in guiding their home practice.   Read More

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