14 Fun Halloween Songs to Learn This Year!

girl in Halloween costume holding a jack o' lantern

Photo by Julia Raasch on Unsplash

It’s that creepy crawly time of year again, and we don’t know about you, but we think nothing says Halloween like a good–but ghoulish!–new song to learn on your instrument. Halloween season is also a great time to talk about diminished chords, dissonance, and strange or eerie sounds that your instrument can make.

If you or your student is itching to learn some terrifying tunes, check out these great suggestions from our teachers, and a few more excellent ideas from around the web.

Ylva Bjerstedt Blom likes:

“Spooky Scary Skeletons” / Andrew Gold

Written by Andrew Gold, who also wrote “Thank You For Being a Friend” (which became the theme song for The Golden Girls), “Spooky Scary Skeletons” became a meme when paired with the 1929 Disney Short “Skeleton Dance” (featured below).

“Kids love to sing the end when they get to shout boo!,” Ylva said.

Steven Hemmy likes:

“Day-0 (The Banana Boat Song)” / Harry Belafonte

“It’s a catchy little melody that’s pretty easy to transcribe for beginners,” Steven said.

Lucas Gillan likes:

“In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg

This iconic song, written for Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play Peer Gynt, has been covered in several genres, from jazz to metal to K-Pop!

Adrienne Schroeder likes:

“Monster Mash” / Bobby Pickett

This innocent tune is always a classic, especially great for younger students.

Shelby Weight likes:

“Cruella De Vil” / Mel Leven

This signature song from 101 Dalmations is a fun and jazzy option. Plus there’s that cool Selena Gomez cover for extra inspiration, and it pairs well with a Cruella De Vil Halloween costume!

The theme song from The Munsters / Jack Marshall

This one’s *probably* a little before your student’s time, but still a great song!

You can’t mention The Munsters without including:

The theme song from The Addams Family / Vic Mizzy

…which always gets the fingers snapping!

Theme song from Scooby-Doo / William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Hoyt Curtin

The gang from Scooby Doo is always catching ghosts, making this song a great choice for catching the Halloween spirit!

Dan Huber likes

“Ghostbusters” / Ray Parker Jr.

A go-to blast from the ’80 past, be careful not to slime the piano keys…

“The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) from Star Wars / John Williams

An iconic example of a leitmotif, or a “recurrent theme associated with characters or events in a drama.” (Wikipedia)

Theme from Jaws / John Williams

Want to scare everyone out of the water? Learn this song and bring your keyboard to the beach.

“Werewolves of London” / LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, Warren Zevon

Some listeners rated this song as having the best opening line in a song: “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand.” Great lyric, but even better idea for a Halloween costume.

What’s Halloween without…

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”/ Rod Temperton

Bonus points if you can do a Vincent Price imitation to complement your playing.

Andrew Doney likes:

The theme from Halloween / John Carpenter

Andrew was kind enough to share a PDF of a simple arrangement he wrote that is very popular among his students! Download here: Halloween Main Theme.

More ideas!

  • Mallory Harding likes this compilation of easy Halloween piano music from Susan Paradis’s amazing piano teaching resources website. These songs are great for young beginners.
  • In the classical genre, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is a great option, and here are 13 of the scariest pieces of classical music, according to Australia’s Limelight magazine.
  • Here the Music Notes blog shares a list of classical piano solos that are great for Halloween, with links to digital sheet music for purchase.
  • The ComposeCreate online resource for piano teachers offers this list of Halloween songs for piano, conveniently organized by student level.
  • Severn River Music shares this list of popular and “less obvious” songs that are great for guitar and Halloween.
  • Lucky Voice thinks these spooky songs are fun (and easy!) to sing.
  • And just for fun, check out HelloFlo’s 5 spooky Halloween songs by female-led bands.
  • So, what did we miss? We’d love to hear *your* idea of the perfect Halloween song!

    The Priceless Quality I Look For in a Music Teacher

    girl smiling with music teacher

    By Abraham Levitan

    Since starting Piano Power in 2007 I’ve interviewed hundreds of would-be teachers. I’ve hired a small percentage of them. Over the course of a decade plus, one quality in a music teacher stands out. It isn’t musical expertise, numerous awards, or a degree from a prestigious program.

    That quality that really matters is emotional intelligence, or the awareness of your own emotions and the emotions of others.

    Why Emotional Intelligence is Crucial for Music Teachers

    Because a private music teacher with students and their families, the ability to connect is incredibly important. This is true especially in long-term relationship building. My ideal music teacher can identify students’ emotions, apply them to thinking and problem solving, and regulate them for prime learning. These abilities are the hallmarks of a high EQ.

    If a student is acting out, a great music teacher can identify the root cause. Is the student tired? Did they experience a traumatic event at school? Do they simply need some physical activity? As any M.D. will tell you, once the cause is correctly identified, the symptoms are infinitely more treatable.

    A student who connects personally with their instructor is much more likely to produce great work and exceed their own expectations.

    What I Look for In the Interview

    Of course, a great resume certainly helps, and musical proficiency is required. I look for music teachers who can sight read, develop an original composition with a student, and arrange a pop song by ear.

    But more importantly, I’m looking for empathy, good listening, and the ability to read a social situation. I want to learn who they are as a person. I want to witness their natural social and conversational habits, how they speak and listen, and whether they’re able to identify the tone of someone else’s speech.

    Also, the power of a sense of humor cannot be denied. I appreciate humor especially when it reflects an aptitude for honest self-assessment. I never like to feel like someone’s “big timing” in an interview. Evidence of humility and an honest desire to improve craft can also go a really long way.

    These qualities don’t always correlate with being a conservatory-trained musician, but they do correlate with being an effective music teacher.

    What Makes a Bad Fit

    This may not be true for all music studios or schools, but if a music teacher feels like they must do a ton of last-minute prep for a Piano Power interview, they’re probably trying too hard. You cannot cram for the interview and transform yourself from a wrong fit to a right fit.

    A wrong fit is someone who’s not a good listener, avoids eye contact, or pushes an agenda without being sensitive to how the information is being received. Those characteristics come through pretty quickly in an interview.

    The Right Experience

    Strategies for motivation, discipline, and lesson management can certainly be learned in a classroom, but an emotionally intelligent person can learn those skills from having little cousins, being a camp counselor, baby-sitting, etc. Formal teaching experience and classroom learning may help, but it’s not always necessary.

    The key is whether you internalize what you observe. There are people who take child-psychology classes who don’t internalize what they observe, and people who develop this skill simply from their own family experience. Consequently, I’m not overly wedded to credentials in the “teaching experience” department.

    The Trial Lesson

    If I think a music teacher has the chops after the first interview, I invite them back for a trial lesson with a volunteer student.

    The student in a trial lesson becomes a big variable. I don’t give candidates any background information on the student, so candidates must show up, and work with whomever (and whatever) they find.

    Sometimes the kid completely shuts down because they’re being confronted with a stranger. Honestly, I love it when this happens. It can make for a fascinating, telling scenario. Can the candidate nudge the student out of their shell a bit? Can they make them comfortable enough to smile or share something about their lives?

    My expectations are adjusted if the student is an ice cube, of course. But if a student is exceptionally well-behaved and responsive I’m almost a little bummed out, because I don’t get to see the candidate push themselves as far. Most student will not be superstars, of course, so I want to see the teacher interact with a student who is representative of most.

    In either situation, though, I love to see a good sense of humor. Are they able to make the kid smile, laugh, and communicate that this is a safe space where the student can be themselves? If the kid is comfortable sharing a funny experience that happened at school, that’s pretty huge for a first meeting.

    And if a student is excited to share a concrete achievement with their parents after a trial lesson, that is a tremendously good sign.

    My list of ideal teacher qualities may be a little unorthodox. But I always keep two objectives in mind. First, our teachers should feel at home in the Piano Power culture of feedback, friendship, and collaboration. And secondly, our teachers should have the skills to help students achieve our overarching goal: a lifelong love of music.

    Want to read more about the teachers who made the cut? Check out our roster of great instructors.

    Digital Pianos: What to Look For and Top 3 Picks for 2018

    Japanese boy playing digital pianos

    Maybe you don’t have room for an acoustic piano. Or maybe you’re a new piano student who isn’t ready to commit to buying a full-sized piano. Whatever your reason, you can rest assured that a digital piano is a reliable alternative. Because of their weighted keys and full-sized keyboards, digital pianos offer great sound and expression, and they’re easier to store.

    In the following guest post, Jason Antoon of Digital Piano Expert shares his top three picks for digital pianos in 2018.

    by Jason Antoon

    Choosing the right equipment can improve your performance, support your development as a musician, and equip you to face challenges in your study. Digital pianos are no exception. Since choosing a digital piano means trying to imitate the natural sound and feel of an acoustic piano, be on the lookout for sound quality and a natural feel when touching the keys.

    The digital pianos you find on the market today have plenty of bells and whistles. Here are some of the most fundamental features and characteristics you should be looking for:

  • size (length and weight)
  • number of keys (acoustic pianos have 88, as do many digital pianos)
  • different sounds, such as electric piano, strings, synthesizer, etc.
  • brand (Casio, Yamaha, Roland, Kawai)
  • if it’s fixed or portable
  • if it allows you to connect to headphones for quiet practice
  • recording and playback ability (a.k.a. a sequencer) so that you can follow your development and hear your improvement over time
  • the key split, which allows you to assign one sound to the lower half of the keyboard, and another to the upper
  • audio playback, which allows you to connect to an MP3 player so you can play along to songs through the piano’s speakers
  • Read more about useful features of a digital piano.

    Choose a piano that is suitable for your level, but also decide if you’ll eventually need to upgrade. Students who plan to become professional pianists, or who are in it for the long haul, should choose a model that can be upgraded.

    In order of least expensive to most, here are my top 3 picks for digital pianos in 2018.

    1. Yamaha DGX650B ($749.99)

    Most professional digital pianos from Yamaha have the same features. Nevertheless, this model is not like the rest since it has outstanding sound quality, especially when it comes to the lower range of the keys. If you are particularly interested in sound quality, opt for this product. The cost is reasonable considering its features.

    2. Casio PX860 Privia Digital Home Piano ($999.00)

    The tri-sensors scale hammered technology improves keyboard action on this piano, transforming it into a real competitor for the Yamaha models. The piano is provided with three sensitivity levels, which means that it receives even the slightest commands. The piano keys are made of simulated ebony and ivory design, offering an incredible feel.

    Featuring three sensors, this piano offers you the opportunity to memorize and register your performance with great accuracy and speed. It has 256 polyphony notes and 18 tones. You can select the tones to establish your ideal style and sound. Furthermore, it features 10 philharmonic audio recordings to help you improve your practice.

    3. Kawai MP11 Professional Stage Piano ($2799.00)

    This piano is perfect for a stage piano performance. Compared to previous models, it has better sample memory which enables users to test more songs. The piano features a new processor which has the most incredible sound effects, reverbs, and resonance, available only in stage pianos.

    The sounds are split into three distinct sounds, namely Sub, E. Piano, and Piano. Players can choose any of these sound sections while also including effects, volume fader, and reverb controls. Users can use tonal variations to verify four distinct voice categories. The action on this digital piano is extraordinary.

    Finding the right model can be tricky if you’re not prepared. Think about the sum you are willing to invest, how you are going to use it, and what features are most beneficial to you. Good luck finding the perfect digital piano for you!

    You might also be interested in these Digital Piano Expert resources, the 10 best digital pianos for beginners and for advanced pianists, and our own video guide, How to buy a piano.

    How to Make Your Music Student Happy this Summer

    by Lara Levitan

    For many music students, summer means no school, fewer obligations, and a more relaxed attitude toward music practice. Rather than fight summer’s chill vibe, why not go with it and have a little fun with a new project?

    Whether you’re a teacher, or a parent, or a student yourself, you can put the following project ideas into action, or use them as a jumping off point for coming up with your own. But here’s a tip: the project should feel genuinely fun and exciting to the student, and focus on an area they don’t have time to explore during the school year.

    Reevaluate with your student what they love about music. Ask, what do they really enjoy? What would they like to learn more about? When they wake up in the morning, what kind of project would make them jump out of bed with excitement?

    Here are 16 ideas for inspiring summer music projects:

    1. Learn a more ambitious pop song in a new key signature.

    2. Work with a new and/or specialized method book (like one of these!).

    3. Dedicate the entire summer to learning songs by one composer or songwriter the student admires.

    4. Write a medley of favorite songs.

    5. Explore a new genre like jazz or boogie-woogie.

    6. Make videos of yourself performing your favorite songs and create your own YouTube channel. (And if you do, please send us a link so we can follow you!)

    7. Learn the Bach Inventions! These are a relatively simple way to appreciate the incredible logic of Bach’s brain; each hand plays a one-note-at-a-time sequence, and you watch the two hands interact as if they’re a DNA double helix.

    8. Record an album of your work. Use your iPhone for recording, burn the tracks to a CD, and have fun creating album artwork and track listings. For students who like to improvise, work with your teacher to devise semi-structured improvisations, record, and name them.

    9. For students who don’t like to improvise, do the same thing but record favorite repertoire from the past year or so.

    We also like these ideas from Meridee Winters School of Music:

    10. Learn to solo in a favorite style like a favorite performer, artist or band. Learn others’ solos and how to create your own. Jam with your teacher.

    11. Learn to play chords in a favorite style, to accompany voice, play in a band, write songs or just boost your playing.

    12. Create a band, duo or trio with a new friend or two. Learn to play covers together, or create original music!

    13. Prepare a show of any style music. Perform it in front of an audience, whether it be your own family, friends, or neighbors.

    14. Make your own book of any theme you like (exercises, solos, history theory or any project).

    15. Create a show, list, or portfolio of all of your greatest accomplishments as a music student.

    16. Create a glossary of all of your favorite riffs that you can play, and compile them all in your very own riff encyclopedia!

    Learn why taking music lessons throughout the summer rules!

    How to Tackle Your Biggest Music Teaching Problem

    Piano student and teacher

    by Lara Levitan

    Despite being awesome and rewarding, teaching music to kids has its challenges. One of the most common is working with the disinterested student. You know, the one who takes lessons only because her parents make her?

    In this situation, shifting the focus of your teaching from technical accomplishment to simple enjoyment of playing can make a big difference.

    “[For the student, it should be like] learning to do a card trick or saying something in another language,” says Piano Power instructor Dominic German.

    Here are ten tips for engaging students who would rather poke out their eyeballs than take music lessons.

    1. Be enthusiastic.

    Or, in the words of Piano Power teacher Audie Lomboy, “hype it up.”

    “Even if it’s the most boring song in the world, the way you approach it can make a huge difference,” Audie says.

    Look at what you’re teaching through a fun filter, and your interest becomes contagious. Did you know Beethoven still wrote music when he became deaf? Or, Wow, this song has pedal in it! You finally get to use pedal— that’s so awesome. Or, This is my favorite song out of the whole book — it sounds fantastic!

    2. Be interested in your student.

    If she doesn’t enjoy learning the guitar, then what does she enjoy? What shows does she watch? What music does she love? Showing interest in your student not only builds rapport, it may give you ideas for integrating her interests into her lessons.

    3. Get away from the instrument.

    For some students, just approaching the piano may fill them with dread. Instead, play some music related games. (Susan Paradis’s site is a great resource.) . Carry a small whiteboard to draw up reading exercises, and when he completes them, reward him with a few minutes to draw on the board.

    “Once there was a blackout and the student had an electric piano,” Audie says. “So we went outside and did some rhythm games with a basketball. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box.”

    4. Incorporate the internet and apps.

    What kid doesn’t love being online? Luckily there are tons of great, kid-friendly websites that explore musical topics and ideas. Check out Hear the Music Play for comprehensive advice and information about instruments and gear.

    A whole world of music-teaching apps that kids love is available for free— here are some of our teacher favorites.

    5. Teach pop music.

    The average preteen might not feel a soul connection with Johann Sebastian Bach. But ? Now that’s another story.

    Piano Power’s philosophy centers around teaching kids to play the music they love, thereby fostering a lifelong love of music. It works. When kids learn to play what moves them, they’re more likely to enjoy playing– and to keep at it.

    6. Teach by demonstration first, save the note-reading for later.

    Note-reading can be tough. And you don’t want to further dishearten a student who’s already not feeling it. Instead, let your student imitate what you play.

    “Teaching via demonstration and imitation at first can help spark interest while avoiding the discouragement that often accompanies the difficulties of beginning note-reading,” Dominic says.

    7. Let small mistakes slide– in moderation.

    Remember, our focus is helping the student enjoy himself. If he’s continuously making a mistake that could derail his understanding, then correct it. But ignoring minor errors for the sake of encouragement can pay off in the end.

    8. Do an instrument inspection.

    Have your ever opened the piano lid during your lesson? What a chest of wonders to behold! Sometimes looking at how an instrument works can spark interest, especially for a student with mechanical intelligence.

    “Realizing that each key actually activates a hammer that hits a set of strings can be pretty darn cool to younger students,” Audie says.

    9. Use incentives.

    Ah, incentives: a classic tool among parents and teachers alike. There’s a reason so many people use them. Especially with younger students, promising an awesome sticker, a dollar store toy, or a few minutes to get up and dance after achieving a small goal can work wonders.

    10. Be generous with encouragement.

    Everyone needs it, especially a kid whose negativity affects their playing. Create small victories for your student by setting achievable goals, and then dole out the encouragement. Then breathe. And take one lesson at a time.

    Want more? Check out Piano Power founder Abraham Levitan’s advice on How to Inspire a Bored Music Student.

    How to Create a Peaceful Home through Soundproofing

    boy at drums

    posted by Lara Levitan; original article from Redfin

    Music students are a noisy bunch, and as a parent, you want to provide a safe space for your kid to make practice as fun and effective as possible. If you live in a small apartment, condo, or townhouse–or even a house with several other family members– you might want to consider soundproofing a room or two for peace and quiet, and peace of mind!

    Before you start, consider the layout of your home.

    Don’t choose a space that shares a wall with or is directly beneath a neighbor’s bedroom. If you’re in a house, avoid choosing rooms very close to a neighbor’s exterior wall, or near bedrooms.

    Select a space that is big enough for your child’s practice needs – if you or a teacher plan to sit beside your kid as they play, make sure there is enough room to fit your child, his instructor and his instrument, comfortably.

    Once you’ve decided on the best practice room, you can focus on the actual soundproofing.

    A lot of sound can escape through door and window gaps.

  • Add a door sweep on the inside and the outside of the door to help reduce sound travel.
  • Hang thick curtains over windows, or seal leaks with a budget-friendly foam weather-stripping or professional-grade acoustic sealant.
  • Further reduce noise by lining your heating and cooling ducts with soundproofing duct liner.
  • If the room you’ve chosen has any hard surfaces, such as granite countertops or hardwood floors, sound will reflect and bounce around the room.

  • Soundproof against reflection by covering the floor with carpeting or thick rugs (that can be done with the team from carpet cleaning grand junction), and consider hanging some material from the walls.
  • Install soundproof curtains around the perimeter of the room, tack up vinyl or install acoustic insulation.
  • Click on Spray Foam Insulation: Everything You Need to Know if you need more information on insulation.

  • Skip the egg crates and mattresses – these are ugly and ineffective.
  • If you’d like to go a bit further, or if your student is a bit more advanced, why not transform your room into an at-home recording studio?

    Here are a few additional tips to consider, along with our other soundproofing tips.

    • Eliminate feedback from electrical equipment by putting items like amps as far away from microphones as possible.

    • Allow some sound reflection and install diffusers. This will preserve the natural frequency of your music.

    • Think about high and low-end sound absorption. Install a few bass traps to help dampen the sound for lower frequencies.

    • Make sure you have plenty of outlets with proper wattage available.

    • Maximize your space and your equipment. Once achieved, this means fewer things for sound to bounce off of. Use digital instruments to keep the clutter to a minimum and, if affordable, use compact equipment.

    Additionally, decide on a specific time each day for your child to play. Some children are at their best in the morning, before school. Think of small ways you can help make the space special, such as including a goal chart or photos of past recitals, performances or achievements.

    Want more advice on creating the ideal environment for practicing? Check out 12 Tips for Creating Ideal Music Practice.

    How to Decide Between Private and Group Music Lessons

    kids in group music lessons

    photo by Jenny Jimenez / photojj.com

    by Lara Levitan

    You might assume, since we at Piano Power offer private music lessons exclusively, that we’re all about the the glorious benefits of one-on-one instruction.

    Well, you’re right.

    But regardless, even we must admit that sometimes, group music lessons are more appropriate for certain students or circumstances.

    Two major variables to consider if you’re deciding between private and group lessons:

  • Age of student
  • Goals of student
  • How old is your student?

    One- to four-year-olds showing an interest in music should probably stick to group lessons. Typically at this age, the characteristics that prepare a student for the intensity of private instruction aren’t developed yet.

    Those characteristics are:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Reading ability
  • The ability to sit still and pay attention for more than just a few minutes
  • Watch Is My Kid Old Enough for Piano Lessons?

    That being said, there are always exceptions. Some of our very young students thrive under the instruction of a great teacher. But in most cases, fun group lessons that incorporate singing, clapping, and rhythm games — and where young students can indulge their instinct to learn by observing others — are probably the best venue for these kiddos.

    A note for young singers (roughly 5 to 13 years old): We advise young singers to wait for private voice lessons until after they’ve begun puberty. Undeveloped vocal cords can be damaged by singing lessons, so if you have a young singer, nudge them toward a tangible instrument and/or group lessons for ear-training and fundamentals.

    If your young student is passionate about singing, there are definitely ways to incorporate fun sing-along elements into an instrumental lesson. The main point is not to place undue stress on an instrument (their voice) that’s still in development.

    A note for teenagers: Group lessons can be a route to community and socialization. Tim Topham writes in his excellent blog on piano teaching:

    “Kids these days, accustomed as they are to being able to ‘share’ just about anything with their friends, either online or in person, won’t find this in the traditional piano studio…

    Similarly, as we become ever-more screen-obsessed and siloed by headphones in our own little worlds, the idea of community has, ironically, become all the more important.”

    Private lessons, too, can offer community if regular recitals are offered, but some teenagers may need the extra peer support of group lessons.

    Now, the other major consideration.

    What are you/your student’s goals?

    If you can relate to any of the below circumstances, then group lessons are probably for you.

    1. You’re not sure about how much you’ll like the instrument, and you want to do a “test drive” before investing in private lessons. The short-term nature of group lessons make them seem like less of a commitment.

    2. You’re looking for more of a social or communal aspect in your musical training. Group lessons can appeal to more than one personality type. Extroverts may thrive in group lessons, while some introverts may find comfort in being part of a group rather than the center of attention.

    3. You’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be in a band. Ensemble classes offer the opportunity to experience the synergy of creating music with others.

    4. You want to learn the basics of music without being singled out. In a group setting, a teacher’s attention is divided among many students, and the goal is usually to focus on the basics.

    That’s also not to say that private lessons will load your plate with unwanted demands. A responsive private music teacher will help you achieve whatever goal you want — even if it’s just to unwind. (And if they don’t, find a new teacher!)

    If you can relate to any of the following circumstances, then private lessons are for you.

    1. You want focused attention. Think of a private music teacher as a kind of coach: they’ll understand your goals, assess your skills, offer customized lesson plans, and motivate you.

    Additionally, private lessons allow students to work at their own pace. In group lessons, the teacher’s attention is spread thin in order to accommodate different learning speeds and styles. In the one-on-one setting, your own learning style is the only one that matters.

    2. You’re already a part of a band or ensemble (a school marching band, a choir, or your own band), and you want to improve and refine your skills.

    3. You have a very specific goal in mind, such as:

  • Developing your own songwriting.
  • Preparing for an audition.
  • Correcting bad habits.

  • 4. You value the convenience of private music lessons, with a schedule and location that works for you.

    Chances are, you have a feeling about which type of lessons your student needs. Go with your gut. If you start out group and realize you need private, or vice versa, you can switch. If you’re still not sure, talk to a professional at a studio that offers both, such as Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, or Meter Music School in Seattle.

    And of course, we’re always open to speaking with Chicagoland families about private music lessons. (Contact Abraham at abraham@pianopower.org or 773.547.2426.)

    No matter which path you choose, remember that lessons should always be enjoyable. Check back with our blog for advice as your musical journey continues!

    Once you’ve signed your kid up for lessons, get ahead of the curve by reading the 10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make About Music Lessons.

    Best Piano Books to Challenge & Motivate Your Students

    A handy list to cover the essentials, narrow the options

    white piano w book

    by Lara Levitan

    The breadth of piano books to use with your students can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a new teacher.

    To help narrow the big world of options out there, check out this list of books recommended by our teachers, with notes included. If you have more to recommend we’d love to hear from you!

  • The Music Tree — the activities book is a great intervallic approach to note-reading, rather than teaching by rote; the repertoire book, not so much.
  • Dozen a Day or Fingerpower — excellent warm-up books for beginners.
  • Hanon and Czerny etudes — warm-ups for more intermediate students, great for finger technique.
  • FJH First Scale Book or FJH Classic Scale Book
  • Alfred’s Notespeller and Alfred’s Basic Piano Prep Course: Lesson Book A — good for students age 5-7.
  • Faber Piano Adventures, and the PreTime/PlayTime/ShowTime — popular series gives piano students a great mix of good technique and fun repertoire.
  • Music for Millions series — good introduction to classical repertoire. Volume 17 is recommended for students ready for more challenging repertoire.
  • Bastien Piano Literature is another great series to introduce classical.
  • Basics of Keyboard Theory series by Julie McIntosh Johnson — recommended for students starting around age 8 since there is more reading than visual examples. Great books to ensure student has a firm and well-rounded grasp on music principles.
  • Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics — this series of repertoire books are available for early intermediate to advanced students and are available for different instruments. A more graded repertoire approach.
  • Neil A. Kjos Piano Library/ piano repertoire books by Keith Snell — several variations go from primer level- level 10. A good alternative to cheesy method books that help students advance their skills rapidly. A more graded repertoire approach.
  • Celebration Series (from The Royal Conservatory) — features piano etude and classical repertoire books that challenge and interest the student. Usually features online audio or CD options so the student can listen to the song they are learning.
  • Are you a beginning piano teacher? Check out Teaching the First Piano Lesson for great lesson plan ideas.

    10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make About Music Lessons

    by Lara Levitan

    Music lessons can be one of the greatest gifts you give to your child; they enrich your child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development, and instill a lifelong love of music.

    But while we always have good intentions, parents can sometimes get the wrong idea about what our kids really need.

    Whether your kid is about to start lessons or has been at it for a while, there’s something to be learned (or re-learned!) from this list of common mistakes we’ve gathered from veteran teachers and parents.

    Read on, and feel prepared to provide your music students with the support they need.

    1. Starting lessons too young.

    If your preschooler really loves playing instruments and singing at home, then shower them with musical toys, sign them up for Wiggleworms, and surround them with music, but save the private lessons for when they’re a little older.

    Typically, three- and four-year olds (and many five-year-olds) lack the attention span, motor skills, and reading ability required for private music lessons. We recommend waiting until at least age five or six in most cases.

    Watch Is my Kid Old Enough to Start Piano Lessons?

    If you’re certain your young child is ready, then commit to helping them practice. Which leads us to our second common mistake.

    2. Not sitting down to practice with younger students.

    If it’s a struggle to get your six- to nine-year old child to sit down and practice each day, sitting down with them may make all the difference.

    Don’t be intimidated. Long or set practice times (e.g. 30 minutes a day) aren’t as important as regular practice times. Even just 5-10 minutes of daily practice can be effective. See it as quality time with your kid, who may only need your quiet presence and support.

    Also for younger students, consider keeping the piano or instrument in a “family” area of the house to make regular engagement easier.

    3. Enforcing practice length rather than practice goals.

    Thirty minutes can seem like forever when you’re eight years old and all you can think about is Pokemon. Often parents require arbitrary lengths of time for practice when what really matters is practice regularity, not length.

    First, make sure your teacher is leaving your student with clear practice instructions that he or she understands. Then, work with your student and teacher to establish practice goals — e.g. play slowly through this part of the song five times, then play the song from start to finish twice.

    Students may end up practicing more effectively for a shorter period. Or the lack of pressure to sit may encourage them to practice even longer!

    4. Excessively reminding older students to practice.

    The older the student, the more independence they crave (and need!). For middle and high-school students, the occasional practice reminder probably won’t hurt, but it’s the teacher’s responsibility to keep the students interested, engaged, and practicing all week.

    If the “nagging” is left to the teacher, then parents of teenagers don’t have to be the “bad guys”– and the student may be more eager to share what they learned with the parent.

    If you’re afraid that your older student will never practice if you don’t hound them, talk to your teacher. You should feel confident that your teacher is enforcing regular practice, and teaching your student how to practice.

    5. Doubting the teacher.

    Parents who are adamant about having things a certain way–e.g. my child must learn this type of music, play this song, or practice for X number of minutes each day– can undermine progress, and cast a negative shadow on lessons.

    As a result, the student’s attitude about music lessons or even music in general could be damaged.

    If there’s no clear reason to think otherwise, then hold an attitude of openness and trust in your teacher’s ability to do their job well. Left to their own devices, a good teacher will incorporate your student’s particular skills, needs, and interests–and the results may be surprising!

    6. Expecting the student will always play the same instrument.

    Your student’s first instrument may not be their forever instrument. Some kids and parents choose an instrument because it’s the most popular, an older sibling plays it, or they think the student has a knack for it.

    But stay open to the possibility that your child or teacher may discover that a different instrument may be a better fit– it can mean the difference between a child who quits music lessons and one who keeps at it


    7. Not letting kids take lessons purely for enjoyment.

    As students grow older and become more involved with academics and other extra-curriculars, music lessons can take a backseat. They may still enjoy their instrument, but the demand of daily practice and goal achievement can spoil the fun, add to stress, and ultimately lead to quitting.

    If you see this happening with your student, there is another option: change the goal of lessons.

    Sometimes, all it takes to keep an older student in lessons is a shift in perspective. Can they solely focus on stress relief and fun rather than hard-edged goals and progress? As long as your teacher is on board, absolutely! (And if they aren’t, find a teacher who is.)

    We’ve had many parents who have found that making practice optional, letting older students pick up the instrument when they want, and emphasizing fun and relaxation has been key in keeping their students happy, less stressed out, and more passionate about music than they’ve ever been.

    8. Sticking with the same teacher for too long.

    If things aren’t working out with your teacher for any number of reasons — they’re constantly tardy, not a good personality fit, or are rigid with repertoire — it may be time to directly address the concerns with the teacher, or even time to move on.

    Like any relationship, the teacher-student dynamic changes over time. If your student is expressing the desire or need for a change, hear them out. A great new teacher will add something valuable to your child’s knowledge and experience.

    9. Letting their students give up too soon.

    All artists go through rough periods. There will be a time when your child “hates” music, their lessons, their teacher, you for making them take lessons in the first place, etc.

    If and when this happens, try to get to the bottom of it. Talk to your student about why they’re feeling this way, and once you have an idea of what’s going on, readjust lesson goals (see number seven), or talk with your teacher about creating new goals and incentives to keep the student engaged.


    10. Expecting students to willingly perform for friends and family.

    Unless your kid wants to, resist the urge to show off their developing skills to others. Learning an instrument is a very personal journey, the fruit of which should be left for the musician to share, should they choose to.

    That’s not to say students shouldn’t be encouraged to participate in recitals– performances can be wonderful motivation and possibly the best way to celebrate music.

    Your kid will appreciate the respect you show not only by giving the gift of music, but by allowing them to share that gift at will.

    Avoiding these potential pitfalls is a great way to get maximum benefit out of of music lessons, and probably make the experience more fun for not only your kid, but you, too.

    Why it’s awesome to leave your kid alone during music lessons.