Recharge Your Batteries. It’s Okay, You Know?

This week I’m spending some much needed time away from the work that I love with my family in beautiful Seacrest Beach, FL.

It’s important to take the time to recharge. It’s important to capture moments with friends and family whenever the opportunities present themselves.

I hope you frequently take time to recharge your mental, physical, and emotional batteries. You need it, and you deserve it.

But do you ever feel a little guilty about taking time for yourself?

I sure do!

I immediately begin to think about my students having to miss their weekly piano lesson.

Oh, the horror!

How will they ever survive??

Well, hopefully, you’re taking the time to prepare them in advance for what’s coming so that they (their parents, really) have a good practice plan in place and know how to approach the week without a lesson.

Sidenote: This is an excellent opportunity to teach parents how to actively become engaged in their child’s music education (the number one way to set your students up for success).

But even though we know rest is important, we still get this guilty feeling.

And it’s not healthy!

You need time to recharge so that you can be the BEST version of yourself for your students.

Your students need you to take time for yourself.

I want to encourage you to take that time. You have permission, friend!

You don’t have to feel guilty for taking a break – whether it’s a week or two at the beach with your friends or family, or one day to enjoy waking up late and a nice breakfast with your significant other.

Whatever it is that helps you relax and rejuvenate; you need to do it.

Do it for yourself, first and foremost, and that, in turn, will allow you to be the best you can be for your students.

So, this is a super short post, but I feel like you need to be encouraged in this.

I sure do from time to time.

This idea of self-care is not one that we like to talk about too often. But it’s so important!

Be the best you can to yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself for your family, friends, and your students.

Recharge and continue in the important work you do.

Be encouraged today.

And take some time for yourself. You deserve it!

Why do you teach piano?


A familiar scenario –

Teacher: “I’m excited to teach today!”

“I just love my students!”

“I love my job!”

“I love the piano!”

“I love music!”

“I want to instill value in the next generation!”

“I am so excited to teach today!”

Student shows up and sits down at the piano.

Opens the book.

No practice at all.

Teacher is frustrated.

There’s hope, though.

Maybe the student will crack open his book next week and practice the notes on the page.

Teacher delivers an inspiring message to the student, challenges him, then sends him on his way.

It’s lesson day again.

Teacher: “I am so excited to teach today.”

Student comes in.

The teacher is thrilled.

Student sits at the piano, opens his book, places his hands on the keys.

No practice yet again.

Teacher is frustrated, but musters enough energy and enough encouragement, from within, to say, “All is well. We’ll try again next week.”

Teacher is hopeful, and as the week presses on begins to get excited again.

It’s lesson day.

Teacher: “I am so excited to teach today!”

Student comes in and sits down at the piano.

No practice.

So, why do we do it?

Why do we put ourselves in this situation?

We’re trained musicians.

We’ve studied our instrument and become experts in our craft.

Why do we do it??

Why pour into students who, week after week, show up unprepared?

What’s the reason?

Why teach if it’s yielding the same results over, and over again?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you why I do it.

Because I know I have something important to say.

One phrase that I speak to a student who is having a bad day (or an awesome day),  or experiencing something traumatic, might inspire and encourage her.

At some point, I’m going to say something that rings in that kid’s head from now through the rest of her life.

She’s going to know that Mr. Chris loves piano, Mr. Chris loves music, and Mr. Chris loves her!

Yes, it’s frustrating when students don’t practice.

It’s frustrating when they come to lesson after lesson unprepared, wasting our time and their parents’ hard-earned money.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say we should look for ways to encourage our students to practice.

And, not only them… But to encourage their parents to be more actively involved in their child’s music education, so that they’re not wasting their money, and so that their child is actually learning.

But, at the same time, even though your students are not always prepared, keep pouring into them.

They love you.

They respect you.

You may not witness it every single time you see the student, but keep up the outstanding work you’re doing.

Encourage them.

Teach them that music is important.

That music is a way to express themself.

Music is a gift that keeps giving.

One day, your student might just end up… Not in a concert hall or in front of thousands of people, not on the Naxos recording label…

But, at the local retirement facility, playing for the elderly.

Or, at a local community event raising funds for folks affected by a recent natural disaster.

Or, playing for a church worship service.

Or, just playing for their family at home, or for their own enjoyment.

What you’re doing is not going unnoticed.

You’re doing important work.

Keep it up!

Keep pouring into your students’ lives and know that you’re making a difference.

I hope this encourages you today.

I’d love to hear from you!

Why do you teach?

How do you stay inspired when your students don’t practice?

Please leave a comment below.

How To Spark Imagination and Creativity in the Lesson Room


One of the biggest challenges of teaching music is finding ways to keep each student inspired and motivated to learn.

But it can also be one of the most satisfying parts about teaching since there are so many possibilities to explore!

Each student is different, and it takes time to get to know individual personalities and interests.

But if we put in the effort and find ways to spark imagination and creativity for students in their lessons they are much more likely to enjoy the process of learning, and this will translate to their practicing at home.

Here are some creative tips to incorporate into your lessons:


Consistency is important, but deviating from the pattern from time to time keeps piano lessons fresh and exciting.

We’re always anxious to get to the next song in the book or get ready for the next recital, but now and then, throw in a musical game or take time to focus on a particular technique in a fun way.

This will help you avoid getting into a rut of always having the same routine, and it opens up other possibilities to explore and be creative.


One of the best ways to keep students inspired is to hear you (yes, their teacher) play in the lessons.

It is beneficial and fun for them to hear you play the songs they are working on, and once they are ready, you can play duets with them!

You can also show them videos of music that relate to what they are learning, and you can ask them to find piano videos that they want to show you.

Another great way to be interactive is to teach them basic skills of how to improvise and then improvise with them, making new music together!


Many students are happy to go along with whatever the teacher assigns for them to practice, but it is very common for students to want to be able to play a song that they have heard that is not in their method book or curriculum.

They might not always tell you what they want to play, so it’s important to ask.

If you can get to know what their interests are, you can supplement their regular lesson music with arrangements of popular songs.

This gives students a different sense of satisfaction in their practicing and performing, so when there is extra time in lessons you can focus a bit more on their interests.

Using this as a sort of reward translates to more overall interest in piano lessons in the long run.


While teaching a new concept, make sure not just to tell them the answers.

Keep them involved in the learning process by helping them to figure out problems on their own.

Have students come up with ideas and solutions to particular technical difficulties, and then show them why their ideas would work or not.

This encourages students to think outside of the box and be more connected to the process of learning while being creative in coming up with solutions.


As musicians, we’re always working on new music ourselves, and a great way to connect with students about being creative is to show them what you are doing in your practice.

Be honest about what is giving you trouble at the moment.

Show them ideas you’ve come up with about how to remedy your problems.

Students really like this; it helps them relate and see how their efforts could one day translate to more virtuosic playing.

It shows them how being imaginative when practicing helps us all to play better and have more fun!

About the Author: This guest post about staying in shape during the Summer months is by Carter McMullen from the Baltimore School of Music. You can read more about Carter and his work below.

Carter McMullen is a piano teacher at the Baltimore School of Music. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgia State University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, both in Piano Performance. He continued his music studies at conservatories in Paris, France and London, England.

Carter maintains an active performing schedule including solo and chamber music, instrumental and vocal accompanying, and jazz. He toured South America three times with the Chase Educational Foundation, giving concerts and masterclasses in Argentina and Chile, and has performed in concerts in France, Italy, the UK, and the US. He regularly collaborates with performance students at the Peabody Institute.

In 2017, Carter founded the Union Square Chamber Music Society, and as Artistic Director, he organizes monthly salon concerts in which he regularly takes part as a performer.

An Inside Look At the PracticeHabits Membership Community

One of my greatest passions is pouring into others.

I especially love pouring into piano teachers like you!

You do such important work – teaching, encouraging, and inspiring your students to learn the great joy of playing the piano and connecting with others through music.

I started back in September of 2016.

And since then, has served (and continues to serve) piano teachers all across the world!

It is a great privilege and honor to know that these piano pieces and resources are helping and resonating with teachers and their students.

The best place for me to serve piano teachers is within the PracticeHabits Membership Community.

The following article and video examples provide an inside glimpse into the Membership Community and highlight the many resources available to piano teachers like you!

The PracticeHabits Membership Community:

The Membership Community includes fantastic piano teachers who love having unlimited access to high-quality resources to share with their students.

By far, the main member perk is unlimited access to original sheet music:

Another exciting feature is unlimited access to a growing library of technical exercises.

I’m regularly adding fun scale, chord, and arpeggio exercises to the online catalog:

I believe that improvisation is one of the most important techniques we can teach to our piano students.

Improvisation forces students to recall chord structure, chord progressions, and harmonization quickly.

Lead sheets are great tools for exploring improvisation. And there’s a sizeable (and growing) lead sheet library within the Membership Community:

One of the most valuable gifts you can give to yourself and your students is to get their parents engaged in their child’s music education.

Why? You ask.

Parent engagement equals success in music lessons!

I’m regularly adding practice guides to the member’s area.

These practice guides teach parents the importance of practice and offer simple steps to help their children (your students) get the most out of their piano lessons.

And, as if the value wasn’t already amazing enough…

What’s a Membership Community without a place to talk?!?

ALL members enjoy a private Facebook group where they can learn from and inspire one another in the important work they’re doing.

So, there you have it: an inside look at the PracticeHabits Membership Community.

Members from all over the globe are enjoying high-quality resources and learning and growing together.

And you can too!

Click the image below for more information.


A Resource for Teachers with an Aspiring Composer


What does a composer do?

Why does he do it?

The composer and his art form are elusive, to say the least.

Stories of Beethoven busily composing in the wilderness and Mozart meticulously composing entire compositions in his mind before notating them are among the grand stories youngsters first learn in music history class.

These stories are inspiring. But they paint a somewhat obscured picture, making folks like you and me think that music composition is an art form reserved only for a select group of people with supernatural ability.

This is not the case.

Composition is an accessible art form!

Of course, like with anything, a person must possess some degree of skill to participate in the tradition.

My Journey

I was thirteen-years-old when I first became interested in songwriting and composition.

I vividly remember sitting at the piano with my grandmother (a professional pianist).

She taught me how to play-by-ear and pick harmony that complimented the melody.

Composing music thrilled me to no end and filled my soul with ecstatic joy!

Putting my new found knowledge into practice, I began composing songs and instrumental pieces for my church praise team.

One thing led to another, and I enrolled in the music composition program at LaGrange College.

Thus, my swim in the deep knowledge pool began!

It was evident early in my studies that I quickly needed to learn music theory to keep up with other students in the program.

It wasn’t easy, but I learned a lot and received many opportunities to compose music for instrumental ensembles and choirs.

I went on to receive a Master of Music degree from Georgia State University.

Regardless of what I would call a successful journey thus far, I feel that I could’ve been more prepared to study composition in college.

I wish my piano teacher would have encouraged me to compose when I began to show an interest.

I’m thrilled that you’re reading this blog post!

I’m thrilled because it means the art of composition is still very much alive and relevant in our world!

I hope my words are resonating with you.

You see, the composer is most important to music!

Without her, there is no music. Without her, beautiful music that reaches deep into hearts and changes lives ceases to exist!

The world needs composers.

Do you have an aspiring composer in your studio?

Does she show an interest in crafting little songs and melodies?

Is he thinking about pursuing composition beyond middle school and high school?


There are things you can do to set your student up for success.

Encourage your student to create!

My parents wholeheartedly supported my decision to compose. I’m so grateful for the time they granted me to pursue my calling.

Encouraging your student to create provides him with a support base from which he’ll steadily draw energy and enthusiasm for his craft.

Lori Garcia, a contributor to, has this to say about student encouragement –

Recognize your […student’s] efforts and progress. Compliment them, showcase their work, and express pride in their determination and personal commitment.

Provide opportunities for your student to learn.

I can’t stress this enough!

Look for any and every occasion for your student to learn new things.

Whether it be in her lessons with you, online courses, training initiatives such as festivals and camps, attending concerts, or participating in concerts.

The National Education Association shows that students whose teachers and parents are actively involved in their education –

  • Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
  • Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
  • Attend school regularly
  • Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school
  • Graduate and go on to postsecondary education

Encourage and inspire the young, budding composers in your studio!

They will benefit greatly from being immersed in the multifaceted music world and from your involvement in their education.

They need the love and support that we mentors can provide.

Continue in the important work you’re doing, friend!

Back to Piano Lessons Kick Off Ideas

piano lessons

Here we are, still in the middle of summer, a time for piano teachers to rest, and to celebrate the hard work of the previous semester.

Maybe you’re like many piano teachers, choosing to take off during the summer due to your travel schedule, or the fact that your students travel during the summer.

Perhaps you adopt an every other week sort of approach or teach throughout the entire summer.

Whatever model you adopt, the fact remains that a new teaching season is just around the corner!

It’s important to kick off new teaching seasons on an exciting, joyful note, that inspires students and helps them stay engaged throughout the semester.

The following ideas are for you to consider before diving into the new fall semester that is so quickly approaching!

Organize a challenge event.

I used to work at a local arts center (by local, I mean Atlanta-based).

And every year they put together a “Scale-a-thon.”

This was primarily a challenge that inspired students to learn their scales, chords, and arpeggios over the course of a semester.

Midway to three-fourths of the way through the semester, students had a chance to participate in a big festival, demonstrating what they had learned, playing games, and possibly receive rewards for their efforts and accomplishments.

It was so well attended and became a tradition for this particular arts center.

We all have students who have “checked out” due to travel schedules, right?

Parents are not as engaged with piano lessons during the summer as they are during the school semester.

And maybe this is okay; they’ve worked hard with their students on homework throughout the semester.

Summer is a time to recuperate.

But students spend far too much time in front of the television, they play (as they should), and travel. They’re not practicing that much.

Hosting an event, like a fall kick off challenge that inspires students to practice over the course of a semester is a great way to set a positive tone for the new teaching season.

Host small group gatherings.

If you don’t like the idea of throwing a big group gathering like a scale-a-thon, maybe you host something on a smaller scale, such as a small group gathering.

Do you have a group of beginning students who have taken with you for a year or so? (Of course, you can throw this event for older, more advanced students as well.)

Consider hosting a small group gathering based on age groups or piano level at the beginning of the semester.

Ask parents to get involved and help organize the event.

Pro Tip: Students excel when their parents get involved.

Begin the event by allowing students to play a familiar piece.

Perhaps you can ask a parent to narrate a fun story as you accompany them on the piano. This is an excellent way to teach students about music’s emotive power.

Consider preparing a fun snack with a cute music related theme.

The possibilities are endless! Just get creative.

Make the first piano lesson super special!

If you don’t like the idea of any sort of group gathering, consider making the first piano lesson of the new season super special by presenting your student with a brand new piece of music.

Of course, you can find music in the PracticeHabits online store.

There are free pieces of music and exercises scattered throughout the site as well.

One lady within the PracticeHabits Membership Community uses Halloween music and organizes Halloween themed recitals to inspire her students.

I think this is such a cool idea!

Fun and well-crafted sheet music inspire student practice.

Hopefully, you’ve connected with one of these ideas.

Try something new this season! Get creative!! Have fun!!!

Are you looking for a community of like-minded piano teachers to connect with and learn from?

How do unlimited sheet music downloads sound?

Looking for fun and creative technical exercises that inspire student practice?

Well, consider joining the PracticeHabits Membership Community!

Why Practicing Students Are Good For Teachers


As music teachers, we encounter many different personalities and levels of interest with our students.

Unfortunately, some students are not as naturally enthusiastic about practicing as others, and one of the difficulties of teaching music is in getting a student such as this to practice consistently and more efficiently.

If this isn’t happening, parents can get frustrated with their child’s lack of progress and take them out of lessons altogether.

What can we do as teachers to avoid this and help all of our students feel fulfilled in their daily practice?

When students don’t practice regularly or efficiently, it causes many problems between them and their teachers and parents.

Parents sometimes feel helpless when they cannot get their child to practice, which ultimately leads them to take them out of music lessons.

If they do practice, but not effectively, the progress is plodding and can become a source of frustration for everyone involved!

The best way to make sure students are on the right track to practicing consistently and efficiently is for parents and teachers to help them set up a practice schedule that is a part of their daily life.

This helps set them up for success!

Within that schedule, the teacher must make certain that the student is practicing effectively (not just running through the motions) and this can take a considerable amount of time and effort during the lesson time to demonstrate and reinforce.

They must learn to be efficient and fruitful in their practicing. And the teacher has to be the one to ensure that they attain these most valuable skills.

One good way to introduce better practice skills with a student is to use a fun piece as the example for how they can become more efficient.

This does not usually work if teachers impose a piece that does not interest the student, so leave the choice up to them.

Once they have decided, use that piece to explore all the different ways they can develop their practice skills at home and spend time in the lessons demonstrating and analyzing the results.

This is an excellent way for a student to become more in-tune with her learning methods while still having fun in the process.

Working on developing better practice skills can be a very long process. But the benefits greatly outweigh any difficulties we experience.

How do students benefit from practicing?

When students practice consistently and efficiently, they become more engaged, enthusiastic, inspired and inquisitive.

We want all of these things for our students!

As students progress more quickly, they soon get to learn more exciting music, which helps keep them inspired.

Students can more easily see where their music studies are leading as they progress.

And then teachers have the opportunity to compare diligent students to other more advanced students to show how their hard work will eventually pay off.

How do teachers benefit from practicing?

With positive results from proper practice techniques, we are more inspired to push students further.

This also helps us feed off the students’ progress and to be more creative!

It opens an opportunity to use positive reinforcement instead of negative punishment, and successful students become good examples for the rest of the studio.

When students are efficient and diligent in practicing, we teachers feel like we have more time and space to add other aspects to teaching that they otherwise couldn’t, such as the exploration of other musical styles, theory, improvisation, composition, arranging and more advanced technique.

With successful students, we get a greater sense of accomplishment, which increases morale.

Not every student will be naturally enthusiastic, so we need to cultivate this kind of attitude to keep us motivated as teachers.

How does this affect parents?

When parents can see progress, they are more likely to keep their children enrolled in lessons and involved in recitals and competitions.

That’s a big one, right? I mean, we all like our paychecks!

Parents are a big factor in their children’s success in music, and they are instrumental in establishing a regular schedule, attainable goals, and positive reinforcement.

Clear progress helps parents stay motivated and excited about helping their children succeed in music.

When goals are set and met, parents can easily see where the path is leading in their children’s musical development.

Student success can ultimately encourage them to enroll other siblings, family members or friends for lessons.

This is a super positive side effect of students practicing!

Remember: happy parents are the best advertising we teachers can get!

Sharing the gift of music with our students is the most important thing we do.

Engaged students and parents equal success in music lessons.

The PracticeHabits Membership Community is a fantastic community for piano teachers dedicated to inspiring student practice and parent engagement.

Piano teachers are already benefitting from the wonderful community and resources!

Click the image below for more information.


Parent Engagement Equals Success in Music Lessons

parent engagement

One, of the most common questions that parents have for music teachers, is how they can be more involved in their child’s music education.

Sometimes it can feel like there is a divide between what happens in the lesson room and what happens on a daily basis at home.

Parent engagement equals success in music lessons.

There are many ways to approach parent engagement.

Here are a few effective ways to encourage your student’s parents to get involved more meaningfully in their child’s musical development:


Often, children feel they have very different musical tastes than their parents, and this can certainly be true.

Parents can go to live performances together to establish a musical connection with their children.

This can be any kind of music, whether it’s more to the child’s liking, more suited to the parent’s sensibilities, or somewhere in-between.

The important thing is to experience music together and to talk about it afterward.

Discuss what your impressions were: what you liked and didn’t like, what surprised you, and what inspired you.

Take advantage of the connections you make in these interactions, and you will see your musical relationship grow very naturally.

On a more daily basis, listen to music while at home or in the car. This is the easiest way to connect with your child about music.

Go so far as to invite music to be a part of your family, whether it’s while you’re doing chores at home, driving to school, or just relaxing on the weekend.

When possible, take the time to have sessions of “active listening” – not just passively hearing background sounds, but focusing on the music and talking about it afterward.

Enjoying and discussing music through these kinds of experiences will help you get to know each other’s musical sides much better, which will open the door to getting more personally involved in your child’s education.


Once you’ve established a relationship with your child regarding music, it becomes much easier to take an active role in their music education.

The best way to begin this is to ask them specific questions concerning what they are working on and how their lessons are going.

Too often, parents ask the obligatory “Did you practice?” and “For how long?” without following up with more in-depth questions.

Find out what exactly what they are working on, how it is different from the other pieces or technical exercises, what do they find easy or difficult, what they like or dislike about it, and what they aspire to be able to play.

It’s essential to ask your child how they think they are doing in their practice and lessons.

If the child is struggling to stay disciplined in practice, you can help them set up a practice schedule that is easy to maintain.

Overall, encourage self-appraisal and always be supportive, since self-criticizing isn’t easy for any of us to do!


The next step in taking an active role in your child’s musical development is to set goals independently of their teacher’s goals.

The teacher will always have the dominant role as an educator, and this can make the parent-child dynamic seem less important.

The best way to remedy this is to come up with activities that don’t directly involve the timelines of what they are doing in lessons, for instance, set up family concerts at home or have recording projects that you do together and share with family and friends.

Reinforce the idea that music is not just about preparing for lessons and competitions but is something that enriches the lives of all of your loved ones.

If your child responds well to this approach, make it into a family ritual, and your musical relationship will strengthen further.

Along with these ideas, it is helpful and fun to play duets with your child if you have basic skills on any instrument, particularly piano.

Playing together is truly the most direct way to establish an active role in your child’s musical life, so if needed, you can take lessons as an adult to share the experience.


An important aspect of understanding your child’s musical education is to have honest conversations with them about their experiences.

You can talk to them about their musical aspirations, what makes them nervous or anxious when performing, or what kinds of music they are interested in.

As they reach adolescence, it becomes crucial to discuss with your child how they see their future regarding music, whether as a career path, as a serious hobby, or just an appreciation.

These kinds of discussions are much easier to have if you’ve already established a supportive relationship when it comes to music, and with the advice of their teacher, you will be able to help your child realize his or her musical aspirations as an adult.

Above all, remember that parent engagement equals success in music lessons.

About the Author: This guest post about parent engagement in private music lessons is by Carter McMullen from the Baltimore School of Music. You can read more about Carter and his work at this link.


Interested in connecting with and learning from other like-minded piano teachers? How about downloading and printing unlimited copies of sheet music, technical exercises, and much more?

Join piano teachers from all around the globe in the PracticeHabits Membership Community!