Music Student

How To Motivate The Music Student to Practice

The second greatest challenge a private music teacher has after attendance is getting students to practice. However, your job isn’t to make a music student practice; it is to make them want to practice. When you look at it from this perspective, it may help change your approach. I’m not talking about an occasional week where the student was out of town or too busy to practice, but a student that perpetually doesn’t practice. The responsibility for the student’s motivation to practice comes primarily from you, the music instructor.

Does Brow Beating Work?

If a student has a track record of not practicing, your “browbeating” or “guilting” them into it is NOT going to work. All this does is make the student feel bad about the lessons and may cause them to quit. If a student tells me they haven’t practiced this week, I tell them it’s ok and focus on practicing more the following week. Your negative comments won’t change the past. So music and piano teachers, let’s stop doing this, ok?

But How Do You Motivate Them to Practice?

The first step in motivating a student to practice is finding out why they’re not practicing. This kind of thinking takes discernment on your part. Here are some possible reasons and solutions for a student’s lack of practice.

Problem: Too Busy

Being too busy is probably the biggest reason for a student not to practice or at least the biggest excuse. For children whose parents put them in so many programs and school functions, their (lack of) time is your biggest competitor, not only for practicing but also for getting music students. Adults have so many responsibilities that it’s difficult for them to put in the time to practice.  

Solution: Schedule Practices

Since a week can go by without practicing, having the student schedule a time to practice will help make it a routine. I suggest practicing before or after homework, school, or dinner for kids. Or practice at the same time as the lesson itself. For adults, it could be before or after work. Whatever time works the best when they’re fresh and have undistracted time. Also, tell the student to practice even if they only have 15 minutes sporadically. Multiple 15-minute practices can add up to sufficient time and are better for a beginner student.

Problem: Confused about What to Practice

I believe this could be why students do not practice, even though they may not admit to it. This reason may be the most challenging to discern. Some students will assume it’s their fault for not understanding and may not ask you questions. Others might be afraid to ask you questions if you had already explained it. Another reason a music student may not understand is a lack of clear and concise assignments. 

Solution: Ask a Lot Of Questions and Give Clear Assignments

The most important thing you can do as a music teacher is to let the student know they can ask ANYTHING of you, even if you had already explained it. Never let the student feel intimidated to ask you questions or feel they’re not smart enough to understand. I tell my music students I will explain something a million times if needed! And to make sure they understand, I always ask them questions after explaining a new concept. Also, make sure your assignments are written down and are clear and specific. After writing down the assignments, again ask them if they have any questions. Asking them questions will give you more insight into their thinking. And it sets the tone that questions are good, making them more at ease to ask you questions. 

Problem: Non-Realistic Goals

I’ve heard teachers (and parents) tell a beginning student to practice an hour a day. That’s unrealistic and will cause the student to fail ultimately. The discipline of practicing is something learned, just like learning the instrument itself. The beginning student not only doesn’t have the discipline, but they also don’t have enough information TO practice for that length of time.

Solution: Short Practices Done Often

For the beginning music student, the best way is multiple, short practices. For ages 4-8, I recommend 10-20 minutes at a time. This time frame doesn’t sound overwhelming to the beginning student. As the student progresses, the longer they can practice. The beginning of each practice is when the student is the freshest and gains the most improvement. I tell my students to start each practice with the most challenging parts.

Problem: Family or Personal Problems

Life is messy at times, and you may have a student going through family or personal problems. I don’t recommend asking personal questions since you’re there as a music instructor only. But what if their problems continue and hinder their practicing and learning?

Solution: Be a Good Listener

Without asking personal questions, you can ask the student how they’re doing. I usually start a lesson by asking how their week has been. By showing them you care may be enough to have them focus on the lesson. However, if the student is troubled, asking how they’re doing may help them open up. I don’t suggest giving your opinion on their situation, but sometimes listening is all that’s needed, and giving them your empathy. Giving them the gift of music may be the help they need and may encourage them to practice.  

Problem: Not Interested In Music

The lack of interest is the most challenging of all and may not have a solution since music is not everyone’s cup of tea. I once taught a little boy for one year. No matter how much I tried to make the lessons fun, he hated it. His mom was diligent in making him stick with it. However, after a year, I asked him if he liked to play the piano. He said no, of course. Then I asked if he liked the “sound” of the piano, and again he said no. That’s when I let his mom know after a year that I didn’t think it was in his DNA to play the piano.

However, I wouldn’t have suggested he stop after only a few months of lessons. A beginner’s first 6-12 months is the most challenging and can be the opposite of fun. It’s good to remind the student to give it time, and the better they get, the more fun it becomes. However, if a student is still not interested even at the intermediate level, there may be different approaches you can take before giving up.

Solution: Different Path

The late beginning to early intermediate music student is an excellent time to show them different styles or songs or ask what they’re interested in. You can add these to the regular assignments or change the entire lesson. Or, if your student has only played by reading music, you may want to change to by ear and improvisation, or vice versa.

A Final Note

Finally, I don’t tell my students to practice; instead, I give them assignments. During the lesson, they either pass or don’t pass them. I’ve noticed that students want to do well to pass, motivating them to practice. Their reward is my accolades when they’ve done well and get to move on to the next assignment. For the young student, I give points when passing each assignment or practicing five times in a given week, with a prize after so many points. You’ll be amazed at how the music student will have time to practice when there’s a prize involved!

I hope this tip helps you to be the best music teacher ever!

Melody Music Publishers

Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers for piano and singing method books. The learning model is small steps using drills and repetition, how students think and learn.

Music Student Attendance Critical – Tip #2

Tip #2

The most critical part of keeping a music student long-term is attendance. With everyone being so busy these days, that’s a real challenge. However, when lessons are frequently canceled, it can hinder the learning progress and may cause students to cancel early on.

Make Sure You Attend Each Lesson

You, the instructor, set the tone for the lessons. So if you’re not committed to the schedule, neither will the student. With exceptions to unavoidable events, it’s critical to attend every lesson.

What If The Student Cancels?

The student’s attendance is a whole different matter. What do you do when a student consistently cancels? And worse, EXPECT you to reschedule or give them a credit? Offering make-up lessons cause you to use another time slot you’re not getting paid for. If you have plenty of openings, that may not be a problem, but what if you have a booked schedule?

What Is The Solution?

Having a clear policy on cancellations is critical. I’ve heard many extreme policies. Some will have a 24 or 48-hour rule where the student is guaranteed a make-up or credit. But how is that fair to you when you reserve that block of time expecting to be paid? And if the student isn’t held accountable for their cancellations, there’s no incentive for them to attend every lesson. Without consistency, the learning progress is slow to none, and the student may lose interest. On the other hand, policies that NEVER offer make-ups may be too harsh, causing you to lose students.

The Best Policy

I believe a happy medium is the best policy that is fair to you while offering some flexibility. Here is my policy in a sentence:  For student cancellations, there is no credit, and make-up lessons are not guaranteed; that is up to the instructor’s availability.  This policy lets the student know they’re accountable for attendance and doesn’t obligate you to make it up while giving some flexibility.  

To Make-Up or Not Make-Up?

When deciding to reschedule, consider the student’s track record. For the student that rarely cancels and gives advance notice, doing your best to make up the lesson is a good thing. If you don’t have any other times available, extending the following lessons is the easiest way. However, for students that cancel regularly, I recommend NOT giving a make-up lesson, even if you’re able to. Continually rescheduling perpetuates their lack of commitment. When I have one of these kinds of students cancel, I politely tell them I’ll see them next week with no mention of a make-up. If they ask for one, I tell them I have no openings. By not making up the lesson(s), the student will either attend each lesson, knowing they’re paying for it, or cancel, and you can replace them with a more committed student. Either way, you’re better off! And by the way, even if you DID make-up every lesson for this kind of student, I guarantee they will not be long-term.

I hope this tip helps you to be the best music teacher ever!

Melody Music Publishers

Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers for piano and singing method books. The learning model is small steps using drills and repetition, how students think and learn.

Choosing The Right Method Book Tip #1

The most important decision you’ll make when starting a new student is the right curriculum or method book. It will determine how they learn and how you teach!

Since most piano method books are merely a book of songs with little information, you, the instructor, may have to use multiple books, requiring you to explain everything. Not only does that make more work for you, but it can also be confusing for the student. This also requires the student to use and bring multiple books to the lessons.

What if there was one book that made teaching SO easy, you’re hardly teaching at all! That’s exactly what the “Drill & Excel On the Piano” method book series does!

Only one book Is needed! Each book includes everything a student needs, from written worksheets to learn the notes, intervals, triads, and chords, to rhythm drills, exercises, scales, and 60 original songs per book to help the student sight-read.

When I started using these books on my students, (I called them my guinea pigs), I noticed right away how they improved in their playing and sight-reading skill, even passing songs they played the first time.

I hope this tip helps in your teaching. Thank you for your dedication and passion to music education.

Please leave a comment to let other music teachers know what you think!

Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers for piano and singing method books. The learning model is small steps using drills and repetition, how students think and learn.

Piano Songs Sheet Music Download

Piano Songs in Hand Positions

If you’re a piano teacher, I’m sure you’ve taught students that needed more piano songs in hand positions. What do you do? In my 35 years of teaching, I never met a piano method book that gave enough songs in one hand position to learn how to sight-read. Sure the student can “muddle” through each piece, but this won’t be enough for students to play piano songs like reading a book! To help, some teachers will use multiple books in one level to give the student more songs in that hand position. I call those “sideways books.” This way of teaching causes your students to bring three or more books to each lesson! And it still may not be sufficient for sight-reading a specific hand position.

Download Piano Songs

My piano method book series “Drill & Excel On the Piano” includes 20 songs for each hand position per chapter. I’ve found that 20 songs are a sufficient number of songs to sight-read, even for the slower-paced student. But if you’re teaching from another piano method book and don’t want to change, I now have the perfect solution for you. Melody Music Publishers now offers sets of 5 piano songs in a single hand position you can download for only $3.50! There are eight parts in each hand position with five songs each, totaling 40 songs in keys of C, G, F, D, B flat, A, and E flat!

Beginning to Intermediate

There are three levels: beginningintermediate, and late intermediate. The beginning level stays within the five-note hand position. The rhythm includes quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes and rests. The intermediate level also stays within the five-note hand position but adds the eight notes and rests. The late intermediate level expands slightly outside the five-note note hand position using the same rhythm as the intermediate level.

Original Songs

And the best part, these songs are all original! Most method books brag about the songs being familiar. However, if the student knows the song, he or she may play more by ear than actual reading. Since our songs are original, this ensures the student is reading every note and rhythm.

New Songs Continually Added

New songs will be continually added to the site. If you need more songs for any level, hand position, or key signature, click the Request More Songs link at the top of each level to send a request e-mail to the author/founder, Kathi Kerr. You will be notified when the songs you have requested are added.

Plenty of Piano Songs In Hand Positions

No more running out of songs for your student to practice! Download songs for any level and position for immediate access and help your students become excellent sight-readers!

Kathi Kerr - owner Melody Music Publishers
Kathi Kerr – owner Melody Music Publishers

Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers for piano and singing method books. The learning model is small steps using drills and repetition, how students think and learn.

Drill & Excel On the Piano

Piano Method Books That Make Teaching Easy!

Hey fellow piano teachers, what if there were piano method books that made your teaching job so easy, you feel you’re hardly working at all? That’s exactly what the “Drill & Excel On the Piano” book series does! Click any book to watch a movie where the author goes through each page with commentary. Most piano method books are songs with little information included. This means you have to explain in detail every new concept. And since piano method books don’t include every part of the lesson needed, you have to supplement books for teaching exercises, scales, theory, note naming, and rhythm games to improve their reading ability. Having multiple books also makes it challenging in the lesson for both you and the student.

Everything in one book

At Melody Music Publishers, the “Drill & Excel On the Piano” series has everything in one book. Each book is in 3 chapters and includes multiple note reading and interval worksheets, rhythm drills, exercises, and special exercises for specific skills, scales, and 20 original songs per chapter (totaling 60 songs per book)! Since the author, Kathi Kerr, writes the songs, a student has to read the notes and not rely on their ear to play. Most method books brag about having songs students are familiar with. However, if reading music fluently is the goal, a student can trick the piano teacher when playing a song if they rely on their ear instead of reading the notes.

Easy Steps to follow

Teaching from the “Drill & Excel On the Piano” series is nice because it lays out the information in an easy to follow step format. Without a book to guide the teacher and student, it’s easy to forget about important steps the student needs. However, with these books, the piano teacher can relax and know each critical step is included, taught straightforwardly with examples, drills, and exercises. The repetition given ensures the student fully understands each step before moving on to the next one.

Written Worksheets

Why are writing assignments so important? I believe writing the information is the first layer of understanding and retaining the information. When a student repeatedly writes the names of the notes or intervals, they’re more likely to retain the information. With the “Drill & Excel On the Piano” books, there are multiple worksheets to help students learn and remember notes. No acronyms are taught, like “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” Instead, the staff’s logic is shown, and five sets of notes are taught at a time with multiple worksheets per set of notes.

Rhythm Drills

Where’s the rhythm in most method books? Most piano method books may give the value of each kind of note, but nothing else. I have found rhythm is the most neglected part of piano method books and lessons. A student needs more than just shown each note’s value. To read rhythm fluently requires playing multiple rhythm drills. In “Drill & Excel On The PIano,” the note’s value is taught with multiple rhythm drills for the student to play. Playing them with a steady beat, and counting the beats out loud is recommended.

Exercises

As mentioned earlier, most piano instructors will use a separate book for exercises. However, many exercise books are not suitable for the beginning student when the pattern includes more than a five-note hand position. In “Drill & Excel On the Piano” books, the exercises correspond with the chapter’s songs and skills needed. For example, in chapter 1 of book 1, only five-note pattern exercises are given that go with the songs. As the hand position expands, the exercises do as well. There are also “special” exercises that go along with the skills needed for the songs. In book 1, chapter 3, an exercise to teach the skill of independence of hands is given. This helps when playing the songs with one hand louder than the other, and one playing staccato while another playing legato. A student first learns the skill in the exercise before applying it to a song.

Scales

Another supplemental book piano teachers often use is scales. In “Drill & Excel On the Piano,” each chapter has one key signature (except the recap chapters), and all the songs, exercises, and scales will be in that key. This makes everything they’re learning correspond to each other and creates a clear path for learning. Also, most scale books show the scale by notation. Playing scales by reading the notes may not help the student remember what sharps or flats are in each scale and key signature, or even understand them. In the “Drill & Excel On the Piano” series, the student plays scales by knowing what’s in each key signature. This helps the student have better retention and understanding of the scales, which is the foundation for learning music theory.

Intervals

Intervals are taught beginning in book 2, chapter 3. The emphasis in book 1 and book 2, chapters 1 and 2, are reading fluently and exercises to acquire the skill of playing. Chapter 3 of book 2 starts by showing the staff’s intervals in the key of C (C/D, C/E, C/F, C/G, etc.), with the interval number beneath. However, it doesn’t stop with merely explaining intervals. There are multiple worksheets for the student to identify the interval number without counting. Once a student can identify the interval at sight, this helps in sight-reading. Without repetitive written assignments, most students are not able to identify them at sight.

Songs, songs, and more songs!

And finally, the best part of “Drill & Excel On the Piano” are all the beautiful songs written by author Kathi Kerr. As mentioned earlier, the songs correspond with the chapter’s key signature. Written melodically, a student will find themselves singing the songs apart from playing them on the piano. Starting from book 2, each piece is in a different style with a commentary written by the composer. And best of all, they’re fun to play!

Each book recaps the previous books

Whatever the student’s level, he or she can start with any book in this series, since from book 2, the first chapter is a recap of the previous books—this way, no critical steps, and information are missing. For a beginning student ages 8-adult, book 1 is recommended. If a student has played a little piano, they can start with book 2 that begins chapter 1 with hands together. This book is also great for a self-taught student that plays well but may have missing information or someone taught incorrectly. Book 3 is excellent for the early intermediate student. And finally, book 4 is for the late intermediate student. There are more exercises, special exercises, rhythm drills, and lots of theory worksheets in books 3 and 4. “Drill & Excel On the Piano Book 5” is set to come out in late 2021 for the advanced student.

My first experience with this piano method book

When I had finished book 1, I used it on the students I was teaching at the time (I called them my guinea pigs). One of my students in particular had struggled in reading. However, when he started playing the multiple songs in each position, he was so accomplished at reading, he began sight-reading the songs nearly perfectly by the end of the chapter! I remember feeling so at ease and thinking “The book is doing all the work!” It was so much fun to see him go from struggling to sight-reading!

Order today and enjoy teaching

Order your copy of “Drill & Excel On the Piano” to relax and have a great time teaching your students, knowing they’re getting all the essential steps. Using drills and repetition, your students will have a deep understanding of all concepts and play the piano like a pro. It’s exciting to see the students’ progress and growth. If you’re a piano teacher who hasn’t registered, click here to sign up to receive discount codes for free shipping and 50% off your first copy, then free shipping and 20% off all recurring orders! Thank you for your passion and dedication to teaching private piano. We welcome your comments and suggestions to this post.

Kathi Kerr - owner Melody Music Publishers

Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers. They offer piano and singing method books using small steps and repetition, how students think and learn.

Piano Method Book for Children

Piano Method Book for Children

Welcome the newest addition: “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”

“Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too” is the newest addition to Melody Music Publishers. This piano method book for children ages 5-8 is the sequel to “Color It Say It Play It and Create It.”. A student aged 7-8 can start with this book that may be too old for book 1. The beginning steps are taught, so no concepts are missing when starting with this book. It starts with technique, keyboard geography, and exercises, as in book 1. Then it moves onto playing hands together in the C hand position using letter names. As the book continues, it adds rhythm and big notes with the names and rhythm. And finally, the staff’s notes are introduced, starting with the treble clef and bass clef separately, then the grand staff. By the end, the student is playing songs with both hands in the C hand position. And for a bonus, the back of the book has Christmas songs arranged for any part of the book the student may be on at Christmastime.

Copycat Games

Copycat games are In the first few pages of the book. This game teaches the young student to “listen” and hear the notes being played. Listening to notes is a great learning skill and helps develop ear training. When a student is concentrating on reading while playing, it’s easy for a student of any age not to “hear” the notes. The first few songs in “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too” are familiar songs with no title. The student plays the notes and has to figure out what the name of the song is. This exercise is fantastic to teach him or her how to listen while playing. The second skill learned with this game is creating a steady beat. When the teacher plays a set of notes with a steady beat, it allows the student to “copy” with the same steady beat, saying the note names aloud. And playing without looking at their hands is emphasized right from the beginning to create this good habit.

Why Start With Letter Names?

Most method books for the young beginner jump right into teaching notes on the staff. However, this skill requires the student to figure out the staff’s note name and then what key to play. Studies have shown that young children have difficulty with this process, and may cause them frustration. Thus, it may cause the student to cancel even before getting started. By starting with reading only the letter names, the young student can play more quickly and helps to develop dexterity in their playing. This book even includes exercises using the letter names, which I’ve never seen in piano method books for this age. The songs start with one hand at a time, then with hands together playing the same notes in each hand. Then the final step is playing different notes in each hand. The letter names go up and down, thereby teaching the concept of notes on a staff, without the student even being aware of it. I have found that a student can easily transition into reading notes on the staff after playing with letter names that ascend and descend.

Rhythm

The next step introduced is rhythm using drills and writing assignments. Rhythm is the element that is the most neglected in method books, especially for young students. However, I believe rhythm is the most critical aspect of playing and reading music. I’ve noticed that when the rhythm is emphasized early in the child’s lessons, they have no problem playing the rhythm correctly as they progress. I also emphasize a steady beat and counting, showing how each beat has a unique feel. There are rhythm drills in “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too” that include clapping to a metronome on different beat numbers. Since rhythm is introduced in a clear yet fun way, it takes the guesswork out of it for the young student.

Combining Rhythm and Note Names

Once they are familiar with the rhythm, the next step is big notes with the rhythm and note names in the center. Once again, the notes ascend and descend to show the logic of the notes on a staff. The student is counting out loud while playing the various notes in the song. By now, the young student remembers where the keys are in their hand position so as to focus on the rhythm. Counting out loud and playing with a steady beat is emphasized, as well as not looking at their hands.

And Finally The Staff

The next and final step is introducing the staff. First, the treble clef notes are taught with worksheets and songs, then the bass clef, and finally, the grand staff. The note names are no longer given in the middle of the note. The first few songs on the grand staff start with both hands playing C to focus on the rhythm. Then the grand staff with random notes but the same notes in each hand with whole notes, then half notes, dotted half notes, and quarter notes. The last and final step is hands playing different notes in each hand, and all the rhythm taught.

Watch Video With Commentary

Songs in “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”

All the songs except two (“Ode to Joy” and “Pop Goes the Weasel”) are original songs. The purpose in writing the songs is to make sure the student is actually reading. While ear training is critical and included in this book, when playing songs, the skill of reading is most important. I wrote the songs to sound fun, so the student will enjoy playing and learning them. Learning to read music also teaches the concept that reading is essential to playing songs they may not be familiar with.

The Next Step

This book helps the young student to smoothly transition into our “Drill & Excel On the Piano” series. All the important concepts are taught. Students seven or eight can continue with “Drill & Excel On the Piano Book 2” which starts with both hands in the C hand position. If the student is seven or younger, I recommend starting with “Drill & Excel On the Piano Book 1”.

Thank You For Choosing “Color It Say It Play It and Create It Too”

I appreciate all teachers that order books at Melody Music Publishers. Remember to register if you haven’t already to receive discount codes for free shipping and 50% off your first copy.  Then when ordering for your students, you’ll receive free shipping and 20% off all future orders. I wrote these books from my own experience teaching this age group how they think and learn. My hope is the young student will be excited about learning to play the piano and are given the steps needed to succeed for a lifetime. Thank you for doing the best job in the world, sharing your joy and passion for music with others.

Kathi Kerr - owner Melody Music Publishers

Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. In 2017, she founded an independent publishing company called Melody Music Publishers. They offer piano and singing method books using small steps and repetition, how students think and learn.

Drill & Excel Sight-Singing

“Drill & Excel in Sight-Singing Book 1”

How to Sight-Sing is Now a New Addition to Melody Music Publishers

Sight-Singing For Music Majors

If you were a music major in college, you probably had to take sight-singing classes. The problem with most college courses is it’s “expected” that you already know how to sight-sing. If you’re not a piano or vocal major, this skill can be daunting. As a piano performance major, it was always easy for me to sight-sing. However, I remember the percussion majors, and even stringed instrument students, struggling with this skill. When I began teaching voice and sight-singing, I realized there needed to be a book designed to approach it in a step-by-step way. If you’re a young student who intends to make music your major in college, this is a must-need book no matter what your instrument. You’ll be years ahead of your colleagues, having gone through this book.

Sight-Singing For Choir Members

What about singing in a school or church choir? Most choir directors have to take time in the rehearsal to go over parts, especially for the alto, tenor, and bass that aren’t singing the melody. What if each choir member could read the notes for themselves without the pianists playing them? How much more can be accomplished in the rehearsal without taking the time to plunk out notes?

Sight-Singing For Lead/Backup Singers In a Band or Studio Musician

What about lead or backup singers in a band, or studio musicians? This book will greatly benefit them. Time is money, so if a singer can walk in a studio and be handed a lead sheet and be able to sing the notes, he or she will most likely be hired. If a lead or backup singer in a band can sight-sing, it will take less time in rehearsal.

The Singer is in Control

Being able to sight-sing puts you, the singer, in the driver seat. No more relying on an instrumentalist to play your part; YOU can sing it for yourself!

Sight-Singing Takes Time

The skill of sight-sing does take time to acquire. This 128-page book may take students a year or more to finish, however the rewards are great! Order your copy of “Drill & Excel in Sight-Singing Book 1” today and begin to learn the excellent (and fun) art of sight-singing!

Would you like to preview each page of the book? Watch our movie where the author goes through every page with commentary and audio.


Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. Then in 2017, she founded Melody Music Publishers, an independent publishers for piano and singing method books, and how students think and learn.

Piano Method Books

Best Piano Method for Beginners?

There are as many different piano methods and approaches to teaching piano as there are vehicles. Each method has their own way of teaching. That’s actually good, because everyone learns in their own way. The experts have defined learning into seven categories: 1) Visual (Spatial or “watching”) 2) Aural (Listening) 3) Verbal (speaking) 4) Physical (Kinesthetic, or by “doing”) 5) Logical (Mathematical) 6) Social (Interpersonal or learning in a group setting) and 7) Solitary (Intrapersonal or learning on your own).

How To Choose the Method

Deciding “how” to teach a beginning piano student (or any instrument), can be more challenging than an intermediate student that has already developed a skill and a strong foundation. So how do we know what piano method will be best for each student? It starts with 2 things: 1) being familiar with each method, and 2) knowing how each student learns. In teaching over 30 years, I’ve enjoyed picking the student’s brains and figuring out how he or she learns. One thing I’ve found ALL students have in common; learning to play an instrument is HARD! Even students that have a natural musical talent is going to struggle when first learning. This is the primary reason, I believe, students quit lessons while in the beginning level.

Quick Summary for Method Books

The most well-known and popular methods are the piano method books. There’s probably 10 or more commonly used books. Most method books teach a little note reading, some theory (mostly intervals, I-IV-V-I triads, and Alberti bass), some may include a few exercises, and they all include multiple songs. Most will have several kinds of books within each level, so the student may have 3-4 books at a time. What they all have in common is there is almost nothing mentioned of rhythm, and they have a fairly fast progression. Early in my teaching, I realized they didn’t offer enough repetition in note reading and rhythm to create a fluency in reading music. So I wrote a “Note Reading Workbook” and “Rhythm Workbook” to supplement the method books. This seemed to help, but I found students were still frustrated in learning from the traditional method books.

Suzuki Method

There are also certified methods. Suzuki Method uses the “watch and copy” approach, the #1 style of learning mentioned earlier. This is great for young children who may not have the ability to learn by the other learning styles, which involve more maturity. It creates a quick way for young students to play songs. I think of this type of learning as superficial, since a student may not understand what they’re playing. In my view, it may be great to start a young student with this method, but not a permanent teaching method as the student gets older.

Orff Method and Kindermusik

The Orff Method exposes young students to music and is best used in a group setting. It combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons that are similar with how children play. KinderMusik is a group program for the child and adult, based on these principles. They start as young as infancy through 7 or 8.

Dalcroze Method

The Dalcroze Method features interactive games and exercises that help students learn to trust their ideas and develop their own intuitions. While these methods are great to expose the young student to music, it doesn’t teach the skill of playing a specific instrument. However, these methods may be useful to integrate in the lessons. These methods (other than Suzuki) may be best for the kinesthetic or “physical” type of learner, #4 of the learning styles mentioned above.

Quick and On Line Piano Methods

Then there’s the ever growing “learn to play 3 songs in 3 weeks” type of methods. These methods don’t offer a deep understanding on the piano, but is more of a “quickie” on playing chords and simple melodies. This is actually fine for older students that want to learn to play their favorite song without hours of learning to read music. However, it’s not a serious way to study and learn the piano. There’s also programs that offer a subscription package to learn on the computer. I believe they can be useful, but students that may be excited at first, may drift off when it gets difficult with no one there to guide them. They also do not include a lot of needed information for the student, or watch how the student is playing. This is similar to learning from a video on Youtube, where the student is not being guided by an instructor that can watch him or her play.

Small Steps Using Drills & Repetition

I mentioned earlier that I had written supplemental workbooks to help the student learn to read notes and rhythm. In 2017, I decided to write my own line of piano method books to include everything needed in one book. I also wanted it to have more information and more songs within each level to create a fluency in reading. My approach can be summarized into these words “small steps using drills and repetition”. While these words may not sound “fun”, I have found students enjoy playing when they’re able to master each step. What causes frustration is not understanding and moving too quickly. By taking small steps and using repetition, the student actually ENJOYS reading and playing the piano.

Drill & Excel On the Piano

Piano Method Series “Drill & Excel On the Piano”

This piano method book series is called “Drill & Excel On the Piano”. There are 4 books in this series with 3 chapters each and over 100 pages. Each book takes about a year to complete. Books 1 & 2 have have 7 parts to each chapter: 1) Note Reading and interval worksheets 2) Rhythm drills 3) Scales 4) Exercises 5) Special exercises for specific skills needed 6) 20 original songs per chapter, and 7) Write your own song. The “write your own song” page not only promotes creativity, but a deeper learning. Books 3 & 4 have 6 parts: 1) Interval worksheets 2) Rhythm drills 3) Scales 4) Exercises 5) Special exercises and 6) 20 original songs per chapter.

Why Original Songs?

Why did I write the songs? Most method books boast their books have familiar songs the student will enjoy playing. The problem with that is how do you (as the teacher) know if the student is reading the notes or playing by ear? Since all songs are original in “Drill & Excel On the Piano”, the student will have to read them and not rely on being familiar. Also the songs are written to teach what is taught in the chapter, as well as being fun to play. Books 3 and 4 include a variety of different styles, from classical, samba, boogie, pop, jazz, to rag time. When a student can read music on their own fluently, it makes it FUN to read and play songs. No more needing to have someone play it for them.

Piano and Singing Method Books Coming Soon

Coming soon is “Drill & Excel in Sight Singing”! If you’re a vocal instructor or vocal coach, this will help you teach the art of sight singing so the student can read and SING the notes without them being played. This is great for singing in a choir or the harmony parts as well as classical music. And book 5 of the “Drill & Excel On the Piano” will be available by the end of 2020. This will be for the early advanced student.

Teachers Receive Free Shipping and Discounts

If you register as a teacher, you’ll receive free shipping and the first copy of each book at 50% off!. You’ll also be notified of new books coming out, with a 50% discount for each new book. If you order for your students, you’ll receive free shipping and 20% off. This discount never expires and can be used with each order. It’s my way of thanking you for using my books, and for doing the best job in the world, sharing your passion of music to others!

Kathi Kerr - owner Melody Music Publishers
Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. She also founded Melody Music Publishers in 2017, an independent piano method books written how students think and learn.
Piano Lessons

How To Teach a Piano Transfer Student

Teaching a piano transfer student can be the most difficult type of student for a teacher. This is the student that has had lessons for 6 months or more, ranging from late beginning to late intermediate level. Inevitably, the student is going to compare you to their previous instructor. And since no two people teach the same, you’re going to offer a different style and approach. If the student has bad technique, or wrong or missing information, this can create even more difficulty. So what are the best ways to create a smooth transition into your teaching style?

Be Prepared

Before the first lesson, find out what books the student has been using and ask for any notes from the previous instructor. Take the time to become acquainted with the curriculum if needed, and read the notes if possible. This will also give you insight into the previous teacher’s style and approach, as well as the direction of the student’s past lessons.

Establish a Rapport

The very first lesson is the most critical. It’s important to start out by getting to know the student and letting the student get to know you. Spend a few minutes to let the student know your training background and experience. Then take a few minutes to ask the student questions about their past piano experience and what he or she is interested in learning. The student will feel more comfortable with you and will feel you’re interested in what their interested in. Then have the student play the last song they were studying or their favorite song. Ask him or her a lot of musical questions to find out what they know or don’t know. Even an intermediate student may have missing or wrong information.

Make Changes Slowly

Changing too much too soon for the piano transfer student is usually the biggest mistake made. This is especially true for an intermediate student that has been playing a year or more with wrong technique or information. Changing a bad habit is the most difficult part of learning. Most students want you to validate their ability, so begin by complimenting him or her on anything done well. Even though it may go against your grain to allow bad technique, it’s best to wait until you’ve given several lessons and established a rapport before making huge changes. If there are multiple changes needed, take one at a time so not to overwhelm the student. That being said, it’s also important to show the student you can challenge them to the next level, so give the new student a few bread crumbs of information and things to work on in the assignments.

Be Careful Commenting on the Previous Piano Teacher

Each piano transfer student will have had a positive or negative experience from the previous instructor. With either scenario, it’s important to keep your comments about him or her at a minimum, especially negative comments. First, you want keep the focus on the direction between you and the student. Second, if you tell the student he or she was taught incorrectly, it may cause frustration and a sense of wasted time and money. If the student had a good rapport with the previous instructor, it may create a division between you both. Once you’ve received the curriculum and notes from the previous instructor, keep the conversation on how you will be teaching and the direction you would like to take.

Not every student-teacher is a match

I believe being the right instructor for a transfer student is more difficult than for the beginning student. If the student is an intermediate level, he or she may have specific interests. You may not be able to take the student where their interests lie. If that is the case, be honest with the student, letting him or her know you have THEIR best interest at heart, and kindly refer them to another instructor you may know that can offer what they want to learn. Also, not every personality types are a match. If this should happen, don’t beat yourself up over it. There are plenty of other students your teaching style and personality will be a great fit for.

It Gets Easier

While you may feel like you’ll be the “new” instructor forever, before long, you’ll be their new favorite! Just like any relationship, it takes time to establish. Be patient and soon you’ll be the instructor they compare others to!

Kathi Kerr - owner Melody Music Publishers

Kathi Kerr founded Melody Music Studios in 1989, a nationwide music instruction studio. She also founded Melody Music Publishers in 2017, an independent piano method books written how students think and learn.

Intermediate Piano student

Are Piano Method Books Needed For Intermediate Students?

I recently read a piano teacher’s blog that stated the intermediate student no longer needed a method book. His point was there was nothing “new” after level 3 in the method books. He continued, saying the intermediate student only required repertoire to play and practice. But are piano method books needed for the intermediate student? Before six months ago, I would have totally agreed! Most piano method books offer nothing new after level 3 except songs to play. However, after writing Drill & Excel On the Piano book 3 and Drill & Excel On the Piano Book 4, I now realize there’s actually MORE skills and concepts for the intermediate student to learn than the beginning student. Here are some of the things I’ve included in books 3 and 4 for the intermediate student.

#1 Intervals

While intervals are mentioned in most of the early level piano method books, they don’t explain the KINDS of intervals. In Drill & Excel book 3, there are interval worksheets for the student to identify the intervals in various key signatures. Then in book 4, ALTERED intervals are introduced, with worksheets for the student to identify the kind of interval (major, minor, diminished, or augmented). Giving the student writing assignments helps the student to learn in a deeper way, rather than simply reading the information.

#2 Rhythm

In teaching rhythm, most method books only show how many counts a note is held. However, in Drill & Excel On the Piano series, there are multiple rhythm drill pages for the student to play on one note and count out loud. This gives the student a lot of repetition in reading the rhythm to create fluency. And in books 3 and 4, the rhythm goes beyond most method books, including sixteenth notes, triplets, and triplets against other notes (even or other triplets). Learning to read rhythm is much like driving a car. It can’t be taught be explanation, but in DOING.

#3 Exercises

Exercises are not included in most method books, even in levels 1 and 2. Piano instructors that want their students to play exercises use a separate book for that. However, the Drill & Excel On the Piano series includes exercises in all 4 books. Books 3 and 4 are especially important, because they offer specific exercises for the skills introduced. For example, book 3 has a chromatic scale exercise, finger pedaling exercises, and repeated notes using different fingers. Not only are these skills added in the chapter’s songs, but is common among other pieces. Another exercise in book 3 is changing fingers on a held note. Book 4 has ascending and descending 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6th, and 7ths. It also includes the “independence of fingers”, playing a triad and emphasizing each note of the triad. These are important skills for the intermediate student to acquire when playing difficult pieces.

#4 Theory

For the intermediate student, theory is especially important. A beginning student has difficulty in just playing and reading to even think about theory, while the intermediate student can understand concepts. And knowing theory helps in the student’s reading skill. It can also help in songwriting and improvisation. The Drill & Excel On the Piano books 3 & 4 include a lot of theory beyond the altered intervals mentioned earlier. It includes triads, triad numbers, and transposing songs to other keys by using the triad numbers. These are important skills and knowledge for the intermediate student to acquire, which may not be understood by simply playing various pieces.

#5 Songs

Since the songs in the Drill & Excel On the Piano series are written specifically with the information and skills taught in each chapter, they’re especially valuable in the learning progress for the intermediate student. Instead of playing random pieces, the songs are strategically planned to teach what is taught. Each song increases slowly in difficulty , giving the student a challenge incrementally as he or she plays them.

To Summarize

So are piano method books needed for the intermediate student? In short, yes, because the intermediate student needs to learn certain skills that may not be taught by simply playing various repertoire. The Drill & Excel On the Piano books 3 and 4 are the perfect books for their continued learning to bring the student to the next level. Check out our books at MelodyMusicPublishers.com. Teachers receive free shipping and 20% off all orders. Click here to register.

Kathi Kerr - owner Melody Music Publishers

Kathi Kerr is author and founder of Melody Music Publishers. She writes her book based on over 30 years’ teaching experience the way students think and learn.