Category Archives: Music Organization

Piano Teacher Resources: Susan Paradis

Do you ever come across something online and the next thing you know, an hour has gone by?

That happened to me last night. And it wasn’t Facebook! 🙂

I was looking for a handout to use for my kids explaining whole steps and half steps for their Five Finger Patterns, and I stumbled on this amazing website.

Susan Paradis has put together an extensive compilation of resources for the piano teacher. I was so excited!

Many of the resources are free to download, which is even more exciting!

Her resources include Worksheets, Teaching Aids, Games, Sheet Music for all seasons and holidays, and much more!

In addition to all these free items, she also has a store with even more stuff!

If you’re looking for easy church music for your piano students, she has several seasonal and hymn arrangements you can download.

I downloaded several worksheets that I plan to use for my kids, and I’ll definitely be going back!

Be sure to check it out. Who knows…you might even find something for yourself!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Payoff of Prepwork

Yesterday, I got home from work about 5:45pm and my first piano lesson was at 6:00pm. As I drove home, I knew I would be close on time, but I thought I would make it.

But I wasn’t panicked. I wasn’t stressed. I wasn’t nervous.

Why?

Because I was ready.

I had done all my prepwork/paperwork the night before. All the assignment sheets were printed, the lesson plans were printed, the room was cleaned/straightened up. I was ready.

This is my goal everytime, but we will see how that works.

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Lesson Preparation: Assignment Sheets

When I decided to start teaching piano again, I wanted to have a strategy in place to help with lesson preparation. I didn’t want to just “wing it” (aka: turn the next page in the book and see what to assign for the next week).

I sat down and went through the books and made lesson plans for the entire semester.

Yay, score for me.

All right, confession time…I don’t like to hand write. I would rather type any day.

I used to write all the assignments in a spiral notebook, but that took up a lot of time during the lesson, plus…hand writing.

So I searched the internet looking for templates, found some that I liked, mashed the ideas together and came up with my own assignment sheet.

Student Assignment Sheet

Student Assignment Sheet

I used Microsoft Excel to create the form, but you could use Word if you wanted to.

Here are the important components on the assignment sheet:

1. Student information – name, level, date, week and lesson time

2. Easy-to-see blocks to enter daily practice time – I made these big enough to they wouldn’t be missed or forgotten

3. Assignment checklist – here I list all of the books, worksheets, warm-ups, etc. that they need to do each day. I also have the days of the week listed beside each item on the checklist. They are to circle the day that they do each assignment (helping them to remember that they did everything on the list).

4. Comments – I can put any reminders here, including practice steps, important dates, etc.

5. Teacher information – (not on the example); I put my phone number and email on each assignment sheet. I tell my students to call, text or email during the week if they have any questions. I would rather help them during the week instead of waiting till the next lesson to fix a problem or clear up confusion.

I have the assignment sheets already filled out before the lessons. This saves time and keeps me on track. (You can see a PDF of the Assignment Sheet here.)

You can see that the left margin is larger. This is because I three-hole punch the sheet and put it in a 3-ring binder for the student. They bring their binder to each lesson and get a new assignment sheet each week.

How do you give out assignments in lessons? Do you use a form or handout? I would love to hear your feedback.

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Musical Pop-ups: Practice Schedules

Sometimes I’m asked to accompany one special during the course of a month. Sometimes I’m asked to accompany two or more specials during a month.

For the two or more specials, finding time to practice can be a challenge.

Remembering when I said I would practice is also a challenge.

Take yesterday, for example.

During the day, I received a text asking if I could practice that night at church. Of course, I replied. I said I would try to get there early (hence scheduling practice before the service and not after.)

Now, I was raised to keep my word. So if I say I’m going to practice, I need to be there.

Since I’m a busy person, I need all the help remembering what comes next.

To help me, I set a reminder on my phone. I set the reminder to alert me early enough so I could leave the house in time. (I live 30 minutes away from church.)

It worked and I made it to practice on time.

Also yesterday, I received a text to check my email about practice with another group. I checked my email, saw the question about practicing next week, and replied that I could practice at that time.

They replied that I will get another email with more specific practice details. Something to look forward to for next week…

How do you schedule practice times?

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

Saturdays: Catch Up and Prep Up

Catch Up Prep Up1Saturday is probably my favorite day of the week. Normally, I try to plan very little for Saturdays to allow myself to take a deep breath and catch up from the week.

And I have caught up today, but I haven’t really taken a deep breath until now.

With all the earlier prep in the week for my first week of piano lessons, I neglected some of my housework. (Don’t worry…my music room looked great!)

So the majority of today has been spent catching up on house-cleaning, picking up random clutter (it’s always random it seems), doing loads of laundry (yes, pun intended), and going to the grocery store.

I kept thinking of things that needed to be done, so I put them all in my iPad for me to mark “completed” once they were done. I only have six left of twenty-one!!

Some of those tasks included prepping for Sunday’s worship service. I practiced the accompaniment for a solo, put all my music in order on my iPad, and looked over the songs for any transitions/modulations.

I also need to prep a little bit for lessons next week. Thankfully, last week I did lessons plans for the entire semester, so I won’t have to do lesson plans each week. (Hurray!)

I’m going to try to relax in a little bit, then head to bed to be fully rested for tomorrow. (A horrible night’s sleep on a Saturday night makes for a miserable attempt at playing the piano.)

How have you spent your Saturday? Relaxing? Working? Playing?

However you did, I hope you enjoy(ed) it to the fullest!

This post is part of a series I’m doing this month called “On-the-Go Pianist.” Click here to see all the posts!

ForScore: Music App for iPad

Several of you have shown interest in how I use my iPad for the music service. Hopefully, this article will help explain the concept and how it works.

I am already so addicted (if I can use that word) to using my iPad for the hymns and I’ve only been using it for a little over a month. There are more possibilities to how I can use it in the music service, but I’m trying to learn carefully and not over-do it. The last thing I want to do is flub up the service because I don’t know what I’m doing.

Ok, with that being said, here is the process I use:

1. I downloaded the app ForScore from the iTunes Store. It isn’t free, but the $6.99 or so that you will spend will be so worth it. (If you look for the app on your iPhone, it won’t come up. It’s an app for iPad only, so you have to look for it on your iPad…makes sense.)

You may ask why I use ForScore? Well, it’s simple. My music director uses his iPad for the service and he uses ForScore. He’s the one who recommended it to me, so wha-la, that’s what I use. Plus, it makes much easier for sharing files…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

2. Unfortunately, ForScore doesn’t come with the hymns pre-loaded. I wish!!! So, the question that everyone wants to know, how do I get the songs on my iPad?

My music director scans the hymns from the hymnbook into PDF files (individually for each song). He then uploads them to Dropbox. (If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, you need to be. You can set up a free account and share/store files and access them anywhere.) Dropbox even has an app for the iPad!

We share the music folder on Dropbox. I pull the PDF files from Dropbox and open them in ForScore. Once you open them in ForScore, they are automatically saved. Nice. Our files are named by hymn number then the title (ie: 591 Have Thine Own Way).

NOTE: It is convenient to use the same app/program as my music director because you can email files from ForScore (in case a song doesn’t get added to Dropbox).

3. Once I have all the hymns stored in ForScore, I’m ready to make my setlist (like a playlist). I name my setlists by the date of service and AM/PM. I add my hymns for that service in the order they are listed on the order of service. If a song changes or the order changes I can easily rearrange the order of the songs.

Then I select the first song in the setlist and I’m ready to play!

4. This is where I absolutely LOVE using the iPad vs the hymnbook. The hymnbook is so big (at least ours is) and the pages are difficult to turn while transitioning to the next song. For example, we might sing 43 All Hail the Power and then have to transition to 772 When We All Get to Heaven. Do you know how cumbersome it is to flip/turn 700 pages while transitioning to the next key?

On the iPad with ForScore, you only have to tap the screen (on the right side of the screen) and it will turn to the next page. If the song has two pages, you will have to tap the left side of the screen to go back to the next verse…but that’s ok. I started out swiping the screen, which also worked, but then I discovered I could tap the screen and it worked just as well.

Aren’t you just a little curious to try it? Doesn’t it sound incredible?

Like I said before, there is a bit of a learning curve when first starting out, but take your time and practice with it. The pros definitely outweigh the cons! Speaking of cons, I will be doing an article here soon on some of the cons I’ve encountered so far (not many to be sure) and how to troubleshoot them.

I am loving all the comments and feedback you all are leaving on here and on Facebook! Don’t stop! I want to hear if you try ForScore, if you like it, if you hate it, all of the above. If you have a different method that works for you, I would love to hear that as well. We’re here to help each other provide a great music service for The Lord. Keep it up!

A Plan for Offertories

Some churches have many options for musicians to use during offertories. Others, have just one — you! If this is the case, chances are there is more on your plate besides just offertories. I have found that in the hustle of preparing for choir specials, congregationals, and other special music, sometimes choosing and practicing the offertory can become a last minute occurrence. Today we’ll discuss a few brief tips and tomorrow we’ll finish up with some more planning tools. Here are a few thoughts that might help lighten the load.

1. Plan – Look at a whole month and determine how many offertories you’ll be expected to play. Write out a plan using congregationals, intermediate pieces, and songs you’ve already prepared. (More on this tomorrow)

2. Do not feel that every offertory has to be astounding – It’s better to be prepared with a more simple selection than to wing it with a more difficult song that really needs more practice.

3. If possible, employ the help of other musicians. Anyone who plays an instrument, helps out occasionally, and especially children or teenagers who are taking lessons are fair game to involve in the offertory schedule.

 Planning an offertory schedule eliminates last-minute anxiety and guilt. Even twenty minutes a month can really make a difference. Keep your list by the piano and practice when time allows.