Updated: Sep 11, 2019
Now that I've been teaching for over ten years, I've learned a thing or two about things I LOVE to have on hand. I'm quite the minimalist, so when it comes to picking tools to use in my studio they need to be thoughtful, necessary and not just taking up space.
Here's my MOST LOVED list of teaching tools:
1. Dollar Store Sticky Notes
So, let's get this clear, these arrow sticky notes are a piano teachers best friend. I LOVE my sticky notes!!! Please tell me I'm not the only one who is addicted to these, Notice I specify the dollar tree - there's a reason to my madness. I love the ones at dollar tree because they come in a generous sized pack, they are transparent and they're a $1 people - what's not to love about that?
I LOVE that they are transparent because you can see the music notes still while adding in arrows onto the students piece. I've explored a lot of other sticky note options and this by far is my favorite.
To Game-a-fy this I have my students add in their own notes with the sticky arrows. We can even write on the stickies what they are focusing on and add them directly to that area. They love all of the colors and taking more ownership of their learning.
I also use regular sticky notes as a teaching tool which you can learn more about here.
2. Pedal Extender
Surprisingly, I only recently invested in a pedal extender and now I'm wondering why I ever waited so long! Pedal extenders are really a must for any piano teacher teaching children. The extenders secure young beginners into the ideal, healthy position to play. Not to mention kids really do love using the extender. They love being able to sit comfortably on the bench still while easily accessing the pedals.
I have been happy with this brand PUNK which I found on amazon. There's a HUGE debate about which extenders are best - many people swear by PUNK and others dislike the brand and purchase the PE-2 here. However, for me the price was right and I haven't had any problems with this one.
My one complaint is that it doesn't work perfectly on a grand piano when we transition to recital performances (I have an upright I teach on). It does better on upright pianos where it can properly rest against soundboard.
3. Tripod and Recording Device
This is a handy tool to have when you're teaching online lessons but even when I'm not I use my tripod every. single. day. Before purchasing my tripod I would record my students myself by holding my phone up or resting it on the keyboard. Having the tripod allows me to be hands free, keep the phone steady and set it up in interesting viewpoints (like overhead hand shots).
I'm always looking for opportunities to record my students because it's the BEST way to track their progress. As a teacher this is probably the MAIN way I retain students - by showing their parents firsthand what their child is learning.
During lesson week I have my tripod already set-up above/to the side of my piano. When the student has come prepared I shower them with praise and then we get recording! The recording gets sent to Mom/Dad and then shared on our studio social media pages. On top of that, every week I highlight one of my stellar students by doing a "Student of the Week" on my studio instagram page. Students love seeing themselves featured, parents love it, other families/friends see their progress and it's great publicity for the studio. It's a win, win!
4. Adjustable Bench
My bench... oh how i love my bench. I've got something very similar to the one pictured above. It came with my studio upright Kawai and has been working well for me. I really, really, really can't say enough of how crucial it is for piano teachers to have an adjustable bench. I guess if you're teaching exclusively adults then it doesn't matter, but if you've got a wide range of ages you should be adjusting that bench every lesson.
Teaching good posture technique should be taught consistently, starting on day one. This kind of reinforcement will lay the groundworks of success for students. So make sure to have an adjustable piano bench and encourage parents to purchase one as well.
5. Piano Practice Log
Every teacher needs a way to keep their students accountable during the week to practice. It doesn't really matter what method you use - as long as it gets them ON they keys, that's the key ;). I've come to really love this practice log by My Fun Piano Studio.
What I really love about it is that I get specific with their "practice plan" on each song. This works wonders for my younger students. Instead of telling them a set time to practice every day I tell them how many times they must practice each song. In the bubbles they then record, for every song on their list, how many times they've practiced each song.
I've noticed far better results with this kind of practice log method. Getting into specific numbers on how many times they go through the song is very doable, clear, concise direction that younger players (and their parents) need.
There are endless ideas for rewarding your hard working students! I stuck with candy for a long time but now am doing my best at trying to offer other options as well. My students always get a sticker when the pass off pieces but I also give points per song as well which go towards prizes.
Students are awarded out of 5 points for each piece - depending on how well they've done they accumulate points. By the end of the lesson we count up points and see which prize box they can take from the 20 point OR the 50 point prize box. My 20 pointer has small candies, sticky hands, fake tattoo's, finger lights. My 50 pointer has bigger wind up toys, light up toys and bigger candies.
Here are some of my favorite additions to the prize box: