November 29, 2010

Christmas Music

Well, it may be a little late for most of you piano teachers, but just in case you were still looking for some last minute Christmas songs, I will go ahead and post where I found some great (translate: free) Christmas songs for my students.

Before I go on, let me give you my philosophy on Christmas music for my piano students. Number one: I let them play non-hymn Christmas carols. (Gasp!) Ok, ok, calm down and let me explain. I do NOT let them play these songs in church....thank you captain obvious. I let them play them just for fun. C'mon, who doesn't like to play all 12 verses of "The 12 Days of Christmas"???

Number Two: I don't assign these songs like normal songs they practice every week. I lighten their load of songs from their lesson books, and give them the Christmas songs to practice and play just for fun. I mean seriously, Christmas only comes once a year, why waste it trying to cram practice time down their throat?? Besides, a lot of times they actually learn more this way, especially if its songs they like. (But don't tell them that.)

Okay, now on to the links:

The Church Pianist (Jenifer Cook) has some great "in church" arrangements. This time great doesn't just translate free, it also translates into "I love her arrangements."

Koerts Music (James Koerts) has a few of those "great" arrangements and also a Christmas book available for purchase. is having a sale right now on Christmas and Thanksgiving music. Also, if you have not already, sign up for their free monthly newletter. Each month they include a piano arrangement. December's will be here shortly, I'm excited to see what Christmas song it might be!

Music Matters Blog - Natalie posted on where she gets her Christmas music

Susan Paradis has some pre-reading and beginner songs that she has adapted. I used several of these for my beginning students that were just dying to play Christmas music. These are those "non-church" songs I was talking about. My students loved them! Especially without the pressure of having to have it all practiced up in a weeks time. For some, I even let them just play it like they heard it in their heads, even if it wasn't exactly what was written. Gasp, I'm a horrible teacher. :)

I also have some books from Soundforth and the like that I am playing out of this Christmas season. I just may let you in on some of those one of these days.

How about you? Where do you find good Christmas Music for your students?? What is your "Christmas Music Philosophy?"

November 25, 2010

Tips From My Studio - Beginning A Lesson

Comparatively, I have not been teaching piano for very long. I have taught my siblings for several years ( I started all 4 of them as beginners) but other than that I have only been teaching “real” students months. 

Ok, now is the point where you roll your eyes and say, “And she thinks she has tips to give ME??”

Yeah, thats about how I feel too. Next to most of you, I feel about knee-high in the area of teaching. Ok, make that ankle-high.

But even in my limited teaching experience, I have learned a few small things. (And I mean small.) Most of this stuff you probably already know, but in the event that you don’t, hopefully it will be a blessing to you.

This first thing I would like to share is about beginning a lesson. All those years I “just” taught my siblings, I usually began a lesson with, “Ok, lets have a lesson now” or, “Will you stop talking long enough for me to get a word in?” or something similar to that. It wasn’t until I got to college (at least thats the first time it really sunk in with me) that my teacher, Mrs. Susan Smith, prayed with me at the start of every lesson.

Now just perhaps my previous teachers did pray with me, but if they did, the weight of that didn’t sink in until college. Even then, I didn’t start doing it in my own lessons. Things take a while to penetrate this thick skull.

What I did notice about these lessons with Mrs. Smith was that praying at the start of a lesson really calmed my nerves and settled me down to get serious about the lesson. It also showed me what the focus of our lesson was...not to impress my teacher, but to bring glory to God. Yes, even an ordinary, mundane, and (heaven forbid) boring lesson should bring glory to God!

As I said before, even though I thought starting in prayer was wonderful, I did not start doing it with my siblings. After all, they are “just” my siblings. (In case you are wondering, that is the wrong attitude to have!! My poor siblings...I had so much to learn! But that is another post for another time.)

Finally, this summer when I started teaching “real” students, it sunk in. Probably because I felt more scared about teaching other people, and I felt like I really needed the Lord’s help! It is sad, but isn’t that how we so often treat prayer?? We don’t realize how much we need it until we are in a situation we can’t handle without it. 

So I thought, well, why not try this with my siblings lessons, too? And you know what? It has radically changed our lessons! Because when I did not start the lesson with our focus on God and bringing Him the glory, and when I had the attitude that it is “just” my siblings, those siblings had the same reaction: “Its “just” my sister.” Not good. But once I started beginning in prayer, they began responding to me as a teacher way better. They are more cooperative and seem to enjoy the lesson more....even the boring parts. (Oops, I said the forbidden “b” word again!)

So you ask, what do I pray for at the beginning of a lesson? I pray that I will speak only the words that will help the student. I try to remember to pray for the student by name and pray something specific for him or her. I pray that all we do in the lesson will bring honor and glory to God. And I pray that we will redeem our time during the lesson. (Ephesians 5:16)

Sometimes I let the student pray, if it is someone that is comfortable with praying out loud. The purpose of praying is not to make the student uncomfortable, so I don’t make them pray unless they want to. 

Do you start your lessons in prayer? How has prayer worked in and through your studio and your student’s lives?

November 19, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway!

No, I am not giving away a book. Sorry. :) But someone I know is!!! So although I do not have my blogroll up yet, nor have I talked about any of my favorite blogs, I wanted to share this one with you so that you could enter it as well. Natalie, over at Music Matters Blog is the one sponsoring the giveaway, and the book is the newest one by Jenifer Cook over at The Church Pianist website. I personally love playing any of the arrangements that Jenifer Cook has written, and am excited about this book because it is for intermediate students. I have a couple of those!

Both of these blogs rank in my top five favorite piano blogs, so I hope that not only will you participate in the giveaway, you will also check out all the amazing resources these ladies have to offer. If you don't have time to do that now, I will be talking about both of these sites more in the future, so stay tuned for that!

And by all means, if you win the book because I told you about it, let me know!! :)


Here goes nothing!! I have had the plans and ideas for this blog and the ministry I would like it to produce for some time. I hope that as all of that becomes a reality and you browse through my little corner of cyberspace that you are encouraged in the area of music, and more specifically, piano!

Whether you are a piano teacher, a piano student, or simply someone who wants to honor God through praise in music, this blog is for you. God demands and desires praise from His children, and many times throughout scripture He commands us to praise Him with some type of musical instrument. Psalm 150 is probably my favorite instance of that...the whole 6-verse psalm is dedicated to musical instruments and praising God!

So fasten your seat belt and hold on! As we travel on this journey of learning how to use music to praise God, take time to look around, enjoy the scenery, and learn some things along the way.

A lot of the posts on this blog will be directed to piano teachers. In fact, I am a piano teacher myself. Hence the inspiration for this blog. When I started teaching piano, I felt so inadequate for the task ahead, and did several google searches for things like, “teaching piano” or “music worksheets.” The result was fantastic!! I found several great resources that have helped me tremendously in learning better how to teach. (For instance, did you know that you could play games in your lessons?? What an inspiration!) There are several piano teachers out there that have been teaching for much longer than I have and that have much better ideas than me!

So why, you ask, are you starting yet another piano blog?? 

First of all, it is not because I have all the answers. Oh, far from that! It is also not to impress upon you my way of teaching or my ideas of what is best. (Although I may share those best ideas with you from time to time.)

It is because I know several piano teachers who teach on a very small scale. For some, they are newly-wed ladies or brand-new mommies that teach a few piano lessons on the side. Others are pastors wives, or they hold a full-time job in another field and teach piano on the side. There also are a handful of male piano teachers out there, also. (No, this blog is not just for ladies!!!!) The fact is, there is so much good material out there, its hard to know where to start! And to wade through all that great stuff consumes one thing that none of us seem to have enough of...and that is time.

(Drumroll please) Enter Nickel Notes piano blog. My goal for this blog is to help these piano teachers sort through all of that great information I keep mentioning. To have a place to find several good resources on interval worksheets, for instance. To know where to go to get answers to your questions. And a host of other good things as well. I hope that this will also give fresh ideas to otherwise stale lessons. (You didn’t know about the games, did you?)

All of that to say (my goodness, I’ve rambled on a long time!) that I hope that this blog will prove to be a blessing to you in whatever category you find yourself musically. I also want FEEDBACK from you...please please please!! What things would you like to see included in this blog? What areas would be the most help to you?? Am I nuts??? (Ok, don’t answer that one!)

Things to look for in the next couple weeks:

A blogroll of my favorite piano teaching blogs

My philosophy of music and studio policies

Resources for Christmas music