A Look Back at Trendsetting Piano Teaching Resources in 2016


Grab a cup of coffee--here's 40 resources worth your time! My friend and colleague Marie Lee and I compiled a list of winning resources that worked for us in 2016, and we can't wait to share them with you. They are organized according to topic.

What did we forget? We didn't include everything we intended--we had to stop some where.

What would you add to the list?

Professional and Creative Development


Piano Teacher Planning Center is a brand new component of  88pianokeys.me. I'm so excited to piano teacherplanning centerhave a store--no, a center--where teachers will find a growing collection of free and for-purchase teaching aids, some created by me but others created by fellow teachers who have great ideas.

In celebration of the new year, there's a store-wide sale until January 15, 2017. By the way, if you have a cool game or product that you want to sell, contact me at lviss@me.com and let's plan to make it part of the PTPC in 2017. -Leila


I attended my first 88 Creative Keys Workshop in Denver this past summer. I waited almost an entire year and 88 CK was well worth it! It was one of the best things I could do for my continuing education as a teacher.  You can read reviews from 2016 attendees here and learn more about 2017’s workshop here. -Marie Here's a video of Leila leading a body beat activity with teachers.



Tim Topham’s podcasts keep me happily occupied on my Sunday afternoon walks. I look forward to them each week. Tim finds the best guests who discuss--you guessed it--trendsetting topics! Here are seven of my favorite podcasts because they deal with creativity at the keys. -Leila


I look forward to Amy Chaplin's Piano Pantry Friday Finds. Amy is one of my new, favorite bloggers. -Marie


Even though I didn’t practice like I should have, I learned so much from Bradley’s online lesson session that I can use with my students. Bradley Sowash is encouraging and informative. It has opened up a whole new world of piano playing for me. -Marie



ForScore, Turbo Scan, the Air Turn Pedal and the iPad Pro is a combo I’ve used every Sunday since writing my December 2015 blog post. I’m not sure how I survived without this set up. In the post you'll learn how I move hard copy sheet music to ForScore so I can enjoy hands-free page turns. This is the wave of the future for reading scores. -Leila


Upbeat Piano Teachers is what I call Netflix for piano teachers. This year, hosts Tracy Selle and Sara Campbell offered a course called Group Lessons 101 which features teachers across the country who specialize in group teaching. It was fascinating to learn from fellow teachers “in the trenches” and fun to hear Marie Lee talk about her group teaching experience. She is a master group teacher! If you are considering group teaching, I highly recommend this course. -Leila

Teaching Support

Creativity and Improvisation


Black Cat Strut is a catchy pattern for improvisation that can be used with students of any age and immediately delivers a “cool” sound. My blog post includes tips on how to use this with an app I can’t live without, iReal Pro. -Leila



Cob Webster Lead Sheets from TeachPianoToday.com provided the perfect balance of reading and creativity and theory at the start of my fall lessons. Marie has 80 books printed to use with her students coming up in 2017. -Leila


The Ultimate Chord Bundle from Heather Nanney’s FunKey Music blog is a free template for pianists to visually learn and organize chords. I’ll be making a copy for each student in the Notability app for this session. Learn how to use the Notability app on your iPad in my Here to Help Video so you can save on paper and ink. -Leila


MusiClock is another favorite app that provides upbeat backing tracks for major, minor, blues, bebopEGGstraordinary Games for your Studio and pentatonic scales. Using some EGGceptional ideas with plastic eggs, I show in a past blog how I used MusiClock in private and group lessons to encourage learning and improvisation. -Leila


TeachPianoToday.com has improv card activities for almost any holiday. They offer a corresponding teacher duet but, our studio enjoys using MusiClock backing tracks, too. -Marie


Jenny Boster of the Playful Piano created this awesome "Carol of the Bells" jam session activity. Here’s a video where I used it at my December class recitals as our finale and got the audience involved playing along with the students. Even if they didn’t play the piano, there was plenty of options for them to still participate. I received lots of compliments from parents on how much they enjoyed playing along. -Marie



Jennifer Eklund has made her mark in the method book market with her Piano Pronto series. Now she's paved the way for a fleet of composers to publish their works and sell them at her site at Composer's Community. Your students will be huge fans of Heather Nanney's On the Run. -Leilaimg_3628

Music Terms and Music History


Quizlet is a flash card app frequently used in schools. While reading through my studio resources on the Baroque and Classical periods, my students created flash cards in Quizlet. After reviewing them through Quizlet's engaging testing modes, students played some rousing rounds of review with the Heads-Up app at group lessons. Fun. Fun. FUN. -Leila


I used the Heads-Up app with two of my all-boys classes competing against each other for the highest number of wins. One class even wanted their parents to join in on the fun. This is a great way to review concepts you’re currently working on. It's available for both iOS and Android-Marie


Your Well-Being


Wendys' "Power Mediterranean Salad" is perfect for a quick, healthy and filling dinner on the way home from the studio. It’s nutrient-rich with only 240 calories for a half-size. Grilled chicken teams up with a savory ensemble of feta cheese, humus and sundried-tomato quinoa blend. I get the cheaper-per-serving “full size” and then save half for lunch the next day. It's so good -- it doesn’t even need the dressing. -Marie


The short children’s novel called Wonder by J. Palacio was one that took me by surprise because I birchboxcouldn't put it down. If you ever want to know more about what kids are thinking, how they process life with grown ups and what life is like in the shoes of someone who’s “different” than most, you have to read this book. It's transformative. -Leila


A Birchbox monthly subscription is my latest obsession! For $10 per month, you receive 5 higher-end beauty samples tailored to your skin, hair and style. I just love a monthly surprise in my mailbox and trying out new products. Did I mention how CUTE their boxes are? -Marie

Off Bench and Get-Off-Your-Feet Activities


A good friend gifted this book to me and what a treasure it is! It’s a book by Artie Almeida called

Parachutes, Ribbons and Scarves. The book includes easy-to-put-together activities with lots of different movement and props to teach musical form and rhythm while listening to standard classical pieces. Leila and I especially loved using her flashlight activity. -Marie


There are so many variations on how you can use Heather Nanney's Chord Pong game in your studios. Definitely a crowd pleaser -- especially with boys. -Marie

Sight Reading


Piano Maestro is no longer free for verified teachers and their students. This took us all by surprise. I made a commitment to stick with the app because I firmly believe it is attracts and retains students AND it builds sight-reading skills better than any other tool. -Leila

I finally broke down and bought an iPad just so I could use Piano Maestro! That’s how much I love it. We honestly use it in every piano class, every week. -Marie


Note Rush is an app for iOS and Android that shows a pitch on the grand staff and pianists must locate and play the correct note-rush-reviewnote on the piano. The app hears the pianist play through the device’s microphone and provides feedback. It’s a blockbuster hit with teachers and students especially because it offers different backgrounds for Halloween and Christmas and other assorted themes like soccer and ladybugs. I especially like using it at group lessons. -Leila


Rhythm Lab is my favorite app for drilling rhythms. For a complete tour of the app, make sure to watch my interview with developer, Jon Ensminger. The beauty of the app is that when connected with MIDI, players can improvise melodies within rhythms which builds solid reading skills.

Rhythm Reinforcement


Marie Lee, Heather Nanney and I took a huge risk creating a bucket drumming resource for piano

Junkyard drumset

teachers, BUT, it was worth all the work. We had a ball creating the supplemental holiday cards this past December. If you haven't purchased your Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers yet, get it now while it's on sale and the holiday cards are included so you can use them in 2017. -Leila


Speaking of rhythm, I focused on this topic for the past 6 months and came up with some products that have been highly successful in my studio and with fellow teachers.

Rhythm Make it Count provides guidance and ample off-bench ideas for your music lab time or what I like to call Off Bench Time. -Leila

Rhythm Produce offers a unique way for students to grasp tricky rhythms with the help of fruits and veggies. -Leila

Performance Tips


Heather Nanney's free practice pouch printable was a huge hit at her blog and at 88pianokeys.me. Offering students tactile tools to develop strong practice skills works. I strongly encourage you to offer them in your studio, too. -Leilatips-for-top-performance-1


The ten tips infographic for a top performance is extremely popular on my Pinterest board. These tips were golden when the Christmas recital came around. I printed a card for each student and I’m so glad that my pianists will have them when preparing for future performances. -Leila


I won’t do this every year because it was so time-consuming (110 students and 5 recitals), but Wendy Stevens' recital compliment exchange was a huge confidence booster for my students. Definitely worth the time! -Marie



Amy Chaplin spoke at the MTNA conference in San Antonio. Marie attended her session and wrote a thorough post on Amy’s session that will fill you in on all the latest strategies for marketing your studio. -Leila


I could not LIVE without Canva.com! The free graphic design site completely changed the way everything looks here at my blog and in my studio worksheets and correspondence, etc. I know that Marie feels the same. -Leila


No one can deny that Daniel Patterson's entry into the piano blogosphere was red hot. His first resource The Piano Teacher's Ultimate Facebook Guide is a must-have if you don't have it already. -Leila

I second that, Leila! I’m a huge fan of Daniel Patterson. I spent just one afternoon going step by step through his Facebook guide and got my studio page up and running along with my first ad. Daniel’s resource is a huge timesaver. -Marie


Bongos created at Fivver.

If you need a specific graphic designed and you don’t have the time or capabilities, I highly recommend Fivver. Once you log in, you can describe the service you need and artists from around the world will offer you quotes on what they charge. You have the opportunity to look at their work and decide on who you’d like to hire. If you own my Rhythm Make it Count, you’ll find artwork from a Fiverr artist named Debliz. -Leila

Just for Fun


Piano High Tops. These were a bit of a splurge at $55 but I called them a business expense and14566434_284897061909487_1215096268586325006_o wore them to our class recitals. Although not very comfy, I got a lot of compliments! -Marie


STOP! You’re under a rest! T-shirts-- I got these for around $5. They’d make easy prizes, camp or studio shirts if you don’t want to take the time and money to design your own. -Marie


Should You Be Practicing Right Now printable from the Odd Quartet store. I purchased posters from their store to hang in my studios, but you can access the free PDF here. Teachers will find this humorous . . . students, maybe not so much, ha ha! -Marie



Yamaha's P255 digital piano is my favorite new addition to my studio this year. You cannot beatFullSizeRender 2 the sound or the price if you want a portable, yet sturdy digital keyboard. The best thing about it? It can be controlled through an app on the iPad. -Leila


My students fight over my two pairs of Light-Up drumsticks. I purchased the multi-color options but, you can save some money by purchasing a single color. Here’s a fun video from a summer workshop using an activity from our Bucket Drumming resource and light-up drumsticks. -Marie


I second that these are fun, especially when rhythm needs reviewing and you need to change things up. The sticks lighten the mood immediately. -Leila


Got frogs? Wow, I didn’t know these would be such a hit with teachers--I know they are with

An impressive collection of a fellow teacher and blogger at grouppianoteaching.com

students. If you don’t have one, consider getting a wooden frog guiro or two. Set a rule that each frog only croaks a certain note value like quarter notes or 8th notes. I showed how I used these frog-shaped guiros in our 88 Creative Keys Groove Your Theory webinar.  -Leila


Don’t trust your copier? Take advantage of a HUGE copy center discount from Office Depot/Office Max by joining MTNA (Music Teachers National Association.) Black and white copies are 2.5 cents and color copies are .22 cents. If you purchase and print a lot of digital music and like the free printables offered at 88pianokeys.me for your students, your membership will quickly pay for itself. -Marie and Leila

What's trending in your studio? Please add your favorites to our list by leaving your suggestions and links in the comments below.

Is something missing? Stay tuned for a follow-up post featuring a sneak peek at what we predict will be trending in 2017. Let us know what we should include. Don't forget to stop by the Piano Teacher Planning Center and grab the freebies and take advantage of the store-wide sell.

Happy 2017, and thanks for celebrating another year at 88pianokeys.me!