Why Not KISS IT and Make it Better?

IMG_3202 When students return to the routine of weekly lessons after a summer of Piano Olympics, 88 Creative Keys Camp or limited private lessons, I feel the need to reinvent myself, the studio, my teaching, somewhat like my grade school teachers did with cute bulletin boards, desk name tags, and clever themes.  A  "fresh coat of paint" in the studio--an engaging app, a stellar practice strategy, a silly gadget to help with technique, a new twist to eliminating old bad habits--seems to boost everyone's energy level. Here's an unconventional tactic I've implemented this fall.

The Scoop


Thanks to an incredibly imaginative student, this year's theme for practicing is KISS IT. We determined this during one of her lessons this summer as she was speeding through a section that needed SLOW and STEADY practice. So, I said it: Keep It SLOW and STEADY and our light bulbs flashed simultaneously as we realized she needed to KISS this section. In the heat of the moment (sorry, this phrase seems so appropriate yet inappropriate!), we agreed KISS IT would be a perfect theme for the fall and throughout out the lesson we continued to dream up new words for the acronym:

Keep It Slow and Steady

Keep it Short and Simple

Keep it Super Simple

Know it Superbly Splendid  (a stretch, I know)

Keep it Simple Stupid (not!)

The gist: when I instruct a student to KISS IT, this means a selected section must be embraced with "loving" attention so that it gets better, perfect in fact, just like when Mom kisses a sore and makes it feel better. To isolate the passage, my favorite Post-it arrows are used to remind the pianist of the specific "injured" section. Pianists are instructed to play the spot at least 3-5 times (Slow and Steady or something of the sort) before playing the entire piece when practicing at home.

IMG_3194 Did I have second thoughts about this theme? Yes. How would boys or high school students respond to this? Was there something just a little too suggestive about it? These doubts disappeared once I visited Office Depot and discovered lip Post-its and lip duct tape. For some reason, this idea seemed validated and acceptable thanks to the on-hand "lip" stock in an office supply store.

Whenever it is needed, I plant a lips Post-it with the words KISS IT on the appropriate page at the lesson and the message is understood. It was easy redesigning my small studio bulletin board with lip graphics. The duct tape (until I find other uses) serves well as a tool for demonstrating rotation at the keys. Here's a PDF of the bulletin board graphic: Kiss poster

Not fond of KISSING? Here's a list of past themes to employ in your studio:

The post-its, duct tape and some stickers I found on clearance at Target

Practice Pouch: This was a hard act to follow as it was a big hit last year. New students joining the studio need to assemble their pouch for this year so this will serve as a good reminder for me and practicers to use the pile of tools in the pouch.

Fall Lesson Book Bash: There is nothing wrong with method books but setting goals to move through them quickly makes the process more engaging and imaginative. Click on the link to learn how to incorporate creativity with every assignment. This post was featured a year ago on Wendy Stevens' site, ComposeCreate.com.

Make it Easy, Practice Hard: I credit the Easy button with instigating this idea of a new, festive fall theme each year. I still have an Easy button at the piano and an Easy Stamp for quick practice inspiration.

Later this week I'll feature my studio incentive plan for 2013. If you use my lesson note progress scores you may be interested in this easy-to-use practice booster.


Before I break into my plug about my new book to be released this month, I'd like to remind you of a couple of things. First, if you haven't picked up on this yet, when I write the aim is to provide practical advice and tips that work because I've used them. Next, every studio theme, iPad app review, creative idea is meant to be helpful and manageable because otherwise I wouldn't use them. Last, I can't be everything to everybody so that's why I've stuck to Apple's iPad and appropriate apps and therefore have not branched out to the Android platform.

What you will find in my book, The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps, is a slant towards the Apple operating system but to clarify, the book is much more about seamlessly integrating technology (whatever the operating system) into your teaching. So, if you are thinking that a book about the iPad and a piano studio may seem too techie, too narrow, or out of touch with the world outside of Apple, you might reconsider. The book offers a bigger picture and in addition, continued practical support (in my typical fashion) with ongoing tech-savvy tips, the latest apps and how to make technology work for you and ultimately your students.

Click here to pre-order your book now. News about its release is coming soon!

Again, I appreciate those who take the time to read my posts...it is my pleasure to be here and I look forward to continuing on this teaching/technology path with you.

Got a favorite fall theme or practice strategy? Please include below on my Facebook page.