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The Piano Sensei Way

Author: Clinton Pratt

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The Piano Sensei Way is a podcast where I help piano teachers minimize stress and maximize success! I share my way of doing things, which in my opinion is the best way! It’s similar to Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid where he tells Daniel to wax the car, sand the floor, and paint the fence. Daniel thought he was crazy just doing Mr. Miyagi’s chores for him. But Mr. Miyagi knew what he was doing! He was training Daniel’s muscle memory so he could defend himself! Similarly, I am so confident in my ways, if you trust me and try it, you’ll see the results!
24 Episodes
How do you help parents motivate their children to practice? Is there such a thing as a parent who is too involved? Should parents sit in on lessons? Barbie Wong joins us to discuss how to educate and engage parents so their children will thrive in piano lessons! Lots of great tips and stories in this episode! 10 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make Music — Mini Guide Website: YouTube Channel: Instagram:
Every Good Boy Deserves . . . ? We’re all familiar with these sayings, but maybe every good teacher should think about the usefulness of mnemonic devices for reading music. Samantha Coates is here to explain and demonstrate how these traditional teaching tools are confusing and a waste of time!  Samantha Coates is an internationally regarded piano pedagogue and presenter. In addition to running an active teaching studio, she is the creator and publisher of BlitzBooks, the music education series that has brought laughter and creativity to music theory, sight reading, and piano repertoire. Samantha’s sense of humour and ability to connect with students through her books and online resources reflect her ongoing dedication to making all areas of music accessible, enjoyable and memorable. She is well known for her entertaining presenting style, and is regularly invited to speak at conferences around the world on a wide range of pedagogical topics. Samantha has never lost touch with what students want; she has been running her piano studio in Sydney for almost four decades and is passionate about helping students achieve the goal of a lifetime association with and love of music. Here is the blog post and bonus video we talked about, showing Samantha playing the mnemonics game with teachers. It’s a hoot!   Creative Teaching Conference The Piano Sensei Way  
Amy Immerman, Founder of Cincinnati Music Academy (a school that she helped grow to 750 students), joins the show to discuss motivation! Is it our job to motivate students? How can we help spark motivation? How can parental involvement help? We both talk about our own practicing and motivation growing up. Amy describes some engaging practice games, a 100-Day Practice Challenge, how events keep students excited, and advice on vanquishing “energy vampires!” Some great takeaways from the show: Fast practice equals slow progress, slow practice equals fast progress. No practice equals no progress. You don't practice until you get it right, practice until you don’t get it wrong. Students do not fail. Teachers fail, parents fail, and society fails. Amy Immerman is the Founder of Cincinnati Music Academy, a school that she helped grow to over 40 teachers and 750 students. She has given over 80 presentations at local, state and national conferences in 19 states and Canada. She served on the Board of Directors for MTNA, is a past Ohio Certified Teacher of the Year, and an MTNA Foundation Fellow. She has served on local and state boards for OhioMTA and has an MM in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from Ohio University. Energy Bus by Jon Gordon: E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber: Creative Teaching Conference:
Prompted by a lively discussion in the Facebook Group Piano Teacher Central, I decided to host a live debate on YouTube! This is the recording of our “debate” on counting. The teachers who joined me were Mike Langer, Brian Lotter, Jeff Millis, Val Muller, Harrison Richter, and Jordan Thomas. It was a very thought-provoking discussion where we discussed the meaning of “counting”; if and how it helps students learn rhythms; other ways to learn, know, and feel rhythms besides counting; and using words and syllables instead of just numbers. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the episode. Jordan said, “They’re so worried about trying to figure out ‘am I saying the right syllable at the right time?’ that it impedes whether or not they’re able to even play the rhythm.” Jeff said, “Counting works for helping students understand mentally … it’s not really a feeling thing or a musicality thing, it’s purely academic, it’s intellectual. It’s to help students understand where we are in this music, in this measure, in this piece.” Mike said, “A metronome does not give you rhythm. It’s some sort of external thing. You have to feel rhythm. We have a heartbeat that beats at a regular interval and we can divide that in certain ways. We walk in a steady beat. So I think rhythm has to start internally.“ It’s The Piano Sensei Way, so of course one of my favorite quotes is my own! I said, “Can you know the rhythm, understand the rhythm, understand where you are in the measure, and feel it without counting? I think the answer is yes!” I know this will stimulate your mind, enjoy! Creative Teaching Conference:
This is the second of a two-part interview. In the last episode, Jordan interviewed me about teacher pay, asking me about fair rates, negotiating, benefits, living wage, tuition rates, and teacher raises. In this second episode, Jordan asks me about other aspects of running a studio such as: What do you look for when hiring a teacher? Do you train teachers? If so, how? How much leeway do you give teachers for how they teach or what materials they want to use? How do you keep continuity if a student switches teachers in your studio? How do you prepare teachers for transfer students from outside your studio? If you don’t have an administrator, how do you manage everything and when is a good time to hire one? . . . I’d love to hear from you if you have comments or questions! Related episode: Part 1 w/ Jordan Thomas Creative Teaching Conference:
To shake things up, our guest, Jordan Thomas, interviews Clinton! It all started with Jordan’s FaceBook post in Piano Teacher Central about the feasibility of a multi-teacher studio business model as opposed to a solo studio. Jordan is a solo teacher and has been considering expanding, but has questions about how to make it work. I answered some of his questions in his FaceBook post, but we decided to discuss it on the podcast and share it with you! This first part is all about teacher pay. He asks me: How do you pay teachers fairly? How do you provide incentive for them to stay at your studio? What benefits should a teacher consider when working for a studio? Does your tuition have to be higher in order to properly pay teachers and run the business? If so, does that deter potential customers? How and when can teachers get raises? Do you negotiate pay if a teacher expects or asks for more? . . .  Listen for Clinton’s answers and a fruitful discussion! Stay tuned for part 2 when Jordan asks me about other aspects of running a studio such as: What do you look for when hiring a teacher? Do you train teachers? If so, how? How much leeway do you give teachers for how they teach or what materials they want to use? How do you keep continuity if a student switches teachers in your studio? How do you prepare teachers for transfer students from outside your studio? If you don’t have an admin, how do you manage everything and when is a good time to hire one? . . . Here's Part 2 Creative Teaching Conference:
Jake posted in the group “Piano Teacher Central” on Facebook about setting expectations for piano students in his studio. It was quite the lively discussion as there were strong and varying views on what kind of standards we should set, and what we should do if students don’t meet those expectations. Despite Jake being fairly new to piano teaching, I tended to agree with his ideas and was impressed at how thoughtful he was. He agreed to come on the show to talk about expectations, requirements, measuring progress, setting goals, rewarding successes, and the question: “can lessons still be fun?” Jake's website Facebook Creative Teaching Conference
After I posted in the Piano Teacher Central Facebook group saying “slow, slow, slow to keep the flow, flow, flow,” Pablo Martinez shared it in his Instagram to his followers because he was just thinking the same thing! We linked up in this episode to share stories and ideas on effective practicing. We learn about Pablo’s journey and how he had to rethink how to practice due to an injury. He had to make progress but maximize his time at the piano in order to not further injure himself. He gives us his top 3 tips for practicing: pick a tempo that allows you to do all that you want; go back and forth between small and big; and the feedback loop. The feedback loop is 3 steps: plan, play, and assess. You first plan what you’re going to play and what the goal is. Then you play it. Then you assess how it went in order to plan again, hence the feedback loop! We talk about helping students do this in the lesson, guiding them through the process instead of just telling them to do it at home. This episode has examples, stories, and “fattening the pig!” Be sure to check out Pablo’s links, the suggested book he mentions, and the video clip we discuss: Pablo’s website: Instagram: YouTube: Facebook: Practicing the Piano by Graham Fitch: Marc-Andre Hamelin clip saying to practice “slooooooowly”: Creative Teaching Conference: Related episode: Episode 6 - The Way to Teach Piano is to Teach Practicing (w/ Michael Richey)
Do your students want to take the summer off or want fewer lessons, resulting in reduced income for you? It can be frustrating, stressful, and depressing to have to struggle for income in the summer when your students drop off or take breaks. Don’t worry, The Piano Sensei Way has solved this problem! Not only can you maintain your income in the summer months, but I show you how to actually increase it! And you’ll be surprised to know that this is possible even when your students want fewer lessons, and even when you want a vacation, too! We talk about having a flat rate tuition, special projects or events in the summer, and different options for students to add on extras. This episode is taken from a YouTube live Q&A so you’ll hear some questions and comments from the audience. “Summer Camp Guru” Jennifer Foxx actually joined the stream to discuss her ideas and help me answer audience questions!   Slides Episode 7 - The Way Flat Rate Tuition Minimizes Stress
I was so impressed when I watched Mikey Ashmore’s students in a studio music video he posted on Facebook this past Halloween. I contacted him and he agreed to come on the show to talk about how he came up with this idea and how he pulled it off! You’ve got to see this video and listen to my interview with him, it’s so fun! He walks us through the steps of writing custom parts for the ensemble, rehearsing, having a piano camp, and then recording and shooting the video. We discuss the benefits which include social interaction, increased student practicing in order to not let down their teammates, more performance confidence, younger students being inspired by older ones, and just plain old fun! "This is Halloween" music video "Golden Hour" rehearsal video Creative Teaching Conference
Teaching theory is a must . . . and it’s even better in groups! It’s more fun, students get social activity, they gain encouragement and support from their peers, and you can increase your income! Based on the Cooperative Learning Theory, students learn faster in small groups. You can also maximize your effectiveness by teaching several students all at once! Glory St. Germain joins to give us lots of information on how to implement such a program in your studio. Start small by just offering a 6-week “camp.” Students can even bring a friend! Once the parents see that their child is not only learning but also having fun, begging them to come back, they will sign up for the rest of the year! You can also get potential students from local school bands, choirs, and orchestras. The directors will be delighted to send their students to you for theory!  Glory’s 3 things to remember: Connect theory to practical Celebrate small wins Foster a community of life-long learners Example of a class outline: New concept Implementation Gamification Practical application 3-day Music Business Mastery Training Free training Facebook group  Productivity and Profitability Podcast  Creative Teaching Conference
Is there only one way to finger scales? Do C, G, D, A, and E always start with left hand 54321? Zac Adamson says “no!” We discuss alternate scale fingerings and how they can help students (and you!) play with more natural ease and flow. During this episode, he demonstrates specific scales and their alternative fingerings on his piano and I try them out on my piano! Zac has created a diagram for you to use which simplifies things and allows you to see similarities and patterns. Zac is currently a Master’s student studying piano performance under Scott Holden at Brigham Young University. He teaches private and group classes to university non-music majors and also has his own studio of private piano students. Article “Equal Rights for the Left” by Frederic Kirchberger Article “The Subject is Scales” by Iva Loughlen Guy Zac’s Handout and Diagram Creative Teaching Conference
This is my recent interview on the Ultimate Music Teachers Productivity and Profitability Podcast with host Glory St. Germain! Topics include: my various roles as a music educator, improvisation, enforcing policies, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, how to make lessons engaging, retention, performance anxiety, and more!  Glory's podcast Clinton's podcast
Tiffani is back by popular demand! We talk about being confident in your policies in order to protect your business, produce efficiency, and increase satisfaction! We both share examples and stories of how confident policies helped our studios. We discuss many tips on how to be confident including: explaining the protection, efficiency, and satisfaction to clients; practicing in front of a mirror (yes, really!); role playing; telling clients you'll get back to them so you have time to think; keeping it brief; and combining confidence with kindness! Tiffani reminds us to make policies that are easy it implement and easy for clients to follow. Be sure to communicate your policies clearly, and be open to refining them as needed.  Check out our previous episode with Tiffani: Episode 3 - The Way to Do Away With Makeup Lessons And Clinton's solo episode on how to do a flat rate tuition: Episode 7 - The Way Flat Rate Tuition Can Minimize Stress Tiffani's Facebook Group:  Piano Teachers Gotta Do it (Policies, calendars, schedules, recitals, billing, marketing, etc., etc. There's so much to do...Let's help each other out!)  
Tim Topham, internationally recognized leader in music education and founder of Top Music, joins the show to talk about his approach to delay method books and reading in order to focus on creativity and musicality first! Tim says, “Why don’t we leave the method books alone for a few weeks and do improvisation, creativity, musicality, and skill training first, before we introduce reading? I’m not against method books at all. They are a brilliant, structured, scaffolded way to teach students to read music. But is that the thing to do in lesson one? And my answer would be a very strong 'no!'" Our discussion includes what do to at the first lesson, what students should do at home, how to involve parents, and when to introduce the method book. One of the main benefits of delaying method books is students gaining skills such as improvisation, playing by ear, and an understanding of basic harmony early in the process. As teachers, we can avoid the future challenges of trying to incorporate these skills later. We also discuss how students are motivated to continue lessons longer since they are more engaged in these opening lessons! Be sure to check out Tim’s new book, No Book Beginners, which is a handbook for teachers, giving them not just the confidence to try this approach, but practical tools to guide them through the process including: Lesson plans Backing tracks Videos of Tim teaching the first 5 lessons Sheet music for teachers And more! No Book Beginners: Creative Teaching Conference:
Christopher Oill joins the show to talk about creativity, composition, connecting to students, and how to balance structure with freedom. Using creative things like improvisation and storytelling can help you connect with students on a personal level, strengthening your relationships and, therefore, increasing student retention and engagement! Chris is such a fun person to talk to because he’s smart, innovative, personable, and funny! Even if there’s no set topic of discussion, he is always engaging and I guarantee he will inspire you to think outside the box and make you laugh!  Chris and I have worked together on projects and presented together at teacher conferences. He also coached me on how to compose pieces for students for a special studio project! You'll enjoy our friendly interaction as we dive into creative approaches to teaching piano. We talk about using life experiences to influence interpretation and compositions, how relating to students help them feel comfortable and motivated, and improvising use "key sets" as opposed to thinking of scales in a traditional way. If you stick to the end, you'll see a bonus clip of us just chit chatting =) Creative Teaching Conference
Rescheduled lessons, cancellations, and students who want to take the summer off, oh my! Don’t you want to reduce your stress so you can focus on teaching? Having a flat rate tuition with no makeups lessons makes everything easier on students, parents, and you, the teacher! In this episode, I walk you through the details on how to institute a flat rate tuition and why you will want to convert, if you haven’t already! Online tuition calculators  
Do your students practice? Do they know how to practice? Are you sure they're doing it effectively and efficiently? In this episode I talk with Michael Richey of the Tennessee Music Academy about how the main goal of a piano lesson is to teach a student how to practice! We talk about introducing a piece, beginners, transfer students, motivation, student readiness, and he gives us 5 tips:  Frequency over duration Planning Tempo and length Always play artistically One time is not enough Creative Teaching Conference
Is your Website working to get you more students? In this episode, we discuss some important tips to make sure you’re including and excluding the right things! The goal of your website is not to impress people with your credentials, talk about your policies and pricing, or get them to follow you on social media. The goal is to get them to contact you! How? By following these tips: Less is more Don’t confuse people with too many choices Have a clear CTA 3-4 pages maximum Minimal text Photos of happy students No lengthy academic bios An “About” page that is first-person Reviews Video of music studio website reviews and examples Creative Teaching Conference
In this episode, I talk with David Frego about the Dalcroze Eurhythmics philosophy. David has many years experience teaching piano and music, incorporating Eurhythmics. He is a Master Teaching Artist with the American Eurhythmics Society and leads teacher training sessions all over the world. We discuss the history of Dalcroze, the philosophy, the concepts of Time, Space, and Energy, and the four pillars of the philosophy: Eurhythmics Rhythmic Solfége Improvisation Plastique Animée Top quotes from the episode: “It's an approach to experience all the elements of music kinesthetically” “Everybody has their own steady beat” “Students begin to feel the rhythmic patterns internally, before we're ready to label it" American Eurhythmics Society Meaning Movement: A Music Teacher's Guide to Dalcroze Eurhythmics David and Marla's Dalcroze Website   Creative Teaching Conference