9 keys to using Facebook as a promotional tool

Music teachers all over the world connect and share ideas on Facebook, but we can also find students through Facebook. There are so many options though -- some that cost you money, and others that will be free. Start with the free options and make the most of them, and then venture in to the paid options if you feel comfortable and have the budget.

But, word of warning: only venture in to spending money on Facebook if you know who your ideal client is, what your target market is, what your niche is, and how you're going to message to your target market to get them to click. Otherwise, you will be spending a lot of money for little return.

Here are 9 keys to using Facebook as a promotional tool for your music lessons business:

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Making holiday music fun with student arrangements

This year, I wanted to find something fun to do with the traditional time of the year during which we learn a few holiday songs. It's one thing to assign Jolly Old St. Nicholas and Jingle Bells to a student to learn for the holiday recital, but it's quite another when they are part of the process and have a deep personal connection to it.

I decided to encourage my students to make their holiday pieces their own. The classical pieces obviously allow no room for improvisation or arrangement, so the holiday songs are a great opportunity to harmonize, improvise and just have some fun with familiar tunes. The fact that the children already know the songs gives them a leg up on this activity, because the melody is already in their ear.

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For parents: the dos and don'ts of private music lessons

I first saw a list of dos and don'ts for parents in Dr. Martha Baker-Jordan's book, Practical Piano Pedagogy. Over the years, my opinion of what parents should or should not do has changed somewhat as I see what works and what fails with individual students and situations at home. Dr. Jordan's original list served as the beginning of the framework for mine, which has now been changed and redone several times over the years.

I encourage the parents of my students to follow this list of dos and don'ts, and I suggest that every teacher should have a similar list. At the very least, this puts everyone on the same page. When used effectively, this can be a weekly reminder for everyone involved to keep lessons going down the right path.

Another "don't" -- don't expect perfection! Each person is different, and sometimes we'll have hiccups down the road in our journey together in the teacher, student and parent relationship. This list just gives us a very helpful place to start.

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The Teacher - Student - Parent triangle

In my city, there is a studio (the name I will not mention) that absolutely refuses to allow parents to sit in on the lessons with the child. When I was three, my mom enrolled me in this studio for piano lessons, not knowing that this was the policy. A concert pianist herself, when I was forced to write "mommy will not help me practice" in crayon on the top of my book, that was definitely the last straw for her. And I'm thankful that it was!

Of course, there are things parents don't know, and even when they do, they seek a teacher because the child usually listens better to someone else. But the teacher should not remove the parent from the equation, and the parent should not abdicate his or her responsibility to the young child. It takes a team effort, and when one of the three sides of the teacher - student - parent triangle is broken, music lessons are not going to be the fun, inspirational, motivational, myelin-laying, progressive, positive experience that they should be.

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Practice: why it doesn't always make perfect

Parents and teachers always want the music student to practice his or her instrument. Mom says, "go practice your piano!" Teacher says, "practice a total of 100 minutes this week!" The student says to herself, but rarely actually asks, "what does that mean?"

cartoon-kid-piano.gifWhen a student just plays the instrument for 20 minutes, that is not practicing, and it isn't "making perfect," either. Of course, students of any age should be encouraged to have fun with the instrument, just as I encourage my piano students to sit down at the piano and make up songs whenever they can. But this is much different than true, deep practice.

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5 best keyboards for piano players

Whether you’re a pianist without the space for an acoustic piano, you want something portable, or you just prefer the bells and whistles of a keyboard, it can be difficult for pianists to find keyboards that really fit all of our requirements.

Most importantly, however, as you begin learning how to play the piano, you should have a keyboard that feels and sounds as much like a piano as possible. Some of the requirements to look for are weighted keys, real-size keys, at least 66 keys (but preferably 88), a sustain pedal, touch-tone sensitivity, piano action, well-sampled piano sounds, an adjustable stand, and an adjustable bench.

When the keyboard is not realistic enough (meaning, it is not enough like an actual acoustic piano), your learning may be hampered when performing live on an acoustic piano. And if you do anything in the way of events, recitals, group classes, talent shows, or even playing for fun in the back of a favorite bar, if the acoustic piano feels too foreign then the results will be frustrating. Dynamics will be harder to produce, keys may be missed due to being used to another weight of keys that is unlike an acoustic piano, and tone quality may be poor. Having a keyboard that mimics the function of an acoustic piano is vital.

Here are five of the best keyboards for piano players that I recommend to my students if an acoustic piano purchase is not possible (all are under $2,000 retail price!), with descriptions taken directly from merchandiser websites, in part or in whole:

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Learning the Piano: 5 Ways to Bring Out the Melody in Songs

two_adult_hands_on_Yamaha_piano_1026x455.jpgAs you’re learning the piano, one of the most difficult things to do, especially for young children or beginning pianists, is to bring out the melody. Simply saying it does not help, so I’ve found I need to provide students with ways to practice this at home, guiding them toward the correct sound. If you’re listening well and spending time focusing on hearing the repertoire performed correctly, you will be more successful more quickly.

Here are five ways to practice bringing out the melody:

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