For those who need more help in scales and arpeggios, I have published a series of scales fingering diagrams and videos from grade 1 to grade 5. You can either click on Learn to Play Scales under Resources or simply click on the links below. Have fun learning!
Have you ever wondered how good or bad you are compared to most piano students (in Singapore)? Have you wondered why you always get lower than what you expected to get in piano exams? Have you ever thought of what it takes to be a distinction student or even a high scorer (140 and above)? Take this quiz to find out!
Click on the link below to take the quiz.
Am I a Pass, Merit, or Distinction Student?
General Learning Aids
Music Magnetic Board
For those who can read music, I would recommend that you get this to help your child in learning. This is because a magnetic board is much more flexible than using notecards – there is no need to shuffle or search for the correct card; just move the note up or down on the stave, and students can learn intervals more effectively using this board. The magnetic board shown above is available at MUSIC THEME, excelsior shopping centre #B1-04/5/6. Alternatively, another version of the magnetic board is available for students enrolled in the music course in Yamaha Music School.
Music Flashcards (Hal Leonard)
These cards are very useful in learning note-reading, music terms and rhythm. Available at most major music stores (e.g. Yamaha Music School)
From Top Left:
Front of note-reading card
- Back of note-reading card, showing letter name and position on keys
- Back of interval-reading card
From Bottom Left:
- Signs – Treble / Bass Clef, note/rest values, time signatures
- Simple performance directions
- Rhythm cards
Music Flashcards (Alfred’s)
There is actually not much difference between this and Hal Leonard flashcards, only that for the note-reading cards, only one clef/stave is shown instead of both staves. Available at most major music stores (e.g. Yamaha Music School)
Bastien Interval Cards
An alternative to using the magnetic board to learn intervals, with answers shown at the back. This is available at Music Essentials, #02-70 Concorde Hotel & Shopping Mall.
by Josephine Koh & Florence Koh
This is a fun way to learn note values and their value relative to each other. Available at most major music stores (e.g. Yamaha Music School)
Music Terms Cards
by Brio Music Press
This set of cards provides an interesting way to learn music terms. It comes in two sets – set 1 consists of terms mostly for grades 1-2 and set 2 consists of terms for grade 3-5. The cartoons shown on the cards helps students to remember the terms easily. All definitions come in 3 languages – English, traditional and simplified Chinese, and Japanese. To test yourself, you can use to TV card (bottom right) to cover up the meaning and to guess using the cartoon shown. Unfortunately, these cards are only available for sale in Hong Kong, at Tom Lee Music. It is, however, available for loan at my studio.
Learning Materials for Supporting Tests
Major & Minor Scale Picture Workbook
by Glenna Battson
These workbooks provide an interesting and fun way for students to learn and remember the structure of each scale using by cartoons to represent each scale. Students follow a worksheet format designed to help them discover, then remember, scale notes and fingering. Click on each thumbnail above to see the contents of the book. This is available at Music Essentials, #02-70 Concorde Hotel & Shopping Mall.
by Brio Music Press
Scales Plus offers an innovative way in scales learning. It makes good use of the strong visual and aural memory of learners to help them learn fast and effectively. Unfortunately, these books are also only available for sale in Hong Kong, at Tom Lee Music. It is, however, available for loan at my studio. To view the content of this book, click on the thumbnail above. Each book consists of:
A visual keyboard shows the exact fingering positions to reveal the corresponding notes as they play.
- full sets of fingering facilitate a prompt recital of scales with ease and efficiency.
- Smart Colour Scheme is designated on sets of fingering in each scale and on the visual keyboard.
- Complete scales are printed for elementary grades to assist learners to familiarize each note, especially those far from middle C
- High readability allow learners in elementary grades to focus on the particular scale by arranging two scales at most on one page.
Essential Elements & Exercises for Aural Tests (Grade 5-8)
by Emeritus Professor Edward Ho
Very often, teachers do not have enough time during lesson to prepare students adequately for Aural tests, especially for higher grades (test C/D) where aural exercises can be rather time-consuming. Furthermore, the student is unable to practice by themselves without the teacher as the teacher needs to play the exercises for them to hear. With these supplementary exercises for aural, students are able to practice aural test by themselves and check with the answers provided. With more than 40 musical excerpts for test C/D, these books would provide the student with more than adequate practice in aural.
All books shown below are available for loan at the teacher’s studio
My First Book of Great Composers by Emily Woo
Learn About the Great Composers!
Did you know that….
Bach became famous 100 years after his death.
Haydn, the young and mischievous composer, later known as the “Papa of the Symphony”
Mozart, the incredible Child genius who started composing music at the age of five.
Beethoven became deaf but continued composing wonderful pieces of music as he could “hear the music in his head.”
Chopin is known as the “Poet of the Piano” because of the wonderful and expressive music he wrote just for the piano.
Tchaikovsky wrote some of the most famous ballet music which are still widely played today.
Find out more in “My First Book of Great Composers“!
My Second Book of Great Composers by Emily Woo
My Second Book of Great Composers gives you a chance to get to know some of the world’s best loved composers. Explore the exciting world of these great musicians and read about:
Schubert, a famous songwriter who wrote over 600 songs!
Schumann, a brilliant composer who went mad.
Debussy, who is known as the ‘Father of Impression’
Bartok, who is well known for writing Hungarian Folk songs.
Ravel, a composer who is most well known for his Concerto written specially for the left hand.
Lives of the Musicians by Kathleen Krull
The Life Stories of famous musicians – Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Woody Guthrie – are familiar to many. But what were they like really?
What kind of children were they? How did they die? And what went on in between? What did they eat? What did they wear? How did they spend their money? What were their phobias, quirks, and bad habits? Who were their “significant others”? And what did the neighbours think? (Music is not a quiet career.)
Most interesting of all, what is it like to live a truly creative life? The musicians in this book, representing different countries, historical periods, and musical styles, do have things in common. About their music, they had a perseverance and single-mindedness that led not only to success, but also to eccentricities, sometimes amusing, sometimes sad.
Of all of them it could be said that their work shook up the times they lived in: It provoked riots (Stravinsky and Satie), led to death threats (Prokofiev), required police to control the crowds (Schumann), shaped entire generations of students (Boulanger), created wealthy superstars (Gilbert and Sullivan), was condemned as “addictive” and “immoral” (Joplin), and left blood on the piano keys (Gershwin). Music that we think of today as acceptable, “classic”, or even staid often caused passion and controversy during its time. “Beethoven thought that through his music he could change the world,” points out cellist Yo-Yo Ma. “Today, rock musicians are virtually the only ones who think that.”
This music can still arouse emotion – and claim listeners. It’s estimated that if Mozart were alive today, he’d be earning $20 million a year from sales of his records. The music, above all, is the reason people remember these musicians today.
Here, escorted by the patron saint of music, Saint Cecilia, are twenty lives, colourful and mysterious. These untold stories, never before collected in one volume, are offered now as a way of getting closer to the musicians – and the music.
Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice!
Now in its third edition, Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice! has been acclaimed as the first book on the planet to help young music students with the one thing none of them can escape – praticing.
The first part of the book shows how to make practicing more productive, so that your child can do in fifteen minutes what might otherwise take hours. The second part of the book is devoted to making the whole experience not only bearable but fun.
So if your child suddenly asks for a pack of cards because they want to go and “give the hard bits a hard time”, you know they have been reading this book.
As a concert pianist with a recording contract with a major international label, and as someone who learned violin for ten years and hated every second of it, Philip Johnston is uniquely placed to write a book on practicing, because he understands what it is like to avoid it. (Reliable sources say he did thirty-five minutes of violin practice altogether in those ten years, and used to over-tighten the strings until they broke to avoid lessons…)
Philip runs one of Australia’s largest music teaching studios, and is heavily book both as a presenter for seminars for teachers, students and institutions, and as performer in his own right.
Over the years, music in the Western world has been changing constantly and the music of today is very different from the music people made 300 years ago.
To help you understand how this music has developed, each of the book in this series will describe a different musical period. For each era, we will show you the way the people of the time lived, and the kinds of art and architecture that were typical of the period. We will discuss the important musical characteristics and describes the lives and contributions of the major composers.
The history of Western music is usually divided into six board time period:
Middle Ages (before 1450), Renaissance (1450-1600), Baroque (1600-1750), Classical (1750-1825), Romantic (1825-1900), Contemporary (after 1900)
All books shown below are available for loan at the teacher’s studio
Nurtured by Love – by Shinichi Suzuki
In this trailblazing book, world-renowned violinist and teacher Shinichi Suzuki presents the philosophy and principles of his teaching methods for developing the natural abilities of every child. He illustrates by examples the amazing success of his work with young pupils at his music school in Japan, which has attracted the attention of educators from every major nation.
Professor Suzuki presents convincing evidence to substantiate his view, basic to his method called Talent Education, that every child is born with ability. Accordingly, a child’s slowness in any subject indicates a deficiency in his environment, educational or otherwise.
The author writes, “If Einstein, Goethe and Beethoven had been born during the Stone Age, wouldn’t they likewise have had only the cultural ability and education of men of the Stone Age? The converse is also true; if I were to receive a suckling babe of the Stone Age and educate him, before long he would be able to play a violin sonata by Beethoven as well as any young person of today.”
According to Professor Suzuki, the greatest joy an adult can know comes from developing a child’s potential so that he can express all that is harmonious and best in human beings. In Nurtured by Love, the author relates many meaningful experiences in his career and the circumstances which bought about his discovery of the Talent Education method.
Professor Suzuki has achieved worldwide acclaim, and his students, under his direction, have performed internationally, including appearances at the UN, the Julliard School of Music, and numerous places throughout the United States.
How to Grow a Young Music Lover – by Cheri Fuller
From playtime to bedtime, music builds children’s cognitive, motor, and creative development and adds joy and beauty to their lives. Experts believe that children’s exposure to music in the early years determine both their musical ability and their capacity to enjoy music. Regardless of a child’s age or your own musical background, you can learn How to Grow a Young Music Lover who will have a passion for music that lasts a lifetime. In this book you will discover:
The musical activities a child needs at each age
- The best rhymes and recordings for children
- The link between musical enjoyment and school achievement
- and many more practical, insightful, and fun ways to teach children about music!
*Includes a “Classics Month-by-Month” chapter offering a full year of music curriculum for the parent or teacher.
Raising An Amazing Musician
This self-help guide is essential reading for any parent or carer wishing to know more about bringing music into the life of their child. 20 short chapters, which assume no musical knowledge, are packed with expert advise on how to support your child through every stage of musical development, from birth through early childhood.
Helpful advise is included on:
- music-making with the very young
- recognising and encouraging musicality
- choosing the right instrument
- getting the most out of music lessons
- encouraging practice
- public performance
- music exams
Whatever stage of learning your child has reached, Raising an Amazing Musician will empower you to make the right decisions for your young musician, and enrich their experience of music as an enjoyable life-enhancing activity.
This book is actually for teachers, but for parents who are ambitious and keen to help more in your child’s practice, you might want to read this book. Otherwise you can also consider a shorter version of this book meant for students – Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice!
Music students have to be taught how to work by themselves… because for six days in every seven, they have to work alone.
Instead of the traditional obsession with how much practice students do, The Practice Revolution looks at how students practice in the first place. With over 320 pages of what works, what doesn’t and why, it’s the most ambitious, comprehensive and approachable guide to practicing ever undertaken, aiming to turn professional music teachers into nothing short of practicing experts….
…so that they can then help their students become practicing experts too…
And for today’s students, who are busier than ever before, making sure that the time they do spend practicing actually produces results is one of the best lessons they’ll ever learn.
This is an article taken from a December issue of a large city newspaper years ago. I hope that this will correct any misconceptions about learning the piano and highlight to you the importance of practice, parental involvement, having a good teacher and a good piano to practice on, and the importance of taking your piano learning seriously.
Silent Night, Horrible Night
by Richard Chronister
My mother, who has celebrated 78 birthday and 77 Christmases, has received, in her lifetime, hundreds of presents. She says that, for sheer surprise value, none has topped the one I gave her for Christmas when I was 8.
It all started when my third-grade teacher asked how many children would be interested in taking private piano lessons. I raised my hand. We didn’t have a piano, but that didn’t discourage me. I was a compulsive hand raiser.
Sure enough, it all worked out. Arrangements were made for me to practice in the music room at school on my lunch hour, and my mother said she could manage the 50 cents a week for lessons.
That’s how I met my teacher. She was about 80, the perfect age for a piano teacher – too old to teach class, but not quite old enough to retire. Her energy was minimal, but she tried to remedy that by taking a nap every few minutes. Also, I think she was deaf.
During the next few months, I did learn:
1) The location of middle C, give or take a key or two.
2) That “in the spaces you will find face(s).”
3) That “on the line(s) every good boy does fine.”
Every day I went to the music room after lunch and locked the door. From time to time, my friends would knock softly and I would let them in. We spent the hour whispering and laughing and took turns hitting keys on the piano.
I moved ahead in my music book in spite of the fact that I could not play any of the songs. Most of the time, my teacher dozed through my lessons. I usually had to wake her when my half-hour was over so I could give her the 50-cent piece I carried to school each Wednesday.
We could have gone on this way forever – if it had not been for the recital! My teacher told me early in December that there would be a little recital for the motherrs on December 19. In honor of the season, I was to play “Silent Night.”
“Silent Night” was a song I loved, but even by ignoring the notes and trying to follow the numbers, I couldn’t play anything that faintly resembled it. I tried to tell my teacher of the predicament, but she patted my head and mumbled something about practice making perfect. i wanted to cry.
When I carried home my mother’s invitation to the recital, I tried to tell her how bad things were, but she was busy making divinity and she didn’t have time to talk – or even to listen.
I tried to tell my father. I said I was going to be in a recital… and that’s as far as I got. I couldn’t tell him the rest. He said, “That’s nice, honey,” or something like that. There was no one else to tell.
And then it came to me! I would pray for a miracle. I prayed morning and night and sometimes noon. I prayed that either I would learn to play “Silent Night” or that I would die. All to no avail.
The day of the recital came, as such days must. When it was my turn, I walked out on stage in my new red dress, curtsied to the assembled mothers, adjusted my Shirley Temple hair-bow, and sat down at the piano. I touched a key here and there. Occasionally, I touched two keys at one time. No tune emerged.
I was careful not to look at my mother. I did glace at my teacher. She was smiling in her sleep. Aftter whatI considered a decent length of time, I rose from the piano bench, walked to the center of the stage, curtsied to the group, and walked off. The audience seem dazed, but a few of them applauded.
We rode home in silence. Some of the neighbors’ children were riding with us. I went straight to my room to await developments. I was a wicked little girl, I knew.
After a while my mother came in and sat on the edge of my bed. “I don’t have much time,” she said. “There are only so many days until Christmas, and I think the baby is getting the chicken pox. I’ll get right to the point.”
“Yes, Mother,” I said.
“I don’t believe you were cut out to be a musician,” she said. “We will discontinue your music lessons.”
“Yes, Mother,” I said.
She stood up and walked toward the door. Then she turned and looked at me intently.
“You were very brave today,” she said, “but it was too late.”
“Yes, Mother,” I said.
She came back and held me while I cried.
To learn to read and play any instrument acceptably at the elementary or even the intermediate level does not depend on talent. It depends on a teacher who knows how to teach and a parent who knows how to support that teacher and child. This newspaper article has a few words that I changed to protect the guilty. The words I changed indicated that this teacher had a university education, so we cannot lay this failure at the feet of the little old lady who can play a little and is perpetrating fraud on unsuspecting parents. No, this teacher had been through our college system, probably, and a one-or-two semester course in piano pedagogy, and is, nevertheless, perpetrating fraud on unsuspecting parents. This article is a shopping list of what is causing failure in music education today.
“We didn’t have a piano”
You might suppose we could assume that every piano teacher knows that a child must have a piano to practice on, that this piano should be in the child’s home, preferable away from the living room and the television. Assumptions aside, surely having no piano was partly to blame for this child’s failure; and the teacher must share the blame, since the teacher accepted the child without a piano.
“Arrangements were made to practice in the music room at school on my lunch hour”
Music lessons given and practice done at odd times and in odd places have been an enemy of the piano teacher since time began, I suppose. Avoiding this may be close to impossible, but this child’s failure is certainly partly due to this barrier to efficient work.
“Fifty cents a week for lessons.”
Of course, the lessons were not worth 50 cents! But if that mother had been paying what thirty minutes of good teaching is worth – and what a professional teacher charges for thirty minutes of time – that parent would probably have seen to it that something was received for payment made. Fees charges for lessons are indicative of the self-image and proficiency of a piano teacher. And in this article, this teacher has definitely delivered what was worth of 50 cents of a lesson!
“Too old to teach in class, but not quite old enough to retire.”
It is unfortunate that piano teaching is regarded by some as not really a profession, especially if you already have a college degree. It is just something done on the side while you are waiting to do something else – while studying in college, to get married, to go to graduate school, or to die.
“Her energy was minimal. At times she dozed off. I think she was deaf”
It is important that a student’s image of his/her piano teacher is a positive (and perferably an inspiring) one. Unfortunately, in this case, the piano teacher do not represent music. It only represents a piano teacher’s music, which is a breed unto itself, not to be heard anywhere else in the child’s real world.
“I learned the location of middle C; ‘in the spaces you will find face’; and so on.”
Finding middle C, spelling “face,” maligning “every good boy,” and cutting up pies into quarter notes are cliches of the piano teaching profession. Also included is wasting time over unneccary and unfruitful exercises. Much of piano teaching is still in the dark ages. This was proven a few years ago when one of the major publishers came out with a brand new, but unchanged, edition of the W.S.B. Mathews course which first appeared in the 19th century. This is not a reflection on the publisher. He would not have re-issued it if there had been no demand. The failure of piano students has something to do with the teaching material the teacher chooses to use.
“I moved ahead in my music book in spite of the fact that I could not play any of the songs.”
Unfortunately there are many teachers who teach by just teaching ‘songs’ and ‘moving ahead’ even when the student could not play the song well or could not even play it, blaming lack of practice as a reason that they are struggling with the piece, when the fact is that they have failed to give the student a solid foundation to cope with pieces that get more and more difficult. Similarly there are students who simply assumes that they can learn the instrument by just ‘attending’ the lesson and ‘practicing’ during the lesson, only to forget everything completely by the next lesson and make the teacher go through exactly the same thing all over again the next lesson, and the next lesson.
“…to give her the 50-cent piece I carried to school each Wednesday.”
Piano lesson are training in a physical skill. A physical skill is developed by slowly acquired tiny habits which acculmulate and finally burst into seemingly natural activity. Only a course of study carefully planned to make this apparent miracle happen will finally result in success for most students. Carrying the lsson fee to lessons each week means the teacher is selling lessons like loaves of bread. There is no long-term plan or goal. The piano teacher who says,”This is what we will accomplish this term, and this is the cost of the term,’ is saying to the parent, “I know what I am doing.” This inspires confidence in the teacher; it commits the parents; it prepares the child for the teacher’s attitude toward lessons. Part of the failure of this child must be attributed to the fact that there was no plan for accomplishment and no commitment on anybody’s part to anything.
“We could have gone on this way forever if it had not been for the recital.”
Remember, this was written by someone looking back. At the time, the child probably thought it had gone on forever already. And, sometimes, it does go on forever. A recital, however, can be a major atriculation which causes awareness of reality, as it did in this case. One could think of making a case for poor teaching by saying that teachers put too much emphasis on recital preparation , spending too much time preparing students to play flawlessly on recitals. But is that really the case? Piano recitals are, fairly regularly, deadly things – deadly for the child, the parents – but never, it seems, deadly enough for the teacher. Too often, we explain poor recital performances by our unshakable belief that only the talented can be assured of successfully rendering “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Over the Fence Is Out,” or “Oscar the Octopus.” No, we cannot blame the failure to read on rote-prepared and beautiful recital performances. But we can explain some of the public’s attitude toward piano teachers by looking closely at the principal showcase of piano teachers, the recital.
“I ignored the notes and followed the finger numbers.”
There is surely no need to comment on that.
“The teacher patted my head and mumbled something about practice making perfect.”
It is the teacher’s job to teach the student how to find his way out of any predicament in which he finds himself. But here there are two problems. First, the teacher must be able to recognize the exact nature of the predicament; and second, the teacher must know the way out.
“I tried to tell my mother; I tried to tell my father.”
Once, one of my piano classes included the daughter of a colleague on the music faculty. At the usual parent meeting a few weeks after the lessons began, he listened to what I had to say, mainly about what I planned to do with the students, how I planned to do it, and what I expected in home practice. He raised his hand suddenly and said, “Do you mean Jeannie is supposed to practice at home?” I was new at that college, and he told me he thought I had brought an amazing new method which required no home practice. That experience is living proof that we can never assume anything so far as parents are concerned. The failure of the child in our story had as much to do with the parents’ failure of the child in our story had as it had to do with the teacher. However, it is the teacher’s responsibility to communicate clearly to the parents their part in successful piano study, and to accept nothing less.
“And then it came to me; I would pray for a miracle.”
With many piano students, that is about their only hope if teachers persist in believing that failures can be explained by such nonsense as, “Well, Johnny just doesn’t have natural rhythm,” or “Some students can sight read and some can’t,” or “If Johnny only had an ear for music.” It seems that we blame both our failures and our successes on supernatural causes. One of the first things we have to do is to take the magic and the mystery out of music study – not out of music. Music is a glorious language, which everyone can read and speak if only we will learn how to create an environment in which the learning can take place naturally.
Developing bravery is not a goal of music study.
The child in this story went home from the recital in dejection and was told that lesson would be discontinued because she struck out. She wasn’t cut out to be a musician. As though being a musician were the only valid goal for learning music. But then a really true statement was made by the mother. Unfortunately, as it often the case with true statements, it was said for the wrong reason. The mother said, “You were very brave today.” How true! But then she ruined it. She added, “But it was too late.”
Yes, it was too late.
I am not sure what she meant, but I know what it means to me. It was too late for that mother. It was too late for that teacher. It was too late for either or both of them to undo the monumental harm done to that 8-year old child who easily could have had the same ability – and the same talent – as 90% of college piano majors when they were 8 years old. It was too late for that child to find the pleasure that musical literacy brings to all those lucky enough to get through those early years in spite of their teachers and parents. Too late for that child to fully explore one of her native tongues.