Category Archives: Accessories

Studio Basics: Equipment for the Beginning Piano Teacher

So you’ve hung out your shingle (or your ad in the local paper) and while you’re waiting for the calls to come in and the studio to start filling up, you’re wondering if you’ve got everything in place.

Today’s professional piano teaching studios are a far cry from the little old lady’s living room you may have taken lessons in in your childhood. Yes, today’s teachers are digitized, many of them with electronic keyboards, Skyping capabilities, tablets and Ipads (and a million aps), iPods, and computer composing software. We’ll get to the electronics in another post. But just for right now, let’s start with the basics.

Your Piano

I’m assuming you have an acoustic piano. I do know some teachers who teach on a digital — usually because they live in an apartment where volume and space are issues. But by and large, the gold standard is still an acoustic piano. You won’t be able to attract serious advanced students without one.

You’ll also need a good relationship with a local piano tuner. First of all, you’ll need his help not only for tuning, but for the inevitable mechanical problems that affect any well-used instrument. Your tuner will also be a source of referrals — and you will refer students to him or her, as well.

Ask about getting a Dampp-Chaser system, or at the very least discuss climate control. Humidity, air conditioning, proximity to fireplaces, hearing vents, windows, and direct sunlight will all affect your piano.


An adjustable bench is a must.  A standard artist bench with a knob that raises and lowers the seat is a traditional choice. I have a Discacciati bench with a hydraulic lift. It’s an easier mechanism to operate.

A good chair for you to sit in.

A Pedal Extender. Children younger than 9 or 10 usually can’t reach the pedals. A pedal extender makes it possible for them to sit in a good positi

Foot rest. Even if you don’t spring for the pedal extender, you’ll need a footrest for young children so their feet aren’t hanging down, but rather, are solidly placed on a stable block.  You won’t believe the difference this makes.

Piano Lights. You’ll need good task lighting right over the sheet music. Room lighting and standing lamps can help , but it’s essential that their be light right over the sheet music. A gooseneck clip on light works for grand pianos; a standing lamp with a gooseneck works for uprights. Clip on battery powered lights can also be used, especially as supplements.

Hard-backed notebook and plastic non-shiny sheet protectors. I have mys students store all assignment sheets, theory worksheets, and digital downloads in non-glare (matte) sheet protectors stored in hard backed three ring-binders. (Softer covers sag on music stands).

Photocopier/printer: For worksheet, assignments, digital downloads, etc. remember to obey copyright laws and honor the terms of digital downloads.

Metronome: Sure you can download an ap on your phone. But I have an old-fashioned wooden one. My students are fascinated by it.

Juggling balls (bean bags) for hand position. I have kids squeeze these to get a grip on the correct hand position. I’ve found it really helps. Plus, since I can juggle, I also use them to juggle in rhythm with a young child’s playing just for a bit of fun.

Stickers: Say what you will, little kids love stickers. So, even, do some adults. Stickers as rewards for good work are an easy and appreciated gesture.

Lots of pencils and a way to sharpen them: I can’t bring myself to writ in pen in a music book. I go through pencils — WITH erasers — at an alarming rate. Oh, and a sharpener.

Colored highlighters: To note problem areas in music or to highlight practice suggestions.

Music paper: For composing and doing note reading and writing exercises.

Library of sheet music: You’ll need to invest in a library of beginner and intermediate piano books. Play through them as you buy them and note which pieces have what characters and teach which skills.

Percussion instruments: for rhythm exercises and rhythm reading.


Best Holiday Gifts for Musicians

Having a musician in the family is a double bonus around the holidays.
If it’s a pianist or guitarist, you have someone to accompany Christmas carols. Singers and instrumentalists can help hold the melody notes when the crowd of revelers forgets if the tune goes up on high with the angles or sinks lo with the rose e’er blooming. 
And no matter who they are, they are easy to shop for.
The best place to look for music themed gifts is at a music store, especially a mom-and-pop local store. Other choices: big box music stores, book and CD stores, fine arts catagloues like the ones sent out by public TV, and museum gift shops.
The tchotchkes of the music world are replicating like the brooms in the Mickey Mouse Segment of Fantasia.
  • Christmas ornaments: let’s start with the obvious: ornaments in the shape of notes or instruments are an easy gift.
  • Music bumper stickers (mine says “Go home and practice!” but I’m also partial to one that says “Tune it or Die!”)
  • Clothes: T-shirts, night shirts, socks, ties: From dopey puns declaring that the wearer is lots of “treble” to snippets of unreadable gobbly-de-gook music notation, there’s a music-themed garment  in your favorite musician’s size.
  • Jewelry: Charms, key, chains, pins, earrings, pendants in the shape of notes or clefs.  
  • Mugs, plates, glasses, serving pieces: If you can eat off of it, you can probably find it with a music theme on it.
  • House accessories: I’ve seen lamps in a fine furniture store made out of old violins and flutes (retailing for $500, though), mirrors whose frames are in the pattern of piano keys, lamps shades with music scores printed on the (Fur Elise seems popular).
  • Novelties: Refrigerator magnets, can openers, keyrings in the shape of instruments: All are good as stocking stuffers.
  • Music boxes. These can be quite beautiful and ornate.
  • A metronome. Yes, I know: you can download a metronome app for free on your iThing. But by a margin of something like 10 to 1, my students prefer the sound of an old fashioned analog metronome — and I do, too. The German company, Wittner, is the classic, with a range of wooden and plastic pendulum metronomes. Prices  prices ranging from around $40 to $200.  For more makes, models, and prices, try
  • Percussion “toys” — inexpensive percussion instruments like shakers and hand drums come in handy for people who play with groups. For a really nice gift, look for handmade instruments with good feel and sound.
  • Sheet music: A book of holiday songs is always appreciated: One of my favorites for  is Hal Leonard’s  “Best Christmas Songs Ever.” The “easy” version is appropriate for intermediate students and above.
  • Gift certificates for music books. If you don’t know what to buy, go the gift certificate route: If you’re lucky enough to have a local music store in your town, help keep it in business by buying your gift certificates there. You’ll be supporting not only your favorite musician, but the local stores that keep sheet music conveniently in stock.
  • Strings, tuners and capos are always appreciated by guitarists, although you’ll need to know their preferences (especially for strings). If you don’t, a selection of picks is a fail-safe options. There’s even a gadget you can buy that can turn expired credit cards into guitar picks.

What are your favorite music gifts? If you’re a musician, what’s on your wish-list? Add your idea below.