Grade II RIAM Printable Scales Flashcards




Below is a freebie, a pdf printable of Grade II RIAM (Royal Irish Academy of Music) scales flashcards. I hope it will be helpful to some of my students as they practice their technique. The scales included in the printout are:

Similar motion:

A, E, B, F, B flat and E flat major

C, G and D major (two octaves)

A, E, G and D minor

Contrary motion:

C, G, D, A and E major one octave.



1. Print the flashcards.

2. Cut them out and laminate them (or use good quality thick paper).

3. Use the flashcards during practice sessions. If there are scales you get tripped up on, particularly focus on those scales and check that your fingering is accurate (see Resources for Studying Scale Fingering for fingering info).


Using a Pencil During Piano Practice Sessions


This is probably the most obvious thing we mark in our music and very important for muscle memory. The quicker we settle on the fingering that works best for us (there’s usually a few good fingering options in music passages) the better.

Marking repeated patterns

Use coloured pencils to map out repeated phrases. Do this particularly while learning certain J.S. Bach pieces!

Eye Glasses

If there’s a jump or something unexpected coming up, particularly on the next line or before a page turn, draw a small pair of eye glasses right beforehand so your eyes will look ahead more quickly than usual.

Writing out chords

The most common chords in a key signature are its I, IV and V chords. Look for these (either broken or blocked) and write out chord symbols near where you find them. Find uncommon chords or key changes as well. Knowing you have gone from, say, C major to a minor for a few measures will really be helpful as you practice, and a simple pencil marking can serve as a reminder of what chord or key you are playing in.


While memorising a piece, write the date of any memory slip-ups. Have someone listen to you, following along with your music score, so they can make these markings. Play for someone several times every few weeks or so and see if your memory slip spots are recurring. If so, practice extra in these tricky places.

Establishing a Consistent Piano Practice Routine


Find a time.

Before college, that time for me was right before lunchtime. When I was in college, I planned in practice slots at a variety of times and durations that would work best with my other college work, and that would change often. At the minute, around 9 pm works best for me. The important thing is to plan and set aside time.

Don’t give up.

If you don’t have a lot of time to play during a particularly busy day, practice for 10 minutes rather than giving up the routine and habit. I remember starting private voice lessons in college one semester (as an extra class) and withdrawing soon after because I didn’t start off well with my practice time and I felt like I wasn’t doing very well. However I was later surprised to see that the voice teacher had given me good marks on the weekly progress report. With music progress isn’t necessarily seen immediately, and I believe sticking it out would have proved to show visible results even if for a few weeks here and there I didn’t get all my practice time in.

Practice both enjoyable and challenging music.

When I play through the same things over and over again or when I have been, for example, only playing Mozart for a week straight and am feeling stale, that is a sign that I need to get new music out. Sometimes I get out a book by another composer and switch my focus on, say, Bach. Another option is getting out my previous recital pieces and reviewing them. In addition to sight reading I also like to choose one piece to make “performance worthy”. Technique is also mentally stimulating and challenging.

As much as natural talent is helpful, in the end practice and consistency is an even more valuable and rare quality.

Technique Inspiration and Ear Training Challenge (Free Printable)


Below you will find a worksheet I created with a particular teenage student in mind. I wanted to make a worksheet that would give her a sort of visual plan and accountability of what should be memorized (I believe that scales should and can be so familiar that they can be played at the drop of a hat). However, I hope this page won’t bog her down with too much fingering. This printable is simply a quick overview of the major scales and if she needs to make more complete fingering charts that can be written somewhere else. I’m sharing it and if it’s helpful to you, brilliant!

Link to PDF file:


Scales, arpeggios and Chords:

Playing scales with 4 octaves is a good way to become familiar with the whole keyboard. Multiple octave arpeggios are also great but for now I’m only looking for 1-octave arpeggios. I’ve added just a few ideas of how to play scales (contrary motion, rhythmic) but there are truly lots and lots of variations so this is only a short list to keep technique a little more interesting! Scales and chords naturally pair together so I included a pattern to play the most common major chords using each major scale as well.

(Please note, the ** in the printable should read: **RH starts on fingers 2, 3, or 4)

Ear Training Challenge!

In addition to the technique ideas, the last section on the page includes an ear training exercise. Here’s the instructions I wrote:

“Think of your favorite songs. Hum the beginning notes to yourself (either audibly or just singing “in your head”) and see if you can correctly guess the interval between the first two notes. Check your answer using the keyboard by playing the melody by ear.”

Hopefully this will be a fun way to improve aural skills. Part of the reason for making this printable is to give a greater motivation to learn all the scales really well. Also, I hope it’s written in an interesting way that’s straighforward and geared towards this particular students’ needs.

Babies and Music

Babies and Music

Babies and Music

Babies may be too young to start piano lessons, but it’s never too early to expose them to music. Even from the womb babies hear sounds from the outside world and once they are born their senses become heightened as they more fully learn of their surroundings. Two practical ways to introduce babies to music are melody and rhythm.


Children love hearing singing. Looking at your baby in the eye while singing and seeing them respond with a grin is such a beautiful way to share a love for music with your child. Babies enjoy hearing a range of high and low sounds in melodies. They like both calm and lively tunes. I also believe that hearing a certain tune over and over again will help a baby to memorize that tune when they are older.


Making rhythmic patterns while bouncing, talking, winding, or tickling your baby is loads of fun. Pick a word (ex. “hi”) or a phrase (ex. “I love you”) and say it in a rhythmic pattern while bouncing your child on your knee. Also, you can tap their back, tickle them, or kiss their fingers using a rhythmic pattern. Rhythm is all around but these are some ways to use it alongside everyday baby activities.

Music is learned in little steps which build upon each other.

small musical
steps with your baby!

Practice Note-Reading Online

If you want to practice reading music notation, these games may be a fun way to practice over the summer.
Practice note-reading using online games.

Practice note-reading using online games

  • Speed Note Reading Tutor:
    This game is particularly helpful for those who need to learn the space notes (FACE) or the line notes (EGBDF). To practice this, go to level 1, rookie. Some of the levels use a “keyboard.” I found the keyboard confusing at the beginning but then realized that the first note is F rather than C.
  • Note Name Game:
    Practice finding notes in the treble clef by spelling various words that appear on the screen.
  • Musical Notes Game:
    This game is more challenging by adding a time limit. Find the notes that scroll across a screen before they disappear. Notes are in treble and bass clef. Accidentals (sharps and flats) are also used.
Feel free to add any games you find in the comment section below!


Advertising Home-Based Piano Studio Lessons

Advertising piano lessons from a home-based studio

Advertising home-based piano lessons

When my husband and I moved to Dublin last August I soon after began a home-based piano studio. Since students do not automatically show up the doorstep, one of the first things to consider was advertising. When moving into a new neighborhood and setting up a private piano studio, a few advertising venues can be very effective in letting people know about the new studio. It takes time to spread the word but the work put into advertising is well worth it.

I’ve found the internet to be a very effective way to advertise for piano lessons. A great benefit to internet advertising is that those who are specifically searching for piano lessons many times use internet searches to find piano teachers. Another benefit of advertising via the internet is that the ads can be posted with little effort. Some websites allow people to post free ads (don’t forget to find sites that advertise activities for children!). I chose to advertise on one website which charges a yearly fee, but the fee has been more than recovered from the lessons I gained through inquiries from that particular website (for those who live in Ireland, the name of the website is: Also, a Facebook studio page is another way to advertise through the internet. Place ads in various sites to reach a varied audience.

Another method of advertising is to leave fliers in shops or other public places. This is particularly effective if the ads are placed in shops right near the piano studio. Be sure to include the location of lessons in the flier so that local people will know that they don’t have to travel far to reach the studio. Schools or other public places that offer after-school activities may allow teachers to put up ads on a bulletin board. If there isn’t a public advertising board another option is printing out small, loose leaflets that people can pick up and read.

If your country allows it, as Ireland does, put fliers in mailboxes. This method is quite time consuming but it reaches individuals, including those who may not have previously thought of taking lessons. I have printed out and delivered quite a few fliers and have found that the best place to put them is in houses near my piano studio. Another option is going door-to-door and telling people about the piano studio. Though I have not done this to advertise for piano lessons it is an alternative to placing fliers in mailboxes.

It’s best to use a mixture of several advertising venues. If one method works particularly well, use it several times throughout the year. Ultimately living in an area for many years and building a good rapport with students and their families will be the best way to keep a piano studio up and running, but these are some ideas for the beginnings of a piano studio.

If you are a private piano teacher, how do you advertise piano lessons? If you are a piano student taking lessons from a home-based studio, how did you find your teacher?

March 2014 Group Lesson Plan: The Baroque Period

Learning about music history is so helpful for piano students so I’ve decided to have musical periods as the common theme of group lessons this spring. This first group lesson of the year focused on the baroque period. I’m planning the next three to be about the Classical, Romantic and Modern eras.

Group Lesson on the Baroque Period

Group Lesson on the Baroque Period

Here’s an outline of the March 2014 Group Lesson Plan:

  • Group lessons provide a great way for students to share what they are practicing individually. Students played individual pieces, a duet and a composition. Performance was the first part of the group lesson.
  • Since the theme was about the Baroque period I used related handouts. The first sheet has information about the period in general (paintings, dress, music characteristics). (page 2)
  • I found a website with good quality music clips (by Naxos) of Classical music. The website is called and has some great resources. We listened to some of the clips of Water Music and Four Seasons. I asked students which instruments they heard while listening to the clips.
  • While the music was fading away I handed out a simple worksheet. It has a photo of J. S. Bach and lines to fill in information about his life. The link is: (page 2). I used the following short biography to give students some information about Bach’s life:
  • Afterwards I showed students parts of a video about the harpsichord. The first three minutes showed how the instrument is plucked. I skipped the video to another section (minutes 5:20-7:40) where the presenter gives a nice demonstration of how the harpsichord sounded (this particular harpsichord has a double keyboard).
  • After watching the video we played a game to reinforce note-reading. I used the notes from low to high Do/C in treble and bass clef and hid them while students closed their eyes. The students then found one note at a time and came to the piano, playing the note they had found in the correct octave. For a video example of how to play this game, follow the link and see the 12:45 minute mark: 
  • We finished the lesson off by watching a harpsichord video of Bach’s famous Minuet in G Major ( ) and concluded with another round of the note-recognition game.
  • Another interesting video which some of us watched after the lesson ended shows an example of the clavichord and its sound:

This lesson gave the young people a taste of music history and I hope they will make connections with this lesson when they hear other things about the Baroque period. It was great to have some parents over for the lesson as well and I hope they will provide opportunities for their children to learn more about music history, particularly the Baroque era.

Ear Players Part 2: Teaching Auditory Ear Players

Teaching Ear Players

Teaching Ear Players


Encourage auditory ear players to learn independently: Auditory ear players have a great knack for copying music. Sometimes a student struggles and struggles through a piece until the teacher plays the song for them. After just one or two listens of how the song is supposed to sound the student then proceeds to learn the tune quickly (though the rhythm will probably be a little off).  I would almost never play anything for an auditory ear player because it will discourage them from reading notes on their own. One of the rare instances that playing for an ear player is acceptable is to demonstrate various “touches” or phrasing that their keen ears can pick up and copy.

Encourage auditory ear players to sight-read: A good way to show students that they can read music is by notating something the student has made up. Usually an ear player will play music that is far more complicated that what they can sight-read. One musician and teacher taught me the following phrase to tell students who struggle with note reading: “If you can play this, you can read music for this.” Students who have good pitch will also have an advantage if they have intervalic reading skills (sight-reading notes by intervals rather than note names). An interesting article on this topic is found on Joy Morin’s website: If students see the interval of a third written in their music but their ears hear the interval of a fourth, the students’ ear would be a great advantage to correcting the wrong note.

Encourage auditory ear players to engage in improvisation: Do a duet with students. One example is the teacher playing broken chords (the I, IV and V chord of the key you choose) and the student making up a 5-finger pattern improvisation. After ending the improvisation swap positions and have the student play the chords and the teacher play the melody. This exercise will aid students to have better muscle memory of 5-finger patterns and of chord patterns.

Allow auditory ear players to play their creations: I’ve found that ear players who love creating music enjoy moments to break away from sheet music. Ask these students if they have copied or created anything new during the week. Allow them to play their creation in the last few lesson minutes to encourage the lesson ending on a good note.

If you are a teacher, encourage auditory ear players to use their strengths (ex. improvisation, composition, musicality) and to work on their weaknesses (ex. sight-reading). If you are a parent or student, realize that pitch can improve through practice. Practice playing and singing familiar songs without sheet music and add chords for further practice.

Please note: Certain students have a knack for copying things that they hear but struggle with note-reading. These students are auditory ear players.To learn more about ear players, see the article and the first comment from the article “Ear Players Part 1: Discovering Ear Players.”

Musical Instruments Quiz

Piano students should learn about music as a whole. One way to learn about the broader musical world is to quiz students on musical instruments. I created this quiz sheet by copying and pasting images from the internet onto a blank document. After coloring the instruments I laminated the sheet. The quizzing usually takes less than one minute or two, and students simply name the instruments from the page. A variation of the quiz could be to play clips from certain musical instruments and to have students say which instrument is being featured (ex. playing a clip of a violin).

Paste clipart images of musical instruments into a blank document and quiz students, asking them the names of the musical instruments.

Print images of various instruments and quiz students by asking them the names of the musical instruments.