Category Archives: Intermediate Students

Circle Intervals Worksheet

In this worksheet, students identify intervals from unison to octaves.

Intervals Circles

Today’s post is Interval Circles, a worksheet for older students to identify intervals from unison to octaves. I mentioned last week that I needed more interval worksheets, so I am following through!

This worksheet gives students practice in how musicians see and read intervals in a score. Not all students are born good music readers and some struggle with it for years, despite our best efforts. However, most poor readers can improve with a lot of practice in reading intervals.

I teach reading by intervals, yet in the last several months I’ve noticed a student struggle with reading. I realized that he was trying to identify individual notes as he played. In hindsight, I believe it came from worksheets, of all things! He made a gold medal on the state theory test because he had very diligently done all his theory homework. He would very carefully double-check all his work by counting up from guide notes on every single example. But somehow that transferred over to sight-reading and I saw him counting lines and spaces of each note he played to make sure it was correct!

We had a little talk and I told him that while it is very important to know all the notes, when he is reading music at the piano he doesn’t have time to think of the names of all the notes as he plays. It is much faster to read by intervals. He tested it out while I pointed with my nifty telescope pointer and it was amazing how well he was able to read.

Sometimes we don’t know what causes students to have a set back, so it was very rewarding to realize the most likely cause of this.

Getting back to today’s Interval Circles worksheet, it covers unison and 8va intervals going up and down. It will also help students who sometimes get confused over the direction the intervals move, thinking when the stem goes down, the note goes down. Yes, I’ve seen that, too!

If you have a student having trouble with reading, try Notey Noteheads, free cards from my website. I left the stems off so students with learning difficulties can focus on the note head. There is even a parent’s guide to help students practice at home.

Sight reading flash cards

Notey Noteheads Sight Reading Flash Cards


Filed under Intermediate Students, Note Identification, Worksheets

Throwback Thursday – Rhythm in the Grid

Rhythm in the Grid

Rhythm in the Grid

I’m on a rhythm kick here on Throwback Thursday. Last week I posted Rhythm Pizza, a great hands-on way to teach rhythm values. Today I am posting Rhythm in the Grid,  two rhythm posters for older students that show rhythm values another way. We all know students have different learning styles, so it helps to have many ways to show concepts. You can laminate this and put it on your wall.

Our state theory test is an amazing effort by many volunteer teachers. For better or worse, students get a medal if they score high enough at their actual school grade level. If they are an older beginner they have to know rhythms much more difficult than they are playing. However, this chart really helps older students see rhythms logically and realize it’s not as difficult as it initially seems.

I’ve administered the rhythm performing part of our test to hundreds of middle and high school students over the years, and I’ve found that most of the mistakes occur because students:

 Don’t hold dotted rhythms long enough because they

 Don’t count, because they are

 A little rusty on how to count, and they are

 Embarrassed to count out-loud.

Every one of the above are very fixable by practice with you. It is quite true that some students find counting out-loud while they play difficult, so tap the rhythms with a pencil. For some reason, that seems to help with “performance anxiety.”

As teachers we might think our students know concepts because they have very good ears and are great imitators. But if they are tested by a stranger, even a really nice one like me, little flaws can show up.

Adult pianists have told me they can’t learn new music because they don’t really understand “timing.” This comes from adults who play at the intermediate level and were really good a picking up rhythms once they heard them, but didn’t know how to figure them out for themselves. I know that I have been surprised sometimes when I thought students knew things that they evidently forgot, so let’s not blame teachers. It just happens.

There are two pages in this PDF file, one for dotted quarters and one for dotted eighths. I hope this teaching tool will help your students, so after they leave you they will have a good foundation in rhythm.

If you want some of your younger students to practice rhythms, here is a little Easter egg game you can play. It’s very simple. Hide the egg cards around the room and when they find them, they tap they rhythm. You can find all my Easter material here. 

Easter Egg Rhythms

Easter Egg Rhythms



Filed under Easter, Intermediate Students, Rhythm

New Release – A Dangerous Situation

A Dangerous Situation

All the music in my store comes with an unlimited printing license within your personal studio.

A Dangerous Situation is a fast intermediate piece in A minor, filled with mystery and suspense that will become a student favorite. If you have a student who is struggling to practice two-octave scales, this appealing piece will capture their imagination and get them going. This and my other new release, Far From Home, is on sale until Sunday midnight.

My students are my biggest supporters when it comes to the music I write for them so I usually play snippets of whatever I am currently working on. This one really captured their imagination. They gave it the highest of praise when they said it sounded like video game music. That’s not what I was thinking when I wrote it. I was thinking of, well, a dangerous situation, but in another world, another time, a fantasy place. Now that I think about it, it certainly could be a situation in a video game. Then as  I was looking for cover art, I found the art above, which I think sums it up the mood I was going for.

If sounding like video game music will encourage students to play this, that’s great! It has two octave scale fingerings, arpeggios, sixteenth notes and patterns directly from classical sonatinas. Fingering, dynamics, and articulations are carefully thought out and marked. If you need a release for festivals, send me an email and I will send you a PDF you can print for your association.


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Filed under Intermediate Students, Sheet Music

Throwback Thursday Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats

Drawing Key Signatures

Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats

Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats are great to help students who are having trouble writing key signatures. Sometimes students are confused or have trouble putting the accidentals on the correct line or space.  A couple of years ago one of my students was struggling on learning how to draw key signatures on staves. His brother was there and said, “You haven’t done Simple Sharps and Fearless Flats? That’s the only way I was able to learn them.” Honestly, I was really amazed he could remember the name of these handouts after all those years. I can’t even remember what I named a worksheet last week!

I laminate these and use them as helpful posters when I am showing how to write key signatures.  They can also be printed and put in the  student’s binder for reference. The blank staff at the bottom can be used for practice. If you print multiple copies, try using the “fast” or “economy” setting to save ink. I do that and they look fine, just not as vibrant. They also work well in black and white, if you want to save color.

The large staves and spaced apart sharps and flats really do make writing key signatures simple and fearless, especially if I use them with 2 other helpful posters on a giant staff, Down a Fourth and Up a Fourth.

How to draw key signatures

Down a 4th up a 5th Bundle

By the way, I know so many US teacher use “Fat Cats Go Down And Eat Breakfast” and “BEAD Greatest Common Factor.” That is what I used in college, actually. But I like the Canadian/UK  “Father Charles” method because it is the same backwards and forwards. Certainly, you can teach your students either one!


Filed under Intermediate Students, Texas State Theory Test, Theory, Worksheets