Category Archives: Intermediate Students

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

Can Can Trio

Can Can Trio

On sale through Friday, Feb. 2.

I am really happy to announce my arrangement of the familiar song, Can Can Trio, for 6 hands at one piano. I’ve just added it to my music store and it will be on sale through Feb. 2, 2018. Your students can’t listen to this without getting in a good mood!

Great fun for all!

I think I’ve mentioned that I write trios for my students, and one of my teens specifically asked me if I would make a trio out of the song Can Can. He said he learned it from a video game, of all things! We had a little discussion about the origins of the song, and he learned there was more to the music than the familiar Can Can melody he knew.

I took a look at the orchestra score from the familiar Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach and decided I could do it! To add to the fun, I added the folk song, Buffalo Gals, and partnered it with the original melody at one point in the music.

This is a long trio, and I worked very hard to make it accessible for early intermediate students who want to perform something flashy, but don’t have the skills for some of the more difficult trios that are available.

When your students start to learn it, they will probably be like mine and ask, “Where’s the Can Can?” I told them to just wait, it’s there!

With all the rests and pauses at the beginning, I was worried about them playing together, but that was not a problem. It also helped with their counting!

Your intermediate and early intermediate students will really have fun with this one!  Each part plays the melody in this energetic piece. For teaching ease, the measures are numbered, and all versions of the score include fingering to help students learn it quickly. Please note there is no traditional trio score with this music because of the length.

This is a studio license. Save the files and a single teacher can make unlimited copies for students. 

Included in the files are the following:

  • A 15 page director’s score with all the parts together. Students will use this score for performance.
  • Three individual scores (for high, medium, and low parts) to save paper and make it easier to learn their part.
  • A color cover page.
  • Bonus slow practice mp3 audio file.  Send it to their phones in a text message!
  • A total of 34 pages.


Filed under Intermediate Students, Sheet Music

Make a List of Music Students Have Learned

Chart for 40 Piece Challenge

Music I Have Learned

Today I am sharing a chart your students can use to make a list of the music they have learned. My friend Marcia is doing a 30 Piece Challenge and she thought it would be helpful to have a chart for each student to list the name of the pieces they have learned. So I made one up to match the other balloon-themed material I’ve posted this year, such as the academic calendar and the freebie Key Signature Chart that is a test product in my store.

I created this file as an editable PDF, but only the title is editable, so you can use it for anything and call it anything you wish as long as the title fits in the space. To edit the form, simply click on the title and type over the text with whatever you wish the chart to be called. For example, you can title it “Scales I Know” and have students keep a list of the scales they have learned. Put it in your student’s binder and you’re good to go! I made it with space to list 40 items so it will work with the 40 Piece Challenge.

Have you heard of the 40 Piece Challenge? This is an idea thought up and shared by the imaginative piano composer, blogger, and piano instructor from Australia, Elissa Milne. You can read all about it here.

I first heard about Elissa’s idea at a MTNA convention about 3 years ago. Students set a goal to learn 40 pieces each year instead of only practicing the same several difficult pieces the entire year, neglecting easier pieces that help with sight reading and make piano more interesting and educational. The music doesn’t have to be memorized or polished to perfection like a competition piece. Now that her idea has spread all around the world, teachers with a shorter teaching schedule have tweaked it to require only 30 pieces.

To find all the material I’ve posted this year that matches this chart, select “Free” in the top menu. When the page opens, select “Teaching Aids” and start scrolling down to find the matching pages. There is a lot of material there!


Filed under Intermediate Students, Teaching Aids

Triad Trios – Identify Triads Inversions with Roman Numerals

Triad Trios

Triad Trios

Every time my intermediate students learn how to identify triads with Roman numerals, I remind myself that I need to make a fast activity that will make this easier and more fun. With the help of my students who tested it and made suggestions, I finally came up with this one which we named Triad Trios, because it only takes 3 cards in a column to win. It is a fast game for student and teacher.

Since this is an introductory activity, the key signature is C Major. I successfully used this with students who had no experience with the concept and they learned it much faster than when I simply explained it to a student with a worksheet.

I am a little hesitant about posting it here, however. Triad Trios is an easy game to explain in person, but I found it difficult to write the instructions. I’ve made some graphics that I hope will help. I suggest you print the instructions and save the with the cards.

I found this game to be fantastic in teaching a very hard concept and making it easy to learn. Teachers who prepare students for exams such as your state theory exam or ABRSM, as well as the AP music exam will find Triad Trios very helpful.


  • On the grand staff in the key of C major, identify I, IV, and V triads with the correct Roman numeral.
  • Use the correct Arabic numeral for inverted triads, using the bass note as the identifier.


  • Triad Trios uses only 9 cards per player, and is printed on front and back. You will make two sets, one for each player, using a different color for each set.
  • The file has 2 pages, but the second page is for the back of the cards.
  • Print only one page, then print on the back however your printer does that.
  • Alternately, instead of printing the second page on the back, which can be tricky, you can hand write the Roman numerals  on the back.
  • The purpose of the colored card stock is to quickly separate the decks. If you only have white card stock, mark them in some way.


  • This activity is for two players: student and teacher, or two students.
  • Each player has a deck of one color of cards. The “front” of the card show a triad on the staff. The back has the Roman numeral answer.
  • Each player has his deck on a table in front of him with the front of the cards (the grand staff side) facing up.
  • Before starting, explain that all the cards are in the key of C Major. Review the I, IV, and V chords in C.
  • Without turning the card over to see the back, the first player identifies the top card in his stack, saying, for example, I6 (one six). The player turns the card over to see the answer. Then he places it on the table with the answer (the back of the card) facing up.
  • The second player repeats this, and puts his card on the table also.
  • The play continues in this fashion. Every time a card is drawn it is placed on the table. The cards should be arranged in columns, so that all the Roman numeral I cards are in the first column, all the Roman IV cards are in the second column, and all the Roman numeral V cards are in the third column.
  • The first player who has all three inversions (I, I6, and I6/4 or IV, IV6, and IV6/4 OR V, V6 and V6/4) in a column is the winner.
  • Since I use this game as a teaching tool, there is no penalty if they get the answer wrong. I simply help them figure it out.





Filed under Intermediate Students, Texas State Theory Test, Theory