When I began teaching, I dove in head-first – within a couple of months, I had around 40 students!
Though I enjoyed teaching in those early days, it was also pretty stressful. I had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I shadowed my piano teacher to learn the ropes, but I didn’t have a sense of direction with teaching. My students would show up week to week, and we’d work on some pieces and enjoy each other’s company, but there was no aim. No sense of how long it takes to learn a book or advance a level, no sense of the long-range.
My students did okay. They kept coming back – largely, I think because we bonded and developed a relationship with each other – and they showed progress. But there were nagging thoughts that wouldn’t leave me alone - am I doing this right? Are they on the right path? Will they be able to hit a grade 8 or 9 level in high school? Am I genuinely, truly helping them on their piano journey?
I kept teaching and started to get really involved in the RCM curriculum. I would encourage my students to take exams, and I began exploring Classical music in more depth (my piano path was largely pop-based as a kid). I started to get a sense of how music schools (RCM, ABRSM) structured their curriculums, and so I began working with it more.
Our lessons started to have more purpose and structure, which eased some of my anxiety. These kid’s parents were entrusting the musical education of their children to me, after all. I wanted – needed – to do my absolute best for them.
But other problems started cropping up. My students groaned their way through music theory, and don’t even get me started on history. We spent most of our lessons playing through pieces, and so the many other elements of a music education – sight-reading, ear training, listening to music, theory, and history – got totally neglected. Or worse – shoved to the side, kept as a totally separate thing from regular piano lessons.
I love history and music theory. I wanted my students to be enthusiastic about them too! I wanted their piano education to be more about playing notes from a page. I wanted it to be about music.
Designing My Own Curriculum
So I started designing my own curriculum, making a plan for each standard year of piano lessons. The kinds of things we’d learn at a grade 1 level, grade 2 level, and so on.
In this curriculum, I’d make note of concepts I’d like to teach, and find pieces of music that demonstrated those concepts. As an example – if I wanted to teach cadences, I’d teach grade 1 students Mozart’s Minuet in F major since it has many types of cadences. That way, they could learn the music but also get a theory lesson embedded within it. We’d also learn a little about Mozart, so they’d get some history, too.
This started working well. Instead of things like history, theory, and composition being totally separate from piano lessons and their music, it was all connected. I felt their education was becoming more balanced and rich.
I kept refining this approach over the years. As my YouTube channel started to grow, I began receiving frequent emails (at least weekly!) from an enthusiastic adult student who didn’t have a sense of what they should be learning. Was there a course I could recommend? A path that they could travel?
Helping Others Find Their Piano Path
I’d always recommend method books, followed by going through the grade levels, but this wasn’t very useful advice. It told them the “what”, without telling them the “why”. It didn’t give them an understanding of where they were at in their journey, or where they were going.
Inspired by these frequent emails, I began turning the curriculum I developed, as well as the best of my insight as a teacher for 10+ years, into a structured course. Before releasing the course, though, I wanted to share this content via private lessons to see how it landed with adult students in the real world.
I wanted to give adult piano learners the ability to take charge of their own journey. I wanted to share everything important to learn at each level of piano, key books and collections, planning/structuring suggestions, and much more. I wanted to finally, satisfyingly, be able to answer my most frequent email question – “I’m stuck and I don’t know what to learn.”
This course has 27 lessons divided into six modules. You can go through the material at whatever pace you like. For my coaching students, we go through one lesson per week, so the program takes six months. A self-directed student could go through this course in as little as six weeks – it just depends on your goals, motivation, and time available.
This course is unique – I haven’t seen anything like it out there, which is another reason I wanted to create it. It was the kind of resource I wish I’d had when I first started teaching other students and teaching myself. Instead of giving you a set curriculum, it allows you to chart your own course. Most piano courses are methods - they give you music and you follow along. With this course, you take charge of your own musical destiny and make sense of the wide spectrum of repertoire, from Baroque to modern music.
Module 1: Getting Started and Creating a Practice Plan
- 1.1 The Progress Report - The most important habit for you to start
- 1.2 Your Book List -For your reference
- 1.3 Learning Lists -Assess your last six months to year of piano practice
- 1.4 Finding Imbalances -Find the tendencies that hold you back at the piano
- 1.5 Create a Practice Plan -Make an informed 1-month plan, even at this early stage. It’s all about action!
Module 2: Finding Your Level and Tracking Progress
- 2.1 What's Your Level? – One of the most important discussions of this course
- 2.2 Using a Syllabus – The resource I use nearly every day
- 2.3 Your Repertoire List – Put together your own performance repertoire
- 2.4 Your Playlist – Keep track of everything you learn this year
Module 3: Expectations and Music Exploration
- 3.1 The Project Piece – How to balance learning a challenging piece
- 3.2 The Commitment and the Long Haul – How long it takes to progress in piano
- 3.3 Core Repertoire Lists – the three essential lists of this course
- 3.4 Listening to Music – A critical component of any music study
Module 4: Categories of Piano Music
The following module is an in-depth discussion on the different types of music and studies you’ll come across, and my favorite collections in each category.
- 4.1 Method Books
- 4.2 Baroque Music
- 4.3 Classical Music
- 4.4 Romantic Music
- 4.5 Modern Music
- 4.6 Technique and Etudes
Module 5: The Four Skill Levels
Piano learners can be broadly divided into four categories of learning – we’ll discuss each, and the key points I try to include in lessons at each level. This is my teaching guide that I’ve been using for years in my studio!
- 5.1 Preparatory Levelimportant habit for you to start
- 5.2 Beginner Level
- 5.3 Intermediate Level
- 5.4 Advanced Level
Module 6: Creating a Lifetime Plan
- 6.1 The Three Stages of a Piece – A deep dive into “beginning, developing, and polishing” a piece
- 6.2 Piano Mission Statement – What’s the purpose of practicing piano?
- 6.3 Creating a Roadmap – Dream big – where do you want to be in five years?
- 6.4 Turning Your Roadmap into a Plan – Take everything from this course and turn it into a plan
Hi! I'm Allysia, host of PianoTV, and I've been teaching piano since 2006 and creating YouTube videos since 2015. We now have well over 400 videos on a wide range of piano topics - everything from tutorials to technique to theory and history. Thanks for stopping by!
- 27 lessons in 6 modules
- Complete downloadable e-book of all lessons
- Audio recordings and PDF downloads of lesson content
- 8-course videos in addition to the written and audio content
- exclusive 3-part video series: "Common Piano Mistakes Adults Make"
- Access to a searchable repertoire database
- Worksheets and useful lists to accompany the lessons
- Recommended pieces at each level with a brief discussion of their learning points
The Design Your Own Piano Path course allows you to take control of your piano education by learning what to learn. It will help you understand your own playing level, how to choose appropriate pieces to practice, which collections are crucial for any piano player to explore, what concepts you should be learning at each level, and much more.
There are worksheets and essential resources to accompany the lessons so that you get the most out of the course. This course is designed to be used for many years; your companion and guide as you progress. It's not meant to be a one-off - something you work through and forget - but rather something to refer to again and again.
27 lessons in 6 modules
Later in this video/post, we’ll go into depth on what each of those 27 lessons entail. They include PDF reading assignments (and audio recordings of these), assignments and exercises, and useful resources.
Complete downloadable e-book of all lessons
Since this course was originally conceived as a book, you’ll be able to download the e-book version of this course (with options to get the book on Kindle or print copy).
Audio recordings and PDF downloads of lesson content
Most lessons include a reading assignment (some much more substantial than others) and an audio recording of the reading assignment for those who prefer to listen. The audio and PDF files are all downloadable.
8-course videos in addition to the written and audio content
There’s a video corresponding with each module (plus a couple orientation videos to get you started!), which will help you make sense of the lessons and material, and give you an overview of the key points in each module.
Exclusive 3-part video series: "Common Piano Mistakes Adults Make"
I wanted to add to the course content by sharing a video series with you based on my experience teaching adults. I see certain problems crop up again and again, so I wanted to provide you with this information even for those who aren’t receiving private feedback.
Access to a searchable repertoire database
My favorite resource in the entire course is a searchable repertoire database, which includes thousands of pieces in a diverse range of genres, each with a grade. I’ve been using this nearly every day for years. You’ll never run out of ideas on what to play on the piano with this database!
Worksheets and useful lists to accompany the lessons
Many lessons involve a specific assignment, whether it’s a task to complete or a worksheet to fill out. Some lessons (mainly the ones in Module 4 and Module 5) are heavy on the reading, with no assignments. Other lessons have big assignments but light reading.
You’ll be able to download some key resources I’ve created, such as the core repertoire lists and syllabus spreadsheet, both of which you’ll be able to get value from for many years.
I've created over 400 videos on PianoTV. When relevant, I'll give you some "suggested videos" for the lessons in order to broaden your studies.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I use the “Design Your Own Piano Path” course with a teacher?
Of course! As a piano teacher, I love it when my students are informed about the journey. A piano teacher helps with the week-to-week stuff – choosing what to learn, how to play your pieces more effectively, and so on. This course involves a broader perspective. As such, the two mesh very well together.
Who is this course right for?
Anyone who’s interested in aligning their practice with musical schools (ABRSM, RCM and so on), and who enjoys a balanced palette of music from all eras (including classical!). If you have 0% interest in learning music that was written before 1950, this probably isn’t the course for you. There are plenty of great jazz and blues teachers out there who I encourage you to check out instead!
If you’d eventually like to be able to play a Beethoven sonata or a Bach fugue, this will be up your alley. That said, we do discuss modern music in this course as well!
A traditional music path involves plenty of sight-reading. Being able to interpret a Bach fugue by ear is a skill that a very rare few possess. The only way 99.9% of us will ever be able to play a high-level piece like that is by building our technique and developing strong sheet music reading skills.
For those of you solely interested in learning piano by ear, this isn’t the course for you!
What will this course help you to achieve?
- Understand what playing level you’re at
- Understand how much time is generally needed to progress levels
- Pick level-appropriate pieces to practice
- Choose music to learn in a broad range of genres and eras (baroque, classical, romantic, modern)
- How to balance your practice load
- How to have purposeful practice sessions, with a sense of direction
- Shed a light on the piano path ahead
- Discover key works and collections in various eras and skill levels
- Track your weekly progress and discover patterns
- Learn how long it takes you to learn a typical piece, which will help you make more accurate time assessments
- How to study music not just by playing it, but by listening to it
- Specific topics to study at each skill level
- Confidence in creating your own path with a clear sense of where you’re headed