Kale Good

Author Archives: Kale Good

8 months ago

Thinking Again about Make-Up Lessons: Part 1

This is the first in a series of short articles, all intended as a response to Chad’s article on Cerebroom titled Thinking Twice About Strict Make-Up Lesson Policies. I do not know Chad personally or frequent the Cerebroom website; however, this article was the second search result when I was looking for the often-referenced Make Up Lessons from an Economist’s Point of View.

Chad’s article has a lot of good points, both for his own policy and against a strict policy.

However, the are some flaws in the argument and inconsistencies that only get revealed when the comments are read. I think these flaws need to be pointed out for the benefit of all the teachers out there who read his article and make their studio policies based on it.

I wrote a response to the blog post; however, Chad declined to publish it. So I’ll put it up here and hope it gets some traffic.

Private Lessons vs Public School Teacher

One of Chad’s arguments is about pay rates:

“We private teachers are the spoiled brats of the teaching field – we work less hours than K-12 teachers and earn more per year for it”

I see two small mistakes and one big one with this statement.

First, plenty of teachers don’t make more than public school teachers. Obviously, a full teaching schedule is easier to reach for piano, guitar, and violin teachers. Other instruments tend to struggle. Additionally, plenty of people try to become private music teachers and give up (because they aren’t making enough money).

Second, K-12 schools are notoriously underfunded in the US, and this includes teacher salaries. Private music teacher’s shouldn’t charge less because politicians won’t adequately fund private schools.

Finally, the big one. Let’s just assume the premise is correct; that private music teachers make more than K-12 teachers. That makes perfect sense. It is Economics 101. Greater risk = Greater Reward.

Public School Teachers have:

  • Employer-Subsidized Health Insurance
  • Job Security (i.e. a steady paycheck)
  • Retirement Plans; Pensions or 401k
  • Opportunities for advancement/raises
  • Summers off
  • etc

Private Music Teachers have:

  • Self-Employment Tax
  • Unsecured income
  • The risks of self employment
  • etc (I wrote out a much longer list when I tried posting a comment to Chad’s article)

In short, one must first consider the total compensation package before comparing salaries. Any sensible job-hunter knows this. Second, one must adjust for the benefits and risks of either position before determining a fair price (or studio policy, as it may be).

Now, I don’t know enough about economics to know exactly how to calculate that1. But I do know enough to say that the argument “They make less than us” is too simplistic to be useful.

1.[The general view is that this rate is calculated automatically by “The Market”. Just ask what the going-rate for lessons is (or, more accurately, what the annual net Compensation is for both jobs). That’ll give you a rough sense of how the market values the risks and benefits of both positions relative to one another.]




8 months ago

Legnani’s 12th Caprice on US Letter Paper

Guitarists (and, indeed, all musicians) are blessed these days. They have a wealth of sheet music readily and freely accessible via IMSLP (137,000 works!) and Boije’s Collection (as well as a few other sources).

However, with this wealth comes two potential problems:

  • Sometimes the photocopies are of low quality
  • The size of the photo copy is always larger than the standard US Letter and A4 paper sizes; when they get printed out, they get shrunk down. This is especially problematic for older students.

To remedy this, I sometimes take some good ‘ole open sources software and make an “edition” that is meant for US Letter paper. Then I can print it out, all nice and large, on my home printer (without huge margins, artifacts of the photocopying process, any edges cut off; you get the idea). For this, I primarily use Frescobaldi, a frontend for Lilypond.

While I’ve done this a time or two before; this is the first time I’m making something available (’cause I don’t remember where I saved those old files, or if they were in a condition worthy of sharing)

So, here it is: Legnani’s 12th Caprice on US Letter Paper.

9 months ago

Digital Downloads of All Suzuki Guitar Recordings

I find it pretty difficult to find to find the Suzuki Guitar Recordings as MP3s on Amazon (and I don’t have any Apple products, so iTunes is out). Amazon’s search will turn up the hardcopies of the CDs and books pretty easily, but the MP3s are another story.

The Suzuki Association has a page buried somewhere on their website that announces the availability of digital downloads. It has a link on it for an “Amazon Store Front” that’s terrible to navigate. Try it if you dare.

From email exchanges I’ve seen exchanged between Suzuki Guitar teachers, it seems that they may also be tricky to find on iTunes (although that may have been a confusion over availability in iTunes for purchase vs. availability on Apple Music for streaming).

To save you, me, and anyone who finds this page the hassle of sorting all that, here they are in nice, easy-to-find format. I’ve bookmarked this page so it’s easy to find.


I’m not big on apple products, so I don’t have any way of posting the iTunes links. If someone sends me them, I’ll gladly post ’em.

It should be noted that the MP3 albums are available for purchase but not for streaming.

10 months ago

Free Beginner Guitar Method Book

Here is a pdf copy of the Beginner Guitar Method Book that I created for my students here in Philadelphia. It’s offered free of charge. While I had a lot of fun developing it and learned a lot doing that, I no longer use it. In fact, I stopped teaching steel string acoustic and electric guitar and decided to focus on where my passion is. Classical Guitar Lessons, both for kids (using the Suzuki Method) and adults.

last year

Tuning The Guitar

​​Keeping your child's guitar in tune is an essential part of creating beautiful music and, less obviously, maintaining motivation. An out-of-tune guitar can be a motivation-killer because an out-of-tune instrument sounds bad! If your child repeated plays with an out-of-tune guitar, they'll begin to attribute the bad sound as a lack of their own skill (rather than simply an out-of-tune guitar).

Because of this, it is essential to tune your child's guitar before each-and-every practice session.

Before you Start

You'll need the following items:

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    ​A guitar
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    ​A tuner​​​
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    ​New-ish guitar strings

​The 90% Version
(aka The Quick-and-Easy Version):

​This should get the job done in most situations. However, your guitar ​will​ ​​​eventually run into a situation where you need to know the 100% solution. So bookmark this page. When you tune your child's guitar and it ​still​ sounds out-of-tune, come back read the whole page. ​

For parents of Book 1 students: You only need to tune the first 3 strings (at least, until we start playing with the thumb)​.

Warning for Guitar Playing Parents: On smaller instruments, some strings have been re-tuned to compensate for tension issues that crop-up when playing small strings. Because of this (and to ensure that your child is playing at concert pitch), please use the tuner when tuning your child's guitar. (Do not use the fifth-fret method or other methods of tuning the guitar to itself). Additionally, if your child is playing on a very small guitar or ukulele, do not  tune the bass strings (unless they are playing songs or exercises which use the bass strings).

Continue reading
last year

The Basic Suzuki Principles, Part 1

​In this blog post, I'm going to share with you 3 of the basic Suzuki Principles. These principles are: 

  • Praise and Encouragement
  • Daily Practice
  • Daily Listening

Of course, each item on this list merits an entire blog post (or series of posts!) on their own right. However, the idea behind this post is to get you up-to-speed on the Suzuki Philosophy as quick as possible

By the end of this post, you'll have a basic understanding of the importance of each of these principles and how to apply them to music lessons with your child.

Praise and Encouragement

​Praise and Encouragement ​is an essential part of developing your child's motivation and desire to play.​ ​Think back to your enthusiasm and generous praise for every mumbled word your child attempted while​ learning to speaking their first words. With so much positive feedback, ​you child thrived. Recreating this encouraging environment​ is a key part of your child's success. 

​To do this, praise your child whenever they accomplish even the​ small goalsDo this both at home and in the lessons. During lessons, keep an eye out for the teacher's "cues for praise". For example, you can applaud when your child​ does a bow. This serves to reinforce the teacher's praise with something much more powerful; your own praise. ​

​Praise and encouragement is ​very powerful in motivating young children. ​ ​It also helps them stay on-task in the lesson and develops their internal desire for the instrument. Furthermore, when your child sees music as a place they can reliably turn for love and support, they will flourish both in lessons and in life. ​


​Talent Development is a compounding process; each skill developed makes the next skill easier to learn (values approximate).

Daily ​Practice is essential to your child's development. ​Consider the body-builder who goes to the gym 1-day-a-week and is disappointed by his results. Contrast this to the every-day​ body-builder. Incredible results are only achieved with the compounding effects of daily​ effort. 

​First of all, you need to know that a complete, well-balanced practice session consist of listening, review, preview, and ​skill development. Additionally, developing the ability to break your child's struggles ​into small, solvable problems​. That's just the basics; we'll dive into details in other blog posts.

​There are many types and styles of practice. ​​​As a parent, it is essential that you learn some of the basic styles of practice so that you can guide your child towards success during your practice sessions together.

There are many benefits to developing and using multiple practice styles. ​Not only will your child will progress much faster, but it will also help avoid​ BPS (Boring Practice Syndrome). Keeping practice interesting and progressing to new songs quickly will keep your child engaged and help them develop a sense of pride in their instrument. 


A common practice "strategy" is to play through a song until a mistake is made, then go back to the beginning and play through again, hoping and praying that it will go better this time. 

Avoid this At All Costs!

​If problems persist, even after 2-3 "warm-up" play-throughs of a song or skill, focus on the problem area​ rather than the entire song or seciton. Create a "mini-challenge" for your child and have them repeat it until it ​is secured. Then, try playing through the song/section again.

Daily Listening

An amazing photograph of the first Suzuki Student listening to his songs, even in his old age. 

Listening to Suzuki recordings helps your child develop an aural "image" of what they will be playing. As an illustration, imagine asking your child to draw a picture of something they've never seen (pun intended). ​The results would be inaccurate, to say the least. 

Daily listening will help your child understand the song and know what sounds they are looking to get out of the instrument. ​

The Simple Version: Play the Suzuki album (specifically, the album for the book you're playing through​) as background music ​during any activity.

The Super-Charged Version: (credit: ​Michelle Horner​)

    1) Make a playlist of the current song you're working on and the next 3 songs.
    2) Listen to it as much as possible.

​Daily Listening will ​teach your child what they're supposed to sound like. It will also give them a clear goal. Additionally, they'll develop an understanding of the song before​ they learn to play it, rather than trying to understand the structure and melody of the song ​while also ​trying to learn the notes. ​As a result, they'll progress much faster.

​Now that you understand the importance of Praise, Practice, and Listening, use each of them as a routine part of your child's musical life. Be sure to keep an eye out for my next blog post. In it, I'll be rounding out our overview of the Suzuki Principles.

last year

The Folder of Awesomeness

The solution for the "What was I supposed to practice?" blues. 

Remembering all the new material and teaching points that are covered in a single session can be a challenge. Add to that the importance and amount of material to review, and, before long, the task becomes a burden. 

Enter The Folder Of Awesomeness! This folder is built off the ideas and experience of highly-respected Suzuki Guitar teacher William Kossler (who borrowed ideas from other teachers to develop it). It simplifies and categorizes the process in a way that makes it easy to manage even the largest of repertoires. 

New Material
Vocab & Notation

How does the Folder of Awesomeness accomplish all this, you ask? It's a system which contains all of the ingredients for success:

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    A Fast-and-Easy way to access current material and teaching points. 
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    An (almost) fail-safe practice and listening plan
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    Flashcards for faster vocab and skill development 
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    A highly-effective review system

Now, that may sound like an awful lot of material in one folder. And it is. It's almost like we need one more thing to really make this folder work. 

Tabs are the solution. Everything that needs to be handled in the practice session has a tab on it. To make sure that you hit all the new material, teaching points, vocab, and review material every practice session, you only have to remember one phrase to achieve a complete practice session: 

Turn the Tabs!

Complete Practice Session

For the complete run-down of the Folder of Awesomeness, watch the video!