iReal Pro with Bradley Sowash and Leila Viss

TGIF!! Today I thought I’d share 3 things: 1) some cool videos of our Circle of 5ths warm-up, 2) how excited I am about attending a webinar by Bradley Sowash and Leila Viss and 3) a free PDF you can print out for your students!

Item 1: Warm-ups have been really fun this spring.

As you might have gathered from some earlier posts (here and here), right now my students are working on a warm-up that plays around the entire Circle of 5ths. The best part of this warm-up is that it doesn’t have to sound the same each week. Check out these two videos to see what I mean:

“Medium Swing” backing track with swinging 8ths:

“Smooth Rock” backing track with straight 8ths:

Even though Graycee and Ava are essentially playing the same warm-ups, we’re able to give them a totally different sound and feel just by switching up our backing tracks and changing our rhythm pattern. Here are a few other ways we’ve changed up this exercise:

  • Change the tempo
  • Add accents on certain beats
  • Use staccato articulations
  • Dynamic changes (example: cresc. up and dim. down)

Item 2: I’m psyched about attending Groove Your Theory.

I’ve just started to scratch the surface of the iReal Pro app. The more I read about this tool, the more I realize how much more fun my students and I are going to have once I really learn how to use it! That’s why I’ve decided to attend the Groove Your Theory Webinar on April 22nd with Bradley Sowash and Leila Viss.

About the Webinar I’m Attending:

Groove Your Theory stems from Bradley Sowash’s regular use of backing tracks in his lessons. He designs unique exercises for his students to build their technique and improvisation which in turn, builds theory knowledge all within a groove. Bradley and Leila’s webinar will be packed full of ideas that will build skills at the keys and save lesson time as you compress theory, timing and technique into one activity. 


Click the image above to see a short video with Bradley Sowash as he introduces a few of the concepts he and Leila will be covering during their webinar. Keep in mind: if you can’t attend LIVE, you’ll be able to watch the webinar for a full month after that.

Bonus for my Upbeat Group Lesson TeachersLeila Viss told me that the exercises and tips in this webinar will be perfect for private or group settings! I’m sure that we’ll be talking about in our Upbeat Piano Teacher FB group after April 22nd 😉

I’m ready for some fresh ideas to use with my intermediate students in my upcoming Pop Showcase Summer Workshop, and I’m positive that I’ll find the inspiration and knowledge I need from Bradley and Leila. My students are going to be in for a real treat after I attend this event!

Item 3: Free Circle of 5ths PDF

Interested in incorporating the Circle of 5ths exercise into your studio? I’ve got an easy-to-use PDF to quickly teach students how to play around the Circle of 5ths. Since it’s a visual chart, it gives you a great opportunity to review (or introduce) half-steps and whole-steps and the pattern of R-W-W-H-W (Root-Whole-Whole-Half-Whole) found in a pentascale. You can download this chart for free by clicking on the image below.


Printing Tip: SAVE the file to your desktop before you print. Open it with your favorite PDF reader program, and THEN print. This will ensure that all fine lines print correctly.

I hope all my teacher friends out there have a wonderful Easter Break!

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  • by LadyD Posted March 25, 2016 6:00 pm

    Great post. Thanks for the charts. Happy Easter!

  • Trackback: Piano Day was Yesterday! | Sara's Music Studio
  • by Gabriele Posted March 30, 2016 11:26 am

    Sara, you have reminded me and inspired me to take the class form Bradley and Leila. I took the webinar on how to teach students pop music and greatly benefited from the study. I have a question. Do you have any breath holders among your piano students? I am planning a Periscope broadcast with my brother Ingo Titze on Monday April 18 and since he is a vocal scientist, knowing a boatful about breathing I thought I would interview him while he is visiting, Google him and let me know if you have some questions for him regarding piano students and vocal students.

    • by Sara @ Sara’s Music Studio Posted March 30, 2016 11:32 am

      Very interesting. Yes – I do have piano students who I would label as breath holders, and since I’m a voice teacher as well, I always catch them on it. I’m very interested in your upcoming periscope! Maybe your brother would have tips for exercises you can use with breath holders at the piano. What else are you planning on talking about? Does he specialize in a specific area?

      • by Gabriele Posted March 30, 2016 11:36 am

        He is a physicist of the voice and has been called the “father of vocology”, since he coined that term and teaches yearly seminars to accredit new vocologists in Salt Lake City, Utah. I bet he will talk about the respiratory system and explain how breathing enhances relaxed playing. I was just wondering if you could think of some more questions.

        • by Sara @ Sara’s Music Studio Posted March 30, 2016 11:43 am

          This is so cool! Let me tap into the minds of my fellow voice teachers and get back to you on this!

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