If you were to walk into our home you’d know instantly that Trevor and I love simplicity and detest clutter. Our house is completely white; walls, furniture, kitchen, carpet (yes… even with two kids!) and we purposefully avoid having “flat surfaces” like end tables, dressers, sofa tables…nothing that can collect knick knacks or mess. It’s pretty stark around here… and we love it!
So when we asked for readers’ questions and received many queries regarding “how to organize your piano studio” we thought it would be a great topic to touch on from our minimalist point of view!
The Top 3 Studio Clutter Monsters and How to Tame Them
There are 3 piano studio clutter monsters that lurk in every piano studio around the world. If left un-tamed they threaten to take over not only your space… but also your time! Check out my solutions to these 3 clutter monsters and give them a try!
1. Organizing Supplementary Piano Music
If you’re like me, you collect supplementary music like crazy. I love to have the absolute perfect piece to call on when I need to inject some motivation or reinforce a concept. But to be effective I need to be able to find it quickly; kids don’t do well with waiting while their teacher shuffles through stacks of sheet music. Here are 3 ways to keep your supplementary music from looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa:
a) Hole punch and keep it in a binder: I organize my binders according to level, season and classical vs. popular. Each binder is labelled on the spine and the supplementary sheets are hole-punched and inserted behind dividers. This keeps them looking brand new too as the edges don’t get tattered. Each piece is labelled with my studio name and phone number so students remember to return them once they are loaned out. The hole punched music also fits nicely into my students’ own binders for easy access.
b) Keep relevant or regularly used sheets in a hanging folder. I use one of these at my home studio. I fill each slot with the materials I know I’ll be using that week and it’s right there at my fingertips (yet still tucked away) when I need it.
c) Go digital! All of the Teach Piano Today materials are distributed as digital files that you can print forever, so this makes this aspect of keeping your materials straight really easy. With an inexpensive printer in your studio you can print as needed, or you can keep the copies you use most frequently in an accordion folder beside your piano. Musicnotes.com offers an iPad app that automatically syncs your purchases to your iPad so you have easy access to all of your purchased sheets as well. Many other apps offer the opportunity to scan and organize as pdf files from music you already own – however these options do make it difficult to loan materials to your students (but are great for building your own library).
2. Organizing Piano Teaching Games
I love to teach theory using carefully-chosen piano teaching games. But all of the different game boards, flash cards and game pieces can be easily lost… or can stack up in a messy pile full of dice and bent cards. Here are 3 ways you can keep your piano teaching games neat and tidy:
a) Manila envelopes and an accordion folder: Each game board from most printable piano teaching games (definitely the ones from Teach Piano Today!) fit into a manila envelope. With a ziploc bag to contain game pieces and dice, they can both slide inside the envelope. I print off the instructions and tape them to the front of the envelope for easy reference, and then slide it into an accordion folder with each section of the folder labelled according to the topic or concept.
b) Snap Top containers and a shelf: Load up on clear plastic snap-top containers at your local dollar store and put everything you need for the game inside. Label the front and place it face-out on a shelf in your studio. This works well for games that contain pieces that are 3D that don’t fit inside a manila envelope (like our Micro Cars game!)
c) Cheque Envelopes: This is my favorite way of storing small manipulatives or sets of flash cards. They’re tidy, they’re easy to store and they make it really easy to grab what you need in the moment. This is how I keep my PianoGameClub cards hand!
3. Organizing Piano Books
As piano teachers we tend to collect piano books by the truck load. Second copies of method books, anthologies, collections, supplementary books, sight reading books… they can make even the strongest shelf sag. Here are my top 2 ways to keep your piano books organized:
a) Sort, sort and sort again: Make some decisions about what you actually use on a frequent basis. I love my huge faded, cracked and tattered books of Beethoven Sonatas that were passed down to me from my Grandma… but I really don’t use them often enough to have them take up 3 inches of shelf space! Decide what you use weekly, what you use monthly and what you keep for sentimental reasons or for your own personal use. Dole out shelf space according to how often you use the books (ie. Christmas books can be packed away in a box until you need them). Be willing to pass on books you have never ever open to another teacher who may use them more often. Unused piano books are just sad!
b) Use Magazine Dividers: These cardboard or plastic folders can make your life so much easier. Divide your book shelf into sections that make sense to you (ie. sight reading and ear training, duet books, method lesson books, method performance books etc.) Label each folder accordingly, fill with the corresponding books and then put them on your shelf! This way, you can grab an entire folder at a time without the other books flopping down into the empty space and you’re never thumbing through reams of books looking for what you need.
An organized studio is a happy studio
With one Saturday morning’s worth of work you can completely change the way your piano studio operates when it comes to the materials you use most often. You’ll find yourself being more efficient and using materials that you may never have used before simply because they were difficult to find or cumbersome to use. You’ll also find that an organized studio makes for a very happy piano teacher, and that’s always a good thing!
*If you’re unfamiliar with the materials I talked about, you can see the links below: