30 piece challenge

Tuesday, August 15, 2023 by Sharon Hale | Uncategorized

The Music Room students will be focusing on sight reading this year in a fun way...we'll be working on a 30 Piece Challenge and earning prizes along the way!  Just like when little ones are learning to read, lots and lots of practice is how they learn to do it fluently. The more they read unfamiliar things, the sooner they will be able to read not only fluently, but also with expression and meaning AS they read material for the first time, because they'll be able to pick up contextual clues as they read and anticipate what's coming up next. The same is true in music, so be sure to encourage your students to play lots and lots of music!

Fall Lessons Begin 9/5/2023!

Thursday, August 3, 2023 by Sharon Hale | Uncategorized

Mark your calendars for 9/5/23...the start of a new term of music making at The Music Room!  See you soon!

Brookdale Senior Living Concert

Friday, November 18, 2022 by Sharon Hale | Uncategorized

'Tis the season to share the joy!  On December 4 at 2:30 pm The Music Room students will perform at a local retirement home for the pleasure of the residents. Students are encouraged to write cards or draw pictures to take to hand out at the end of the program.  And wear a Santa or elf hat if you have one! :)

Brookdale Senior Living
3940 Prince William Parkway
Woodbridge, VA

Studio Composition Project - probably my favorite project to date

Saturday, June 12, 2021 by Sharon Hale | Composition

Probably my favorite project to date, and certainly the one I'm most proud of, is The Music Room Student Composition Project. This year for the first time in The Music Room's history, each student created a composition of their own, created their cover art, recorded themselves or used a midi recording, and I compiled it into a keepsake music book for each family to take home. The QR codes on the bottom of each composition take the listener to the recording, and of course each student can use the sheet music to play their friends' pieces as well! 

Students commented on how this project really helped them learn. One said it helped with his sight reading because in writing down his music, it really reinforced WHERE the notes go on the staff. Students also learned that music is made up of repeating patterns, and in order to make music that's pleasant to the ear, melody notes must be derived from the underlying chord and scale, and that the song needs to resolve to the "home note" to sound finished. 

This is a project that will DEFINITELY be repeated!


Ice Cream, Birds & Music!

Sunday, June 6, 2021 by Sharon Hale | Recital

Celebrating lifting of COVID restrictions, we held our recital TOGETHER (!) outside on my deck where the pianists accompanied the singing birds and the ice cream dripped freely in the HOT early summer sun!  It was great fun, and while I forgot to get a lot of pictures or videos to commemorate it, I'm going to brag on my students for a minute. This has been a particularly challenging year with 4 trips to the Midwest since December to spend time with and assist my ailing father who passed away in May. Because of this, I missed some time with students so we had to focus on the essentials, and never got to focus on performance pieces for a recital. I literally left the choice of what to do for the recital up to each student. "Play what brings you joy!", I told them. The night before the recital I admit to some anxiety...this could backfire terribly! What if the students weren't prepared and sounded terrible to their families...I could lose students and it could harm my reputation - scary thoughts! But no...my students are the BEST!! Each and every one came and shared something beautiful and made me PROUD. All in all, a great day. 

Summer Practice Resources & Plan

Monday, May 31, 2021 by Sharon Hale | Practice

Please check the Online Resources tab in the Student Portal to access LOTS of free resources to keep you having fun at the piano this summer! 


2021 Composition Project

Friday, April 2, 2021 by Sharon Hale | Composition

Parents - 

Your students and I are very excited about our latest project - we are each composing songs to be compiled into a "Music Room" book at the end of the year! Everyone composed the first section of their song before spring break, and we'll jump right back in with the second section next week. We're following this general path (see image attached) and I think you'll be blown away by what they're coming up with - super musical and very cool sounding, every one of them!

Online Recital/Performance Party 12 20 2020

Sunday, December 20, 2020 by Sharon Hale | Recital

Hi, everyone! Thanks to all who participated in our online performance party!  I promised a recording, so here it is. I'll also email a link to make sure you can share it if you like. You should be able to find this link for a while on the Student Portal by scrolling down on your home/landing page on www.themusicroom.us, or also on the "Blog/News" tab.

Merry Christmas to all!


How you can help your student(s) succeed!

Monday, September 2, 2019 by Sharon Hale | Practice

With lessons starting tomorrow (yay!), I thought you might appreciate some ideas for how to help your students succeed this year. Attached is a pdf of conversation starters parents can have with their students - one list for giving options for piano practice, and another giving ideas of what to ask after a lesson rather than "how was your lesson?"  

And the #1 way you can help your student succeed in lessons? Help them develop a consistent practice time, and be involved with that time! Applaud, encourage, ask to hear something again, and help make sure they have quiet (no TV on at the same time!) and uninterrupted time. Fluency in any language requires practice reading and speaking - music is no different! And the more they practice, the better they get, and the more they enjoy it (and the more YOU enjoy it, too!).  

See you tomorrow!

Conversation Starters

Digital or Acoustic? What piano do I buy and how do I know what's a good deal?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 by Sharon Hale | Digital vs Acoustic Pianos

I often get asked, "should I buy digital or acoustic (aka a 'real piano')?" As I am currently going through the process of selecting a new acoustic piano myself, I feel the pain of trying to select THE ONE from THE MANY, MANY options!! It can be overwhelming! And it's possible to make a horrible mistake if you purchase or get a 'free' piano from an individual without a technician advising you on the condition of that particular piano (been there, done that!). Ultimately, it comes down to sound (does is SOUND good??) and feel (can you really express yourself on that piano?). 

If you don't know what you want a piano to sound or feel like, I'd like to share a website and some articles that I've found to be invaluable in giving what seems to be relatively unbiased information on all those options, to help you make a decision that is right for you and your family: https://www.pianobuyer.com.  

If you're trying to decide between acoustic or digital: https://www.pianobuyer.com/article/acoustic-or-digital-whats-best-for-me/

If you've decided on acoustic:https://www.pianobuyer.com/article/piano-buying-basics-introduction/

If you've decided on digital:https://www.pianobuyer.com/article/how-to-buy-a-digital-piano/

Pricing Guide:Pricing Guide

A plug for acoustic: "The advantages of the acoustic piano start with the fact that it’s the “real thing,” inherently capable of nuances that are difficult for the digital piano to emulate. The experience of playing an acoustic piano — the harmonics, the vibrations, the touch, the visual appeal, the interaction with the room, the connection with tradition — is so complex that digitals cannot reproduce it all. And, provided that it’s a decent instrument and properly maintained, the acoustic will continue to serve you or a subsequent owner for several generations, after which it might be rebuilt and continue to make music." -taken from this article: Acoustic or Digital?

A note on if you've decided you absolutely must go digital: Please ensure any practice instrument has the following:

  • weighted keys - there needs to be some resistance to the key so fingers develop the strength needed to play expressively on various instruments. Think of the difference between typing on a computer keyboard versus an old manual typewriter. 
  • touch sensitivity - the ability to press a key softly to get a soft sound, then press it harder to get a louder sound. Without the ability to create variations in tone, the pianist will be playing 'monotone.' Boring, and not musical at all!
  • 88 keys - a full size keyboard is essential
  • a pedal - make sure any keyboard in use has a pedal attachment

Good luck in your piano purchasing journey. Persevere to find the one that makes you happy that you'll enjoy having in your home for years to come. It's worth the investment of your time and money!


Summer Camps

Monday, April 16, 2018 by Sharon Hale | Summer Camps

Hi, everyone. Based on comments from piano families, I've decided to offer a couple of piano camps this summer. You can register on the website calendar now (space is limited) or you can let me know at the recital (May 4!).  

7/23-27, 1-3:30 pm, ages 7-16, So You Want to Be a Composer! $160, 8 slots available*

Each day students will have instruction in elements of a great composition, lessons from the great and living composers, a composition activity, make an instrument, have composition free time, and do some improvisation with their instruments.

8/13-17, 1-3:30 pm, ages 12-18, Music in the Movies, $160, 8 slots available

We'll explore how to create mood with music, and how this affects an audience's understanding of the story. Students will compose music for a movie clip.

*If more than the limit of 8 want to sign up, I may split into a morning and an afternoon class that week, or add a second week.

Thanks!     Feedback is appreciated. :)


Want to be a better sight reader?

Monday, August 7, 2017 by Sharon Hale | Sight Reading

Sight Reading Tips

  • Set and feel a steady pulse at an appropriate tempo. Musical pulse is like a heart-beat pulse: it might change speed, but it (hopefully) never stops! Same goes for sight reading…
  • Get a feel for the rhythm and hum through the melody to get a sense of how it should sound in your head.
  • Check the key. Think of the piece in terms of chords – think Circle of 5ths (and the chords surrounding the current key on the Circle – the song will contain some or all of these chords)
  • Work out the highest and lowest notes and, if possible, place hands in a suitable position, including fingers over sharps and flats. Work out if the hands need to change to a different position and how to get there.
  • Learn the first and last two bars of any sight reading piece perfectly. This ensures a strong start and finish.
  • Decide from the beginning which hand is more important to the feel of the piece and therefore which hand must keep playing even if they can’t play both together in the middle of the piece.
  • Look for intervals, chord shapes, broken chords, arpeggios, scale passages, sequences, etc. that are easy to play and will help keep the sense of pulse steady.

Courtesy of Tim Topham

Why students want to quit and how to prevent it

Saturday, November 19, 2016 by Sharon Hale | Keeping Students Interested

I found this great article about how to help kids stay motivated with piano (when they might kind of want to quit) and I wanted to share it with you. Our kids love the idea of making music, but it can be hard work! How can we help them? Give it a read. I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Video - quartet from Jam session 11/11

Friday, November 18, 2016 by Sharon Hale | Uncategorized

Here's a video of a quartet from the Jam Session on November 11. My favorite part is that it included a brand spanking new 5 year old piano student and a veteran 6 year student - having fun making music together!! That's what music is all about. Enjoy!

First Jam Session a Success!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 by Sharon Hale | Jam Session

Thank you to all who participated in The Music Room's first Jam Session!  What fun we had!  

We started the evening playing a couple of games (did the kids realize they were learning while playing??) - Rhythm Cups and Music Bingo. Then we shared some amazing cupcakes provided by piano mom Asi Vellekat (the woman is a secret baker!!). Next we spent some time taking turns trying to play simple songs by ear with another student accompanying with easy chord patterns. Finally, we had a free for all where each student took a turn playing a favorite piece, including a duet or two.  Ben added to the fun by bringing his Ableton Push and putting down a little rhythm to go along with some of the songs.

My favorite part of the night? When kids were packing up to go and a student said, "This was fun. When can we do it again?" 

Easy answer. April 25! Kids 11 and under from 7-8, 12 and older 8-9. I must have an RSVP (you can register directly on the website), though, because I learned from experience that 5-6 is about the max that will work in my small studio until I get the basement set up, so it will be first come, first served. There is no charge for this event....this is the FUN of music!