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  • Dima Tahboub

Creative ways to use colored popsicle sticks in your studio.



This is not the usual post that you will find on my blog! But the versatility and popularity of these colored sticks motivated me to share my experience. All my beginner students love them, particularly the ones who need visuals and tangibles to stay focused on task. With the use of these sticks I was able to stop using stickers and stamps as rewards with most of my young special needs students.


When I brought my first bag of colored popsicle stick into my studio, I was preparing for a summer camp program, and I needed something to use as bar lines in one of the rhythm games. Popsicle sticks were cheap and perfect for the purpose.

Later, once the camp was over, I started to devise different ways to make these sticks useful. This is what I have come up with... so far!




Teach the names of the keys



Colored sticks are extremely useful during the first lesson. I find it one of the quickest ways to help younger students learn the names of the keys really well and fast by the end of the first lesson.


Here are only a few ideas of what you can do:

  • Place the yellow sticks on the groups of 3 black keys and orange on the groups of 2 black keys.

  • Place the red sticks on the C's.

  • You compete with the student, you use purple and the student yellow sticks. The winner finds more E's.



Practice counter




Anyone is going to need to practice a new piece several times in order to learn it.  But how do you get young children to understand this concept?


Me: "Let's repeat these two measures five time."

Student: "FIVE Times!!! Why?"  


Using five different colored sticks as counters solved the problem for me. Whenever repetition is needed, I pull out the sticks and place them on the piano, the student knows what to do without any arguments or discussions.




Bar lines to teach time signature



This is the original reason I bought these sticks for. All you need is a bag of stick and some laminated notes and time signatures. The sticks are the perfect bar lines.




Meaningful repeat playing with a specific purpose



Very useful if you want to polish a piece and help the student learn how to meaningfully repeat practice a piece or parts of it.


Write some instructions on a number of sticks, some examples:

  • Play right hand only.

  • Play left hand with metronome.

  • Play hands together at half the assigned speed.

Place the sticks in a cup and let the student pull one after the other and follow the instructions.


My students love these a lot and some of them asked if they can take them home to use them during their practice.




Rhythm patterns for improv activities and creating motives in composition activities



Al you need is a few sticks, with a sharpie write different rhythm patterns on them. For example:

  • The student pulls one of the sticks and use the rhythm written on it to improvise with the right hand while you play the chords.

  • The student pulls a stick and creates a motive using the rhythm written on the stick for a composition piece.




I hope you found this useful. Do you have more ideas? I would love to hear them.



For more teaching tips and ideas...



Does My Piano Student Have a Learning Difficulty?

Dealing with tantrums and meltdowns in your piano studio.

Why You Should Include Students with Special Needs in Your Recitals.




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Amman, Jordan