thank you Veterans – history is music


Sorrowful Songs. I just want to say thank you Veterans, from the deepest parts of my heart. I wear my poppy for you.

In this post, I really wanted to talk about the importance of music history. How the happenings at a given time influenced a composer to create work that is still appreciated today. But this video says it all. Please take 10 minutes and see if this doesn’t stick for a very long time.

Feeling the Love, with music and music theory

Music is love.  Without any doubt, our lives are filled with challenges. And when I think of the concept of time and how quickly it passes, I realize how important it is to spend time just being.
If you are a musician you know exactly what I mean there is nothing better than coming back to a piece of music you absolutely love and playing it over and over again.


Falling in love again with that note, key signature or that perfect melody.  Whether it is the corniest tune ever written or the modest phrases of minimalism or that super, energy charged Scriabin atonal scale.  All music is undeniably equal and beautiful.  I play my piano every day.   I play Billy Joel’s Piano Man.  I sing (badly) but it doesn’t matter.  The sheer joy in my heart when I belt out the words more than makes up for my lack of vocal expertise.  And when I can share that time with my grown sons, my mother, my sister, I know that music is love.

Motivating Students to learn music theory during Final Drive To Christmas

Are you finding it difficult to keep your child motivated during the final countdown to Christmas?

This can be a challenging time to keep your child focused on homework – homework from school, homework from music lessons, homework from theory lessons, any type of homework. When children start their studies in September after having a nice, long break over the summer they are naturally motivated to start learning again. However, two months after lessons have started they start to crave a break and begin to get excited and start to look forward to the Christmas break. Often parents and teachers require additional motivational ideas in their bag of tricks to get through this timeframe. As teachers we work very hard to incorporate that “fun element” but even that frequently won’t work on the homework front. What is the solution?  As a piano teacher and a music theory online teacher you might find it interesting and informative to find out what techniques I use to motivate and what I encourage parents to use to motivate students at home.

learn music theory

learn music theory

Set Realistic Expectations

Whether the student is practicing the piano or doing music theory homework setting small, daily goals can help towards motivation. If there are five theory questions to be completed by the end of the week, doing one a day is much more manageable. If learning one page of music is the goal for the week, break this down to one line, or even to bars per day. When the parent knows what the overall goal for the week is, it’s much easier than to break down those goals to daily activities.  make sure the child is aware of what the goals that have been set are. If the child is not aware of what the goal is, it’s very difficult to realize when that goal has been met.


Choose a fun activity when the homework has been completed.

This fun activity can be anything from computer time,  playing outside, basically anything that the child is interested in.

Set up a realistic practice / homework routine

Children like routine, which means scheduling homework and music practicing into the routine is crucial to success. By including homework into the routine you are removing one more set of variables and you are removing one more possibility of failure. Of course it’s best to choose on a set time in consultation with your child, but ultimately you are the parent and you must take the responsibility of scheduling.

In my many years as a music theory and piano teacher the successful students have always been the ones that have successful practice times. The same principles can be applied to any discipline – math, science, English, gymnastics.  for our children to be successful in any and all of their endeavors that practice ethic must be a part of their daily lives.

Is it always easy for the parent? No, but it is simple and it is really not anymore complicated than expecting your child to brush their teeth, comb their hair, any of the parts of their day that they do automatically. These automatic chores that they do are only automatic because they have been instilled as a routine at an early age.  as parents you do have a lot of support through your teachers, coaches, and other parents. You want your child to have as many opportunities as you can provide for them however you want your children to be successful with the opportunities that you present so they do become a positive force in their lives. What that means is that in addition to providing these opportunities you need to provide the structure and the practice time necessary for these opportunities to become successes in their lives. It’s always sad when a young music student quits before their year is finished. Generally when they quit it’s not the child that is quitting but the parent that can’t follow through with what’s been accomplished at the lesson. I worry a great deal about that child’s self-esteem when they are not able to complete commitments that they or their parents have made on their behalf.

Parents, choose your children’s activities wisely and follow through.

There is lots of support for you, all you need to do is ask.

As a Music Theory Teacher I can help you or your Student learn 5 times faster.
Roxanne McGahey

learn music theory

Learning Music And Beyond

Tim, my husband and I are off on an adventure which

began with learning music.

We are off for some incredible theater at Stratford, Ontario. Stratford is known around the world for its theatrical productions, especially their Shakespearean productions. In addition to Shakespeare they also produce a number of other musicals and plays each season. So why am I writing a blog about  our trip to Stratford? Because it’s learning music and loving the arts is what has fueled this trip and has fueled our enjoyment of life.  It also brings home  how important arts and in my humble opinion learning music is to society and to our children’s emotional and intellectual well-being.  The love of the arts and learning music is not something that happens overnight. The love of the arts and learning music begins through knowledge and exposure from an early age until adulthood.

While as parents we are frequently vigilant about our

child’s academic education, sometimes

it’s easy to neglect the arts and learning music.

Over the last 20 years we have seen our schools go through horrible budget cuts which has unfortunately resulted in many arts classes being either eliminated or reduced. While many school boards are now recognizing the importance of an arts education it is still not accessible in all schools. Guess who has had to become responsible for their children’s arts education? You guessed it, parents. Now parents need to supervise and oversee their child’s school education, they also have the added responsibility of ensuring their children receive enough physical education,  arts exposure, and hopefully learning music.

 What additional benefits are there to learning music?

Did you know that young children that are learning music have greater brain development?


Did you know that there is a strong relationship between learning music and understanding math?


Did you know that people who have the opportunity to be learning music, play music,  and enjoy listening to music are healthier?


 What can parents do to ensure their children are exposed to the arts and to music learning?

Sometimes it’s as simple as having music playing at home. It can also go further by having your child study an instrument. In many ways there is no greater joy than being able to make music which of course is facilitated by learning music, and all of our children should have that opportunity. By learning an instrument the parent or the teacher is not expecting every child to become a virtuoso performer. What is expected is that while learning music students will become educated and appreciative concertgoers of the future.  As a piano and theory teacher my arts training and love is with music.  Through studying music history we gain a wonderful understanding of art and how music and art imitate each other.  From a love of music  or an understanding of music through learning music  dance becomes so much more exciting, even if you have never had a dance lesson. Many of the great plays with their attention to meter is much more enjoyable with a music or dance background.

I know for parents it’s difficult to decide which extracurricular activities are best for your child. Music, dance, sports, art lessons, academics – the list is endless.  Let me just say that as my husband and I are sitting in our seats at Stratford watching some of the best theater in the world I will be saying a silent thank you to my parents who thought learning music was important to my life.  Thank you mom and dad for enriching my life by learning music.

Theory and Music Lessons With Sparks

Theory and Music lessons:   “For me, true adults are not those with overwhelming ‘maturity’, but those who have kept a child’s innocence.  they have sparks in their eyes and a child’s spring in their step.”




Teachers have prepared  their studios for students beginning theory and music lessons, are fine tuning and  firming up schedules, and anticipating the musical year that’s coming up.  In September we’re planting a musical garden with our students with theory and music lessons.  In order for our garden to grow and to be everything we imagine, we plant our seeds and with awe and wonder of each musical step, we watch and marvel as our musical garden grows.  Our musical garden is nurtured  at every step that our students master and their theory and music lessons.  We are careful to grow our garden by ensuring students are learning each component that’s necessary for a good musical education – technique, aural development, sight reading, history, composition, and theory to name just a few.  We are also careful to weed our garden by avoiding misunderstandings between teacher, student, and parent, by keeping our expectations very clear, by assisting in setting out a good practice schedule, and by helping students avoid disappointments by guiding them through their theory and music lessons every step of the way.

As parents you are also preparing your garden.  Your children are small seeds asking to sprout, grow in beauty and bring their contribution to the world.  As a parent and a teacher our responsibility is to help them grow in an atmosphere of respect and harmony in all aspects of their life including their theory and music lessons.  As teachers that provide theory and music  lessons we approach each student as if they are going to be a virtuoso, which means every technical aspect and musical phrase is important.    The teachers goal is to instill a love of music through the theory and music  lessons and to provide a love of creating music at every lesson.  The “total student” approach is what helps our students grow, mature, and bloom as musicians and music lovers.



What does that “total student” approach entail?  Presenting all aspects of music to the student – beautiful pieces to play, to listen to, to enjoy, and to understand.  Theory is an important area of music that is often overlooked and undervalued.  Make sure your child is having theory and music lessons.  Why is theory important?  Theory  is learning how the music they play is written.  By ensuring theory and music lessons are happening your child will understand the music they are playing. Theory is necessary to their musical growth and is necessary.

Our jobs as parents and as teachers is huge, and starting with  that first theory and music lesson, we can grow our garden to something awesome and amazing.


Nobody said this is an easy task. Committing to theory and music lessons is a big commitment for the parent as well as the student.

Once your child begins their theory and  music lessons, your job is not complete. It’s important that you monitor your child’s progress, including monitoring their attitude and commitment to their music and theory lessons. The job of the teacher and the parent is to ensure happiness and success for the student, and this is achieved by exploiting the individual student’s strengths in their theory and music lessons.

If you are an intermediate music student, you will require additional theory lessons, and schedules can be challenging to find a time for  theory and music lessons.  In addition to the traditional one-on-one theory and music lessons, often theory can be taught in small groups. This can work well because of the interaction with the other students. In order to find out if there are group theory lessons in your area,  your teacher or the local music department at the University may be able to guide you. Another option is online lessons. This option is fantastic for busy parents and students. If you investigate the online option, try to ensure that there is some follow-up with the teacher. As is human nature, if you don’t have a teacher that’s asking to complete assignments is easy to put off getting to the work. Also, it’s necessary to have some direct and timely feedback to successfully build from concept to concept.  Take a look at the courses offered at  and see if there is a fit for theory and music lessons on this website.

Theory and Music Lessons

Music and Theory Lessons Online

For parents who are looking for more information about music and theory lessons take a look at — let me know what you think.

Do you have questions about theory and music lessons?  Email me at roxanne@musictheoryonline and we can chat or reply to this blog.

As I said earlier, the commitment to begin theory and music lessons is not to be taken lightly and once the decision is made, with hard work and loving guidance our musical garden will flourish.


Music Lessons- How to find a great teacher!

Music Lessons- How to find a great teacher!


It’s that time of year.  Music lessons for many students will begin in September.

Are you new to the world of  music lessons?  If you are then you will need to look carefully at how to find your music teacher.

It’s important that there is a “good fit” for the student, the parent,  and the teacher- especially since frequently the music lessons are one-on-one.  How can you make sure you’re making the right decision for your child?  There are many areas for you to research and to ask the perspective teacher. Music Lessons

1.  What are the teachers  qualifications?  In Canada you want to ensure they are a Registered Music Teacher and hold a diploma or degree in the instrument you are interested in learning – here is a link to the Ontario Registered Music Teachers website –   In the US ask if the teacher is a Certified MTNA member.  The MTNA website offers great information for parents –   You do not want to start lessons with someone who does not have these qualifications – I’ve seen far too often students that began their lessons with an unqualified, inexperienced teacher were we had many “mistakes” to correct at a more advanced level.  This could have easily been avoided by beginning with the right teacher and the right technique.  Reputable teachers welcome questions about their education and experience!

2.  Does the teacher submit students for evaluations and / or examinations?  This is extremely important because these evaluations / examinations are necessary for your child to assess how they are progressing.  It’s also important to know that the teacher is teaching to standards that are universally or at a minimum nationally recognized.

3.  Does the teacher have recitals?  Reputable teachers provide recitals as part of the musical growth of their students.

4.  Does the teacher take advantage of local music festivals?  This is also an excellent venue for student performances and again will give you more insight in to the teachers musical year.

5.  By asking questions and chatting with the teacher you will discover a bit about their personality and whether you and your child can work with the teacher.  This is so important!

6.  The teacher should encourage you and your child to meet him or her at their studio.  This is such an important step and should not be overlooked.  While you can learn a lot about the teacher over the phone, by physically meeting at the studio you will be able to see and learn a bit more about the teacher.  Does the studio have a nice piano?  Is it child friendly?  Does the teacher seem to have lots of material in the studio?  Is this a comfortable fit?

7.  Teachers that you talk to should be able to provide you with their policies and an outline of the musical year.  This is important because you want to have a clear understanding of what the teacher expects – everything from payment of tuition to parking to practicing expectations.

8.  Are you invited to the lessons?  Some parents like to be included in the learning process.  Some teachers will include the parent in the lesson, some prefer not having the parent attend.  You will want to confirm prior to beginning lessons what the studio policy is.

9.  Does your teacher use technology during the lesson?  Is the lesson at a studio or “online”?  There are amazing advances in technology over the last few years that can take the lessons so much further than you can imagine!

This is a large commitment for your child, you, and the teacher.  It’s crucial that you have a realistic view of what the commitment you and your child are making entails, and commit to include a daily practice schedule which is necessary to progress and learn any instrument.  Practice is the “biggie” and before lessons begin a time must be set aside daily to ensure success.

This will be a fantastic journey for you and your child and that little bit of research to find the “right teacher” will make this journey a success.


Happy learning!  Music lessons rock!


Practice Pointers for Parents

As a parent, are you frustrated with practice time at your house? As a teacher it can be challenging to take valuable time out of the lesson to talk about practice issues.  Of course practice issues also include parental supervision and understanding.  I find that there are certain times of the year when practicing is a larger issue, and both parents and students need some positive reinforcement.  In order to provide some help, guidance, and words of encouragement to parents I’ve together a 13 min. video to help them in their goal of helping their children in the practice forum.

The link for the video is

Happy practicing!


Do you sometimes wonder if the ideas and concepts you are teaching are being understood?  As teachers it’s necessary to know how children learn and retain information.  Whether we’re teaching how to play an instrument, or explaining theory concepts, learning styles come into play. Observing the learning style of the parent and the student and being aware of the learning style of the teacher makes the musical experience much more successful.

Frances Balodis, one of the more brilliant teachers and creative people I’ve met and the Founder of Music for Young Children, has done a great deal of research on learning styles and how it affects young students and on how we teach.  Being aware of these learning styles enriches how to teach, and helps you to present concepts using the various learning styles.

While there is controversy as to whether it is necessary to change your teaching style according to your students learning style, it certainly enriches the learning experience for your students, and leads to less frustration for the student and the teacher.  Being aware of different learning styles makes it quite easy to ensure every student’s needs are being met.

Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK model

One of the most common and widely-used categorizations of the various types of learning styles is Fleming’s VARK model (sometimes VAK). This model recognizes:

1.  Visual Learners:  visual learners respond well to pictures, visual aids, diagrams

2.  Auditory Learners: auditory learners respond to lectures, discussions

3.  Kinaesthetic Learners:  tactile or kinaesthetic learners like to move, touch, experience

This is one branch of the learning style tree.  I will explore more learning styles in future posts.  In the meantime, these three styles of learning play a prominent role in my teaching – piano teaching,  Music Theory Online teaching, and in my Music for Young Children teaching.

Do you want happier and more confident students?  When lesson planning try to incorporate the visual, auditory, and tactile senses with each concept you present. It could profoundly change your teaching style and your students ability to understand even complex concepts.

Happy teaching everyone!


Music Theory

Welcome to my first blog.  

Why is it necessary to learn theory? Theory begins by teaching you the grammar of music.  After you have learned the basics of the musical language (which is like learning to speak)  which really begins in your first few years of lessons, it’s time to move on to learning a more formal version of theory.  

After you learn the rudiments of theory, which is similar to the grammar in our language, the next step is to move on to studying the works of J. S. Bach, and understanding and analyzing other great composers works.  Guess where this is all leading?  To understanding and having the ability to compose.

I know how hard it can be to find extra time in your lesson for theory.  I’m here to help you every step of the way.  Do you have questions about theory?  Just let me know.

While you’re learning about theory, I’ll be learning about teaching you using technology.  We’re in for a great journey together. 

My blogs will include many interesting facts and many interesting musical tidbits and  will not all be about theory.  the next blog will blow you away.  I’ll share with you a virtual choir and its conductor and composer.  Believe me, you won’t want to miss it.

Until next time….