Baseball BethI am excited that the holiday season is upon us as there is so much great holiday music for my piano students. I love incorporating it into lesson plans during these early winter months, because students are able to use their ears when they are familiar with the songs they are learning. They usually set their own goals of showing off their piano skills to their families at holiday parties. This means they practice more. In this post, I will share a few of my tricks for teaching piano lessons during the holiday season, using Finale music notation software to save time and generate ideas.

Teaching piano lessons with Finale:
I never have trouble finding a holiday piece at just the right level to address the right skills for my students, because I use Finale to jury-rig arrangements of many popular songs. Clicking notes into a new Finale document is intuitive and easy, but connecting a MIDI keyboard for note input is even easier for me because I am a pianist. I would like to share a feature that I use a lot with my pre-reading students.

The AlphaNote font in finale places the note name in the center of the note head, which can make reading music less intimidating for beginners.

  1. Open Finale.
  2. Select “default document” from the launch window.
  3. Select a quarter note and click in a few notes onto the staff.
  4. Select the Staff Tool (looks like a treble clef).
  5. Right-click on the measure (control+click if you don’t have a mouse that can right-click) and select “Apply Finale AlphaNote Notenames.”


The note will now display in the AlphaNotes font like this:


Free Arrangements from Finale:
I also use the piano arrangements that are included with Finale.  If you have already own Finale 2014, these arrangements, in many genres, including Holiday, are already on your computer (that’s right, they are totally public domain and free). To find them, navigate to File > Open Worksheets and Repertoire > Repertoire. The Finale Blog also publishes even more holiday music annually. Of course, with Finale, these arrangements are editable. I typically transpose them, adjust the finger markings, and occasionally type in more notes for the left hand. The possibilities are endless.

My students seem to like the Jolly Old St. Nicholas arrangement. However, by default, the hand position has the students’ thumbs sharing middle C. I prefer the left hand thumb to be on B, so I make that adjustment in Finale and save the file before printing for my students.


Other piano instructors told me that they sometimes take arrangements in major keys, and work with their students to adjust accidentals and create a minor piece. I heard about this trick during the Halloween season, and will incorporate it into my own teaching soon. I personally think there is nothing better than a pencil and straight edge when beginning to make these score adjustments with students. However, when finished, I use Finale to create a professional level sheet music copy for students to take home.

Stay tuned for more Finale articles:
In my next post, I will share tips for the pianist who plays gigs (especially church pianists).

Baseball Beth
MakeMusic, Inc.

Have a question for me? Leave a comment below.

Already familiar with Finale? See a comprehensive list of new features, and how it affects your workflow from Jari Williamssons Finale 2014 review.

Baseball Beth is a MakeMusic, Inc. employee, as well as a private instructor, teaching piano, drum set, and composition. She composes original works for high school ensemble, commercials, and independent films. Her hobbies include bicycling and taking cello lessons.