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Pop Recital - Timeline

Conception to Implementation (1st in series of 3 posts)


If one of your primary goals as a teaching artist is to make music come to life for your students, you need to be putting on a pop recital! Check out my take on why I do this, and the importance of having a Pop Recital.

If this is your first time, congratulations! I firmly believe this will be the first of MANY pop recitals you will hold. The value added to your clients is enormous. I suggest a spring show so you can build toward this event, and when you do it the second year, it is something fun to look forward to for everyone.

  • August-November: Choose the date before Spring break and make sure you have at least one popular music selection going at all times. I use regularly for up-to-date songs. check out this video to learn more. 
    • The first experience a student has playing with others should be prepared with a good slow track or app with rhythm only. (See my next blog post for more information about playing with tracks and beats.) Work for big rhythms/beats to be steady, especially if this is your first experience with working toward a popular music performance. Consider using an app like SuperMetronomeGroovebox or iRealPro on your iPad or phone. It's easy to use a Bluetooth speaker or external speakers to make the sound loud enough to play along with. *Popular music rhythms in the melody are syncopated and should not be “squared” off simply because the student doesn’t know how to count them or line the individual beats up.
  • December: Move one of the popular songs the student really enjoyed this fall back into the rotation, plus add another so that you will have a minimum of two options to choose from come the next month. Before your winter break, your student should have the ‘bones’ of a new popular song under their fingers, so that when they go on break they can simply maintain.
  • January: make a decision about which song is going to sound best with rhythm. Begin writing the chord chart; this usually takes 3 weeks from start to finish (see upcoming blog post for more on this); I personally use the process of creating a chord chart as a theory exercise for my students.
  • January/February: Everything is coming together! By the end of this month you will have the first rough draft completed of the chord chart, and you are comping along using the actual chord chart to double check its accuracy. Consider scheduling a performance class where students play for each other and you comp along with each of them. 
  • February/March:you should be spending approximately 10 minutes or so of the lesson running through and trouble shooting anything that needs attention. Each student should be able to count off “in time” loud enough for the rhythm section to hear and play steadily from start to finish WITH rhythm. Recovery from mistakes should be feeling more natural at this point.


Blog Post #2 in this Pop Recital series will focus exclusively on rhythm preparation with examples. You will be introducing a steady (simple) beat for the student to begin playing their song(s). If you aren’t sure of how styles work, listen to the snare part. Is the snare playing on 1 and 3, or 2 and 4? (It's cringe-worthy when the teacher is ill-equipped at listening to a rhythm selection when there is a swing beat going and the student is playing a straight rock tune. That's like pedaling a Clementi Sonatina, and swinging the eighth notes....Remember, you may not be trained in popular styles, but you ARE a musician! Use your ear. Remember grace...Don't expect perfection right away, for you or for your students.

Suggestion 1: The student should be able to put their intro and maybe the first verse with the rhythm the first week.

Suggestion 2: Your student will need to be able to play at a slower speed and work up to a performance tempo. Remember to start slow, and introduce a little rhythm over the course of a few weeks, rather than trying to do it all at once

Suggestion 3: Make sure you send home a practice track/recording for them to play along with! Ideally, your studio has a second instrument to play along with so you can comp some chords underneath, for the student to really hear what it’s like to have another person playing with them.

*Comping advice. If you are new to playing popular music, simply play LH 5ths or octaves with the chord in the RH, and no thirds.


  • Examples to count off include:
  • Option A. 1 - 2 -, 1-2-3-4
  • Option B. 5 - 6 -, 5-6-7-8
  • Option C. if in 3: 1 - 2 - -, 1, 2, 3
  • Option D. if in 6/8 make sure you mark that it will be a two feel. 1 - 2 - , a 1-2-3-4-5-6

*If there is a solo piano intro, it is unnecessary (and somewhat awkward) to have the student count off. Remember, you hired professionals. They’ll get it!

March/April - Showtime! Have fun!