Goal Setting vs. New Year's Resolution

Never Too Old**** Special New Year's Discount Coupon at the end of this post ****

Hello One Minute Music Lesson community,

A new year often triggers a shift in our mind to re-evaluate our life and the current path that we are on. Often this is done in the form of making new year's resolutions.

I make a new year's resolution most years, but often fail at them because I don't assign goals that are specific enough to achieve the resolution. This year I want to change that.

I want to get more specific about the goals I set for the One Minute Music Lesson and other areas of my life.

Before I dive into the goals for this website I want to share something personal with you. Lately I have experienced some changes in my health. Recently I found out, after having a lot of pain, that I have a problem with a disc in my back. Currently I am feeling a lot better but it has been a real struggle for the last month.

My new diagnosis has made me realize that I must do something to help with my recovery. One of those things is to lose a few pounds. If you have ever struggled with weight loss you know how hard that can be, especially when you cannot exercise the way you need to.

I am going to achieve my weight loss goal by tracking my daily calorie intake with a fitness tool called MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal is a very successful fitness website that offers a free app to help people gain control of there fitness by using several key elements from the psychology of goal setting.

By combining the ability to track personal goals and progress daily, as well as provide support from a large community of like minded people in similar situations, MyFitnessPal helps people to set and achieve laser-like specific goals.

My goal for the One Minute Music Lesson this year is to provide a very similar proposition as MyFitnessPal but for musicians. I plan to begin teaching some courses via online webinars to connect with you personally and provide you with more concrete goals and the best tools to achieve them through measurable assignments.

5 Psychological Triggers for Goal Setting

Before I tell you about the first upcoming webinar let's dive a little deeper into some of the ways to use psychological triggers to set better goals and reach them more successfully.

To achieve a goal you will need 5 key ingredients to set your self up for success: Inspiration, Daily Tracking, Progress Reporting, Emotional Support and Community Engagement.

1. Inspiration is necessary for the initial spark that makes you want to set a goal. My back injury was the inspiration that lead me to take action to lose weight.

2. By using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone I am able to easily track my calories and exercise daily. This daily tracking helps me to be more accountable to myself and to break the larger goal into small manageable pieces. Also by using the daily tracking method I can easily project into the future what my weight will be based on the data I currently.

3. Progress reports can provide a similar effect as daily tracking. By checking my weight once a week I can gauge how effectively I am reaching my goal. This steady progress feels good both physically and mentally. In the MyFitnessPal app you are given a progress bar that moves every time you check-in with your current weight.

4. Emotional support is one of the most important ingredients for success because without it you can easily revert back to old habits that keep you from reaching your goal. I am blessed to have a wonderful wife who supports me in my life and health goals and that has empowered me to do things that I never thought were possible.

5. Community engagement is similar to emotional support, but has the unique difference of placing your into context with your peers. By being an active participate in a community of like-minded people you can compare your own success to others and learn how others got over the hurdles that your currently face. The MyFitnessPal community is one of the best online and really is the "magic" that has helped thousands of people lose weight and regain their health with this tool.

Using These Psychological Triggers to Become a Better Musician

In my next free webinar I am going to be using all 5 of these triggers to help you get better at reading music. I will be announcing this webinar through my email newsletter, so if you haven't already signed up, click here to subscribe to the free newsletter.

During this webinar I will be introducing a new interactive software tool that I will be using throughout this year that is designed especially to improve sight reading skills for pianists but can also be used by guitarists, bassists and drummers.

Take A Daily Action Right Now

I am a strong believer in the power of the motivational sign. I have written about it before in this post. So, before the first webinar I want you to download this motivational quote from C.S. Lewis as a PDF file and print it out. Hang it somewhere you will see it everyday. Click here to download the file.

Your New Year's Discount Code

Also if one of your goals this year is to learn to read music better and you have been on the fence about getting my book "How to Read Music Easily in 30 Days" I am having a 3 day sale for 25% off the current price.

To receive the discount use the coupon code 2014GOALS at checkout. You can learn more about the book here.

That's it for this post and stay tuned for more info on the upcoming webinar. Thanks for following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


  Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing.

Leon's goal is to teach you musicianship skills by using highly targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition.

Review of, An Online Program for Practicing Sight Reading

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Having a great sight reading program is a wonderful tool for the student musician. There are a lot of poorly designed programs available and finding the right one for you can be tough.

In my last post I talked about my top 4 picks for the best sight reading software programs available.

In this post I want to dive deeper into my number 1 pick with a review of

What To Look For In A Sight Reading Software Program

I look for four things when I evaluate sight reading software. These four things are:

  • The ability to print the examples
  • The variety of examples
  • The types of analytical data the program gives you and ...
  • The overall usability of the program.

How Does It Measure Up

Here are my ratings of these four categories for


BREAKDOWN: Printing 7 | Variety 8 | Analytics 8 | Usability 10 is an online tool that uses traditionally composed musical examples from real composers, as opposed to computer generated musical examples.

I think this is a huge plus for the program because computer generated examples are almost never musical. They generally feel square and often lack the emotional character that traditionally composed music has.

The examples on are musical and well written for the purpose of sight reading.

Category 1 - Printing

My first and most important category is printing. If a program cannot print its examples I do not personally find it to be very useful for practicing sight reading. does not natively support printing but you can print directly from the internet browser. The printout from the program looks the best in landscape orientation.

What this means for you is that you can print, but the page may look a little bit funky, but it is still completely readable and not a pain to print out.

Here is an example of an actual printout (the print quality is much better than my photo):

Category 2 - Variety is designed specifically for piano players. This does not mean you must play piano to use it, but the examples are always for treble and bass clef together and often require that you play both clefs simultaneously to hear the melody.

With that said, it is an excellent tool for piano and keyboard players. The program is designed for three progressively difficult skill levels.

  • Level 1 is for beginning sight reading: It has hands playing separately and requires both clefs to play the melody.
  • Level 2 is a bit harder: Both hands play together and the left hand is usually easier.
  • Level 3 is for intermediate sight readers: The examples are bit a longer and have more challenging key signatures.

The program has as much variety as you want to pay for. You can choose the level of variety that suits your needs the best. The current monthly plans are:

  • 35 sight reading examples for $19 a month
  • 100 sight reading examples for $29 a month
  • 300 sight reading examples for $79 a month

For most people the 35 example plan would be sufficient to provide you will one example to sight-read per day.

Category 3 - Analytics

The analytics for this program are for tracking completion purposes only. The program will track what day and time you read an example and which example and skill level it was.

Because the program is not interactive it will not track how well you played it. I would not be too concerned about the lack of this feature. There are very few programs that can accurately "listen" as you play and tell if you are playing it correctly. Often the computer algorithms used to "listen" are poorly executed and give bad feedback to students.

Category 4 - Usability

I would rate this program as very usable. It has a simple interface that does exactly what you want it to do. provides you with:

  • An example to sight-read at the appropriate skill level.
  • It allows you to listen to the example, often with a real audio recording of the example.
  • It contains dynamics and expression markings in the music which many programs lack.
  • Since it is designed for pianist it includes fingering written in many of the examples.

Give It A Try For Free

Visit and sign up for the 7 day free trail to get a feel for the program. This test drive is fully functional and gives you a good idea of how the program will work with your learning and practicing style.

That's it for my review. Let me know in the comments below what think about the program and how you would incorporate it into your sight reading practice regimen. To get more tips on sight reading visit the sight reading forum page to ask your questions and get feedback from the One Minute Music Lesson community.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


  Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing.

Leon Harrell's goal is to teach you musicianship by using highly targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition.

The 4 Best Programs For Interactive Sight Reading Practice Sheet Music

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Using interactive sight reading software is a great way to practice sight reading daily. By using a program that generates a steady stream of new sight reading material you can easily and efficiently practice this skill. Also you can avoid having to collecting books for the purpose of sight reading sheet music.

Before I list the programs let's start with a comparison of both traditional and interactive sight reading practice so you can see how using a software approach can help you grow as a musician.

Interactive Sight Reading vs Traditional Sight Reading

To sight read you will need music to read that is brand new to you. In the past you needed a library of materials to read from so you were looking at fresh materials each time you practiced. This required a lot of energy, time and money to collect the music not to mention the need to stay motivated to prevent boredom and challenge yourself to grow as a musician.

Interactive sheet music programs solve all these problems allowing you to have an unlimited supply of new musical examples. This can save you tons of hassle and set you up for success with your sight reading progress using the various skills you have learned about sight reading throughout my sight reading series.

And added feature of using interactive software is that you can track the growth of your sight reading skills accurately, efficiently and automatically with detailed statistics.

Common Features You Need In A Sight Reading Program

You must be able to print.

This is a vital feature for any sight reading program. If you can't print the excerpts you will severely limit how useful the program will be. I recommend all my students begin sight reading by marking their music with a pencil and using other sheet music marking techniques.

If you can't print from the program you could do a screen capture with programs like Camtasia or Snapz Pro. However this additional step will hinder your progress over time.

You need musical variety.

You want the program to be able to provide a huge number of examples. Often this will be done by using computer music algorithms that can generate musical examples. Some programs that use this feature are good and some are just plain awful.

Read reviews from users online before relying on the quality of the auto-generated music features of some programs. Alternately some programs use traditionally composed music which is much better in my opinion. If you go with a program that uses traditionally composed music be sure it offers enough variety in styles and difficultly levels to keep you engaged.

Analytics will  help you track your progress.

Tracking your progress is the key to achieving your goal of becoming better at sight reading. Look for programs that track how often you use them and grade your performance based on how accurate your reading skills are.

You want a program with good usability.

Ultimately a program that is easy to use will be the best option even if it is missing some of the other features. If the program is hard to use you will not use it.

The 4 Best Interactive Sight Reading Programs

Based on the criteria above here are my recommendations for interactive sight reading software programs. These are my top 4 picks in order starting with #4 and rating each in the categories of Printing, Variety, Analytics and Usability. Each category is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. I have also graded each with a percentage score by dividing the points by 40.

#4 - Ear Master 6

RATING: 57%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 0 | Variety 5 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10

Ear Master Pro 6 is the latest version of the acclaimed computer based ear training program. I am putting this software in this list because it has some great features for learning to read rhythms. Also it incorporates rhythm reading and other musicianship skills into one killer program that is a user friendly tool that is useful for every level of musician.

Ear Master has some great features the other programs don't have. It has a piano and guitar input interface. Also this program does a great job of tracking your progress with detailed reports.

The only reason the rating for this program is low is because it is not meant to be for sight reading although it can be a very powerful tool for learning to read rhythm. You can read my review of the previous version of Ear Master 5 here. I will be writing an in depth review of Ear Master 6 soon.

Try a 7 day free trial of Ear Master Pro 6

#3 -

RATING: 73%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 9 | Analytics 0 | Usability 9 is also an online tool with auto-generated musical examples. It offers a lot of customization features which make it very usable. Also you can print directly from the website to a nicely formated page. This program natively supports most single staff instruments. Also it has a good listening feature to compare your work to the computer playback.

Try a free demo of

#2 -

RATING: 82%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 7 | Variety 8 | Analytics 8 | Usability 10 is another online tool that is relatively new to me. This program has traditionally composed musical examples from real composers which is a huge plus to me.

Printing is only supported through the web browser but the print out looks nice in landscape mode. There is a good variety of melodies, with left and right hand parts. You pay for the amount of sight reading you want per month, but the cheapest plan has enough for one reading per day. It tracks what you have played, but not details about it.

This program is very usable, especially for pianist and piano teachers. I like its interface and it uses real recordings of the playback! That is nearly impossible to find in any other program.

Try a 7 day free trial of

#1 - PianoMarvel

RATING: 100%  BREAKDOWN: Printing 10 | Variety 10 | Analytics 10 | Usability 10

(I will be hosting a free webinar on Sunday, February 9th 2014 about PianoMarvel software. Click Here to Learn more.)

PianoMarvel is hands down the best program for interactive music education, especially in the area of sight reading. The program is designed to teach you sight reading through 36 graded levels of music reading from total beginner to advanced musician. The software uses an interactive interface that connects to a MIDI keyboard or any other MIDI device such as a MIDI guitar.

This program also has several incredible features including a built-in library of over 1200 pieces of music that also printable directly from the software. Also PianoMarvel has a feature that grades your performance to let you know how you did on each exercise and then automatically tracks your progress.

I highly encourage you to try PianoMarvel free for 30 days using the link below. Also as a reader of the One Minute Music Lesson you will receive a 20% discount by using the discount code OneMinute at checkout if you decide to purchase a monthly subscription.

Try a 30 free trial of PianoMarvel

Incorporating Sight Reading In To Your Practice Schedule

These programs are great for incorporating sight reading in to your practice routine. Especially the ones with good printing options. You can print your examples ahead of time so that you can mark your scores and you can use to programs to track your progress and listen to the excerpts.

However if you don't know how to properly read notes and rhythms none of these will teach you how to read music. For that I recommend by latest e-book "How To Read Music In 30 Days Easily" to get you started using counting systems and understanding music theory so you can sight read better.

That's it for today. Let me know what you think of these programs or if you have any other programs you like to use in the comments below.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.


Leon Harrell (about) is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing. Leon Harrell's goal is to teaching you musicianship by using highly-targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and and composition.

Unlimited Free Blank Manuscript and Sheet Music Paper

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans,

As a composer I am constantly in need of manuscript paper, the paper used to write down music notation or sheet music.

This is a special type of paper that consists of only blank staves is extremely expensive to purchase pre-printed, especially in archival quality paper. This is why I no longer buy it all. Instead I make my own. And ever better I make it with a free tool.

I exclusively make my own manuscript paper using a variety of tools, but one of my favorite and easiest to use tools is's manuscript generator.

This tool will allow you to create blank sheet music paper with many options available to you that normally are only found in expensive notation software like Sibelius or Finale.

To start creating your blank manuscript paper choose a clef type: Blank, Treble, Bass, Alto, Tenor, Percussion, 4-5-6 or 7 String TAB, or any other option listed such as Grand Staff.

Then choose the scale of the staves. Not the musical scale like C Major, but the visual scale or dimensions of the distance between each line of your staff.

You can change the page orientation to landscape or portrait. When making sheet music portrait is the standard for reading music, but landscape is great for composing and freely sketching ideas.

You can also add time signatures and key signatures if you wish, but I usually leave this off so my paper is a bit more flexible in how I can use it.

Give it a try at I recommend using no clef and a scale of 1.38, which will give you 8 staves per page for blank manscript paper that is easy to write notation on with a pencil.

Do you have any other tools you use for generating blank sheet music for free? Let me know in the comments below. I am always looking for new tools to share with you all, especially high quality free ones.

Until next time: Practice Smart, Not Hard.

Leon Harrell

Top 10 Ear Training Tools

Top 10 Ear Training
Top 10 Ear Training

Here are a list of 10 of the best ear training tools software and websites that I have used in the past to teach students ear training. Most of these tools are free or cost very little. My two personal favorites are EarMaster 6 (Click here to get a free 7-day trial), a comprehensive ear training software and the ear training exercises at which has interactive flash-based ear training tools.

Here's the list:

If you have any favorite ear training software or site you like that you don't see in this list, let me know about them in the comments below.

Also, if you have struggled to learn ear training in the past you may be interested in learning about Leon Harrell's music theory and aural skills beta academy.

Until next time: Practice Smart, Not Hard.

Leon Harrell

Interactive Bass Clef Practice Tool

Click HERE to try it now

If you need a refresher on how to read the bass clef watch Lesson #3 - How to Read Bass Clef.