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How to set up and use playlists for students on YouTube

By Tim Topham | Technology

Feb 18 2014

student playlists youtube

There’s no time to waste!

Has the start of your year with a student ever gone something like this?

Teacher: “OK, it’s time to choose your new pieces for the year”
Student: “Great”
Teacher: “So these are the options for your exam List A piece” (plays 4 – 5 options)
Teacher: “So, do you like any of those”
Student: “Not really”
Teacher: “All right, then how about these?” (plays another 2 – 3)
Student: “The second one is OK”
Teacher: “Great. That’s your List A piece for the year. Now, how about your List B. Do you like Beethoven…”

In no time at all, the student’s 30-minute lesson has disappeared and they haven’t even touched the keyboard! At the end of the lesson, you might have time to remind them to play some scales and “have a go” at learning their new pieces.

Effective teaching? No.
Effective use of lesson time? Definitely not.

Wouldn’t it be better to start the first lesson of the year with some fun and motivating activities?

Perhaps improvising (12 bar blues works really well) and an introduction to a couple of short, fun pieces you’ve selected? Perhaps everyone could learn a piece of music for one hand and a boogie or blues? Or a duet and a two-piano work?

“Sounds great”, I hear you say, but what about choosing the “big pieces” for the year – the ones for exams and competitions? When do you get time for that?

Efficient music demonstrations

If you have ever wondered whether you could could offer students a way to choose pieces more efficiently: the best way is to use YouTube playlists.

These are groups of videos that you choose in a package which you can share with students. They are really easy to set up and once you’ve done it for one student, you can share it with future students interested in the same music or preparing for the same exam. See my short tutorial video below.

A playlists is great because:

  • It doesn’t waste valuable lesson time
  • It takes the pressure off you having to prepare and perform in front of students (I know lots of teachers get nervous about this – particularly at the higher levels)
  • You can pick the best performances of the pieces in the world! (I’m happy to admit that there are plenty of people who play (“x” insert the name of any composer!) better than me. Why not have Cziffra demonstrate Liszt or Schiff demonstrate Beethoven for your students?)

Playlists are also great for:

  • Sharing best (or worst?) performances of pieces that students are learning
  • Sharing your favourite pieces by composer “x” or best “Chopin” pieces for advanced students, for example
  • Compiling a list of your favourite pieces for Exam Grade “x”

The options are limitless and the setup is really easy. All you need is a YouTube channel (it’s all free) and you’re ready to watch my tutorial:


Have you ever tried this method? Got any other YouTube tips? Leave them in the comments section below.


About the Author

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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