We made a visual to show the impact our users had on a recent Donorschoose.org Giving Page to benefit music school classrooms.
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Posted in Music News, Press

One of the biggest challenges students face when playing guitar is learning how to strum correctly.  They usually have a favorite song they’d love to learn how to play but when they sit down to try and figure it out it just doesn’t sound right.  Every time they try it, the strum sounds all herky-jerky instead of smooth and flowing.  Sound familiar?

Before we get started, be sure to open this PDF: Keys To Strumming, which I’ll be referring to throughout this post.  If you’re wondering what chords to play during this lesson, click here to use any to use any of the common-tone chord shapes I wrote about.

THE QUARTER NOTE BOUNCE

It’s fairly easy to teach a student how to play the quarter-note strumming pattern in Fig. 1 (Keys To Strumming PDF).  All you have to do is play a down-strum on every count (or beat). Every time you strum down, you count 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on.  But there’s really more going on here.  Once the down-strum is played, you have to lift your hand back up to prepare for the next down-strum, right?  This down-up movement of the strumming hand is more accurately represented by eighth notes.  Look at Fig. 1 again.  The arrows above the staff, hovering over each down beat and up beat, represent those eighth notes.  In other words, you should be counting “one and two and three and four and” as you strum down, up, down, up, etc.  This steady down-up strumming movement is what I call The Quarter Note Bounce. Read more…

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Posted in Music Theory, Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Recently, we asked a series of questions to over 300 students of Music Teacher’s Helper users. Today, we share some of that data, which is likely representative of most private music teachers. So please share with your peers.

99% said that their teacher runs their studio in a professional manner. We hope Music Teacher’s Helper has played a part in such an impressive number!

Keep up the great work!

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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management

By Robin Steinweg

“Can I do the 100-day practice challenge?” Ava asked, her eyes wide. “If I do it, will I get my name in Piano Explorer Magazine?”

“Yes, and yes,” I said. Piano Explorer Magazine publishes names of students who complete 100 days, 200 days, and more. Read about it here: Piano Explorer

Ava and her sister Callie are two of my go-getters. Their assignment binders include a box to check for each day they practice. But from a free online site, I printed Hundred-charts for them so they can see their days accumulate.

About two weeks after they started, they challenged me. “Are you going to do the 100-day practice challenge?”

At first, I said no way. I play and teach several different instruments. I do daily lesson prep for a lot of students. I write music for some of them and for my choir. I’m working on… everything. But as I looked at their eager faces, I wondered how I could expect them to commit to what I’m not willing to do. Deep breath. I said “Yes.”

Each week they reported their progress and asked if I was keeping it up. I did so for nearly three weeks before I forgot a day. I had a great excuse. But still, I forgot. So I started over. I copied myself a new Hundred-chart. When I shared my failure with the girls, they were sympathetic and encouraging.

How long to practice each day? Occasionally I might get in an hour. Or I might make it through a song once. One day I was gone from early morning to late night. But in the car that day, I worked out some fingerings so that the next day, I had them down cold. I shared this with my students in case they’re traveling sometime without access to a keyboard. In a pinch, yes, it can count!

(I practiced every day!!!)

What to practice? Since PE Magazine doesn’t specify, neither do I. They can sightread, play a repertoire piece, work on their lesson, or learn something new.

Not the only way—I’m not saying it’s necessary to practice daily. This is just one possibility. Do you have any practice incentives going on?

Halloween practice

The excitement catches on with other students

Surprise benefit: I’m playing more for fun—rediscovering enjoyment—while before this 100-day practice challenge, I’d gotten into doing only what I “had” to do. Ava and Callie are progressing quickly. They are excited and motivated at lessons. And—

So am I!

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Posted in Practicing, Teaching Tips

All working parents have a challenge getting dinner on the table, but private music teachers have it especially hard when the evening hours are prime business hours. I’d like to explore a few ways to address this dilemma.

Most teachers do better if they take an actual dinner break, not just teach straight through. Less than 30 minutes is probably not sufficient. Be sure to tell your last student before your break that you are not available to stay after the normal lesson time and chat.  As we all know, the main thing that signals a student to leave is that the next student is waiting for their turn!

Many of the items in the lists below could be in every column; this format is just a way to be a little more organized about it. If you have a favorite freezer meal or crockpot recipe, please share it in the comments section below.

In the end it really comes down to three Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Yiyi Ku

Chamber Music for Students

October 22nd, 2014 by

Dear teachers,

Photo by Ahjile Miller

I hope this post finds you well and enjoying the change of season as we go into Fall!

Like many of you, I teach a variety of students of different ages and levels. I also provide many different performance opportunities for my students. In August, my studio participated in a charity concert called Keys for life which helped to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Last week we took part in the Halloween/Fall Recital organized by my local music teachers association. Our next recital will be the Studio Holiday Recital in December, and next year on January 27 we will be playing in a concert, sponsored by the city, to celebrate Mozart’s 259th Birthday.

In all these different recitals, I try to provide chamber music experience for my students. For the beginners, this comes in the form of teacher accompaniments, which I always love to do. As my students become more experienced and advanced, I am especially interested in finding new ensemble music for them.

Here are my latest finds in chamber music for students:

Contest Winners for Three – Piano Trios from the Alfred, Belwin, and Myklas Libraries

There are currently 5 graded collections in this series, from Elementary to Intermediate levels. Don’t let the title Contest Winners intimidate you into thinking this is for your competition-minded students. In fact, quite the contrary!

This series is actually perfect for what I call “Fun Track” and “Recital Track” students. Look at these titles: Camptown Races, Chopsticks for Three, This Old Man, Yankee Doodle, Greensleeves, America the Beautiful…just to name a few. Most of these are of course arrangements, instead of original compositions. The good news is that you will find many familiar names such as Robert D. Vandall, Martha Mier and Dennis Alexander, who are well known for writing effectively and imaginatively for students.

Playing in an ensemble requires a different set of skills. The challenges for students include the ability to listen to others while focusing on their own part, absolute rhythmic security, ability to continue even if they make mistakes, and of course ensemble blending and balance. For this reason, it is necessary to give them “easier” music than what they can play as a soloist. I am very pleased to find that this has been taken into consideration by the publisher. At first glance, the pieces in each designated level seem quite naive and technically simple, but this is actually a good thing, because students can feel confident and get an immediate sense of accomplishment right away. Another thing I really like is that the dynamic markings already reflect the overall ensemble balance, so not all three players are playing the same dynamics at the same time, and it is always clear who has the melody.

For the Mozart Birthday Celebration Concert, I will have students play solos, duets, one student will be playing a movement from a concerto, and a family with three kids will play a piece from Book 2 of this series called “Romp a la Mozart” – theme by Leopold Mozart, arranged by Janis M. Yarbrough – can’t wait! Read more…

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Posted in Product Reviews, Teaching Tips

I heard from the music school that a new student had signed up, so as usual, I called him to find out what level he was at, what he wanted, what his email was so I could send him a link to register with Music Teachers Helper.

It became clear soon into my phone call that this new student was hesitating  at the music school’s requirement that he sign up for 4 lessons to get started.

“I think I only want one or two to get started,” he said.

I told him that it was a good idea to give it a few lessons to get started and see how it worked, though of course if it didn’t seem a good fit, it was fine to drop out.

“I think really I only want one lesson,” he said.

I said, well, we can get started with some basics in the first lesson, but the second lesson is where I see what he took in, how he did, and where to take it from there.

Then he dropped the bomb. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

Below are some recent changes and other announcements we think you should know about.

New Features

Annual Pricing: pay once a year and save some cash – over the years, several Music Teacher’s Helper customers have asked for annual pricing. They want the convenience of not being billed every month. Today, we are excited to announce that annual pricing is available to all new and current users. You now have the option of monthly or annual billing.

Annual pricing is over 16% less than monthly. Or the equivalent of two months free per year. Do you sometimes downgrade to a lower price plan in summer months when you’re teaching fewer students? Switching to annual is essentially the same cost, but with less hassle. If you do switch to annual, you will be billed upfront for the next 12 months from the switch date. So let’s say you switch on November 1st, 2014; then you will be paid through November 1st, 2015. Please keep in mind that if you do cancel before those 12 months are up, there is no pro-rated refund. If you’d like to switch, click here for instructions and screenshots on how to do so.

Better search available on your blog page - visitors can now search for blog posts relevant to specific keywords they type into the search bar. For instance, if they are looking for a past post you mentioned to a student about practice tips, they can find that post more easily by searching “practice tips”. As always, you are able to create and assign categories for posts. So if you plan to write several posts about practice tips overtime, creating a category titled “Practicing” or Practice Tips” would be helpful. That way, when a visitor clicks that categories, they will see a list of all those posts you’ve assigned to it.

We’re also very excited about the progress we’re making on the new version of Music Teacher’s Helper. Some of the features we’re designing will also make it into the current version, so you can have them sooner. We’ll keep you posted as these become available.

Fixes

Pay Now button no longer showing in parent and adult student dashboard if online payments are not enabled - previously, if you did not enable Paypal or credit card payments, the Pay Now button still appeared in the online dashboard for parents or adult students. It was only removed from the invoice. Naturally, this created confusion on occasion for students or their parent. So now, if you choose to not accept online payments, they will not see links anywhere to pay online.

PDF invoice generation issue - recently, it was brought to our attention that invoices were not generating properly for some users. After implementing several changes to resolve the issue, we learned that the service we were using to generate PDFs had limitations we didn’t realize until our volume increase to point in which invoices were sending out faster than they could process. We switched to a different PDF tool and everything has been fixed. We apologize if it caused a hold up in your billing. We love that our community is sending lots of invoices and we are here to ensure you are getting paid on time. Keep it up!

Have an excellent rest of October. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at support@musicteachershelper.com or 1-800-517-2811.

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

In a series of blogs called ‘Getting Innovative with MTH’, I am sharing some of my favourite workarounds.  My previous two posts were: creating a To Do List and keeping track of my Inventory.  These workarounds help me be even more efficient within Music Teacher’s Helper with a ‘One Stop’ approach for all my studio needs.

Monthly Calendar View: Week 3

Innovative Calendar of Events (combining all events in your life)

I really do love the flexibility of MTH and the powerful features within the Calendar for scheduling all my students.

I have now also created a way which works well for me to combine most, if not all, of the events in my life! Within the MTH Calendar for my student schedule, I am able to remember much more as I combine several calendar schedules together:

(1) for my personal appointments,

(2) for another teacher using my studio and

(3) my own piano/violin students both at my studio and offsite at students’ homes. Some of this logic might also help YOU if you have two teachers sharing the same studio space.   Read more…

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Posted in MTH 101, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

In a previous musical life, I worked as an organist for ballroom and latin dancers! Okay, you can settle down now! Stop laughing already! I know it wasn’t very rock ‘n’ roll but it did have its benefits…

On the whole, the dancing communities I encountered were lovely and it was a pleasure to supply a quickstep or a rumba for them to elegantly glide around the dance floor.

But there was just one or two, you know the kind! The ones that spend too much time each week in the tanning salon and their over the top outfits would make a drag queen blush! In the early days, I could swear there were moments when I thought they were going to drag me from the stage and lynch me!

Why am I telling you this story? I learnt quickly that tempo and rhythm are Read more…

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Posted in Teaching Tips