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

This month I’m going to use my blog format to do what it does best: simply to spread information.

This past week, I was at voice faculty meeting at my conservatoire in Canada and one of our teachers, who is also an active chairperson in our local chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, gave a short presentation on an exciting new educational NATS initiative:  “Vocapedia“, a website dedicated to the science and pedagogy of the singing voice.

Here is a quick overview, quoted from their site, of what they aim to do with the resource:

The mission of Vocapedia is to present educational resources relevant to:
the anatomic and physiologic basic of singing
the acoustics of the singing voice; the acoustical basis of resonance
the physical health of the vocal mechanism
the science of learning and mental processes involved in singing and teaching of singing
current and historical thought on pedagogical practice.

The intent is not to prescribe techniques, services, practices, or styles of singing, or the teaching of singing. Rather, the aim is to present resources that provide rational thinking and facts as they are currently accepted in the scientific community, from authors who have demonstrated their expertise.

The site promises to become a foundational point of reference for those seeking information about all aspects of singing physiology, technique, and pedagogy.

I do encourage everyone to click through the links and spend some time exploring this exciting new initiative!

 

 

 

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Doesn’t look like I’m discussing music apps for ear training? Please bear with me…

If I could, I would head to our local Lifetime Fitness Center everyday. A habit or a hobby–not sure which–I try to squeeze in a workout as much as possible. One of the main reasons is because I like to build muscle and keep the metabolism up so I can eat my husband’s scrumptious cooking. The other reason I workout? Because I’m addicted to step class (among other classes) thanks to an outstanding instructor named Heidi.

This is a resort-like fitness center one-stop-light-away from our house!

She can “holler” at us with her New Orleans’ drawl and yet everyone remains extremely loyal to her group instruction because she works us hard and we see results. In addition, Heidi cues and designs steps and combos like no one else which makes for an exceptionally good workout for the body as well as the brain. Yep, step class, the trend started by Jane Fonda years ago-gulp–many more years than I’d care to admit.

I stepped right along with this video before my young boys popped out of bed.

Why am I talking about my exercise regimen in a piano-related blog? Because I’m amazed at how a Heidi-cue will prompt me to move my feet to the beat for 8 to 16 counts. When Heidi says “V around the world” or “ham-string-straddle-knee hop” I know which foot to use, which way to go on which beat. Of course, this was after enduring the first class or two adjusting to Heidi’s lingo and that 12-inch step in front of me. I, along with my husband, as he is now a huge fan of the class as well–have become imprinted with Heidi’s cues and combos and are forever faithful to following her every command.

Heidi and my husband after a one-hour step class

So, if my body responds to verbal cues accompanied by just a few visual aids from Heidi on the stage, it seems my ears could also train my fingers in a similar fashion. Why don’t I seem as committed to building my ears and fingers on the bench like I am to strengthening my biceps and quads at the gym? If my ears can train my body, why can’t they train my fingers?

I believe there is one simple reason for weak ears: because I’m lazy. My eyes have dictated every move to my 10 fingers for so long, that my ears sit back with their feet up and moan whenever they are called into action. Unfortunately, my well-trained eyes have made my ears dull, insecure and withdrawn. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Music Teacher’s Helper turns 10 years old this year. You can read more about our company’s journey in this blog post. Over the next two weeks you can win some great giveaways with two different contests. Read more…

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Posted in Uncategorized

Pat Shelby

Purple Hair Changed My Life!

September 30th, 2014 by

A friend recently offered to take me out to lunch if, in return, I would let him pick my brain about teaching guitar.  He was feeling the tug to teach and wanted to explore how I got started.  It was fun for me to recount my story – I’ll share some of that story here.

Growing up, music was the most important thing to me.  I declared myself a music major when I entered a 2 year junior college in 1977.  I loved every aspect of musical performance, however I was convinced that I did not want to pursue teaching.  When the end of my 2 years at this school came, I was lost and confused.  I didn’t what to do.  I was certain I would fail if I tried to continue school so I did a 180 and hit the road.  Literally.

I started a career as an over-the-road bus driver.  I traveled all over the U.S. and Canada taking senior citizens on vacations and driving regular routes.  I borrowed a guitar from one of my brothers during this time and started teaching myself how to play.  I loved playing that guitar, but I didn’t have any aspirations to do anything with it.  I totally kept my playing on the down-low. Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Kerri Green

Getting to Fun

September 30th, 2014 by

I am currently responsible for the my own practicing, for the practicing of three of my four children, and for assigning the practicing of my more than twenty piano students. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out ways to make daily practice palatable for all of us! After all, music and music lessons are supposed to be fun, right?

Well, yes! Of course they are! To that end, I have music dollars they earn to spend at an end of year auction. I offer prizes when they reach goals on their 40 piece challenge charts. We use the iPad and time off the bench to reinforce concepts. They come to group classes and play games and have treats. I am a happy, encouraging cheerleader in their lessons. Their assignment sheets are covered with happy faces next to statements like “Watch out for those flat pinkies!” and “Remember metronome!”

Music is fun! Music lessons are fun! Practicing is fun!

Except, of course, when it’s not.

Are we doing our students and ourselves a disservice when we try to play up the fun and play down the work? I recently came across a quote that has reminded me that sometimes practicing is just plain hard work.

Eliot Butler said:

To learn is hard work. It requires discipline. And there is much drudgery. When I hear someone say that learning is fun, I wonder if that person has never learned or if he has just never had fun. There are moments of excitement in learning: these seem usually to come after long periods of hard work, but not after all long periods of hard work.

In defense of happy learning, I want to say that I love learning. I love the lightbulb that goes off when something suddenly makes sense. I love working on a phrase and finding it fit better and better in my fingers. I love the way the world seems to expand when I learn something about a subject with which I am less familiar. BUT! Getting to the fun of it absolutely does take work.

I love rehearsing with other musicians BUT I would hate it if no one was well-prepared. I love learning new music BUT I would hate it if I hadn’t learned to sightread well over years and years and years of playing my instrument. I love teaching my students BUT it sure is less pleasant when they haven’t done any work on their own.

The life lessons that are taught through music lessons are invaluable: hard work over a long period of time pays off. It’s best to be consistent in your habits to make progress long term. Learning to take a big piece of music and taking it apart to its tiniest parts to learn to perfect it teaches important lessons about how to approach a major project: one step at a time. These are just a few of the things I hope my students and my children learn from their music study.

And along the way, I’m planning for us all to have lots and lots of fun.

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Posted in Practicing, Teaching Tips

 By Robin Steinweg

 

Group classes are a great way to reach more students, multiply your time and promote your studio. I taught a group vocal class over the summer (Group Classes) and a group guitar class. Find the first two guitar class posts here (Group Guitar part 1 ) and here (Group Guitar part 2).

What I cover in weeks 5-8:

Week 5

-how to tell the key of a song

-transposing, review how to make your own chord charts, and the 3/4 strum

-the “Happy Birthday” song. You’d be surprised how many accompanists I’ve met who can’t play it!

-another parody I wrote for this class, with only 2 chords, to the tune of “Clementine”. This one I personalized with their names and some positive traits:

1. In a church one sultry summer, round a table sat The Six: sore fingers, sore brains, but they strummed their acoustics.

2. Guitars ready, keep it steady, press your fingers till they bleed. Making music is so fun! What more in life could you need?

3. Play the 2/4, play it over and over again. “Almost got it,” says the teacher, “Take a little rest.” But then…

4. …comes another even harder, will we ever get it right? Now the strings are out of tune, but do I loosen or turn it tight?

5. There is Jerry, always ready, and Malea’s cheerful grin, Leslie’s great dry sense of humor; Robin says, “Play it again.”

6. Asia strums and Doris hums and Gavin, fearless, forward goes. By the end of this guitar class, every one of them will be pros!

Week 6

What I choose to review and for how long depends on how they did at the last lesson, and what I think they need:

-the 4/4 strum and appropriate songs

-a demonstration that 2/4 and 4/4 strums can be interchangeable

Note: whenever I introduce new chords or strum, I choose songs with as few chord changes as possible. I aim for a good mix of musical styles and tempos.

I sing the melodies until they can. Sometimes I say the strum aloud: DOWN, downup downup downup—and we pause at the chord changes until they have their fingers in place. Once most have the hang of it, I make sure to do parts of the songs slowly and parts quickly to accommodate all class members. It’s equally frustrating whether you can’t keep up, or you’re being kept from going as fast as you are able, so I do some for both.

Week 7 

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Financial Business, Music Theory, Performing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips