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.
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…
We are proud to announce that the newest update for the Music Teacher’s Helper iPhone app is now available in the iTunes App Store. A lot of thought, resources, and testing from current users went into this completely redesigned app that compliments the Music Teacher’s Helper web app. We’re confident you are going to love it. And it’s free to download.
How to download the Music Teacher’s Helper iPhone App:
Select the App Store icon from your iPhone.
Click the “Search” function from the bottom menu.
Type in “Music Teacher’s Helper”.
Then click the cloud icon with a downward facing arrow.
App Store icon.
If you already have the app downloaded, you will see an update available in the App Store. Go ahead and click update to view the new version.
Why use the Music Teacher’s Helper app?
The iPhone app allows you to do and view most functions as the web app version of the software. Here are some examples where the app could come in handy:
Easily add, view, or edit student information and call or email them with one click from your phone.
View your schedule when not in front of your computer or laptop.
Add mileage right from your iPhone before stepping out of your car (make sure to park first!).
There are many more reasons to use the app. Different teachers use it for different reasons.
We haven’t forgotten about Android!
We are finishing testing for the initial Google Play Store release to support Android devices. We will make an announcement once it’s available.
We’re committed to releasing future updates, and ensure the app runs smoothly. If you have any specific feedback about using the app or encounter any issues, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. That will help us make the app better.
Also, please take a minute and leave a review at the App Store.
To check out the Music Teacher’s Helper iTunes page, click here.
Frankly, sophisticated apps like Practice+ can intimidate me. I prefer those that only have a few features that also seem extremely intuitive. Although this enhanced metronome app was quite easy to explore, the multiple features had me wondering if this would be worth my consideration for most of my students.
However…after I experimented with the recording option, it dawned on me that this could be the PERFECT app for an adult student of mine who continues to struggle with finding and sticking with a steady beat.
As I played through a piece using the “Clave” metronome set to 8th note subdivisions–there are SO many options from which to choose–I recorded my practice with the metronome and saved it with an appropriate title and then listened to the recording, all within the same app. I was close to being right on with a tendency to be slightly in front of the pulse–typical of yours truly.
Since my student struggles to know if she is on the beat, this practice metronome with a recording feature could be a dynamite tool to help her finally secure a steady, strict pulse. By listening to herself practice with the metronome she could possibly (hopefully!) self correct her wobbly adherence to the beat.
There’s an option to email recordings which could offer my student a chance to send me a sample of her practice for feedback and encouragement from me between lessons. more
“Catch a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he’ll feed himself for life!” And so the saying goes.
As music teachers, I’m sure you’d agree with me, that a core objective in our lessons is to develop independence in our students. We don’t want them to be “spoon fed” for years. Rather we want to encourage them to think for themselves as musicians and use their initiative to learn new skills and pieces. Personally, I want my students to learn to read music as quickly as possible and then they can enjoy a lifetime of exploring new music for themselves.
So how do you teach music reading skills? I tell my students that they must memorise the notes but not the music (at first). Here are some resources and ideas you might like, starting this month with:
STEP 1 – Note recognition
A great starting point is musictheory.net It’s a free web based resource that you can fully customise to your student’s needs. The great thing about this method is that pupils can answer the quiz at their own speed without any time pressure. Select “Note Identification” and then follow the self-explanatory steps. You can always paste the link to your uniquely designed activity to include in the student’s weekly email notes or paste it into their Read more…
We all know that stickers, charts, music money, trophies, and competitions may motivate students to progress but these “tactics” are just that, extrinsic motivators to get your students to do what YOU want.
However, why not find more ways to trigger intrinsic motivation so that your students achieve and move forward just because THEY want to.
Nothing inspires me more than seeing someone do something that I want to do. With the availability of videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see and experience others excel and having fun making music. When viewing videos on YouTube, each one usually inspires me in some way. It dawned on me that the same videos could have a monumental impact on my students. Read more…
Here are some ideas to move your studio forward this summer:
Hold a sight-reading challenge. Set out good sight-reading books from your library for students to choose from each week. Give out prizes at the end of summer for reading a certain number of pages.
Host a summer camp. You could hold your camp one day a week for a month, or four to five days in one week. It could be to attract new students, or a fun intensive for current students. I like “Way Cool Keyboarding” books by Musical Moments for great ensemble playing with beginners.
Attend a concert and invite your students. Give your students “points” in the fall for each concert they attend over the summer. Email notices of upcoming events in your area, especially free events for kids. There will be a free “Peter and the Wolf” performance in my local park in a few weeks, so I sent a flier out to all my families.
Get out all the fun music. Take a break from your regular repertoire and find something different and exciting to learn this summer.
Prepare for fall competitions. This is the time to polish up pieces that need to be ready to go in October or November. For ideas, see my blog on “Preparing for an Event or Competition.”
Organize your music and files. Check for overdue borrowed books. Label and file new music. Enter new music into your Music Teacher’s Helper library. I use cardboard magazine boxes on my bookshelves to organize my music into labeled categories, so that I can find books quickly.
Order a new computer or iPad game. Learn to use it yourself this summer so you can use it in your media lab this fall. Check out “The iPad Piano Studio” by Leila Viss.
Attend a workshop or seminar. Local colleges or music stores often host guest artists or speakers. Consider traveling a little to immerse yourself in a blues workshop, or an improvisation seminar.
Recruit new students. This is the time of year parents are looking for a music teacher to begin lessons in the fall. Make sure you are on top of your marketing strategies. For marketing ideas check out my blog on “How Do You Attract New Students?”
Try out Music Teacher’s Helper. If you don’t already use this fabulous tool, summer would be a great time to learn all it can do for your studio and your sanity!
Plan your studio budget. I swear I only make $.03 per hour after you take into consideration all the time I spend outside of lessons, and the number of “toys” it takes to keep me having fun teaching. But seriously, summer is a great time to plan for the money aspect of the next school year. List your projected expenses, and then calculate how many students you need, and what you need to charge for lessons this coming year.
Think through individual student needs. Summer is a great time to ponder each student, make a list of their personal strengths and weaknesses, and how you can best move them forward.
Decide on your “theme” for the coming year. My students are on a mission to find out what our theme will be for next year! Read my blog on “Themes Add Focus to Your Teaching” for more about how this can enhance your school year.
Look into Michelle Sisler’s games and motivational tools. Michelle is so creative! Every year she comes out with more and better ideas. Check them out at http://keystoimagination.com.
Get your instrument tuned and repaired. If you have been putting off this task, now is the time to get everything in tip top condition.
Learn new music. You could read through new music for ideas for your students, or brush up on some higher level pieces you will be assigning. You could also spend more time on your own musical repertoire.
Read a book. I am enjoying the book “Make it Stick” by Peter C. Brown, recommended on this blog site. If you can’t attend a seminar, a book is an inexpensive way to update and expand your thinking on a particular subject.
Get healthy. I’m serious. It is the only way you are going to live through next winter and withstand all the germs that are going to be traveling through your studio. Summer is a great time to make changes in your health habits.
Rest and refresh your spirit. Summer is a great time to take time for you! Do something you love but never get time for. Get outdoors, take a mini vacation, enjoy your kids and family, or just sit and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and be grateful for all you have been given.
My most recent favorite app is called Decide Now–only 99 cents! Although it’s not a music-related app it is so easy to customize that you won’t be able to stop using it. A game of Piano Charades is just one example of how I implement this versatile app to reinforce music terminology by students acting out Italian terms at the keys. Here are the steps:
1) Call out words such as: piano, forte, fermata, ritardando, presto, largo, etc. and nudge students to act them out physically. This means YOU need to do it, too. For example: piano could be walking on tip toes while ritardando could be jogging in place and gradually slowing down the pace–like a train approaching a station.
2) After all terms are physically re-enacted, have the students jot down each term to review the spelling and the definition. If they are youngsters, have them draw a picture instead of writing out the definition. Ex: ritardando could be represented with a train engine.
3) Ask a volunteer to play one phrase of a well-prepared piece as the composer intended.
4) The performer must spin the wheel featuring all the terms just reviewed without letting the others see where the Wheel-of-Fortune-like spinner stops. Read more…
If you’re anything like me, it can be really challenging encouraging students to listen properly to their performance whilst at the same time playing (or singing).
The other day, one of my beginner pupils made the all too familiar statement: “I can’t hear a tune!” Yet any other person listening would have, like me, surely been able to make out the strains of Beethoven’s famous “Ode to Joy!”
So why then can it be so hard to actually hear what you are playing whilst in mid performance? And more importantly, how can students be encouraged to “hear” what is “good, bad and ugly” in their playing or singing so that they can improve?
The answer lies in two facts:
most humans are better at understanding what they can see rather than what they can hear
the process of trying to listen properly whilst at the same time read the music and physically play or sing is at best, extremely complex
So what’s the solution?
A simple method to assist students is to Read more…