20140414-102115.jpgWhat a great time I had at this year’s MTNA National Conference in Chicago. This was my third MTNA National Conference. The biggest highlight for me was certainly having the opportunity to present a Showcase session for Music Teachers Helper! It was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed sharing my tips. It was also great to meet many people afterwards at the booth. Many people said they were already using Music Teachers Helper, and I was glad to be able to answer some questions regarding various scheduling and billing features. If you missed the showcase (there was an iPad giveaway!), you may like to check out the presentation slides I created (minus the fun animations and transition effects).

If you are a regular conference attendee, you no doubt know that at any given one time, there are usually many different sessions going on at the same time, sometimes as many as 9! This makes it very difficult to choose what session to attend! This year, I made a point to attend different sessions than the ones I normally would have chosen. I also made a point to meet people whose names I recognize. I made new friends, including MTH Marketing Director, Andrew Nicoletta and fellow MTH blogger, Leila Viss. It was also very nice to take a mini vacation from my usual teaching routine. :)

One trend I have noticed at recent conferences is the celebration of original compositions by living composers. At the 2012 Conference in New York, I heard the east coast premier of Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Two Pianos, Op. 117 – with Liebermann himself in attendance! At the 2013 conference in Anaheim, CA, the opening concert by the Ahn Trio included many works by contemporary living composers, commissioned by the trio. This year, I attended the session “From The Pen to the Premiere” for the first time, and heard beautiful new chamber music commissioned by MTNA Collaborative Commissioning Project, featuring new trios by acclaimed American composers Phillip Keveren and Wynn-Anne Rossi.


Both trios encourage the study of chamber music that is accessible to intermediate level musicians. Skyscraper19947241 by Wynn-Anne Rossi is a trio for clarinet, alto saxophone and piano. Petite Voyage by Phillip Keveren is written for trumpet, trombone and piano in F Major.  You can read a full review of Wynn-Anne’s Skyscraper here. I think this is a wonderful initiative of MTNA, to commission new works by composers of our time. This is definitely a session I will be attending in future conferences, and next time, I am going to get autographs of the composers I meet to show my students (thanks to a new conference friend, Melody Lee Stroth for that idea!)

If you have read some of my previous reviews, you already know that I am a big fan of Wynn-Anne Rossi’s works! I finally got to meet her in person, and she is just like her music – full of spirit, creativity, light, and positive energy! I attended her session for one of Alfred‘s three showcases, and it was so much fun to hear her talk about her new series “One of a Kind Solos.”

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with Alfred composer Wynn-Anne Rossi at MTNA National Conference in Chicago

This new supplementary series comes in four books, from Elementary to Intermediate, and represents a personal journey with music. Wynn-Anne talked about where she got the inspirations for some of the pieces, and how she was trying to think of things that were meaning to her when she was a kid. Each piece has a story behind it, and challenges the student with musical as well as technical surprises such as odd meters, unusual modes, and various pianistic devices. Here are some examples: Read more…

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Posted in Product Reviews, Professional Development

Last week Music Teacher’s Helper attended MTNA Chicago. We met and learn about a lot of amazing tools in the music education space.  It’s a lot of fun to chat and learn about all the new digital apps and sites with a complimentary mindset. Children Music Education Tool

If you want to exposure children to arts education, you should know about the Piano Carnival Project.  It includes piano performances, stories and art based around Saint-Saëns’ famous composition, Carnival of the Animals. The goal of the project is to provide free, entertaining arts exposure to all, especially children without arts education. In order to reach as many people as possible, they have developed a digital ebook/app which allows for a completely immersive experience. Piano Carnival (downloadable here) is completely free, and includes music videos, interactive animations, dramatic recitation, lessons and much more.  

Here’s a 1 minute YouTube demo video showing a few of the ebook functions.

Also, here’s a short video about the process of creating PC, and there are lesson plans, educational materials, and much more at www.PianoCarnival.com

 

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Posted in Product Reviews

By Guest Blogger, Meg Baatz

For most musicians, carrying around an instrument happens only when absolutely necessary. But when you’re on the go in town, or travelling out of town, you often find yourself waiting and or wishing you could do something to practice. These six instruments were built with travel in mind, so you can make the most of your down time on a vacation — without having to risk damaging or losing one that’s less mobile.

  1. Voyage-Air Guitar

 

It’s not an air guitar per se, but it will help you keep your airplane luggage quota when you’re on a voyage (see what I did there?). The neck folds down conveniently to save you space, so you don’t have to try to fit it diagonally in your tiny car. Better yet, you don’t have to loosen or remove the strings, because folding it down releases the tension. Where do the strings go? They retract inside the guitar. A-mazing. Comes in both electric and acoustic with a few different styles to choose from.

Price: $3,370 (comes with a bag)

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3

  1. Travel Master Pochette Read more…

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Posted in Product Reviews

blue river6 fun pieces for intermediate to advanced pianists

When I was a teenager, I innocently asked my piano teacher one day if I could possibly learn some pop songs in my lessons. I will never forget his reaction!

Well, the colour drained from his ancient, wrinkly face and I could tell it was all he could do to withhold the rage clearly brewing deep within him!

“Why would you want to learn such rubbish?!?” he finally exploded.

“But it’s fun! And nobody has heard of the pieces I play” I grumbled, for he kept me on a strict diet of scales and Bach! I was tired of the same old routine and desperately wanted some excitement.

“Could I then just learn some jazz and blues?…What about some Scott Joplin even?” His cheeks were starting to puff uncontrollably and he gripped his chair for support. I could tell this was going nowhere!

I dropped my shoulders is resignation. The situation was hopeless. In fact I resorted to learning to play the “Maple Leaf Rag” in “secret,” dreaming of one day playing some cool popular music. The local music shop was just as disappointing carrying an antiquated stock in their so-called “popular music” section.

Now fast forward twenty or more years on and what a different world we live in! Exciting music is easily available from all over the world with the click of a mouse (or a poke of an iPad)!

Take one such book that I recently stumbled upon…

“Blue River” by Elena Cobb. A collection of six original pieces for the immediate to advanced pianist (grade 6+). Now had such a book been available for me as a teenager, I would have loved it! And to have shown it to my old teacher…now that would have been cruel but funny!!!

Full of bluesy, jazzy pieces and even some latin thrown in for good measure, this is an exciting collection which some of my advanced piano students are really enjoying at the moment. It’s challenging them but they are having lots of fun.

Cloud Seven, Latin. This was the first piece that caught my attention. It has a classic Cuban style groove, so perfect for Read more…

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Posted in Music News, Performing, Practicing, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips

Calling all piano lovers.  

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Please take a few minutes to fill out this short survey about a new portable piano coming onto the market. Further details inside: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JT3DH7R

Thank you in advance. Your feedback will impact the design and features of this digital piano.

Here’s the survey link again: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JT3DH7R

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music News, Product Reviews

Boy with Ears & Music

Using Various Technologies to Provide Play-Along Recordings to Students

One of the things I feel very strongly about as a music teacher is developing the  student’s ear – early, and often. I’m not just referring to the ear training exercises that most of us probably employ, but also using recorded examples at every possible opportunity.

I could write an entire post on why I believe this is so critical to the student’s success, and why I think audio examples and play-along recordings should be used constantly from the very beginning. For now, I’ll assume that most of you are already on board with this idea, and perhaps just need some ideas for HOW to provide recordings to students.   Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Product Reviews, Studio Management, Teaching Tips, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper

For years, sight reading triggered personal fear and insecurity. I feared I would fail and felt insecure when I compared myself to peers whomzl-hhqqeabm-175x175-75 seemed undaunted by the task of reading new scores.

As I teach out of reaction to my own experiences and feelings, it is essential that my students become strong grand staff readers and overcome their fears of sight reading as I eventually did. Early readers develop solid skills with continual reinforcement; in fact, a great deal of reinforcement that I find dreadfully boring to include during lessons. Oops…probably shouldn’t have said that but it’s true.

Thankfully things have changed significantly since I was a child on the bench. Now methods to build AND teach grand staff reading skills are available on my favorite iDevice thanks to various developers. Yigal and Yuval Kaminka, the master mind developers behind Joytunes‘ latest app called Piano Mania have struck gold.  The innovative, musical brothers recognized that humans enjoy winning and took advantage of the addictive tendencies of top-selling video games and paired them with essential reading skills for musicians to master.  This combination coupled with appealing music and an elite technical team has created an unbeatable, magnetic AND educational app.

 The app offers an elaborate system for building reading skills that benefit both students and teachers.   Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Product Reviews

Yiyi Ku

Pupil Savers

January 30th, 2014 by

Do you have a list of “go-to” pieces for students that are slipping and you can just feel they are about to quit anytime? Older beginners and busy adult students often fall into this category – they are bored with method books, and want to sound “fancy” right away.

To qualify as a “pupil saver,” a piece has to have some of the following qualities:

1. Pattern based, lots of use of sequences.
2. Relatively uncomplicated left hand.
3. Arrangements of familiar tunes or styles.
4. Uses “impressive” registers on the piano (really high or really low).
5. Sounds harder than it really is!

I have quite a list of such pieces that give “instant satisfaction” to students, and have discovered/rediscovered a few more that I would like to share with MTH blog readers.

1. Jazz, Rags & Blues – Alfred Premier Piano Course, by Martha Mier
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Almost anything by Martha Mier is a pupil saver! Her Romantic Impressions are a staple in my Pupil Saver List. This latest series, which forms part of the Alfred Premier Piano Course, is designed to supplement and reinforce concepts introduced in the Lesson Books. So far, there are four books in the series – 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B. They contain a variety of styles, including ragtime, blues, boogie, and jazz.

To play anything that sounds remotely “jazzy,” one must assume some sort of background in rhythm and harmony, and it is not surprising that the easiest book in Martha Mier’s Classical Jazz, Rags & Blues series starts with Early Intermediate level. So how do you make a basic five finger pattern that is method book level 1A or 1B sound jazzy? The answer is in teacher accompaniment! I am so impressed with the quality of these accompaniments. They contain so much variety, and are really fun to play! They are not always that easy, either, sometimes with as many as six flats and pretty tricky syncopated rhythm, all of which contribute to the overall sophisticated sound that beginner students love to hear and be a part of.

Read more…

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Posted in Product Reviews, Teaching Tips

Yiyi Ku

AirTurn

December 22nd, 2013 by

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I first heard of the AirTurn almost 4 years ago, and finally bought one to use with my iPad in October. I LOVE IT!

What is it: The AirTurn is a wireless, hands-free page turner that sits flat on the floor. You use it with your favorite music reading App (I use forScore) on your iPad. The idea is that you can read your music on your iPad, play with your hands, and turn pages with your foot. I bought the one that comes with a handheld control unit that can be detached from the pedal board.

How much: $129.95. If you do not need the handheld unit, there is a cheaper version. Yes, it is a bit costly, which was the main reason I did not purchase it sooner. I just could not see myself using it enough. I am so glad I finally have one now!

Set up: Another reason I did not get it sooner was that I wondered if it was going to be difficult to set up, and if it was going to become one of those gadgets that sit on the shelf because I do not have time to read the instruction manual. Good news is that it was VERY EASY to set up! Just go to Settings on your iPad, turn Bluetooth ON, and the iPad finds it automatically, like magic! So far I have only encountered one instance where the iPad did not recognize it for some unknown reason, so I read the trouble-shooting section in the manual and the problem was quickly solved. Other than that time, I have not had to touch the manual again!

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performing with iPad and AirTurn. Piccoloist – Kate Prestia-Schaub

My experiences:

  • If you have never turned pages with your foot, it does take some getting used to. I used to swipe the pages on my iPad with my finger, so when I first started using the AirTurn, sometimes my left hand still turns the page out of habit, then a split second afterwards, my foot presses on the AirTurn as well, and I end up turning two pages instead of one. This is happening less and less as I use the AirTurn more.

    Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Product Reviews

How to Avoid That Pain in the Neck…Some Tips for Saxophonists

“I’m getting headaches when I play for a while.”

“The back of my neck hurts all the time.”

“My upper back and shoulder blades hurt.”

These are some of the complaints that some saxophonists have said at some point in their playing careers. These pains are not exclusive for beginners; some professionals I gig with have said the same things to me. In fact, I didn’t realize my own headaches were coming from my own neck strap until my colleagues spoke about their own situation.

Many beginning students slump in their chairs because they can’t adjust their neck strap to bring the instrument higher. They end up ducking their chin to try to reach the mouthpiece, instead of bringing the mouthpiece to them. They also slump because it is less painful on the neck, especially if their strap has no padding.

I have always known about the importance of having a padded neck strap; one that helps to take a lot of the weight of the instrument off the neck and right thumb. I have always used them and have recommended them for my students (and still do).

Posture

So why doesn’t the padded neck strap alleviate this problem? Not every saxophonist has this issue. The first thing to look at is posture. Are you seated or standing up straight with your shoulders back and relaxed, or are you hunched over?  When your shoulders move forward, more stress is felt in the upper back and shoulder blades. More weight is felt on the back of the neck as a result. Your shoulders may be back, but are they down and relaxed?  Shoulders that are up towards your ears also put undue stress on the neck and upper back, as well as affecting breathing.

Here’s a picture of good seated posture:

Good seated sax posture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next area to examine is the quality of your neck strap. Many times, when a student rents a saxophone, a stock neck strap is placed in the case. This strap is basically just a strap; there’s no padding at all. This I feel is not sufficient for beginning saxophonists. Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips