How often do you find yourself in need of a list of your students?I'm in treble image

One can keep a list on your computer, but remembering to update it as you get new students or students discontinue can be inconsistent.

The easiest way to come up with a list of your students is to use the export names option on MTH; such a seemingly simple option that can save you time and help you in emergency situations. Read more…

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Posted in Customer Support, Studio Management, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper

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

duetMusic shapes us, but it is also shaped by our culture and practice of music-making. This is true whether we are students, performers, concert goers, consumers, or music teachers.

But how can we find space for experiment and innovation in our teaching without compromising standards or impeding the progress of our students?

In this post, I’m going to talk a bit about some of the ways we can make time to take risks and develop new approaches in our teaching.

I’ll also be talking about why this is important for our students, our job satisfaction, and our broader culture and practice of music teaching.

The medium is the message

IMG_1137The first thing I’d like you to consider is how your personal teaching method may reflect the space and/or institution you teach in, and the expectations that come with it.

You may be a solitary teacher working on the piano bench next to a stream of neighbourhood children, an instructor at a music school, a performer giving masterclasses or lessons on request, or you may be one of the increasing number of teachers who addresses students through internet portals such as YouTube.

However you connect with your pupils, your medium of interaction – your studio, institution, schedule, or online platform – will dictate how you teach to an important extent. A school typically requires teachers to follow a fixed curriculum, for example, while home studios usually prioritize one-on-one teaching over group classes.

Your school may encourage you to teach from a series of books they already have in the library, while in your home studio you may find that students and their parents appreciate following a system based on graded instructions books that are approved by some well-known institution. However you choose to teach, these work patterns will help to make your teaching effective, and they will help your students to progress at a regular rate alongside their peers.

But these same, what I am going to call ‘institutional systems’ can also have drawbacks, both for pupils and for teachers. What may seem like a time-saving book series or course curriculum that ensures standards in your studio may in fact be limiting your ability to express yourself as a teacher, and in turn, may be holding back your students from achieving their best as musicians.

DorianPerhaps the recommended studies and technical exercises take up so much lesson time that you can never really get to talk to your students about the special musical alchemy that is at work in the pieces they play? Or perhaps, in wishing your students to do well in exams, you may be encouraging them to conform too much to the received wisdom of previous generations of musicians, and in turn limiting the space in which they can experiment and innovate for their own and future generations?

Whatever system we employ will always bring with it both advantages and disadvantages. Our job is to try to identify the positive in both these things, and to put them in service of a greater ends: satisfying music-making, undertaken by both students and their teachers.

Rebelliousness in the teaching studio – making space for freedom

freedomLuckily for both teachers and students, there can be few conditions more inspiring to experiment and innovation than imposed limitations!

What starts out as a restriction, may end up inspiring some of our most innovative ideas – we simply have to think about them differently and make time and space to turn them to our advantage.

Many of you will be doing this already. Teachers in a home studio, for example, may work hard to create a clear curriculum of the sort typically found in music schools, while college teachers may take pains to carve out space for personal attention for their students of the sort made easy by the home studio format.

But we can go further, especially in the freedom we can give our students to experiment with music as part of their overall progress. We can take the time to let the students work their way more slowly through pieces, for example, perhaps taking time to help them identify underlying key structures, or colouristic effects, or aspects of text setting, and then giving them the space to improvise and innovate on these interesting and important musical features and ideas.

If your students don’t know how to improvise, remember that this is a very important part of music making – all the classical composers learned to do this at an early age using simple patterns. Teaching your students (and perhaps yourself) how to do this will hugely enhance their enjoyment of music, and will make your teaching – and your own playing – much more fruitful and enjoyable.

Another simple tip to consider is how you may be pacing your students. Many students want to progress quickly and can race through grade books because of their nimble fingers or strong memories. But these same students will almost without exception falter later on in their life as musicians. This typically happens either because the pieces they play at advanced level will eventually get very demanding of mental and emotional interpretive skills that they will not possess as players, or because they never learn to see the importance of musical life beyond their achievement in exams, and will give music up once their parents are no longer ferrying them to lessons.

If you gave your students more time to sit their exams – two years instead of one, for example – they may be annoyed at first, but in the end, they are more likely to enjoy playing, to become better musicians, and to develop the ability to have their own musical ideas. At the same time, they will make your work much more enjoyable! They will probably also score higher in exams and will do even more for the reputation of your studio. Who knows, you may even end up turning out more professional musicians than you were when you were simply ‘following the book’.

Music is play

dixielandHowever you organize your studio, university or college classes, or your online teaching content and interface, keep in mind that both student and teacher can learn as well as teach. Giving yourself – and your students – time to do this as part of their ‘regular curriculum’ will enhance your studio culture, your students’ progress, and your own work satisfaction.

But it’s important to remember that, without a doubt, your teaching makes an important contribution to something much bigger than yourself – broader musical and music pedagogical culture.

Like Mozart, and Beethoven, and Bach, and Dizzy Gillespie, all of whom played with music and broke away from the restrictions and patterns of the past, you too must take the time and make the space to break away from imposed work and playing patterns and come up with something new that is unique to you and to your students.

This, more than anything we can do as teachers to ‘maintain standards’, is what will keep music alive, both for now, and for future generations.

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips, Uncategorized

This is part three of my series about interesting ways I use Music Teacher Helper in my studio not always per the software itself.

Keeping track of miscellaneous fees = Headaches

If your studio is like mine, you offer to purchase books and materials for your students. Not only is this a nice service to the customer but it assures that students will have the correct supplies when needed.

My October 2013 blog post discussed ways to earn extra income by offering supplies for the students.

Headachesheadache image

Keeping track of all theses book and miscellaneous charges is, quite frankly, a pain. First you have to remember to get payment from the student. That job is made easier by adding the fees on MTH, however it is up to you to remember to actually add the fee. How many times do you go through your bookkeeping and realize a charge you paid was not transferred to the student for which the purchase was made? Read more…

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Posted in Customer Support, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Hello (musical) world!

Welcome to my first post on the MTH blog. I’m looking forward to getting started, and to sharing my thoughts about music with fellow teachers, students, performers, and music lovers.

a musical conversation, pieter de hooch, 1674

a musical conversation, pieter de hooch, 1674

I’ve spent a lot of time working as a performer, and also an academic researcher, and I love both these pursuits. But it is teaching music that I always come back to, and that I find the most fascinating and surprising. Teaching offers me the wonderful opportunity to pass on my love of and interest in music and music making, and to learn from my students in studio lessons, masterclasses, tutorials, and performances.

Teaching creates a wonderful space in which we can connect the practical making of music with ideas about music as part of our discussions with students who are coming to the different aspects of music for the first time. We can chat about, play through, experiment with, and ponder all that puzzles and moves us about music in all its beauty and complexity as part of a natural learning process. As we all know, teachers can learn as much from their students as their students learn from them, both from students’ questions, and from their comments and musical responses.

Keeping the love alive

One of the most difficult tasks teachers face is keeping the love of music alive for students, whether the students be school-age children, teenagers or adults balancing their musical life with social and family pressures, or university-level performers- and teachers-in-training concerned with maintaining good grades and securing a good position.

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Performing, Teaching Tips, Uncategorized


Scheduling Summer Lessons

July 24th, 2013 by

For many private music teachers/studios, summer brings the end of the school year and regularly scheduled lessons. Although I am certain many instructors, like myself, look forward to the break in what can be grueling teaching schedule we also realize with this break usually comes a huge drop in income. As well, many beginner students forget much of what they learned the previous year without, at minimum, a handful of summer lessons thus some teachers adhere to a minimum of required summer lessons and some offer lessons on an “as available” basis. I offer the later.

Summer Piano

Summer Piano

Scheduling summer lessons using email and MTH

Before the end of the school year I send information on how summer lessons are offered and acquired. To keep my vacation options open, I do not schedule regular weekly lessons even if requested. Instead, I email available days and times for lessons approximately 1 week prior to the days I wish to teach. This also allows more flexibility in the schedule for the families participating. It has worked well for me for many years.

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Posted in Studio Management, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper

The following is an article by guest blogger, Fran Beaudry.

McNab TeacherSummertime can wreak havoc on many a music studio. While there’s plenty of potential for students to develop their musical skills, many go on hiatus or drop lessons all together. Its tough to compete with marathon hang time with friends and the inevitable video games. What’s a private music teacher to do?

 Look to Technology

Technology can be a lifesaver in this situation. Online lessons have grown to become a viable and profitable option for music teachers – especially when coupled with a traditional brick and mortar studio. Most households have the necessary equipment to get started; a mic, a webcam and headphones.

 The convenience and time saving make online lessons an attractive option for parents, students and teachers alike. They can be done from any place that has a decent internet connection. Everyone involved can take vacation while still maintaining their musical commitments!

Expand Your Student Roster

Even if you’ve got a handful of students in a traditional studio, you’ve probably got time for more. Removing the location barrier by going online opens up tons of options. Especially when you teach an instrument that is in less demand. There may only be 5 people in your town that want to learn the clarinet (or violin or bassoon), but by opening yourself up to online lessons, you can book students from around the globe. Then, boom, you’ve got a full roster! Even if your numbers drop in the summer, you can always pick up students online.

 Additional Online Advantages

Younger students are learning more through technology than ever before. Music teachers need to stay on top of things to stay relevant. Its worth noting that the the difference in the actual lesson experience is negligible. Also know that time zones are an online music teacher’s best friend. Use them to your advantage – everyone has their own idea of a “convenient” time.

 Just as with your private studio, you’ll need to put energy into marketing your online lessons. If you’re not up to the challenge, consider joining a community like The ZOEN to get matched up with students. This is a great way to maintain a higher number of students during the summer.

Best of luck to you this summer!

Fran_BeaudryGuest contributor Fran Beaudry has over 30 years of experience as a clarinet player and music educator. For more teacher tips follow Fran on Twitter or visit her on The ZOEN.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Digital Sheet Music

Need we say more?

This is a guest post from Hugh Sung. He has been an advocate for utilizing cutting-edge technologies to enhance the artistry of the classical musician. He developed a customized database to create a paperless office for his administrative work and in 2002, shortly after the first Tablet PC’s were introduced by Microsoft to the public, he adapted an early model for use as a digital music score reader with a foot pedal-activated page turning system. - 

From Paper to Pixels
Do you have a nostalgic devotion to your stacks of coffee-stained, curled, yellowed and smudged sheet music? Are you convinced that the scent of mildew it exudes somehow contains magic that makes you a better musician? Let me posit something that will revolutionize your world, if you let it:
Becoming a paperless musician will lead to faster, more effective learning and performance of music. It is physically more convenient, and will actually give you and your students the tools to become vastly better musicians. To boot, it is a great way to be more environmentally friendly.
Ok, just in case I didn’t convince you why you need to join the digital sheet-music revolution, here’s more.

What the heck is a pixel?
For my musician friends who are still dragging their consciousness (and their sheet music) out of the last century (or even the 1800s), pixels are the smallest dots on a computer screen used to make images and words. With today’s amazing display technologies, such as the “retina display” for the new iPad and MacBook Pro, these pixels are so small they make the experience of reading sheet music on a computer screen incredibly vibrant and – many might argue – better than reading on physical paper. Of course, there’s no arguing how much easier it is to read a digital screen in low light than a piece of paper music under an anemic, underpowered stand light!
Cutting-edge display technologies aside, here are 10 additional reasons why using computers to read music is better than paper:
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Posted in Uncategorized

Dan Callaway

Write Down the Vision

June 24th, 2013 by

Stick to your vision, but adapt your planA couple of weeks ago, I was teaching a client, and suddenly I thought to myself, “What are we doing here?”

The lesson was going well, and the client was focused and learning, but I still had this deep impulse that asked me: “What are we building here?”

I stopped the lesson, took out a notebook, and I asked him, “What do you want to do better as a singer? What part does singing play in your life?”

I proceeded to ask these questions to all my clients that week, and the answers I received took lessons on a new trajectory, and in just a few short weeks, my clients have been gaining new and surprising ground.

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Returning Student Registration and Fall Scheduling Made Easier with MTH!

Many music studio schedules follow the local school schedules. The end of the year fast approaches with extra work often necessary for recitals and registration for the next fall.

One may use MTH website to eliminate the hassle of tracking changes to fall schedules.

Spring registration

In contrast to music teachers who request registration during the late summer months; at my studio registration is due in April. This accomplishes several goals: I am able to determine how many lesson slots I have available and advertize accordingly, I do not have to work with customers during the busy summer months when they are often traveling, and it may be a lot more difficult to tell an instructor you are not returning when you have lessons for another month (perhaps a good marketing strategy). This also allows time to discuss reasons for discontinuing lessons and possibly the opportunity to suggest changes to keep a student playing.

Use MTH to make yearly registration and scheduling much easier!

Every year when I set up the yearly schedule I include an extra week of lessons on the web calendar. Example: Lessons end May 19th but my web calendar shows lessons running through May 26th. I let customers know that lessons will not actually be held on these days but are only there for administrative purposes. It is easy to add a fake event for all students stating there are no lessons during this week and that the extra lesson showing on the calendar is only for fall scheduling purposes. When a parent/student logs onto the website they will see this note on the calendar (See picture 1). Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management, Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper