Isn’t it frustrating watching a new student struggling to work out the pitch of the notes on their sheet music. Is it a C or an A? You can hear them muttering “every good boy…” under their breathe whilst their parent waits anxiously on the edge of their seat to see if they might finally “hear a tune.”
Or what about a more advanced student? Surely by now they should be able to recognise that note on the ledger lines? Why can’t they remember to play a G sharp when playing in the key of A major? If only they would play that note in the correct octave?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried everything under the sun over the years to try and help my pupils quickly recognise pitch; flash cards, all manner of computer software and other miscellaneous methods in an effort to help them become better music readers. After all, faster pitch recognition equals more fluent sight reading. New pieces then get learnt quicker and everybody, pupil, parent and music teacher are much happier!
This could be it!
And then the light bulb moment! One of my students introduced me to another method for learning notes in the form of an iPad app called NoteWorks. “Great!” I exclaimed, trying desperately to contain my dismay at another attempt at reinventing the wheel. I’ve seen them all. Why is this going to be any different?
And yet it was! In a matter of seconds I was experiencing a very exciting game that I could see would have a tremendous impact on my lessons. Let me explain this little music teaching gem and how it could benefit your students too.
What my students and I love about NoteWorks is how much fun it is! Think of it as Angry Birds for music students! And the thing that really gets us excited is that you can connect it to a digital piano (or keyboard) via a USB cable so that you can play the game directly on the keys of your instrument!
Previously, using my older methods, I’ve always found that students seemed a bit detached from an activity on a card or a screen compared to the real world of reading music notation. Because NoteWorks is so practical, especially when connected to a MIDI keyboard, I’ve noticed a MASSIVE improvement in music reading ability with all my students within a couple of weeks!
Case Study 1: Complete Beginner
I quickly introduced Rob, a complete beginner in his early thirties to NoteWorks. Now, only eight weeks later, he has made phenomenal progress with the game. More importantly, he’s quickly reading new songs of a much higher standard than would normally be realistic at this stage (grade 1 ABRSM) with breathe-taking ease!
Case Study 2: Advanced Student
12 year old Imogen, who is currently preparing for her grade 6 piano exam (ABRSM), has always struggled with her sight reading. By her own admission she has found recognising pitches a struggle and therefore developing a piece to a mistake free standard has always been a long and bumpy road, despite all efforts with previous note learning methods. Enter NoteWorks! I could not believe the difference just a week made, after she downloaded the app on her mum’s iPad!!! I choose a grade 6 sight reading test with a key signature of four flats and she flew through it with flying colours! More than that, she’s now performing all of her three exam pieces much more reliably as a result!!!
As you can see, I am delighted with the results. NoteWorks is really helping my students to read music so much better at all levels and this progress is coming along quickly too. In conclusion I’ve listed a number of the key (pardon the pun) benefits of this amazing app:
- Great fun with hilarious sound effects!
- Perfect for helping complete beginners master their pitches. Simply answering on the relevant buttons on the iPad screen: “A, B, C (or Do, Re, Mi)”
- You can restrict the range of pitches with the first few levels and as the levels progress, so does the range
- In practice mode, students are helped with hints which is a massive help at first to beginners
- In challenge mode, pupils play for points and win stars just like a conventional game
- You can choose treble, alto, tenor or bass clef
- Perfect for pianists, organists and harpists, who can select grand stave (treble and bass clef combined)
- Helps piano and keyboard students to learn where to locate notes in the exact octave on the keyboard (if required)
- Even more effective when connected to a MIDI keyboard
- Useful for learning accidentals (level 7)
- Good for helping advanced students improve their key awareness (you can select which keys are tested up to 7 sharps or flats!)
- Great help with coping with commonly used ledger lines
- Currently available in 12 languages!
- Easily played at home or in lessons
- Simple for small children to use (one of my 8 year old students Ffion plays it every morning in the car on the way to school on her iPad mini)
- Adults enjoy it (David, my 69 year old student, loves using it every day connected to his digital piano!)
- You can setup multiple users, each with their own settings if there are more than one student sharing the same iPad (every one of my 47 students has a unique setup)
- There are three speed settings for helping students to gradually improve their response time
- Teaches pupils the essential sight reading skill of ignoring mistakes and carrying on!
- Goes back over any mistakes made in a game for targeted help on specific weaknesses
- iPad or iPad mini with iOS 5.0 or later
Other requirements for advanced function:
- MIDI keyboard or piano (check the connections on the back of the instrument for MIDI)
- Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit (or other MIDI adapter)
- USB cable (either a modern USB cable commonly used to connect printers to computers [male to female] or on older pianos, a MIDI to USB cable)