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 know 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

I admit it. I want everyone to be happy; even me! This fall I took a few surveys to help me better understand what behaviors and circumstances promote happy students, happy parents and happy teachers.
It is much easier for me to know which behaviors in my clients make me happy as a teacher. Some of these things are important enough to be included in a policy statement—a place where clear communication can set healthy boundaries and solve problems before they happen.
Here is what I included in my registration packets this fall:
Keep Happy Teacher

Students:

  • be willing to try new things, and new ways of doing old things
  • listen to directions and follow them at home
  • read your assignment notes over at home each week
  • enjoy the songs you are learning
  • have a respectful attitude
  • practice faithfully, and record it in your assignment book
  • smile a lot
  • tell the teacher frequently that you love piano lessons
  • always bring all your books to your lesson
  • participate in studio activities
  • take good care of borrowed books and return them on time

Parents:

  • offer your child support, incentives and encouragement at home
  • set aside practice space and time in your child’s schedule
  • say uplifting things about piano lessons in front of your child
  • provide an adequate instrument on which to practice
  • keep your expectations high, but fairly close to reality
  • help your child participate in studio activities and recitals
  • respond to studio emails in a timely manner
  • rarely cancel lessons, and call ahead on those rare occasions
  • drop off and pick children up on time
  • pay your tuition on time each month, without a reminder
  • call me when you have a concern or problem so we can resolve it
  • remember that I thrive on appreciation, and your kids thrive on praise

That covers my side of things, but what about the students’ or parents’ perspectives? For the last few weeks I have been surveying students and parents from my studio, as well as parents with other teachers in my local association, about what makes them happy with a piano teacher. Below is my compilation of the student and parent responses.
I expected certain things to be high on the parents’ list: keep tuition rates low, limit the number of outside activities, high tech studio, make sure we get our perfect time slot, be flexible with sport schedules, vacations and illnesses, have a location close to school or home, have lots of degrees, certifications and professional performance experience.
I was wrong. Not one of these items was mentioned. Read on to find out what was Read more…

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Posted in Customer Support, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Using MTH Creatively VII – The Ever Changing Schedule

Creating the yearly schedule seem like a daunting task – can become your worst enemy!

Luckily for those instructors putting together their yearly calendar; once you have your MTH calendar complete you may sit back and relax! Getting to that point is the challenge many instructors dread. Read more…

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Posted in Uncategorized, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Yiyi Ku

National Piano Month

September 22nd, 2014 by

Did you know September is National Piano Month?!

Alfred Music has teamed up with Making Music Magazine – Engaging and Inspiring Musicians to give away Alfred’s Teach Yourself to Play Piano Complete Starter Pack.

One lucky winner will receive the Teach Yourself to Play Piano Complete Starter Pack courtesy of Alfred Music.

This prize package includes:

  • high-quality Firebrand™ electric keyboard—full-size keys, 136 preset sounds and 128 rhythms, an illuminated LED keyboard display, built-in speakers, recording functionality, and sheet music stand.
  • Alfred’s Teach Yourself to Play Piano book
  • Audio CD with demo and performance tracks
  • DVD instructional video and software (Mac & PC compatible)

Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music News, Press

We are pleased to announce the following updates on the iOS and Android apps :

We’ve sent an update to Apple with iOS8 updates, bug fixes, and improvements including the time format update. Applying payments to student accounts will be coming in the 2.2 iOS app release soon.

We know you are busy teaching eager music students, but if you haven’t already, please leave the app a review. This is done by clicking the App Store icon, searching Music Teacher’s Helper, clicking our green logo, then Reviews, and Write a Review. This helps with our rankings and allows more teachers to find out about our great community. Thank you!

The Android beta testing has begun and we look forward to a public beta within the next two weeks.

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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Site Announcements, Using Music Teacher's Helper