music teaching business

A lot of teachers of music, especially private ones, just fell into this line of work. Someone asked them to show them a few chords and one thing led to another. This is fine. But if at some point you find yourself really beginning to love teaching others, you need to start thinking of it as your career and your business. And teaching music is a business.

Systematization

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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

have-you-forgotten-girl

Decades away from my childhood, I recently encountered some experiences, events, and resources that sparked memories of what it’s like to be a kid. I’ve been taken back to those feelings of curiosity, insecurity, excitement and anxiety cast in the mindset of a kid. Mmm…as an adult I still have those same feelings–when does that change? Regardless, sometimes it really is important to take the time to feel like a kid again. It may just kick start your approach to lesson time and help you understand the little human looking up to you for guidance.

What triggered these memories and feelings? Not a trip to the fountain of youth or a special vitamin; rather, these four things:

#1 Online Workshop

Have You Forgotten What It’s Like to Be a Child is a recently released online workshop produced by Wendy Stevens of ComposeCreate.com. In her unique perspective as a mom, teacher, and composer, Wendy offers:

  • The 5 characteristics of childhood that we forget
  • Scores of practical ways to apply this knowledge to help our students leave every single lesson feeling excited and competent
  • Secrets to composing effective elementary piano music that Wendy uses as a composer.

I enjoyed watching her uncover the psyche of a child and how

  • That influences her composing
  • It can enhance your teaching
  • It helps you engage in activities that connect with those who like to wiggle while warming your bench or chair.

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#2 Online Group Lessons

Signing up for lessons in something that you are not proficient will immediately help you recount those feelings of sitting in the hot seat as a child! I’ve taken online improvisation lessons with Bradley Sowash for a couple of years.

Being forced to reckon with new ways of playing my favorite instrument away from the page was humbling and exhilarating at the same time. What’s even better is that Bradley is now teaching online group lessons. This allows many of us read-only players to observe each other learn and expand our improvisational skills in a supportive, interactive environment.

I can’t tell you how many have exclaimed with child-like enthusiasm as they explore their creative side: “This is SO fun!”

Wonder_Cover_Art

#3 A Book

On one of my Pinterest excursions (I limit myself to one, maybe two per week!) I pinned 13 Non-Professional Books that Have Made Us Better Teachers. I immediately went to my Amazon account and placed them all in my cart. The first one to arrive at my door was Wonder by R.J.Palacio.

A book usually doesn’t bring me to tears but this one did more than once and even on an airplane! A few tears of sorrow, but more of the uninhibited sort. Tears that sprang up from my soul. Does that make sense?

Wonder is one book NOT to miss as it is told through the lens of a 5th-grader with….well, you’ll find out.

Go now and get it. Here’s a link.

Find the entire list of recommended books at We Are Teachers  which is also pinned on my Pinterest board Advice for Teachers. The next book I’ll be reading: Outliers: The Story of Success by Gladwell.

#4 An App

rhythm-swing

I’ve always been a fan of apps but it really hit me how much impact they can have on a kid.  A beginning piano student eagerly explained to me with confidence the name and duration of a half note. I had explored the concept with her at lessons and then assigned her to review the note value with the app called Rhythm Swing. The app offers three modes for each note value:

  • Learn (a video explains the concept)
  • Practice (offers the child instruction on how to use the app to master the concept)
  • Play (invites the child to master the concept by playing the correct rhythm and thus saving the cute monkey from the alligator.)

What I noticed is that reaching this child in a context of structured instruction with gamification (a fancy word for learning through game playing) led her to a clear understanding of half notes. I’ve sensed it for years but it was made even more clear to me that…

Clever apps that combine fun with learning connect with kids.

You can learn more about how I integrate Rhythm Swing and additional apps into my teaching here.

Is is time for you to feel like a kid again? If not now, make some room on your calendar and try out one or all four of these suggestions. Your students will thank you.

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

teaching young kids music

Have you ever been asked to teach music to a 3 or 4-year-old? Do you turn them down? It’s completely within your right to only teach older students. Some teachers just prefer to have students start at an older age, and that’s fine. Let me try to make a case for taking younger students, though.

If your studio is not yet full, you’re turning away income and perhaps discouraging a parent from getting lessons for their child until they are older. There are real benefits to early childhood music lessons that I don’t think should be ignored.

When Can Young Children Start?

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

5 Ways to Start Composing

September 14th, 2016 by

composing music techniques

There is nothing quite like the thrill of writing your own piece of music or helping your student to compose but sometimes it can be extremely hard to get started. What can you do to get the ball rolling as it were?

1 Numbers: A great idea I picked up the other week is to pick an easy key, roll three or four dice and convert the numbers (1-6) into degrees of the scale to generate the start of a melody. For example, say we picked G major and the numbers were 3, 4 and 1, that would equate to B (3rd note of the scale of G major), C (4th) followed by G (1st). After toying with these three notes, you should be inspired to know what comes next. If not, roll again! You could try something similar with a phone number. After writing out the number, cross out any zeroes or nines (not degrees of the scale) and see what happens!

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Hi Everyone. It’s almost here! Soon, you’ll be able to access all the features we’ve been announcing the past few weeks. And we’ll announce just a few more below. Of course, this is just one set of new features we’ll be releasing this year.

We’re working hard to get them ready for you, and update our software code so we can release features much faster moving forward. We’re excited about all the ways we’re continuing to make Music Teacher’s Helper even better for you so that you can run your studio more easily and effectively and connect better with your students. Thank you for your patience.

As a reminder, we’re first releasing these features as a beta version and instructions will follow for access.

software for music teachers

Improved calendar filtering and searching, and option to show student birthdays automatically on calendar

Filtering options are moving to above your calendar, and we’ve made it easier to see what’s filtered and to change it. You also have the option to show student birthdays and blocked dates automatically on the calendar.

Option to charge a per-person fee for an event

Special events or group lessons that require different pricing can be accommodated with per-person fees. With group lessons, you can track attendance and charges separately.

Set custom attendance statuses, and whether or not they’re billable

Create your own attendance statuses in your Studio Settings, and set whether or not they’re billable. Some example statuses could be: Teacher Absent (not billable) or Student Late (billable).

We’ll be sending an email as well as an in-software announcement when the Beta option is available. Keep an eye out for the announcement and if you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact support. Have a great week!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

Robin Steinweg

Utterly Unique

September 9th, 2016 by

Other teachers said these things to me recently: “I’m just a small-town music teacher.” “It’s all been taught before.” “I don’t say anything new. It’s all been said before.” But not by you. You and your teaching are utterly unique.

Teachers with wonderfully creative ideas write online. Some of them compose songs we purchase for our students. Others create teaching strategies and games. Those aren’t your gifts? Don’t let that discourage you!

You leave a fingerprint on each student’s life…

Think about this. You leave a fingerprint on each student’s life. Utterly unique. Yes, many others have taught the same pieces. They’ve used the same materials. The same words will have been said. But not by you.

I recall the impact of various musicians on my own life. My mother left me a legacy to love music; to make music; to live and laugh music. My first private music teacher impressed me with her pretty voice. But I also picked up her touch on the piano, which I see passed on to my own students. A musician I met only once spoke two sentences that shaped my musical destiny. Other teachers plucked weeds, watered, fed and shone on me as I grew. A professor provided my first playing gig. Each of them impacted my life: utterly unique. Even a negative experience with a teacher helped shape me into a better person.

I’ve had students who no way in this world were going to sing or compose their own songs. But I nudged them. Now they’re making money at it.

Each student comes to you at a particular time of vulnerability. No one else will see him or her exactly the way you do. No one else will relate the way you do. The encouragement you speak at this time can change the course of a life. A word dropped by you might nourish words spoken by others. Your influence might inspire a student to drop a harmful thought pattern. You might provide an oasis. What if you’re the only one who really listens? You are undoubtedly providing a mode of expression that can last a lifetime.

So be encouraged, music teacher. Leave your utterly unique fingerprint on that life.

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Hi everyone! I know we’re emailing you a lot lately, but there are so many new features and improvements we’re excited about that we know you’re going to love. In addition to the dozens we’ve already announced, here are several more you’ll get to start using soon.

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New Lesson Swapping Feature

If you have a full roster or keep a tight schedule, you may encounter multiple requests for schedule changes each month. This can be time-consuming with all the emailing and calling students to switch. This feature allows parents/students to opt-in to lesson swapping, where they can submit a request to other students to swap lesson times. Students will feel guilt-free requesting a swap without having to “bug the teacher”. And for you – no more mediating or wasting time on swapping lessons for your students. Let this highly requested feature handle it for you!

EditLessonFinal

Simpler Process for Creating and Editing Lessons and Events Right from Calendar Screen

Click and create an event within seconds by selecting a student’s name and time. Add details such as location, duration, and rate or allow it to default on your most common answers to save even more time. Clicking an existing event allows you to see important lesson information at once without having to jump to different screens. You can also easily edit event information right from the calendar pop-up.

Easier Online Booking for Students (Instant Booking)

Students can choose from your available time without you having to create specific lessons slots on the calendar. Mark your availability and unavailability and receive a notification once a new lesson is booked.

New Location View on Calendar

In addition to month, week, and day view, sort a day’s events on your calendar by location as a column for comparison. This can be helpful if you have a mix of lessons in your home studio, students’ homes, or additional places.

New Agenda View on Calendar

See all events listed out without empty space in between. This will be convenient to scan many events at once.

Set Default Category and Location

If you primarily teach one instrument and from one place, such as a home studio, setting a default category will save time when creating a new lesson event. If you teach multiple instruments and/or locations, selecting which is easy but setting the most common as default saves time.

Thank you for using Music Teacher’s Helper. These new features will make a big difference in how you run your studio and we’re so excited to make them available shortly!

Please don’t hesitate to contact support with any questions. Have a great weekend!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

The dozens of Beta options launching shortly will be made available by opting in from your Settings page. We’ll provide instructions when that becomes available. If you haven’t seen the prior feature announcements, please reference the blog posts from August published here. We’ll have two more announcements this week rounding out the list.

Below are a few more features that will be available right away when the Beta becomes available:

Track Leads

Tracking leads will allow you to separate students who’ve expressed interest, from those who you’ve agreed to teach but who are simply waiting for an opening in your schedule (“Waiting List”). You’ll be able to select and email individual leads or select all and send a mass email out to your potential students. Once a potential student signs up for lessons, changing their status to “Active” is easy and all their existing information carries over.

See a Student’s Details, Lesson History, Payment History, and Practice Info All Within the Student’s Profile in the Student Management Area

No more clicking through different parts of the program to get a full picture of what’s going on with a student. See everything related to the student in one place, including an unlimited number of contacts for parents or grandparents who want to receive lesson or payment notifications.

Simpler Process for Creating Students

Quickly add a student with just their name and rate, or fill in more details as needed. (Or just a name if they’re a lead or on your Waiting list). In the near future, we’ll be adding a student import feature. More to come on that!

Customize Columns That Show on the Student List

Choose which columns you want to see on the student list. With 18 fields to choose from, you can decide which information is most important for you to see at a glance, whether a student’s default rate, their parent’s email address, skill level, and more. You’ll also have the ability to set whether you want the student’s first or last name to appear first throughout the site.

Update information for multiple students at once

Select one, some, or all students to quickly update the student(s) status, change their rates, reset their make-up lesson credits, and send login info all at once from the Student List. This will save time if you decide to raise your lesson rates, stop teaching for the summer, or when a student or parent forgets their login.

Customize cancellation policy settings

Choose whether to allow an automatic lesson cancellation and customize the amount of time leading up to a lesson such as one day or six hours. Set rules for canceling prior to or after the lesson time. For instance, if cancelled before your set deadline, a student can automatically be marked absent and allowed to schedule a make-up. Inversely, if a student cancels after the deadline, you may choose to automatically charge for the lesson if that is part of your studio policy.

Customize make-up policy settings

If you allow students to schedule make-up lessons, you can set the expiration for their make-up credit along with a reminder email, again with a custom set advanced notice, so they don’t forget to use the credit.

Thanks for using Music Teacher’s Helper and we look forward to hearing your feedback for the Beta option once it becomes available. Look out for a few more announcements this week describing additional features.

Thank you!

-Andrew & the entire Music Teacher’s Helper Team

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

Teaching Tempo

One fundamental question that lurks in the mind of students is:  “How am I ever going to play this music up to tempo?”

Many teachers have standard methods for speeding up a student’s playing, but there are several interesting ideas to consider on this subject, and they reflect different priorities about how to play music.

Perhaps the most common method for learning to play at tempo is to first learn the notes solidly at a comfortable tempo.  Then practice the music at slowly increasing metronome settings so as to arrive eventually at the correct tempo.

While I think this approach is valid, its weakness is that it sets the highest priority on getting all the notes right.

Tempo is not about the notes but about the beat.  One way to learn to play up to tempo might be to understand the beat first, and then fill in the beats with the correct notes.

Placing a high priority on understanding the beat means physically moving to the beat, which could involve the knee, the foot, swaying, breathing, and for string players requires a strong focus on good and consistent bowing.
Instead of reading the music as if every note was as important as every other, the student who focuses on beat notes would single out those beat notes for awareness and emphasis.

A good exercise for the student to try is to learn the beat notes for a passage of music, and then to invent ways of arriving at those beat notes on time.  If the student has heard the piece a number of times, the chances are good that their ears will guide them to actually play the correct notes.  But even if they are unsure, they can learn a great deal from finding their own pathways from one beat note to the next.

At heart, this is improvising, but it doesn’t really matter what we call it.  The learning process is that after inventing their own ways to get from one beat note to the other, they will appreciate better the choices the composer made, and will remember the music better because they will understand it from the inside, instead of merely memorizing what the music tells them to play.

Of course, the problem of playing the correct notes up to tempo still requires learning the notes.  But learning them in the context of arriving at the next beat note, and within the structure of a phrase, makes it far easier to learn the notes.

A good comparison can be made with speech.  It is far easier, quicker and longer-lasting to learn to say the phrase, “I like this music up to tempo,” than to learn the sequence, “i-l-i-k-e-t-h-i-s-m-u-s-i-c-u-p-t-o-t-e-m-p-o.”  Placing the notes within the beats, right from the start and engages the ears and the muscle memory of the fingers.

Special note:  A corollary to this discussion is that as much as we may want to get every note right, some notes are more important than others.  The beat notes are clearly the top priority for hearing music correctly.  This means we can relax a little about non-beat notes and trust students and ourselves to nail them down during the learning process, rather than panic about mistakes.  This too has a correlation to speech.  Our brains understand sentences that are misspelled if the first and last letters, and length of the word, are correct.  For example, we can understand, “I lkie tihs misuc up to tmepo” much more easily than if the initial letters were wrong:  “I klie to aply umsci up to etmpo.”

Cognitive studies have shown that drilling the same thing over and over fatigues the brain and yields diminishing returns.  Practicing something in different ways, trying new ideas, and playing games with learning, have been shown to allow for endless attention from the brain.

Learning notes as written and then drilling a passage at increasing speeds can be quite tiring and may have to be repeated many times to get lasting results.

But thinking a little bigger, placing the priority on learning the beat notes, improvising pathways between beats, then finding out the composer’s choices and learning them, noticing patterns within beats such as scales and arpeggios that lead to the next beat note, or even learning manageable bits of the music, such as phrases or half-phrases, up to tempo immediately rather than gradually — these are all intriguing games that allow a student to play up to tempo while gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for the construction of the music.  They’ll build in more musicality while arriving more quickly at their goal of playing up to tempo.

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Posted in Practicing, Teaching Tips

Andrew

More New Features on the Way

August 23rd, 2016 by

We hope your week is off to great start. We’re working hard on the new features and wanted to give you a description of a bunch more you’ll get to start using soon. We are continuously testing the features and hope to have the Beta option available at the end of August or first days of September. We promise to keep you updated. Thank you for your patience. Check out the other posts from this month to learn about additional new features.

Easily Add Multiple Phones Numbers on an Account

In addition to creating separate contacts for a student alone, each with their own email address and phone number, you’ll also be able to add multiple phone numbers for a single contact.

Email Students Directly from Student List with Improved Advanced Search Options

You won’t need to go to a separate page to email your students anymore. You’ll be able to do it right from the Student List, filtering the ones you want with our powerful new Advanced Search options. Also, you’ll love the faster searching and sorting of the student list.

Emailing music students

Email Templates Moved to Settings & Enable Sorting for “My E-mail Templates.”

Email templates will now be with notification settings. This simplifies the menus and reduces the amount of navigation needed. Additionally, to search your email templates more easily, they will be sortable by alphabetical order. This will be most helpful for studios with many email templates.

Auto-save Draft of Email Messages While Writing

Never worry about losing an unfinished email to a student or parent again. Your email messages will auto-save every few seconds. If you close out your window, you’ll find your email under drafts right where you left off!

Send SMS Notifications to Student/Parent

Some families receive too much email, and text messaging can be a preferred choice to receive communication. We’ve added five SMS notifications to give you more options. The new notifications are:

  • Late payment reminders

  • Lesson reminders

  • Payment Receipt

  • Invoice Notification

  • Reset Password

  • Practice Reminder

Under the Messages tab within Settings, choose which notifications you want to send via text as well as unselect any contacts that don’t want text messages. We’ll provide pre-drafted message templates to get you started. You can customize each template to fit your personal style.

Student/Parent Opt-out of Automatic Notification and Text Messaging (SMS) 

If not all of your families want to receive lesson notes, you no longer need to keep track of which families enjoy lesson notes and which families prefer not to receive them.

The new notification options allow you to edit the templates for 15 notification types and choose which ones to send or not.

Login as a Student Directly From the Student List

Quickly login to a student’s account so you can show your student or parent how to log practice time or add their payment information. This will be more convenient and not require you to know a student’s login information.  Thank you for using Music Teacher’s Helper, and for your input. We’ve been listening to your requests and our team has been working hard to bring these new updates to you. We’re very excited to get them up, and we’d love to hear what you think, and any other ideas you have for how we can serve you better.

Thank you for using Music Teacher’s Helper, and for your input. We’ve been listening to your requests and our team has been working hard to bring these new updates to you. We’re very excited to get them up, and we’d love to hear what you think, and any other ideas you have for how we can serve you better.

Please don’t hesitate to contact support with any questions. Have a great rest of the week!

Thank you!

-Andrew & the entire Music Teacher’s Helper Team

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Posted in New Features and Fixes