whiplashIs there a takeaway for music teachers from the movie Whiplash?

**Spoiler alert!   If you haven’t seen the film yet, check it out on DVD, and then come back and join the discussion. **

First things first.  There’s no doubt that the character of Fletcher is nothing short of mentally ill, but more of that later.  Let’s look at what the movie can tell us about music and teaching.

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Posted in Music News, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

fairyland_in_treble_coverThe King and the Dragon!

The King’s trusted advisor came bursting through the door! “My Lord, we are being attacked!”

“Fear not,” said the wise old King. “We shall use my secret weapon, The Great Red Dragon!”

To cut the first of eleven fairy stories short, that appear in composer Nikolas Sideris’ brand new piano duet book, the King saves the day through clever trickery and wins the respect of his people!

After I finished reading this two paged story, one of eleven written especially by Nefeli Tsipouridi, I couldn’t wait to turn over the page and start playing the first composition in the book. I was inspired!

But oh no! I was alone at the piano and this is a duet book!

Fortunately, thanks to modern technology, each primo part has a QR code on the side of the title, so all I needed to do was hold my tablet up and the next moment a well-recorded performance of the composer playing the secondo part began to my delight. (There is a link in the introductory pages of the book that you can visit to download the mp3 files if you prefer)

And wow, what an adventure! With the words of the story I had just read still ringing in my ears, I was transported to the centre of the scene with composer, Nikolas Sideris’, evocative music. We battled evil forces with every twist and turn Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

We made a visual to show the impact our users had on a recent Donorschoose.org Giving Page to benefit music school classrooms.
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Posted in Music News, Press

Yiyi Ku

National Piano Month

September 22nd, 2014 by

Did you know September is National Piano Month?!

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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)

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music News, Press

Make-it-stickA ten-year study of learning, just published 6 weeks ago, has come up with some surprising conclusions.   One is that drilling a passage of music over and over is not the way to master it.  For some students and teachers, this will come as a shocker!

Below I’ll discuss details about the book, its authors, and a link to a summary article online, but let’s get into the meat.

It turns out that working in a focused way on one thing yields results, but they’re only temporary.  One example is the way someone might cram for a test and get by, but then forget most of the material soon after.  But it applies to learning music or any other subject as well.

A couple of other strategies work much better than single-minded practice, if the goal is mastery and long-term results.  Read more…

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Posted in Music News, Practicing, Teaching Tips

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Yes, Yiyi, is just as nice in person as she looks in a pic!

I’m still catching up on sleep after my return from the Music Teachers National Association Conference in Chicago. Attending dynamic sessions, and intense meetings, hanging with favorite peeps from around the nation, meeting Facebook friends in person and of course enjoying scrumptious meals took their toll on my sleep patterns. At the same time, what I absorbed will provide that much needed energy to reinvigorate my teaching.

Before I share more about my unique experience and the reason behind the title of this blog, here’s a couple of things I wish to mention.

Music Teachers Helper at MTNA

First, Music Teachers Helper should be proud and pleased with Yiyi Ku’s presentation on the terrific features of MusicTeachersHelper.com. This important tool has become irreplaceable to me. I’m sure those who attended Yiyi’s session learned what they were missing and signed up thanks to her comprehensive coverage of this online, savvy assistant.

The Full Scoop at MTNA Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music News, Professional Development

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

The Music Teachers National Association conference is held every year at different locations throughout the US and Canada. This year it was held at Disneyland (nuts!) and it was magical. The reason I say magical is that it seems the tides are changing.  Here’s how my colleague and business partner, Bradley Sowash called it:

Bradley unlocking the secrets of chord symbols. His tips are incredible!

I’ve just returned from the Music Teacher’s National Association conference in CA where I was fortunate to serve as chair of the jazz/pop track along with project manager Leila Viss [that’s me].  I’ve been swimming upstream on the subject of teaching creativity as a necessary ingredient to comprehensive musicianship at music teacher meetings all over the country for several years.  So it was with particular delight to find that we could attract a packed room of teachers for nine hours of sessions with experts on the subject of teaching popular music styles, improvisation and creativity. 

It seems the old model of only teaching the “masters” using only the written page is finally giving way to a more balanced approach or as someone at the conference quipped, “the Queen Mary (of music education) is slowly turning.”  I can get even more dramatic by declaring, “The eye/ear revolution has begun!”  Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music News, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Yiyi Ku

The Holidays are Here

November 26th, 2012 by

Every year I organize a studio holiday recital. This is our biggest recital of the year. While the more advanced students usually play their classical repertoire, most elementary-intermediate students like to play holiday/popular music for the festive season. I am on the look out for new holiday/popular music for my students, which include young beginners, budding intermediates, serious competition-ready musicians, teenagers that listen to Justin Bieber and Carrie Underwood, and adults who enjoy Christian melodies and soothing new-age styles. With this diversity in mind, the following new titles have caught my eyes.

Christmas Solos for Students, arranged by Tom Gerou

This is a collection of three books, containing graded solos that range from late elementary to intermediate levels. They are carefully arranged with students in mind for technical accessibility and immediate appeal! Tom Gerou’s style is fresh, with pianistic figurations, clever but simple use of ties and dotted rhythms, and unexpected harmonic turns that involve frequent use of 6ths and 7ths, these arrangements of timeless holiday classics will bring students and their audiences lots of joy! Read more…

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