“I got rhythm…Who could ask for anything more?” – Ira Gershwin

Teaching rhythm to students is a real challenge. Some just “pick it up” naturally and others need, in the words of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “hitting with the rhythm stick!”

So if you have a theory student preparing for an ABRSM exam (or similar), what can be done to inspire them to write a good rhythm worthy of a full 10 marks?

 

Tip 1: “Follow my leader!”

I like to switch my metronome on at around 80 BPM or better still, I’m now using “Drum Beats+” on my iPad. This really easy to use app generates drum loops. A favourite preset of mine is “Phat N Hairy 90,” probably because it describes me quite well! The age I mean!!!

Firstly, I clap or beat out on a percussion instrument a Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Kristin Jensen’s site called Ear Training and Improv offers unique worksheets, videos and posts to spur musical imaginations. Kristin’s growing library of clever resources for music teachers is impressive. Since the special day is coming up shortly, I decided to check out her Mother’s Day Composition activity.

I’m always attempting to find a way to incorporate my favorite tool (the iPad) and prefer to remain a paper-free studio as much as possible. Therefore, I’ve created a tutorial on how your students can complete Kristin’s activity as a digitally handcrafted musical Mother’s Day card with just the iPad and the help of a terrific app, of course!

Take a Peek at a Completed Composition

Here’s a finished project. You’ll notice some slight variations in what was notated and how it was played and sung–creativity can’t be stopped!

Note: Before you begin this process make sure to download Notability developed by Ginger Labs at the App Store. Here’s the link. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Teaching Tips

 

It’s amazing how much can change in a year. I just returned home from the 2015 Music Teachers National Association conference in Las Vegas. When I asked a roomful of teachers to raise their hands if they owned an iPad (yes, I’m partial to Apple products), there was a forest of proud hands. I’m not sure that would have been the case last year. It seems more and more music teachers are favoring the user-friendly device and realizing that apps can truly enhance their teaching. As the app world can be overwhelming,  it’s good to start with those that are recommended by others. That’s how I developed this list below. These are just a few of the many that I integrate regularly into my teaching. I’ve listed only two or three per category and omitted some favorites to keep the list reasonable. To view a more thorough directory of apps for your digital tool box, click here. Links are included but prices are not as they fluctuate frequently. I’ve included a brief sentence on how I use each one or links to posts with further explanation. If the app is available for other operating systems, I’ve indicated that with an asterik.* Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Teaching Tips

The 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

‘Tis the season of preparing students for upcoming contests, festivals and recitals. Here are four performance-enhancing apps that promise to help you help your students to do their best.

 

The Camera simulates the presence of a real audience more than you, the teacher, can provide during a lesson. Once that camera starts rolling, students move into a performance zone and are forced to commit to seeing the piece through with musicality and as few errors as possible. The beauty of the camera is that musicians can see and hear the instant replay, make self-assessments and learn from their mistakes. It’s like a digital mirror that reflects EVERYTHING you may be trying to reinforce at lessons. Bonus? It comes free with any smart phone or tablet!

 

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Posted in Music & Technology, Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

“It’s Too Hard!”

January 28th, 2015 by

5 ways to Help a Student Get Past Overwhelmed

By Robin Steinweg

 

“It’s too hard!”

 

“I can’t do it!” “I won’t do it!” “It’s too hard!”

 

 

 

 

Have you ever heard this from a student? One minute you have a sunny, happy child sitting at their instrument. The next, storm clouds and even threat of waterworks. And all you did was to place a new piece of music in front of them. Or remind them of a technique on which they’ve been working.

  You want me to do WHAT?

If distraction doesn’t work , and neither do our words of reassurance or encouragement, how can we help them get past the tunnel vision that comes with feeling overwhelmed? How can we empower them to see solutions instead of the pessimism of believing they are bound to fail? (try this iPad tool for a distraction technique: Piano Maestro)

Dane shows how he’d look if he felt overwhelmed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are 5 ways to help a student get past “It’s too hard!”

1. Pull out a piece you know the student will love. Maybe it’s a little beyond her level, but she has a passion for this piece.

2. Wait—don’t show the new song to her yet. Copy the piece. Cut apart the treble and bass lines. Start with either one. Place Post-its over every measure but one. Reveal only one measure at a time. If necessary, re-cover the ones she’s already done.

 

 

 

 

3. Stay low-key. Be blasé. Act as if it doesn’t really matter to you—she can play it or not, it’s up to her. The reward is the look on her face when she recognizes the song.

4. If the problem is the stress students feel when they hear themselves flubbing up, have them try out a measure on their lap. Then they’ll have gotten through it pain-free before trying it on their instrument.

5. Use humor. Example: a piano student got stressed about lightening up a heavy hand. I’d tried images of a bird lighting, a feather floating down on the keys… those only caused frustration. But when I said to imagine a hippo plummeting to the keys, he found it hilarious, and the problem was solved! Now all I have to do is sketch a hippo head on the page (or use hippo stickers) and his hands are balanced and light.

 

Next time you hear “It’s too hard!” give one (or all) of these a try.

 

 

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Teaching Tips

 

After you received your undergrad music degree, performed a stellar recital of the classics, turned in that
lofty thesis, passed a professional accreditation exam or somehow earned shiny, new initials behind your name, you probably felt a great sense of achievement. Perhaps you felt like I did? After I received my Master of Arts in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, I felt my career was professionally wrapped up and ready to launch. Although my intent is not to discount the importance of the academic achievements listed above, I’m wondering if you–like me–had your bubble burst, your box tipped upside down and your bow unraveled when you entered the real world of piano teaching? Yes, I could play and teach Beethoven and Ravel, I could design a sequential curriculum for early learners but when asked to read from a lead sheet, my skills fell embarrassingly short. Read more…

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

Can you relate to this?

Do you have students who constantly feel ‘the need to look’ at their hands when sight reading and learning music on the piano?  Perhaps they try to memorise the music quickly before they have learnt it sufficiently, then make many mistakes when playing it because they have forgotten what is actually in the music?

Do these students also regularly lose their place in the music and therefore get annoyed with their playing?  The answer would be “Oh yes they do” in my experience.

I needed a solution that works well for me and my students in order to stop ‘the need to look’ at their hands.

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Ed Pearlman

Music Is Not Alone!

December 16th, 2014 by

My friend Mary was cornered by a 4th grade student one day, who told her, “You’re pretty smart, for a music teacher.”

Mary asked the little girl why she thought most music teachers weren’t so smart.

“Because you only teach singing and playing instruments.  Can you multiply?  Can you divide?  Can you do fractions?”

How would you answer this little girl?

Does this tell us something about our compartmentalized world?  The little girl was learning music but should she have been  taught the connections music has with everything else?

Should music teachers make these connections obvious?  Or are we so intent on making music fun and doable, or on accomplishing specific tasks involved in learning a skill or satisfying a curriculum, that we don’t have time or mental space to tie things together as we teach?

I find that making connections in music learning to people’s work lives, to school subjects, to decisionmaking, to learning, help people learn music better.  But I can’t say I methodically connect all the dots.  Do you?

Below are some connections meant as food for thought for music teachers.  (And please, add any subjects or angles that you feel are missing!) Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

It will be hard to outdo the Christmas gift given to my student families last year. The savvy keepsake came to me when I saw that it was possible to link a video to a QR code and print the codes on stickers.

FYI: A QR code (short for Quick Response) is a specific matrix bar code (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR bar code readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded on a QR code can be text, a URL link or other data like a video.

I bribe my students with Music Money. (Read more about it here.) They are given the chance to shop and spend their hard-earned cash various times during the year at my studio store and as a result, they accumulate many trinkets and gifts.  Because of this bribery system, it seemed appropriate to give the parents of my students a gift instead for the holiday season. A handmade item crafted by their adored, budding musician seemed appropriate and definitely more meaningful than any store-bought item. This line of thought triggered the idea of students designing cards with QR code stickers for their parents. more

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Posted in Music & Technology, Performing, Teaching Tips