Leila Viss

Improvisation is Scary

October 23rd, 2016 by

For some, improvisation is a little scary. It doesn’t have to be with a clever back pocket pattern guaranteed to sound black-cat cool.

As I was planning for the fall, I wanted to include an improvisation activity that would introduce beginners to the idea of creating their own music as well as something to please seasoned improvisers. Thanks to an inspiration while attending a lesson with Bradley Sowash, I came up with a pattern that I call Black Cat Strut.

It’s an accessible improvisation jumpstart that offers tasks for both hands. While the left-hand stays pretty simple it still sounds hip. With the suggested tips, the right hand will get the opportunity to strut its stuff.

Check out this video that shows snippets of improvisers of all levels and ages strutting their chops.

Black Cat Strut is guaranteed to sound pleasing because both hands play something appealing and it’s in minor–always a popular choice for this time of year.

The patterns are suited for anyone at any level because both hands play separately–at least at the first level. In fact, there’s no need to play hands together at all and that’s the beauty of this jumpstart. However, it has just enough sophistication to build on it–suitable for those who are comfortable with improvising.

Here are some tips to help your students CATch on quickly:

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

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Let me tell you about a little secret I’ve been keeping!

All my pupils love it! It’s been handy for helping them learn new songs, especially tricky bits! It’s helped them improve their music reading skills! It’s encouraged a deeper understanding of theory! And best of all it’s free!

So what’s the big secret? Drum roll please…. Noteflight!?!

What does Noteflight do?

Noteflight is easy to use software with which you can create, listen and print out high-quality sheet music notation. And it’s brilliant!!!

Is there a catch?

Not really. Most of my students use the basic version which is free. You can pay a monthly or yearly subscription for extra features but the free version is Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Music Theory, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

MTH has the wonderful option to send Lesson Notes after each lesson. Although designed to simply let parents know what’s assigned or happening at lessons, this is an opportunity to save yourself time and keep your customers informed!

Answering ten unnecessary emails = wasted time!

How many emails do you get asking  questions about schedules or upcoming events, even though you previously sent emails or other correspondence with that exact information? Read more…

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Posted in MTH 101, Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Groove website-3

“Here’s my top tip for musicians interested in becoming better improvisers: Forget the metronome. Practice with backing tracks, those auto-accompaniment loops that inspire, keep you on the beat, and mesmerize you into practice loops.” -Bradley Sowash, jazz improv specialist.

If you aren’t sure how to find or create backing tracks, I’d like to personally invite you to a webinar called “Groove Your Theory. The idea stems from Bradley’s regular use of backing tracks in his lessons and his own practice. We also use them at our 88 Creative Keys keyboard improvisation workshops that Bradley and I co-founded four years ago.

The webinar will be packed full of ideas that will help you save practice (or lesson) time as you compress theory, timing and technique and creativity into one activity. Read more…

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

Microphone

So you are heading off to your first recording session. What tips can help you achieve a great recording? Even if you are just having fun recording yourself in your bedroom, hopefully, the following tips will help.

Before the recording session
•  If this is your first time being recorded, if you can, visit the studio so as to get familiar with the vocal booth setup to help you relax. Even just looking at the photos on the studio website will help.

•  If you are recording a vocal, get familiar with the words, ideally, memorise them and bring a copy to help the producer follow for accuracy as you record.

•  When you rehearse, check that you only take breaths at the end of sentences to avoid spoiling the flow of the phrases.

•  Focus on your performance. What does the song mean to you? Can you “feel” the emotion as you perform?

•  Head to the session wearing Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Student-led Group Class

February 27th, 2016 by

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By Robin Steinweg

How can a visit to a museum turn into a winning student-led group class?

My student, a high school senior, recently visited “the world’s only global music instrument museum,” located in Phoenix, Arizona. She took dozens of photos. Her enthusiasm bubbled over during her lesson.

I love to strike while the iron’s hot! So I asked Sarah if she’d share some of her photos (and excitement) with my other students at a group class.

The Musical Instrument Museum boasts over 6500 instruments on display, from some two hundred different countries or territories. I asked Sarah to choose fifteen or twenty photos, and spend 1-3 minutes telling us about each.

Though I’m sure it was difficult to narrow the field, Sarah chose fascinating subjects. She put them in order on her laptop, and while the rest of the group finished their snacks, Sarah captured their interest completely with her stories of instruments beautiful, rare, ancient, or bizarre.

One showed a metal piano which Steinway & Sons produced during WWII. They were called the “Victory Verticals” or G.I. Models, and some were parachute-dropped to troops fighting in Europe. They included tuning kits and instructions. When I asked my mostly young students why Steinway would do this, they seemed perplexed. One of them thought perhaps it was so they could hold funeral services. This ended up in a discussion about the impact music has on us. To impart courage, bring comfort, lift the spirits, entertain…

Some of the students there have great-grandfathers who served in the military during WWII–so this example touched them.

We ended the class in a state of musical entertainment: with each attendee taking a turn on my ukulele playing “The Hokey Pokey” (quite amusing).

I was so pleased with Sarah’s presentation. She fielded questions like a pro. I am continually impressed with music students’ creativity, maturity, and responsibility. All they need is opportunity.

I hope to find more ways to have a student-led group class!

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music History & Facts, Performing, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

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As students return for lessons after the holidays, why not kick off 2016 with pop music? Surprising your students with some Coldplay along with Chopin–or any favorite tune from the past or the present–could strike just the right balance to keep things interesting during the long winter months ahead.

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the past year and make some revisions for the months ahead.  Has your curriculum remained relatively the same and even become stagnant?  Could you better match the interests of potential and eager customers in your local area by revamping your curriculum and adding some hit tunes from Adele, The Piano Guys or Star Wars?

David Cutler, author of The Savvy Music Teacher, discovered from his extensive research that music teachers who generated substantial (successful) incomes were more likely to integrate three elements into their instruction compared to other teachers who did not. They include: improvisation, technology and multiple musical genres.

Need to spice up 2016? Considering a fresh approach? Ready to integrate more improvisation, technology and musical genres, ie, pop music in to your teaching? Then you will want to sign up for and attend the 88 Creative Keys Winter Webinar Webshop. Watch the video below for more details. Read more…

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

Reversing the learning process

There is a common presumption among music students that learning a piece of music is processed in this order:

1.  The mind tries to understand what’s going on through analysis, reading, listening to the teacher.
2.  The hands are told by the brain what to do so they can practice and learn their job.
3.  The ears serve as audience and judge to see how it comes out.

More and more, I have come to realize that this presumption only serves to frustrate students and slow them down.  For example, some students have trouble being asked to play a note if they do not understand why or how it fits into what they’re working on.  Others might go over a phrase of music several times successfully, and then look up and say that they don’t know how to play it.  A student may play several notes of a musical phrase and have their fingers poised correctly for the next note, but feel they can’t play it because they don’t “know” what comes next. Read more…

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

Leila Viss

How will you play it forward?

December 14th, 2015 by

 

Two weeks ago, my student Addison entered my studio and declared, “I wrote a song for Paris!”

A little puzzled by what he meant, I probed further and learned that he improvised a piece on the piano based on his feelings about the terrorist attacks in Paris and posted it on his YouTube channel. It was Addison’s way of processing the tragedy, paying tribute to the victims, communicating his sorrow and as I thought about it more, this was Addison’s way to give what he could: he wanted to play it forward.

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

Leila Viss

Wolfie App: A New Reality

November 3rd, 2015 by

Ever wonder what the future of piano lessons will look like? The Wolfie app is it: a new reality. In short, it’s a virtual piano book bag for your students packed with power tools.  No more forgotten books or torn pages as the Wolfie Piano iPad App, developed by Tonara, efficiently stores lesson repertoire on the iPad AND much more.

I first experienced Wolfie at their exhibit booth at NCKP 2015, I played a Clementi sonatina on an acoustic piano (MIDI and cables were NOT required) and read the score from the iPad. Wolfie listened to my playing, turned my pages as I progressed through the piece and after I finished, gave me feedback on my timing and pitch reading accuracy. Isn’t this intelligent listening what we as teachers do at a lesson and wish our students had to assist them during their home practice? Loaded with repertoire of all styles,
Wolfie is designed to be YOUR ears and teaching assistant so that your students stay on track and progress between lessons. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Product Reviews