Day 283 / 365 - SkillsI remember it as though it were yesterday. The song was called “Moonlight and Roses.” I hated that piece. I still do!

With tears streaming down my face, try as I might, I was getting nowhere. My mum patiently sat with me, trying to coax me to work through my frustration but to no avail.

Things just went from bad to worse. As my progress on the song deteriorated, frustration turned to anger. “I HATE this song!” “I HATE my music teacher!” “I want to QUIT my music lessons!” “I GIVE UP!” I screamed, red in the face, anger exploding from every fibre of my 8-year-old body.

What happened next was my mum’s worst and finest hour of parenting! In hindsight, she should have Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

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Count on Tin Pan Rhythm to boost your budding musicians’ understanding of harmonic progressions. Count on the app to trigger arranging skills thanks to the app’s intuitive interface. One more, you can count on students catching on to using the Tin Pan Rhythm  in seconds–I’m not exaggerating–and charge up their creative juices.

Here’s an extended tutorial provided by the developers so I won’t go into details on how the app works. You may not even need to watch the tutorial as it’s so intuitive. I know you’ll enjoy learning the app as you go. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews

teaching piano tools and resources

The intersection of technology and art is key to the evolution of life. One such example is the transition from standard instruments to electronic based instruments. No longer do drums need a special material stretched over the base, nor a piano need strings to sound like a grand piano. With electronic instruments, the world of self-taught musicians is becoming more common. With the surge of mobile apps, musicians are able to learn musical instruments at home, on the train, at the park or even at the beach. Below are a few examples of technology infused with art.

1. Wolfie

One new app that has surfaced is called Wolfie, named after famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Because the study of music is declining in the US and Europe, the idea of combining tech and music learning is essential to keep the attraction of the youth. The app includes a patented Magic Cursor, which follows the notes in real time, allowing students to not lose their place, or miss a note. The app has a wide variety of scores, ranging from beginner to advanced, and constantly adding new scores. After 12 months of development, the app is ready to go!

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Posted in Music & Technology, Product Reviews, Professional Development

Put Your Records OnI remember, as a child, spending many an hour with my record player and LPs (long play vinyl records) in my bedroom. For me, half the pleasure of listening to the music was reading the sleeve notes which often gave up a wealth of fascinating information about the artist, composer, sometimes the instruments used, the recording personnel and the studio. And then there was the cover art which was a marvel in itself.

Of all the music that I listened to, I can’t forget an old Burl Ives record. One of the songs was called “I Know an Old Lady.” Apparently he didn’t “know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die!” I played that album over and over.

As I grew older, I began to realise that listening to an old man singing folk songs was definitely not cool and that if you were to be esteemed in your peer group, you had to be listening to Read more…

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

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This past weekend marked a major milestone in my use of my favorite device, the iPad. I played piano at my niece’s wedding and read all the music scores from my iPad with the help of an app called forScore and turned the pages with my PageFlip Cicada Bluetooth Page Turner Pedal. Ahhh…a match made in heaven!

This decision was due to the fact that the happy couple requested Jon Schmidt’s “Waterfall” as a recessional. As there wouldn’t be time for me to memorize the piece and because I dislike depending on someone else to manage the tricky page turns, I determined this tech-savvy combo was the logical choice. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Performing, Product Reviews

Master classes are my favorite sessions to attend at conferences. Just being in the presence of great teachers is inspiring, and their words of wisdom resonate with me long after the conference. When I teach, I often find myself quoting sayings I heard at master classes and pedagogy sessions I have attended. Some of my favorites are:

The longer the line, the greater the artist” – Jane Magrath

“If you can’t sing, you can’t play – you need to experience it inside” – Scott McBride Smith

“What is musicality? It is decency of the performer. It is the understanding of hidden meanings, connections, and completeness of the composition. It is deliciousness – not just in music, but in art and daily life” – Rozalie Levant

“Sonatinas are celebrations of contrasts” – Marvin Blickenstaff

“If you cut long notes short, you have no rhythm; if you are exact, you are too mechanical; if you are a little too late, ah – you are so musical!” Peter Mack quoting Ingrid Clarfield

“Grow like a tree when you crescendo – start small, eventually becomes magnificent” – Dang Thai Son

“Don’t feel guilty during the crescendo” – Anderson and Roe

“There are 256 pedal nuances” – Byron Janis

“Be a singer, try to be seductive” – Dmitri Rachmanov

“The Rachmaninov line aspires and then it falls down – it realizes everything is hopeless, then it tries again” – Jerome Lowenthal

“People who don’t read newspapers are uninformed, people who read newspapers are misinformed. Editions are opinions only” – John Perry quoting Mark Twain

Learn music through life and learn life through music” – Lang Lang

I take all my conference notes on my iPad. During the recent MTNA National Conference held in Las Vegas, I found the iPad to be an absolutely indispensable tool. Not only did I use it to present my session using Keynotes, I was able to get the most out of the master classes I attended. Here are two memorable experiences:

Intermediate Masterclass with Dr. Scott McBride Smith

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Dr. Scott McBride Smith’s master classes are always audience-engaging. In this master class, he integrated technology and used an innovative slide sharing tool called “slideduet.” Attendees at the master class had the option to scan the QR code or type in the URL provided and view his presentation slides in real time.

These included biographical backgrounds and pictures of each of the student performers, their teachers and various accomplishments, interesting notes about the composers and the pieces being presented, quotes, as well as pedagogical thoughts and detailed analysis of important aspects. This means there was no need to take notes. Instead, I was fully drawn to what’s happening on the stage and inspired by the way Dr. McBride Smith interacted with each of the students.
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Here is the link to all the presentation slides. Notice each slide corresponds to the exact time it was presented during the master class. When I review them, I feel transported back in time to the master class itself!

 

Advanced Masterclass with Dr. Douglas Humphreys

I really liked the format of the advanced master classes of this year’s MTNA Conference:

1. Instead of the usual two to three participants per master class, only one student was featured – this allowed time for very detailed instruction.

2. The master teachers were teachers of the 2014 MTNA piano competition winners – this gave insight to how an extraordinary teacher works in their studio.

Professor Douglas Humphreys was METICULOUS, and this master class was worth every penny. As soon as I found out which piece was being presented, I opened the forScore app, searched for the piece on IMSLP, and downloaded the score onto my iPad. Then, I was able to follow EXACTLY what was going on in the session, as professor Humphreys dissects the piece and guides the extremely talented (and already very good young pianist) to an even higher artistic level. Because a full hour was dedicated to this session, much ground could be covered, and it was a real treat that all three movements of the Bartok Sonata were given attention. In many previous master classes I attended, too many students were assigned per hour; after each student has performed their piece, only 10-15 minutes were left for the teacher to work with the student, and usually we only got to hear how the first page should be played and then time was up! In this master class, it was like sitting in on a private lesson of the highest quality.

To demonstrate how convenient it was to have my iPad with me and how easy it was for me to take notes using the app, here are some snapshots:

 

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Attending master classes is so enriching and necessary for a teacher to continue to grow. The next major music conference in the U.S. will be the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy scheduled for July 29-August 1. Do you plan on attending the master classes?

 

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Posted in Music & Technology, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

More and more students are getting comfortable with learning from home via the internet, whether by making use of videos or online lessons.  I say “getting comfortable” because it really takes a little getting used to.  Technical glitches can make learning frustrating.  If you want to expand your teaching studio to the internet, be sure to think about some of these issues.

The Right Connection Software
Many people use Skype for lessons but I find it cumbersome because you and your  student have to be on each other’s phone list, and you are dependent on each other’s computer quality more than cloud-based systems.  Skype transmits the signals but depends on your computer to have the right software and handle most of the communications work.  Some software have quirky ways of meeting up with people, or low quality images.  But there screenare many systems out there and they are worth experimenting with.

My preference is Zoom.  Biggest plus – it’s simple.  Some systems are Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Teaching Tips

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Imagine a pink elephant. You’ve just used your mind’s eye. Now imagine the tune “Happy Birthday.” You’ve just used your mind’s ear. If you struggled to recreate the tune in your head it means your audiation skills could use some help. Perhaps you (like me) favor reading the score over using the ear. Perhaps you recognize your need to dedicate more time to developing your mind’s ear to build a comprehensive musician skill set? If so, you (and your students!) need Meludia. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews

Drum Sticks“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

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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