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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

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

When a Group Class Goes Off Course

By Robin Setinweg

What do you do when a group class goes off course?

“It couldn’t. It wouldn’t!” you say. Well, after successful group classes for years, it happened. And it was probably all my fault.

What was I thinking? Spring weather had just begun. That makes squirrely kids. It was right before spring break. That makes kids mega-squirrely. I made it a pizza party. That brings in higher numbers. And—here’s the biggie—I did not recruit help. I didn’t make sure any older students were attending. So I had oodles of young ones, and no older ones with whom to pair them up. Yikes.

It started great. I had three pizzas cooked ahead. I cut them to give my young learners a visual of whole notes, half notes, quarters, and eighths. They had to ask for the number of eighths they wanted to eat, and tell me how many quarter notes they took, or dotted quarter, etc. (nobody got a whole note!). But then the fun started.

Without supervision.

I was kept busy putting pizzas in, taking them out, cutting them and pouring beverages. So the party became quite noisy and full of high spirits. They weren’t naughty or ill-behaved—these are good kids! Just over-the-top energy and behavior. Which meant it was nearly impossible to get them back.

I had learning games planned. I swapped one in to quiet them down. I played a CD, and they were to draw how it made them feel. I spent the next 10 minutes answering questions like, “Can I draw the London Bridge?” and comments like, “Did you know the London Bridge was moved to (some city here in the States) in (some year I missed)?”

When the quiet music time became noisy due to high spirits, and I astutely realized this was not accomplishing the quiet mood I’d thought it would, I moved on to another game.

I think, by the final game, some music facts sank in. I had four chairs set up, with students on them. Each was a quarter note. We counted them. Remove one or more, the counting stays the same, because after all, rests take as much space up as notes (the chair is still there, simply unoccupied). They needed to decide how to make a half note, whole note, dotted half. Only one student was tall enough to lie across all four chairs to make that whole note.

I know they had fun, and they got the point through some games. But I also know I was done-in. I should have had help. I hope to help you avoid “when a group class goes off course.”

Have you ever had a group go amiss? Can you laugh about it now? Comments welcome!

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

breaking mental barriers teaching music

Research shows that playing music involves the firing of neurons in multiple areas of the brain at once.  (See my previous post on this.)  And yet many, if not most, learners, and I would venture to say most teachers as well, emphasize verbal and conscious control in the playing of a musical instrument.

I suspect that this emphasis on control not only hinders the musicality and facility of students, but also places improvisation and learning by ear out of the box, as if they’re difficult or unusual.

If the brain fires in many places at once, then clearly the verbal and executive centers are not all there is to playing music.  Is it possible for teachers to help nurture the nonverbal and subconscious activity that is essential to playing music? Read more…

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

music books

By Robin Steinweg

Books can be effective learning tools in our studios. February brings a couple of library observances: the 6th is “Take your child to the Library” day, and the 14th is “Library Lovers” day.

Here are 5 ways to include books in February (or anytime) lessons:

1. For a beginner learning piano keys or notes on the staff, every time sleep or bedtime is suggested in a book, the student places erasers or other tokens on the B-E-D keys, plays those notes on their instrument, places tokens on the correct lines/spaces of the staff, or draws them on a staff (Goodnight Already -Jory John & Benji Davies or Snoozefest -Samantha Berger). This would also work with a drawn guitar fingerboard.

The same thing can be done with other books and notes: D-A-D (The Daddy Book -Todd Parr; Oh, Daddy! –Bob Shea)

C-A-B-B-A-G-E (Cabbage Moon –Tim Chadwick; The Giant Cabbage –Cherie Stihler)

B-E-E-F (Cows in the Kitchen –June Crebbin; When Pigasso Met Mootisse –Nina Laden

E-G-G (Green Eggs & Ham –Dr. Seuss; An Egg is Quiet –Dianna Hutts Aston)

2. What books can be used to drill rests? Stop Snoring Grandpa –Kally Mayer (a rest whenever Grandpa snores); Last Stop on Market Street -Matt de la Pena (a rest whenever the bus stops)

Again, choose spots in the book ahead of time, and whenever you come to them, students find a particular rest in a piece of sheet music for their tokens, or draw rests.

3. Students learning the interval of a 5th could drill the circle of 5ths notes or keys along with Around the Clock -Roz Chast or Croc Around the Clock –Andrea Pollock

4. If your student is far enough along, perhaps they’d like to create sound effects on their instrument to go with a book: Whoops! -Suzi Moore & Russell Ayto, What the Ladybird Heard -Julia Donaldson, or Listen to My Trumpet! –Mo Willems. Really ambitious? Let them make up one or more themes for the characters in Peter and the Wolf. Afterward, let them hear Prokofiev’s version. What might they do with I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly -Nikki Smith? This activity can be done with a group!

5. Also for a group, you might create (or help your students create) a “Stomp-type” score for a book. Try The Phlunk’s Worldwide Symphony –Lou Rhodes.

Since Library Lovers Day is also Valentine’s Day, your tokens might be conversation hearts or red-pink-white M&Ms.

If your library doesn’t carry these books, try the inter-library loan, purchase them for your own library, or download them on your Kindle.

There are far more than 5 ways to include books in lessons, but these should get your thinker going. MTH readers would love to hear if you incorporate books in lessons!

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Posted in Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

Teaching Grouping

December 6th, 2015 by

21 The Coins of the Money Changers

I always found the rhythmic grouping of notes and rests very difficult to explain to students. How do you try and explain this concept to your theory and composition pupils?

Here’s an idea I stumbled on recently which seems to be helping: “money, money, money!”

• Before attempting to beam notes up into the correct groups, I first lay out a mixed selection of coins equivalent to four pounds sterling (I’m from England but the principle is the same whatever the coinage of your country. You can use real money or plastic play money).

• I then ask the pupil to organise the coins into four stacks equal to one pound, no more no less. The principle that this exercise demonstrates to them is that Read more…

photo by:

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

Created by Kent State University’s School of Music, this inforgraphic shows that music not only has educational merit, but that it can be used to close the educational gap among students and schools. As a private teacher, how much do you value the importance of music in schools? Or what is your reaction to the data in the below visual? Let us know in the comments.

Using Music to Close the Educational Gap
Kent State Online Master of Music in Music Education

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Music Theory

Robin Steinweg

Games/Activities Binder

November 4th, 2015 by

I need help to stay organized. I need inspiration to stay creative. To that end, I keep three binders near. My Command Central binder (studio administration) and Student Files binder (information) help with efficiency. But this one is pure fun. Educational, of course. But fun! My Games/Activities binder.

Games/Activities Binder

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When a student needs help with rhythm or note identification, there it is. When I want group games, it’s there. A wiggly youngster in need of off-seat time? There.

I tend to live in the moment. If an item is out of sight, it can cease to exist. The binder nudges my memory.

The Games/Activities binder has a 3-ring pouch of colorful dry-erase markers. Plastic sheet protectors make activity sheets reusable. Write on and wipe off. Pages can be swapped quarterly.

highlighters kept in the games/activities binder

Activities may include:

  • Mazes
  • Search-and-Find (like Where’s Waldo?)
  • Flash card games
  • Card games
  • Color-by-Code
  • Note-identification word games
  • Word searches
  • Crossword and other puzzles
  • Trace the symbols
  • Match the ______________
  • Find the patterns (snatches of music)

screammatchboxnew              game, music 1

Categories:

  • Notes
  • Rhythm
  • Intervals
  • Ear Training
  • Symbols
  • Assignment Sheet masters for piano, voice and guitar
  • Theory
  • Scales & arpeggios
  • Sight-reading
  • Key identification
  • Improvisation
  • Composition
  • Famous composers & their creative friends (authors, artists…)
  • Music history
  • Ideas (for future group classes/games)
  • Snacks (for group classes/recitals)
  • Resources and wish list

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I use an Excel spreadsheet as an index. At a glance, I have the title, supplies needed and location of each, skills/areas covered, age and level, season, and number of players.

Bulky games might be on a shelf or in a drawer.

Twister

Certain game pieces are stored separately. Then they can be used for several games. Some games are on iPad.

A number of music teacher bloggers include games and activities on their sites. My resource page includes their links. I highlight games I’d like for my studio.

Here are just a few:

Wendy Stevens                                       www.ComposeCreate.com

Three Cranky Women                            http://tcwresources.com/about.php

Joy Morin—Color in my Piano               http://ow.ly/TvUbW

Office Playground (desk toys, etc)        http://ow.ly/Twnfy

Teach Piano Today (Piano Game Club) http://pianogameclub.com/

Diane Hidy’s Toolbox                             http://dianehidy.com/my-toolbox/

What methods help you manage your studio? How do you keep the creativity in your teaching? Leave a comment!

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Posted in Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

“Raise a Cup…”

September 6th, 2015 by

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This month, my blog is a simple one (like me!). I’ve stumbled on a cheap idea for teaching anything involving sequencing and I’m loving it (and my students too)!

Enter the mighty…(drum roll)…cup!

Yes, some easy to come by disposable cups can quickly be transformed into some really fun teaching aids. Why not lay out the cups in a random fashion and challenge your pupil to stack them into the correct order.

Think about how you could use this technique in your lessons. Here are some ideas for organising musical concepts:

• Dynamics (from quietest to loudest)

• Rhythm notes and rest (from shortest to slowest)

• Periods of history

• Technical names of the scale

• Key signature sharps or flats Read more…

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Music Theory, 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