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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

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

LangPiano

I remember a parent once asking me: “Can you ask Jonny to brush his teeth regularly? He will listen to you!”

Sometimes a lesson is learnt better from someone less familiar.

For a couple of months I’ve been trying an idea with my students which has been very successful, maybe it might work for you and your pupils. Enter the masterclass video!

One of my adult students found an app called “Mastering the Piano with Lang Lang.” The app has three levels at the moment (more coming) each containing eight units of high-quality videos and music designed to help piano students improve their technique and musicality.

At the start of each lesson, I show my pupils one of these videos, working our way systematically through the app one video per week. The videos are only short, most less than a couple of minutes but Lang Lang, as well as being a fabulous musician and teacher, is friendly and entertaining. After the video has finished, I look for application in their pieces they are currently learning which helps to reinforce the specific concept under consideration.

Lang

Some of the practical topics are: playing faster, legato playing, staccato playing, dynamics, playing chords, posture, hand position, making mistakes, etc. What I love about the videos is that they can be understood by a beginner but also have value to the advanced student alike.

The results have been overwhelming! My students have loved his teaching, have listened and applied his advice and as a result, their technique and musicality has been greatly improved. I’m now looking at other apps and videos from masters of other genres that might be effective. Do you know of any good videos I could try? Please feel free to add a comment to the blog.

Isn’t it strange how “Jonny” listens to Lang Lang even though I’ve often been telling them similar things in the past! Maybe Lang Lang can bring out an app about brushing your teeth!

 

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, 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

The Power Of Recitals To Transform Lives And Community

We held our Winter Music Recital last Saturday at my local public library.  It was a massive success and every one of my student’s came through with flying colors.  Were they flawless?  Not at all.  But the passion, joy and enthusiasm was palpable.

It takes an incredible amount of courage to get up in front of a room full of strangers and perform.  I remember at my first recital, several of my students looked green around the gills, I was worried that I needed to get a bucket!  So after all these recitals, what have I learned?

Be Prepared

For months we’ve set goals, learned challenging new pieces, honed the trouble spots, worked on memorization and then polishing it all into a performance.  I helped arrange each student’s pieces to be suitable for recital length and simplifed when needed.  Preparation is key and it’s the Boy Scout motto.  I was Senior Patrol Leader of my troop (385 Commack, NY) and probably learned more about leadership and public speaking there than any place else.  My aim was to bring this experience to my music education experience for all my students.

Winter Recital 2016 Park Slope Music Lessons, Brooklyn, NY

Winter Recital 2016 Park Slope Music Lessons, Brooklyn, NY – Photo by Paloma Tejada


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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Sandy Lundberg

The Stories We Tell

January 26th, 2016 by

music mentality

According to Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, in chapter seven of her book Rising Strong, we are hard-wired to tell stories to explain the world around us. By “stories,” she means our perceptions of ourselves and others. This inclination is so strong that our body actually releases cortisol and oxytocin when we come up with a satisfactory story to explain a situation. Unfortunately, most of our stories are constructed without all of the facts, especially since we cannot read other people’s minds or know all their history. Our stories also reflect all of our own past experiences and the stories we have created around them.

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

creating arrangements1

As a child, I heard people play or sing songs with five or more verses—every verse the same dirge-like tempo, same key, same inflections… The intent of the songs deserved better. I wanted to arrange songs to reflect the message and engage the listener. Now I help my students create arrangements as well.

Start Simply

A very young student might play/sing only one note differently. It’s a start! Perhaps a vocal student has a two-verse song. She goes through the melody twice and ends. Ask her if she can think of a way to change the ending to have more impact. If she can’t think of anything, give an example and have her try it.

Play a repeated passage two ways: once identically and once with a change. Ask which version held his interest, or would keep an audience engaged.

Students singing together might start singing harmony by splitting to a third only on the final note. Starting simply might mean simply making them aware.

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Performing

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

“Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More.” Just the fall theme to carry out my goals for students.

I wanted to avoid the crunch of pre-Christmas activities for once. But an earlier recital meant I had a month less to help them prepare. How could I help them shine? How could I motivate the third-year students hanging on the fringes? How could I involve the earliest beginners?

Sonatinas for levels two and up are available (here’s one book). But I found none for my first year students. Some weren’t even reading notes yet.

So—I wrote them! A couple had two movements, but most had three.

I asked questions to discover their likes, hobbies and activities. And I wrote custom-made sonatinas for my beginners.

For Soccer Sonatina I used only six notes. This was for my youngest little one. He conquered “Dribbling” and “Passing Drill.”

For Sonatina Minecraft, I listened to Minecraft’s music. Then I wrote in a similar style. My student thrilled to play “Moving Boxes” and “Oh, Share the Night” and “Find the Path.” One student enjoys mythology. For her I wrote “Flight of Pegasus,” “The Loss of Persephone,” and “Puckish Mischief.” There were also Zoonatina, Puppy Sonatina and Canine vs. Feline Sonatina, among others. I even wrote sonatinas for my beginning guitar students. For Ballet Sonatina I read up on it first. Then I wrote “Allegro,” and “Pas de Valse.” My young man was excited to realize “En L’Aire” made a sound picture of leaping and landing lightly. One student wrote her own piece for the recital.

What about the title “Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More?” Halloween songs are easy to find for all levels. The “S’More” part included Christmas songs and general-themed pieces. It also included non-messy s’more treats later at the reception.

I’ve never had students more motivated. They couldn’t wait to share “their” pieces. As a bonus, the sonatina theme can grow along with their musical skills.

The down-side?

It’s one week later. Now they wonder, “When is our Christmas recital?”

Do you write songs or arrangements for your students? If not, give it a try. Consider the techniques each one is perfecting at the moment. Give it a fun title. I’m sure MTH blog readers would love to hear about it!

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Performing, Promoting Your Studio