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

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

Happy students don’t quit piano lessons!image

What is more  important than keeping your current customers?

Use Music Teacher Helper to have happy students by communicating on a regular basis.

The lesson notes feature of Music Teachers Helper is helpful in that you can send any message after each lesson.

Use lesson notes to retain students!

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Posted in MTH 101, Practicing, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Learning, Playing and Teaching Music by Intention

What truly distinguishes music that feels warm and human from music that seems cold and computer-like?  Intention.  We can teach expression in music nearly from day one, by thinking of the intention of the music we play.

When a computer plays music from a MIDI file, it plays the correct pitch and note value of each note at the correct time.  A musician may play that same music with relatively correct pitch, note value, and timing, because there is an intention to lean in one direction or another.  In some music software, computer programmers have added a “humanize” feature, which simply randomizes the starting time of a note very slightly.  The programmers imagine that the difference between computers and humans is perfection vs imperfection.  They don’t realize, or maybe just can’t possibly program, the real difference:  intention.

A musician (except on an instrument such as the piano where there is no pitch control) will play a pitch that sounds best within the context.  For example, Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, 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

Reuben Vincent

Ninja Scales!

October 6th, 2015 by

Ninja ScalesI didn’t understand my teacher!

Each piano lesson was the same. Half an hour of scales followed by half an hour of Bach! I hated it!!!

Needless to say, I didn’t want to practise scales between lessons. What was the point? He certainly never told me if there was one. It just seemed like a pointless half hour of boredom each week.

Fast forward on. Now I am the teacher trying to encourage my students to practise scales!!! How ironic!

Sell the Benefits

As humans, we are much more motivated to do something if we think it will benefit us.

So what are the benefits of scales? Have we discussed them with our students? What do they think the benefits are? Here’s a few to get started: Read more…

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

Bella Payne

Piano Practice Incentives

September 21st, 2015 by

 

Piano LessonsSome time ago, I realized my students were getting a little bored of the same old routine. I thought they needed some stimulation, so I decided to re-think my rewards system. For a long time, I mostly focused on educational music games at the end of the lessons as being a good enough reward. But it didn’t help with energy levels throughout the lesson. I needed some help.  Read more…

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

Many teachers settle into a routine set of materials or a method such as Suzuki, or a method of their own making, and find it awkward to break out of the routine if a student asks about more advanced musical ideas.
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Is it really something to worry about?  Do students need to be guided along a groomed path, or can a change of scenery, or a glimpse of the road ahead, do them good?

There are, in fact, some great benefits to exposing beginners or intermediate students to advanced ideas.  There are also some drawbacks, which is why teachers are often reluctant to depart from an orderly presentation of material.

One of the benefits to presenting advanced ideas is to open a student’s mind to the richness of music.  Teaching, like parenting, is most effective when done by example.  If you as the teacher share some of the interests, passions, and thought processes that go into your own practicing and performing, the student will have a concrete sense of what it’s like to delve deeply into learning and playing music.

Advanced ideas can also inspire and motivate.  Discussing or demonstrating how a student’s musical selection might Read more…

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Posted in Practicing, Teaching Tips

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

Sandy Lundberg

Motivation Podcasts

July 26th, 2015 by

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Student motivation is an ongoing discussion and concern for every music teacher. We debate internal versus external motivation, parent involvement, the role of talent, and the million ways to structure home practice. Students Luke Jones and Matt McKeever at the University of Missouri at St. Louis are taking a summer graduate music education class with Jennifer Mishra and they have created a series of podcast interviews with musicians around the country addressing the issue of student motivation. You can check out their project here: http://sutbpodcats.podomatic.com/

My interview encouraged me to once again write down a few of my thoughts about motivation.

The student has to own the lessons, not feel forced into them. If he or she does not arrive excited to start piano lessons do your best to sell the idea that studying music is an awesome, amazing experience. It helps if you can find ways to connect music to areas in which the student already has an interest. Our goal as teachers is to nurture and develop the student’s own personal value of the music study so they are not as dependent upon our external motivation.

Parents need to be educated about the value of lessons and how critical their role is in the child’s success. Compare the support they give the child on a sports team to the level of enthusiasm they need to show for music lessons. Give parents specific things they can do to be supportive and involved. Even non-musical parents can ask questions about the music, sit down for a living room concert, negotiate a motivation system, and show their child how much they value a musical education.

Taking music lessons will rarely go well if a student feels a loss of peer respect from the activity. Help students to develop friendships with other musicians, let them invite friends to a fun musical event, introduce role models, include fun popular pieces in their repertoire, and make sure students always have an impressive short piece to perform on the spur of the moment. Find ways to make their music relevant and useful in their life.

The student and teacher relationship is critical. Students need to know that you care about them as a person and are willing to listen to them. Share appropriately about your life as a musician. Be respectful, honest and trustworthy. Work hard, but be an source of encouragement, not a drain on their self-esteem. Personalize their program to reflect their unique gifts, interests, and learning style.

Learning has to include some fun, especially for the young. Include games and laughter in your teaching. Plan some group activities. Tell stories that make the music come alive. Every once in a while do something unexpected. Plan a surprise! Andrea and Trevor Dow are full of great ideas at http://www.teachpianotoday.com/.

Students need to know they are making progress.  Remind students how far they have come. Play old recordings and look over old play lists. Remind them of the goals they have already accomplished. Judging the correct speed with which to move a student forward is always a critical decision on the part of the teacher. Too fast and the fundamentals are not established deeply. Too slow and the student loses heart.

Create a vision for the future with the student and talk and dream about it. Point out harder pieces that they will be able to play one day. Take students to hear more advanced musicians and attend live music events.

Keep their vision alive with goal setting. Short term goals can take just a week or so— “See if you can memorize this to play for your grandmother when she comes to visit in two weeks.” An annual theme can keep motivation going throughout the year. Michelle Sisler has created a wonderful series of games at www.keystoimagination.com. The Music Teachers National Association offers a music achievement award program to help students set personal goals for each year. Don’t forget to set long term goals too, such as being ready to join the jazz band in high school.

When a student quits, all forward progress stops. Those that continue, even at a seemingly slow pace, will keep learning and growing. The longer a student sticks with their instrument, and the more independent and self-motivated they become in learning, the more likely they will have music in their life for as long as they live.

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Posted in Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips