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

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The Savvy Musician in Action

Have you heard of it before? It’s an immersive, experiential week-long workshop designed to help artists and increase income and impact. 

The entrepreneurship workshop is brought to you by cutting edge David Cutler, author of  The Savvy Musician and a brand new book, The Savvy Music Teacher. In a nutshell, it is perhaps an event like none other. I’ve been to plenty of conferences but this seems truly unique. Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management

Google Analytics gives you insights on how visitors find and use your site. It shows which pages of your site are the most popular, how long people are staying there, how people are finding your site, and other statistics.

If you have a Google Account you can activate the service for Analytics using these instructions. If you do not have a Google Account, it’s easy and free to sign up by clicking here.

When you sign up for Google Analytics, you’re given a unique tracking ID called a UA-Number. To use Google Analytics with your Music Teacher’s Helper Studio Website, simply enter this number into your Music Teacher’s Helper Settings page.

Find Your Analytics UA-Number

To find the tracking code, tracking ID, or property number in your Analytics account:

  1. Sign in to your Analytics Account.  http://www.google.com/analytics
  2. Select the Admin tab.
  3. Select an account from the dropdown list in the ACCOUNT column.
  4. Select a property from the dropdown list in the PROPERTY column.
  5. Under PROPERTY, click Tracking Info > Tracking Code.

Google Analytics for music teachers

You’ll now see the complete Google Analytics code for your site near the top of the page. Select the tracking ID (#3 below), starting with “UA”, and add it to your Music Teacher’s Helper Website Settings page.

In Music Teacher’s Helper, click the profile icon in the upper right hand corner, then click “Settings”. Select the “Website Preferences” tab and scroll down until you see “Add Your Google Analytics Code”. Paste in the UA-Number code (#3). Once saved, all pages of your studio website will now be linked with your Google Analytics account.

 

Now you have successfully linked your Google Analytics account to your Music Teacher’s Helper account. Once Google begins collecting data about your site (which can take up to 24-48 hours), you’ll be able to view your traffic statistics from your Google Analytics page.

If you have any questions, please contact us at support@musicteachershelper.com.

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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is the act of helping your website rank well in search engines for specifics words or phrases, called “keywords”.

You’ll place these keywords in the content of your website or blog to help people find you. For example, you might title one of your web pages, “violin lessons in San Diego” or “advanced harp teacher”. You could then use those keywords periodically throughout the page.

Overloading a page with keywords is not looked upon highly by search engines, but if you write content that a person would find useful, then search engines will likely rank it higher, too.

Another way to increase your search engine rankings is by having your website or pages shared on social media, or getting other relevant websites to link to yours.

Under each page of your Music Teacher’s Helper studio website, you can also enter meta keywords and a page description. These can help search engines know what keywords you intend to be found under, and can help the search engines know how to describe your page to visitors.

To Enter Keywords and Descriptions:

First, click on the Profile dropdown arrow in the upper right corner.

Next click on Settings.

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Then click the Website Preferences tab.

 

Add Keywords into the Box below Website Meta Keywords. This will be one word followed by a comma for each word you want to use. Typically it’s better to use 5-10 words, such as the instrument(s) you teach with the word “lessons” and your location such as city and neighborhood. 

Lastly, enter Descriptions for Website Meta Description. Descriptions will be for each page of your website such as blog, website, policy, etc.

You’re all set! If you have any questions about this feature or anything else, please contact support@musicteachershelper.com.

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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Promoting Your Studio, Using Music Teacher's Helper

As a music teacher, how often do you think about the difference you’re making in your students’ lives? I believe that the influence a teacher can have on a student is profound, not just in the content or skills being taught, but in the way we connect and interact with each other as human beings.

Sometimes lessons can be challenging. If a student didn’t practice – or even worse, doesn’t want to be there – it can be difficult to see beyond their corresponding behavior or attitudes to the valuable and beautiful person in front of us. But when we do see this – what a difference it can make! Not only can it affect the flow of the lesson, but also the life of the student. And this applies to motivated and positive students, too.

An Inspiring Teacher

I have three daughters, ages 12, 10, and 4. Recently, we all started taking harp lessons as a family. It’s a beautiful instrument – one that makes a lovely sound even for beginners. At today’s lesson, we received a lot more than harp instruction. Our sweet teacher, Annemieke, chatted with us about life, positive thinking, and encouraged us to enjoy the pace and practice level we’re comfortable with. As we departed, she gave each of us a warm and tender hug that helped us feel like beloved friends.

Now, hugs may not be your style, and that’s okay. You have your own ways of bringing a little more happiness into the world through your studio. These are the things Annemieke did that left us feeling uplifted, and more endeared not only to her, but to the instrument we’re studying.

How Are YOU Making a Difference?

Have you identified the things you do that make a positive difference (whether big or small) in the lives of your students? Not only in their musical skill, but in how they feel about themselves, and how they enjoy their lives as a whole? Is there a particular student you’ve seen blossom under your eyes? Or a connection you’ve made with a student that warmed your heart? Have you ever received a student’s gratitude for the difference you’ve made in their life?

If so, I’d love to hear about it! I think it’s important to remind ourselves and each other in the music teaching community of the influence we do have in the lives of the people we call our students. This awareness naturally inspires us to become better teachers. Taking time to write about it can also help you become more clear about why you’re teaching, and the ways you’d like to make a difference moving forward.

Share Your Story

I invite you to share your story now with the Music Teacher’s Helper community here in the blog comments, or on our Facebook page. Or if you prefer, share how your teacher made a difference in your life. I look forward to hearing about the ways our members are connecting with and inspiring students in both big and little ways.

Thank you for the great work that you do.

Warm wishes and happy teaching!

Brandon Pearce, CEO
Music Teacher’s Helper

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Posted in 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

Strategies To Teaching Children Music Without Overwhelm

Teaching music to young children is highly rewarding yet extremely challenging if you have never done it.  There’s so much information to cover.  Where to start?  

As you progress in learning any new skill, fact or process, new vistas reveal themselves.  It’s like climbing the mountain of progress.  When you were at the bottom, you couldn’t even see that there were lakes, rivers, and other towns in the distance. Again, as you climb higher, you can now see over the next mountain range and then again new valleys and maybe even the ocean!  

Mountains of Mastery

The key to mastery in any subject is to know what you don’t know!

The path to mastery looks something like this crazy list below.  Try to follow along.

  • You don’t know – you are basically a newbie
  • You know – now you know, a little
  • You know you don’t know – you begin to realize what you don’t know
  • You don’t know what you don’t know – then you start to see there are things you probably don’t even know about
  • You know what you don’t know – ah, you figured out what you need to learn
  • You know you know – you have achieved some competence
  • You don’t know that you don’t know what you don’t know – but you still have blind spots.  You don’t even realize it!
  • You know that you don’t know what you don’t know – but now you know there’s a possibility of something else
  • You know what you don’t know that you didn’t know you even knew existed – and you now have something else to learn
  • You know you don’t know – and it never ends!

As a music teacher, I want to guide my student up the mountain.  But looking at that mountain can be very intimidating and scary!  To prevent being overwhelmed, I use blinders of a sort.  Something to get them not to look at the final goal, but to see just the next few steps in front of them.  

Strategies to Prevent Overwhelm In Reading Music

 

1) The Spotlight

One of the techniques I have used in the past, was a focused flashlight to shine a light on the small passage I wanted the student to focus on in the sheet music.  

A quick aside, I have often been the first person to notice a child’s need for eyeglasses.  Because I see the child every week and am seeing how they focus their eyes or if their nose is buried in the pages, I can usually alert the parents well before the school teachers or nurse.

2) Post-It notes and Pies

I should own stock in 3M already!  I go through reams of these every year!  The power of Post-Its is that they are removable and opaque.  I can cover up the entire page leaving just a “window of focus” for my student to see.  It has been hugely successful as the student then says something like, “Oh, is that all?  That’s easy!”  I can then either move the window or widen it as we progress.

For my younger students, I tell them that learning a song is like eating a pie.

What kind of pie do you like? What’s your favorite flavor of pie?

We go through all kinds of flavors. I’ve heard everything from apple pie to

pumpkin pie, to weird ones like salt caramel apple or oatmeal custard!  

Some strange pies out there.

Then I ask them, “Do you eat the whole pie in one bite?”

“No! Of course, not.”

“You take a slice, right?

“But do you eat the whole slice in one bite?”

“No.”

“We take a bite, so here’s a little forkful.”

I then cover up the whole page and leave just a little “forkful” of music.

This can lead to fun rewards like a slice of pie if you practice well this week.

3) Bigger Is Better

By photocopying just a passage of the music and enlarging it to a huge size, it looks ridiculously easy!  I have done this with beginning music readers.  I also use it for memorization games.  Here’s a game I created to help memorize repertoire pieces. 

4) Simplified Arrangements

Most of the sheet music for popular music is just not suitable for early beginners.  By using a music engraving software you can re-arrange the piece for your student.  Most of my young ones can’t spread their hands an octave, so just delete.  You can also enlarge the staff, colorize note-heads, do system breaks, and page breaks in more logical places.   Another thing is you can strip out any confusing symbols or terminology until you are ready to cover it.  For example, you may not want to use the word ritardando just yet, maybe write in “Slowing Down” instead.   I will devote a future article about tips for simplified arrangements.

What are your favorite strategies to scale the mountain of mastery?  Please share them in the comments below.

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Posted in Teaching Tips

This week we are excited to announce updates to the Android and iPhone apps!

Under the left sidebar, you will find a new Metronome tab available to Teachers and Students! A great tool for students during their at home practice sessions. 

metronome app for music teaching

The Lending library functionality is now available in the app. As well as the Report section. There is also new interactive 24 hour Today bar with color codes.

scheduling music students music lesson calendar

Other changes made to the apps:

  • API improvements for today’s events, schedule, calendar > events by day, student details
  • The side menu now has a collapsible Billing menu
  • Duration is displayed on the event detail screen
  • Better contact import for iOS 9
  • Adaptive screens: hiding non active fields like hour in case of an all day event
  • Bug fixes

And here are the changes made to the regular software version of Music Teacher’s Helper:

  • Updated Batch Attendance to allow editing of multiple parameters as it was before.
  • Fixed a bug with invoice v1 default due date if none selected.
  • Fixed a condition that gave a “We could not parse the calendar at the url requested” error when attempting to sync to Google Calendar.
  • Fixed a bug that caused some email invoices to be blank PDFs.
  • Fixed a bug that caused a blank subject line on invoice notification email.
  • Updated calendar filter design.
  • Allowed input of Google Analytics UA code in website settings.
  • Allowed input of SEO info in website settings.
  • Corrected a couple dozen minor issues reported by customers and QC.

Let us know if you have any questions by contacting support. Have a great weekend!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Site Announcements, Studio Management

PJ conference

There’s nothing like attending a music conference. The insight gained from experts in the field, the buzz after a stunning concert, down time spent with fellow colleagues and the exhibit hall extravaganza all provide that “red-bull” boost of energy for the year to come.

The expense of attending conferences can be prohibitive. In addition, their scheduling may not always jive with yours. With today’s technology, you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out and you don’t even have to dress to go out! Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management

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