Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Most recording software allows you to see and edit the midi notes you have recorded with the “piano roll” editor. This is a simple and logical method of visualizing sound and adjusting it to the desired outcome.

The name piano roll comes from a technology developed in the late nineteenth century. Originally, a piano roll was used to trigger the playback of a pianola or player piano by using a series of cutout dashes on a cardboard roll which would tell the mechanism what keys on the piano should be triggered.

How to Read the “Piano Roll” Editor

Back to the twenty-first century. When some midi data has been recorded on a keyboard connected to a computer, the recording software normally allows the data to be edited in the piano roll editor. (Shown in the diagram is the piano roll editor from Cubase, a recording software product from a company called Steinberg).

On the “y” axis is the pitch. Logically, the higher the position of the recorded event, the higher the pitch. You can see that the octaves are numbered starting from C to B.

On the “x” axis is time. At the top of the diagram, you can see the bar (measure) numbers. In this instance, each bar is subdivided  into 4 parts which represent crotchet (quarter-note) beats. It is easy to see whether a note has been played early, on time or late. These notes can be recorded using a click track, which is a metronome that runs in perfect synchronisation with the recording to aid the performer to stay in time, vital if other instruments are added later. It’s an interesting exercise to see how well a student can synchronize to the click track to assess their timing skills. Of course, if the timing needs improving, all recording software will allow you to snap each note to the nearest rhythm line using a feature called “quantise” or by manually adjusting the start of the note with the mouse. As well as adjusting the “note-on,” you can also adjust the “note-off” either by “quantisation” or again, manually. As you can see in the above diagram, some notes are overlapping. I find it useful to show a student the piano roll, whilst listening back, so they can see where they need to improve. This has always been a very effective method of motivating improvement in their technique because they can not only hear but see where they are going wrong.

The final area I want to share with you in this article is the velocity lane. Put simply, it represents the volume of each note as shown by the bar graph at the bottom of the diagram. Notice how the volume of each note is color coordinated with red being loud, blue being quiet and the middle shades representing volumes between these two extremes. Again, listening back to a student’s performance will quickly help them to hear and see whether they have control of their fingers and a mastery of dynamics. If needed, it is easy to adjust the volume of individual notes or draw in crescendos and diminuendos.

Only Pianos?

Piano rolls are not just for piano and keyboard players! Midi drum kits and guitars are available to buy which will connect to a computer running recording software. The piano roll editor can then be used on these instruments too to see and edit note events.

2 Great Applications

Using the piano roll is a great teaching tool to help students hear and see where they are going wrong in their technique and a way to assess whether they are improving. Also, it provides a powerful way to perfect a recording that can later be converted into an mp3 file to share with family and friends which acts as a great motivator to students.

 

 

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All music teachers are musicians. Nobody picks up their first instrument in order to teach it. To keep your teaching fresh, keep learning — and keep playing. Consistency is important, but sticking to the same materials, same approaches, same routines, and avoiding risks, can lead to boredom and resentment on the part of the teacher, and an uncomfortable and less productive experience on the part of the student.

One of the nicest risks to reach for, one which probably has the most impact on teaching, is performing. Those teachers who are already active performers know what I mean, though even we can all benefit from stretching ourselves — trying new repertoire, new genres of music, new venues large or small, formal or informal, new ensembles, different accompanists, solo experiences, or participatory events.

The risks you take by performing improve your teaching because you find yourself grappling with questions of your own that every student also has to handle, such as:  [···]

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Hi teachers!

I hope this post finds you well and you have all survived your scheduling nightmares for the new school year!

We all know that parents play an important role in the success of our students. Younger students need parents to  remind them to practice. Some students respond well to incentives, some practice better when the parents sit in with them. Clear communication between the parents and the teacher is also vital.

Here are a few things I do to get the parents to be more involved in my studio:

Parents Meet and Greet

I started doing this a couple years ago. I invite the parents to come for morning tea at the beginning of the school year. They can get to meet other parents, share each other’s experiences (such as how to get your child to practice!), and ask me any questions they may have. I also use this opportunity to outline the various programs and events I offer this year, and recommend which ones are suitable for their children.

Studio Newsletter

I started doing this years ago. I have newsletters on my studio website dating almost 10 years! Posting newsletters online is efficient, saves money on printing, and allows potential students to see what my studio is all about. However, some parents never read it! So recently I decided to go the old fashioned way – have my newsletters printed! I still post them online on my website, but the printed newsletters get distributed to each family. There is just something about physically holding a piece of paper and reading what’s on it, plus the pictures look more lovely! Here is the most recent one:

 

Tip of the Week

This is new. Starting from this week, every week I will post a Tip of the Week on my Studio Facebook page to help parents be more involved in their child’s music study. Here is the first tip:

How about you? How do you get parents to be more involved in your studio? Best wishes for a successful teaching year!

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