Music & Technology

I thought it would be helpful to make a list NOW (while they are fresh in my mind) of new music iPad apps and books I discovered over the summer that will definitely be used again next summer, in the near future, or, from now on. From past Music Teacher Helper blogs, you know that I enjoy holding Piano Olympic Camps along with various lesson options. I’ll limit this blog to Ms Leila’s Summer Blockbusters….

OOPS….hold on…I published this without mentioning the latest MusicTeachersHelper App. I love it–this makes it SO easy to check upcoming events, invoices, etc. Can’t I believe I forgot it, but thank you for the updated app, MTH. I highly recommend it!

Books

Music Style Bingo (book/CD) by Cheryl Lavender published by Hal Leonard. Plans for the third day of camp included various stations. While one camper worked with me at the piano, another enjoyed an iPad app (see below), another spelled triads with blocks and magnets on a white board and yet another listend to 24 sound samples of music styles. The Music Style Bingo CD was imported to my iPod, so students listened to each excerpt with headphones.  As the camper listened to each style (a narrator names the style on the CD while the book provides a brief explanation of each) he/she placed stickers on a reproducible chart provided in the book.  The next day of camp, we had a rousing game of music style bingo–thanks to the catchy musical excerpts that range from Barbershop Quartet to Reggae to Opera.  There were so many styles to keep straight it was hard for students to always label them correctly, but I know that pulling this game out again and again will help them develop a keen ear for discerning styles.

Music Makes the Scene Grades 5-8 by Cathy Blair published by Heritage Music Press. If you click on the title, you will get a better idea of what the book/DVD includes. What I loved? This fit so well with my movie Olympic camp celebrating movie soundtracks. The DVD provides clips of various scenes. Each clip is shown three times with a different soundtrack.  Students act as “movie producers” and make decisions on what type of music fits best with each clip. The book offers reproducible guides to direct students’ listening ears.  My Olympians enjoyed the “board room power”  of choosing the “right soundtrack” and I was intrigued by their discernment. They all based their decisions on what fit the best and not necessarily their favorite musical excerpt.

Music iPad Apps

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There are tons of reasons why people choose the noble act of teaching music.  Some people like the act of sharing music.  Some people teach to sharpen their own skills. Some people do it to support their performance careers. Some people do it because they’re fed up!

Now you’re probably saying right now, “Fed up?”  Yes, that’s right, I wrote fed up! 🙂 My frustration led to building the online jazz community www.freejazzlessons.com.

Jazz Lessons Community

I was in a particularly sour mood one day after hearing about another round of budget cuts to music education programs in schools. Why was this happening again??  Every few years we have to fight the same battle.

It is EXTREMELY important for our society as whole that schools teach music.  It’s been shown time and time again the benefits that a music education has on learning, cognitive abilities, and overall contribution to society as whole.  Our souls craves music and music education!

As the great jazz pianist Bill Evans said music can “show a person a portion of himself that he would not discover otherwise…a part of yourself you never knew existed.”  We all need this insight in today’s complex world! [···]

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Meet the newest member of my studio: Mikey, by Blue Microphones. Mikey is quickly working his way into my heart as a where-have-you-been-all-of-my-life kind of tool.

Mikey is not my only recording friend. I have loved my Zoom H4 for the last few years. The Zoom is a handy companion. I loved being able to record accompaniments for my students, record them performing to burn CDs for presents for their parents, and record myself playing their repertoire pieces at different tempos to practice. But the interface leaves much to be desired, and the process from the first step of making the recording to handing a CD to a student or emailing them an MP3 file just took a few more steps than I would have liked.

Then Mikey entered my life as a thoughtful Christmas present from my husband. What do I like about him (Mikey, not my husband…)?

He’s plug and play. You plug him into an iPod (check this site for compatible iPods), and use Voice Memo or another recording application such as Evernote or Blue FiRe, check the gain (there are three to choose from. I’ve been happy with the lowest for recording at the piano), and push the record button on the iPod. Whammo. Done. If your students bring their iPods, they have a recording ready to use at home. If your student doesn’t have a compatible iPod, you can easily download the track to iTunes to burn to a CD or put in Dropbox or email.

How am I using Mikey? So far, my main use of Mikey so far has been to record festival pieces at different practice tempos. I don’t always encourage students to play with recordings rather than metronome, but some of them respond better to a performance than to the tick tick tick of the metronome. I have also recorded an accompaniment for an informal audition and recorded a student composition to burn a CD for a festival entry. I envision using him to record concerto accompaniments at different tempos and playing backgrounds for students to improvise with at home. My soprano friend records warmups onto her students’ iPods. I also may consider asking parents to think about buying a Mikey for their own homes, allowing students to record their own compositions or even portions of their practice sessions for me to check or for their own benefit.

Does Mikey take the place of the Zoom? No. The Zoom’s recording quality is higher end and will definitely be my recorder of choice for recitals and most CDs. But my husband bought Mikey for just under $40, and I see that the Zoom’s newer cousin (the H4n) is running around $300. For a low-ish price, great ease of use, and a decent sound quality, I highly recommend having Mikey come to play at your studio.

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