Review & Giveaway of SingTrue


One thing I really like about this new app on the market called, SingTrue, is its option to try an activity “just one more time” and see if you can do better. It’s a strange balance between getting you hooked (addicted) and being intrigued (the possibility of improving), that I haven’t experienced in an app before. Sure, plenty of games-especially popular electronic ones-have these elements, but they’re rarely helpful for stimulating one’s mind, voice, and ears.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.46.41 AM

From the creators of the Relative Pitch and Tone Deaf Test apps, SingTrue is designed for singers and non-singers alike who want a fun, portable way to improve-even discover-their singing voice.

Here’s a quick visual summary of SingTrue:

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.46.05 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you didn’t quite catch how it works, here’s the run down:

  1. Opening SingTrue will take you to the home page. On the home page you can view your profile (your current level, your eXperience Points, your number of lives that are indicated by hearts…). From here, you can also select your module, view other apps, sign up for singing tips, write feedback, and read a little notice that says, “More Modules Coming Soon…” :)IMG_8231IMG_8232
  2. Once you’ve entered a module, you can then choose a sub-module (ears, voice, mind), and then from there, you can do any of the available exercises. Some modules have just a few exercises, while others have ones that are locked until you’ve reached a certain level or passed the requirements for the preceding exercise. And then there are some exercises that can only be accessed if you purchase the “full app” version of SingTrue.IMG_8233
  3. After selecting an exercise, some brief onscreen instructions will appear and then you begin. Most of the exercises require very little time and are quite fun and mostly painless, but really seem to get your brain going-at least it did mine! :) Once you’re finished, it will show the stats of your performance and whether you lost a life or earned a star.IMG_8234IMG_8235IMG_8236IMG_8237

I really liked seeing my personal progress/regression because it motivated me to keep striving for better…and better…and better…:)

Even though I don’t think SingTrue will ever be able to compare to the sound and instruction quality of having an actual voice teacher, or is as thorough as the eMedia Singing Method program, it is incredibly convenient and portable which are perks an actual teacher nor the eMSM can offer. Plus, SingTrue was just released, so I’m sure we can expect many improvements and updates to come!

To find out more about SingTrue and/or download it follow the links below…but wait…SingTrue has offered a “full app” giveaway for MMB readers! All you have to do to enter is comment to let me know you’re in and one lucky participant will receive a special code to receive full app privileges for SingTrue.

SingTrue Website

SingTrue Download (Compatible only with iPhones)

 

Integrated Learning

One of the things that I love about teaching piano is the challenge of figuring out how to integrate every part of the student’s learning so that they understand concepts in a relevant way. One of the ways this can be done very effectively is through structured improvisation assignments.

If you’ve been a reader on Music Matters Blog for any length of time you know that I’m a huge fan of Pattern Play as the most effective approach I’ve found to truly teaching improvisation at the piano. But now that most of my students (and I!) have become more comfortable improvising, we create a variety of assignments from week to week that utilize improvising as a way to help students cement various musical concepts.

Right now Mercy is learning chord inversions as part of her Theory and Technique section in our C2 practice incentive theme, so this was the short piece she improv-ed using a c-minor chord and inversions:

It’s amazing how much more exciting and relevant theory concepts are when you see them become a creative expression like this!

Do You Find Joy in What You Do?

I suppose an easier way to phrase this question is, “Do you enjoy your job?” But the more I’ve thought about the question the way it’s phrased in the title, it’s proven to be very thought-provoking. You see, I’ve found from my own human nature, as well as talking to other people, that no matter what occupation we find ourselves in, it seems there’s always something we can complain about. And the nature of our complaints can range from feeling tired, to griping about unhappy clients, to not getting a big enough paycheck or wanting a raise, to systems not working properly, to an unreasonable amount of stress, to an uncomfortable inconvenience such as spilling water down the front of your shirt. Yes, all of these unfortunate circumstances could justify our complaining, but complaining does no one any real good. It exhausts those around you or feeds their own ungrateful spirit and causes a negative attitude to emerge. And letting a negative/ungrateful attitude take root clouds our ability to see the good things we’ve been given and find joy in our work and life.

As I’ve been evaluating this area in my own life, I’ve been asking myself, “Why is it so hard to NEVER complain? Why can’t I just always be thankful for everything?” I have come to believe that the honest truth is that it’s a part of our fallen human nature. Because of this nature we’re apt to be greedy, ungrateful, impatient, etc. However, there’s another nature we’re imprinted with, and that’s the nature of a perfect God who gives us exhortations like these…

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –Ephesians 5:16-18

Do all things without grumbling or disputing,… -Philippians 2:14

Because of these two natures that battle within us, we have to make a choice each and every day: give in to our flesh (complain/be ungrateful) or be filled with joy and thankfulness.
Whether you’re working your dream job or not, every occupation is going to have its ups-and-downs; its good days and bad days. But having a thankful attitude will make a world of difference for when those downs and bad days arise! Over the past week or so I’ve been discovering just how much of a difference being thankful can make…

…When you’re about to complain that you have to go in to work, you can find joy in the fact that you have a job.

…When you’re about to complain about working with unappreciative people, you can still find joy in serving people.

…When you’re about to complain that your products are going unnoticed, you can still find joy in the fact that you had the resources to make something that could potentially impact someone’s work and life.

Our attitude greatly affects our relationships, work productivity, and influence. So let’s inspire people by tossing aside tendencies to complain and use those moments to be thankful and find joy in what we do!

Welcome to Fall Special Coupon!

I know I’m a few days after the official beginning of fall, but I’m sure enjoying the gorgeous days! So, in honor of another fall of teaching, I’m offering a special sale in the Music Matters Blog store. You can get $5 off any order by entering the following coupon code when you checkout: 05355663

By far, the favorite item in the store is 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson. These are tried and true games that we have used for years in the studio. Last year, my students loved perusing this book and selecting games they wanted to play as part of the e.p.i.c. practice incentive. But I also find myself referring to the book to pick out specific games to help reinforce a concept I’m working on with a student.

The coupon will be good until next Friday, October 10, so have fun picking out any item you’d like! Hope you all are enjoying a lovely fall of teaching!

Welcome to My New Studio!

Whew! What a year this has been! After getting married last December, I continued teaching full-time through the spring semester while also adjusting to being a full-time wife and mother of four. For the sake of continuity for my students (and preserving my own sanity!), we opted to leave the studio at my parents’ house until this summer. I wanted to have a good chunk of time to go through the entire studio, get rid of things I no longer needed, and then move everything over to the new studio in as organized a manner as possible. Not to mention that the new studio still looked like this at the beginning of summer:

What, you don’t think that looks like an inviting studio, either?! :-)

Thankfully, my awesome and artistic husband had a vision for bringing life to our old, dark basement, and we employed some talented friends to help us make my new studio a dream come true! Now I get to enjoy this colorful and inspiring environment every day:

We have almost no natural light in our basement, so we wanted to use colors that would make the area feel bright and welcoming. The waiting area is just outside the studio and has lots of space for families to sit and play games, read a book, or hang out and talk. We’re hoping to put bi-fold French doors on the studio entrance, but that will have to be part of Phase II!

Here’s a closer look into the studio where you can see my desk along the back wall, the Clavinova and piano on the side wall, and then a beautiful entertainment cupboard that houses our printer and shelves with extra paper and envelopes. You can also catch a glimpse of this year’s practice incentive theme: C2: igniting the power within!

I just have to let you peak in my closet because it’s one of the most exciting parts of the studio for me! We picked up this handy shelving system at Lowe’s and some plastic drawer organizers at Walmart, and now everything is neatly organized and easily accessible from anywhere in the studio. I love being able to reach over and grab whatever I need while I’m teaching, but then close the doors and have a squeaky clean-looking studio at the end of the day.

Here’s a view of the other side of our waiting area/library where we have lots of books to peruse while relaxing in one of our comfy chairs. And in between lessons, feel free to plug in a guitar and jam away. :-)

I’m thoroughly loving my new studio and look forward to posting more now that we’re settled and full-swing into a new year of piano lessons. Hope you enjoyed the virtual tour and that your year of teaching is off to a great start!

 

Two Great New Resources!

Many moons ago I, like most music teachers, dreaded the “b” word. We love to teach, to play, to create. But, by and large, we do not like to do bookkeeping. I don’t mind finances at all, but I had such a difficult time collecting money from families or reminding them when they had overdue lesson fees, etc. Then in 2006 that all changed. Music Teacher’s Helper came on the scene and that has forever changed! This is probably the best money I spend every month because once I have everything set up for the year, I create automatic invoicing and the whole process is seamless. Families receive their invoice on the first of each month with their lesson fee amount plus any additional materials, book, or event fees. They can pay on-line or check their account at any time for details.

My posts about MTH always seem to turn into sales pitches, but the main reason I’m posting is because they have finally revamped their IOS app, and I am super thrilled! I do a lot of business from my iPhone, so it’s been a pain not having a working MTH app to record student payments, update info, etc. The new interface looks great, and I can highly recommend the whole MTH package to any teacher looking to make the business side of their studio operations a headache-less venture! (When you click on the links in this post for Music Teacher’s Helper, you’ll receive 20% off your first month and Music Matters Blog will receive a small commission that helps keep this site running.)

I am still pretty much in love with Piano Safari – the latest and greatest (in my humble opinion :-) ) piano method on the market! The students who started and are still working through it have done so well and truly enjoy making music at the piano. Even though they are learning more musically rich music via rote teaching right from the start, the approach to reading rhythms and notation is thorough and effective.

So I was excited to see that the Sight Reading and Rhythm Cards for Level 3 are now available! What’s even better is that if you order the package of all three sets of Sight Reading and Rhythm Cards (and believe me, you want these no matter what method you are using with your students!) are available for 20% off for a limited time. There are so many great ways to use these cards in the lessons (this week we’ve been having fun using rhythm instruments to play the rhythm patterns while selected rhythms from my keyboard provide a steady – but fun – beat in the background!) and the students enjoy having easy-to-manage exercises that they can work on and achieve success in their sight reading endeavors. I have a few students working through the Level 2 books and cards right now, so I’m excited to check out this new set of cards for Level 3!

The Beauty of Having a Digital Station in Your Studio – A Guest Post by Susan Nicholes

Do you want to have students who sight read well?  Students who get excited when they are given new and challenging assignments?  Students who are able to utilize the new technology available only on a digital piano?  If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions then you will definitely need to add a digital station within your studio.

Why have a digital piano station?

As you read about my digital piano station keep in mind that I have three stations in my piano studio configuration.  I have a digital piano station, a computer station and an acoustic station where I teach my students one-on-one as in a traditional lesson.  My students stay at each station for 25 minutes and then switch to the other two stations. They attend piano lessons for a total of 75 minutes.  Understanding my studio configuration will be helpful as you read the following reasons for having a digital station.   At one time I had two stations, a digital piano station and an acoustic piano station and my students attended their lessons for one hour total and spent 30 minutes at each station.  If you are interested in further information about having stations within your studio I detail how to do this in a series of seminars which I have titled Susan’s Seminars for Piano Teachers* which can be found at www.musicteacherstore.com.

1)    Students have time to prepare for their lessons at the bench with their teacher.  This time spent at the digital station is very useful in preparation for their lesson time as it provides a run through and a warm-up of their songs.  As a result, their private lesson goes more smoothly with less errors and problem measures or passages in their music .  Who doesn’t like a run-through before performing in front of any audience?

2)    Use of the digital station allows students time to become comfortable on the digital piano and allows more proficiency in using various settings and instrumentations on this instrument.

3)    Our students are millennials and they are very comfortable with using any type of computer-based equipment—and this describes a digital piano!

How to set up a digital piano station

1)     It is ideal if the digital piano faces away from any distracting scenery.  Place your digital piano carefully so that your students can focus on the assignments that you would like them to complete while at the digital piano.

2)    Make sure that your students have adequate lighting in this work space.

3)    If you choose to have a Music Library in your studio, it is convenient to place it nearby the digital piano so that students have access to the music as they spend time at this station.

4)    You can place an assignment board in front of the digital piano.  This can be very helpful in helping students see their expected tasks to be completed while they are at this station.

What are some possible student assignments at the digital station?

1)      Students can play at least 2 lines of sight reading.   I use “What’s That Note” Books 1 and 2** for my beginning through Level 2 students as sight reading curriculum.  I love these books written by my mother, Jane Calder, because they contain both rhythm exercises and gradual note reinforcement  through the grand staff.  For my more advanced students, Levels 3 – 5,  I use “A Line a Day”  books 1 – 4 for general sight reading assignments.  I have made midi recordings of the exercises in “What’s That Note” and also “A Line a Day” which students use as they play along with these recordings.  If the students are playing correct notes and rhythm they do not hear the recording which they are matching.  If they play incorrect notes or rhythm they will hear the correct teacher recorded part which will sound different from the notes or rhythm that they are playing.  Using these recordings as students play these sight reading assignments makes these exercises self-correcting.

2)    After completing their 2 or more lines of sight reading my students record their progress on a personal log sheet which they keep in their assignment binder.

3)    I am preparing my digital piano station at this time for my students to use the interactive Piano Marvel*** program to enhance their sight reading skills.  I currently have several students in my studio who have subscribed to Piano Marvel and use Piano Marvel in their homes each day as part of their assigned daily practice time.   My students who have used Piano Marvel in their homes have really enjoyed progressing through the various levels in Piano Marvel and have enjoyed being awarded trophies as they have improved their sight reading skills on various songs.  In studio I will provide each student with a log sheet where they will record their personal achievement using Piano Marvel each week during their digital station time in my studio.

Good luck with setting up your new digital piano station or enhancing your current digital piano station.   Your students will enjoy every moment that they spend at the digital station.   The musical experience at lesson time is enhanced with the technology of a digital piano and all of its capabilities.

*Susan’s Seminars for Piano Teachers can be located at www.musicteacherstore.com under Teaching Aids (main category) Teacher Improvement (sub category). Many topics are covered and include the following three topics  Maximizing one-on-one time with your students, Piano Camp is great for Teachers and Students, and Group lessons are fun and informative for both students and teachers.  Seminars are downloadable and available in 8 different topics.

**What’s That Note Books 1 and 2 are available in both book and downloadable format at www.musicteacherstore.com.

***Piano Marvel can be viewed at www.pianomarvel.com.  There is a discounted monthly subscription rate if you subscribe through www.musicteacherstore.com.


MusicTeacherStore.com is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog, and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send me an e-mail and I’ll let you know about our advertising packages.

Review of Practice+

Lately, there seems to be a surge in mobile apps designed for musicians; or perhaps, music resource apps having been emerging in great numbers for quite some time and I’m just now aware of it because my job is to review the newest, greatest music products-and apps seem to be at the top of that list currently! :) Having this job of reviewing products is pretty fun at times because I get to experience firsthand the new inventions designed to be the next leading resource for various areas of music performance and/or education. It’s just so fascinating and inspiring seeing different individuals or companies recognize a need and then set out to create a product to help fill that need in a unique way. And from what I can tell, that seems to be one of the driving forces behind Practice+.

Practice+ was recently released by DynamicApp Design (creators of Metronome+) and has been featured on bulletproofmusician.com and susanparadis.com.

In the Practice+ app you will find a handy musician toolkit that includes a metronome, a recording mode (for self-evaluation and sharing), a tuner, a practice mode (for drilling a specific set of measures), and a setlist mode. Upon opening the app you will not be taken to a homepage, but rather, the mode you last used before exiting previously. This aspect of the app made it a bit confusing for a first time user because most apps or music programs I use have a homepage that allows you to select where you want to go from there, or if they don’t, when you open it for the first time, the app/program will pop up with introductory pages that help walk you through how it works.

Practice+ also has some special features such as multitasking between modes, hearing a specific pitch within the tuner mode, sharing through email or social media, etc.

I don’t want to sound overly critical of this app because I think that with the capabilities it has any musician would find it very handy; however, I feel like I would not be giving a completely honest review if I left out a few other things about Practice+ that caused me not to be thoroughly impressed with it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find it to be nearly as intuitive as I thought it would be. The interface isn’t super intimidating to navigate, but I found it hard to figure out exactly how each mode or function worked to its full extent. For example, it took quite some time to figure out how to turn on the metronome because nothing had start/stop on it or on/off. You actually push the circular button at the bottom with the rate in it. I also didn’t understand how the practice mode worked and couldn’t figure out how to edit the name of a recording or setlist. The last thing I believe worth mentioning, is that I think I would’ve found it very helpful to have little pop-up “description bubbles” in the settings, to learn what the different settings were for and what they did.

I guess these issues wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if I felt like I were illiterate with apps, but apps are one of the few things I normally can operate pretty well. I honestly feel like if the app was just updated with more labeling of what things are/what they do or have introductory pages or a YouTube demo link it would help tremendously with understanding and being able to use all the features of Practice+.

(Note: Just now, I discovered after going back to the DynamicApp website, if you turn your phone so it’s in landscape mode, a “?” will appear in the bottom and if you push it “description bubbles” will pop up! However, this feature still does not appear to be anywhere when your phone is in the portrait mode. And there’s also nothing like this in the “settings.”.)

 

DynamicApp Design Website

Purchase the App and more info!

Review of eMedia Singing Method

Over the past few years I have worked to improve my singing abilities because…well..let’s just face it, I couldn’t hit pitches worth a hoot! And even if I did “happen” to sing the right note, it still wasn’t a pretty sound coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t figure out how to consistently hit pitches so I would end up straining my voice to reach them. This became increasingly frustrating because I wanted to sing songs, but was horribly afraid of someone hearing me and telling me to stop. So I set out to take voice lessons, and did so for about 3 months-even in that short span of time my understanding of “how” to sing grew exponentially! I’m still not amazing by any means, but I am “better,” and for that, I’m extremely grateful. You see, my voice teacher imparted 2 incredibly helpful things on how to improve my voice that even though I only took lessons from her for a short time I’ve been able to use these 2 things to continue training my voice.
1) Knowledge (breathing, speaking, how the voice works, techniques, musical concepts, etc)
2) Concentrated Effort (taking time to THINK about what you’re doing and how to do the exercise to improve)

After trying out the eMedia Singing Method program, I found that these two aspects of voice training seemed to be the foundation for the self-teaching software: 1) Imparting Knowledge and 2) Concentrated Effort through Exercises. I enjoyed the first ten lessons eMedia Singing Method offers, as well as the musical concepts each lesson introduces on the page preceding the exercise.

Although the program’s face seems outdated, it was easy to use and I liked the self-paced nature of it as well as the laid-back but in-depth feel. I also felt like-at least with the lessons I did- the instructions were very easy to understand and helpful. And you know what’s super cool?! If you prefer “visual” instructions, you can click on the video camera icon in the left sidebar area and voila! Video instructions before your eyes.:)

eMedia Singing Method’s target audience seems to be classroom teachers-or similar occupations-but I can see it being a great self-teaching resource for individual use.

Some other neat perks about eMedia Singing Method are…

…interactive feedback capabilities

…the icon with the face and exclamation point gives you brief facts about the music you’re using for the exercise.

…there’s a feature where you can hook up a guitar to accompany you.

…you can learn from over 230 voice lessons!

 eMedia Singing Method is produced by eMedia, the U.S. distributor for Ear Master Pro. This program is available for Windows or Mac operating systems.

To get more details or to download a free trial hop on over to their website: eMedia Music Corporation-Music Lesson Software for Individuals & Music Teachers

 

Overview of PRACTICIA (prac-TIS-ia)

PRACTICIA is an up-and-coming practice app designed to engage teachers, parents, and students in a new, revolutionary way. This app will not only be able to be used as a resource for private teachers, but also band instructors, choir directors, orchestra teachers, etc. Since I am not a music teacher, I don’t have any students to try the app out with…so I decided to do this review/overview a little differently.
First, take a look at PRACTICIA’S promo video on their site and then come back for a Q&A session with the app’s CEO and Co-Founder, Sam Rao, to find out more about what PRACTICIA is!
Q&A with Sam Rao
MMB: Does the app monitor how long a student practices or is that just based on what the student enters?
Rao: Yes! It actually records all practice and presents a live feed of all practice sessions to the teacher. The teacher can instantly give a “Thumbs Up” acknowledging that they noticed the student had practiced. Or they can even make comments on the practice sessions they choose to review…:)
MMB: Is this supposed to be a substitute for an assignment book?
Rao: Yes. It is meant to completely replace the assignment book. In fact, it will also enable the teacher to give Audio, Video instructions in addition to Text instructions. Also, the teacher can reuse the assignments for other students working on the same piece. The parents and students can elect to get email notifications every time an assignment is created or updated, or marked complete.
MMB: Will it only be able to be accessed through a mobile device?
Rao: In the BETA, the tool will only be through mobile device. Over time we will make more and more features available through the web until the whole tool is fully available on PC’s and Macs as well.
MMB: With this app, is your thinking and hope that many teachers will shift to using this approach with most if not all of their students and parents?
Rao: It is our hope that teachers will use this tool with all their students. The more students are participating, the more exciting the practice dynamics become. With PRACTICIA’s unique “group functionality”, teachers can divide their studios into “Practice Teams” and have the teams compete against one another for best average practice times and number of days practiced.
MMB: Do you believe that most kids will have easy access to a mobile device whenever they’re in need of inputting their data into PRACTICIA?
Rao: 
Yes. Most homes have multiple smart devices that they can use. And the number of smart devices in use is growing exponentially.
MMB: Do you think it will create any inconvenience for teachers if some of their students use PRACTICIA and some don’t?
Rao: It should not be inconvenient. Teachers can keep using the traditional ways for students that do not have access to mobile devices. However, more and more people are getting smart devices and this situation should only be temporary in most cases.
MMB: Does this cost anything?
Rao: 
The Beta version will be completely free. Once the full version comes out, there will be a nominal monthly fee for the student to use it. It will be free for teachers and schools.
MMB: I can see where this app could help improve a student’s quantity of practice, but do you think it will help improve the quality of their practice?
Rao: Because every practice session is recorded and can be heard and commented on by the teacher at any time, EVERY practice session becomes a work product that the student is accountable for. Teachers should see a dramatic increase in the QUALITY of the practice!
MMB: There are many teachers who have a large number of students, with the ability to constantly be in communication/interaction with their teachers, wouldn’t that create a much greater workload for the teachers?
Rao: The teachers are free to be as engaged as they feel like they need to be. There is no ability to message through PRACTICIA. Teachers can decide how much or how little time they want to spend spot checking practice sessions. With the ability to create automated Awards, leaderboards at the click of a button, and the ability to reuse assignments and instructions, teachers might find themselves saving time with PRACTICIA while keeping their students more engaged!
Note: Some teachers are excited about the possibility of offering “Practice Coaching” services to their students for a monthly fee. For a set monthly fee, to be determined on a case by case basis, the teacher can commit to commenting on every practice session submitted by the student. Food for thought..:)
MMB: How did you come up with the name PRACTICIA?
Rao: PRACTICIA was not the first name we thought of! We had many iterations. But we gravitated toward that name as our vision of PRACTICIA is that of a “global practice village” i.e a destination, where students go and practice (inspired by destination names ending in “ia” such as “Valencia”, “Iberia”, “Tanzania”, “Mauritania” etc.) Eventually PRACTICIA will become a global social network for practicing…
MMB: What are your top 3 hopes for this new app?
Rao:
-That it ENGAGES students and parents in practicing like never before.
-That it gives teachers (both private and classroom teachers) unprecedented visibility into what goes on in the practice room
-That practicing becomes as exciting, if not more exciting than anything else the students are involved in…:)
Click this link to check out the website for PRACTICIA: PRACTICIA.com
Thanks Sam for giving us a closer look at the PRACTICIA app!
Here are some screen shots of PRACTICIA–>