Setting Up Your Own Recording Studio

It’s been quite a few years now since I first learned how to record CDs in my studio. What a milestone moment that was for me after years of searching! We do some manner of recording in the studio at least several times a week, and my students love doing audio recordings of their pieces. We primarily use the direct line recording from the Clavinova, but I would sure love to get to the point where the sound quality is just as good recording acoustically.

I was excited to come across this brief post on Cheap Sound-Proofing Techniques for Small Home Studios. It’s not something I’m going to do any time soon, but it’s great to know that there are viable options for producing higher quality audio recordings right in a home studio!

Monday Mailbag – Recording Videos

What you use to record videos?  And how hard is it to upload to YouTube?

In short, everything!

Canon Elura MiniDV Camcorder – I bought this several years ago for our Isaac Watts Film Project as part of our piano camp and have been using it ever since! It’s been a great little camcorder. I can record onto the miniDV cassettes and then transfer them over to the computer, or I can use a Firewire cable to connect into the computer and record directly into my Adobe Premiere Elements software. From there, footage can be edited, exported, and uploaded to our YouTube channel.

Canon PowerShot SX130IS Digital Camera – This is the one I use more frequently in lessons because it’s easy to record onto the SD memory card, play it right back for the student, stick the card in my computer and upload it either to the hard drive or directly to YouTube.

iPod Touch – Ever since I got this amazing little marvel of technology, I use it for everything. Including recording students. I have it linked with my YouTube channel, so it’s a piece of cake to record the student and select the option to upload it directly to the site. The video is HD, so the sound and image are both great. There is a time limit, so this doesn’t work for every piece, but it’s so easy and fun when it does!

Webcam – Either a built-in or external webcam can work for recording video. I don’t use this option much because the quality isn’t the greatest, but if you need a real quick way to record and upload you might consider it. YouTube has an option on the Upload page where you can choose to record from the webcam. Once you record you have the option to view the video and either save it or re-record it.

SmartPhone – Even my handy little Samsung Intrepid has saved the day a few times when it was all I had on me to do a recording. Most SmartPhones now have video recording capabilities. And I can use this, too, to upload directly to our YouTube channel via SMS messaging, which is nice. The audio leaves much to be desired, so I would never use it for anything other than an emergency situation where we just need to capture something on camera.

As you can see, the options are plentiful! If you haven’t already, I would recommend setting up a YouTube channel and then go from there experimenting with equipment you already have on hand to see how it works and what you like best. You might also be interested in checking out the post on Using Video With Your Students if you want more info about using your own YouTube channel.

Did I miss anything? Do you have another way you do video recording with your students that I failed to include in the list above? Please share!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

Tips for Creativity and Productivity

One of my students and her mom recommended a post called, How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 other things nobody told me). Obviously tongue-in-cheek, but the author has some fabulous tips that will help you think more creatively and work more productively. I especially appreciate #9 – “Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)”

I have often told people that the way to live life enjoyably is by making yourself do lots of little things that you don’t feel like doing or that aren’t enjoyable. Here’s a simple illustration: I love eating homemade granola and yogurt for breakfast every morning. I look forward to it and find it very pleasing to partake of this morning meal while having my quiet time. Wednesday morning is when I make the granola. If, on a particular Wednesday, I feel bored of making it and decide not to then I am forced to endure the rest of the week without my anticipated breakfast (because the chances of me making it another day are not good if I neglect to do it on the day I have time scheduled to do so).

We can easily draw a parallel to music study. It may feel boring to sit down and practice every single day. There are days we won’t feel like working on the same piece again, or reviewing the same scale. But this is the stuff that enjoying playing and playing well are made of. If we can discipline ourselves to do the mundane, daily things of life, we will find greater enjoyment in the whole. That was the main point of my article, “I’m Dreaming…Of Becoming A Great Musician” a couple years ago. This is something I need to constantly remember for myself and my students!

Win a Free Month of Full Access to Theta Music Trainer!

Don’t you love it when site developers are committed to continually improving their resources and adding value to their customers?! That’s definitely the case with Theta Music Trainer.

Ever since I first came across them several months ago, they’ve been tweaking their games and adding new ones. From the circle of 5ths (I really like this one!) to rhythm to pitch and tone recognition, Theta Music’s wide array of games is sure to be a hit with music studios everywhere. They now have twenty games and a whopping four hundred levels available!

The developers of Theta Music Trainer have generously offered to giveaway a free month of full access to all games to one Music Matters Blog reader. To enter, just leave a comment below. The drawing will be held at noon (CST) on Thursday, September 1. The winner will be drawn using a random number generator. Wouldn’t this be a fun way to kick-off a new year in your studio?!

Monday Mailbag – Business Types

As I contemplate venturing out into the World Wide Web, I’m thinking I should change my business structure from a Sole Proprietorship to an LLC for liability purposes.  I’d be interested in hearing what other teachers have done, especially those of you who have web sites.

Since we’re at the start of a new teaching year, I’m pulling questions that have a bit more to do with the business side of running a studio. And I’m really glad that this one wasn’t phrased as a direct question toward me because I don’t think I can offer much input! I started out as a sole proprietorship and have remained that way ever since. At one point, I visited with an accountant to discuss the pros and cons of incorporating. After reviewing my particular situation, neither of us thought it was the best route at the time.

There are certainly risks associated with running a website and I’ve had to deal with legal things I never expected as a result of it! My best advice, though, is to educate yourself. Whether it means setting up a consultation with an attorney or accountant, reading through legal and business books, scouring the internet for helpful resources, or discussing situations with friends who own businesses (or all of the above!), the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is become knowledgeable about laws and policies governing the market. If and when someone does come after you, there’s nothing that beats being able to quickly send a well-written, well-researched, and well-documented response that addresses the concerns or accusations that have been raised.

I know of a few teachers who have incorporated their studios, but most of the ones I know operate as a sole proprietorship. It would be great to hear from others, though, about how they have structured their studios and the reasoning behind it! So, please share: what kind of business entity is your studio?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

And the Winners Are…

The winners of the In Search of Composer DVDs are…

#58 – Cherisse

#52 – Wendy M.

Congrats! You will receive either the In Search of Beethoven or In Search of Mozart DVD from Seventh Art Productions (just e-mail me with your full name and mailing address!)! Thanks to everyone who participated. In fact, as a special way of saying “thank you,” Seventh Art Productions is offering a special deal for all Music Matters Blog readers. You can order your own copy of one or both of these films at 25% off! Just send an e-mail to info@seventh-art.com and mention Music Matters Blog to receive the discounted pricing. Music educators may also request the corresponding PDF study guide and public viewing license for the films at 25% off.

Stay tuned for another great giveaway next Tuesday!

Connecting With other 21st Century Teachers

A while back I came across this site devoted to The 21st Century Teacher. I’ve had it open in my tabs ever since, but haven’t had a chance to explore it in detail yet. It looks like a great place to connect with others that are interested in technology in education. They also have parts of the site devoted to weblinks (lots of free resources!) and the sharing of documents created by other teachers (the best kind!). It looks like they have some interesting discussion groups as well with a whole variety of topics. I always enjoy visiting with other teachers who aren’t necessarily in music education, so this looks like a great way to do so virtually!

One More Thing About Music Teacher’s Helper

As long as we’re talking about Music Teacher’s Helper (MTH), I wanted to let you know that you can now receive 20% off your first month’s subscription if you use the link in this post! Not only that, but when you use my link, it also helps support Music Matters Blog and all the resources available here. :-)

If you’ve been thinking about subscribing to MTH, but are still on the fence I encourage you to give it a try. You can always unsubscribe at any time if it doesn’t work for you. But I can’t adequately express how much it has streamlined the business side of my studio. In the last several weeks I’ve interviewed several prospective students and every one of the families was immediately impressed with how organized and professional everything was. By the time they made it home from the interview, they had an e-mail waiting in their inbox with their account login information and the ability to pay on-line via credit card and/or set up a recurring subscription payment for lessons.

Even though I use it constantly throughout the year, it’s especially now when I’m enrolling new students that I’m reminded of how much I appreciate MTH and all the time and energy it saves me!

Monday Mailbag – Creating a Lending Library for Music Books

I have a pretty decent library of music and I like to loan it out to my students.  Honestly though, I do a terrible job of keeping track of who has what.  I cannot seem to wrap my mind around how to create a working lending library.  What you do?

This seemed like a great topic to discuss as we approach a new year of teaching! Over the years, my lending library has more closely resembled a free music store for students. :-) I’ve known teachers who used elaborate systems akin to a card catalog, but I never took the time to set up anything like that. Like you, I just couldn’t figure out what the best approach would be. Until I met Music Teacher’s Helper (MTH)! Anyone who has been reading here any length of time knows how much I love MTH. I seriously could not imagine running my studio without it!

Anyway…they have a great built-in Lending Library feature where you can maintain a database of materials and make it available to students. You can either input items ahead of time to create the database, or you can create the database as you go – whenever a student wants to borrow an item. It’s very intuitive. Just select the Lending Library menu option and click the button to “Lend an Item.” Then you can create the item and select one of your students as the borrower. For each item, you can include the Title, Author/Composer/Artist, Type (you can add new types), Quantity in Stock, Total Quantity, Serial Number/ISBN, and Notes.

Honestly, this is not something I’ve used extensively yet, but it’s one of my goals for the upcoming year. It would be so easy to take a minute when a student wants to borrow something to add it to the library and then click to loan it out to them. You can also set a due date. When a student logs into his/her account, they will see a list of all the Lending Library items they have borrowed. And you can see at a glance who is borrowing which books. This is a much more efficient and professional way of tracking Lending Library items, so I’m really eager to get it running this year!

For those who use MTH, have you utilized the Lending Library feature? How has it worked for you? For those who don’t use MTH, do you have any other suggestions of how to operate a Lending Library?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

The Anatomy of a Practice Incentive Theme

Every year the process looks slightly different, but in a nutshell there are some tried-and-true steps that seem to work for developing a practice incentive theme that will captivate students!

  • In the spring, use year-end questionnaires to collect input on what they liked best and least about the theme, what things they’d like to focus on the next year, and specific theme ideas.
  • Spend a couple months thinking and praying about what to do. Periodically pull out the student questionnaires and review them.
  • When August rolls around, make arrangements to go to the home of a friend with a swimming pool. Make sure it’s someone who is stocked with a comfortable raft. Lay out on said raft for a couple of hours and contemplate all sorts of wild and crazy ideas that might inspire and motivate students.
  • If you hit on an idea that seems like a keeper, quickly exit the pool, dry off, grab a pen and paper, and start scribbling furiously before the idea disappears. A home that also supplies lounge chairs is of primary consideration for this portion of the planning. :-)
  • Spend the next week letting the idea develop and ferment, jotting down additional thoughts as they come. Be prepared to do lots of scratching out, too!
  • When formulating ideas, there are two sides – the objective side and the execution side. The objective side is the consideration of what you want the students to accomplish. This is primarily musical. The execution side is the imaginative, creative approach that will captivate the students and give them an exciting reason to work toward the established objectives. This is often non-musical.
  • View My PortfolioOnce the objectives, execution, and title have been decided, start scouring iStockPhoto.com (get 10 free credits when you sign up through this link!) for the perfect image(s) to capture the theme!
  • Start designing the cover. I always begin with the cover because it helps me set the mood and look for the whole theme. Once the cover is ready to go, I start working on the interior pages and all the other supporting documents and studio decorations.

It’s always so much fun to see the theme come together and to build the suspense until it is revealed at our September Surprise! I’ve had students (and parents!) asking me for months what the theme is, so I know they are “chomping at the bit” to find out. Which is also why I can’t post anything else here yet about the theme – I know there are sleuths in my studio who patrol this blog just waiting for me to slip up and give away the surprise… :-) Not happening! But I can hardly wait to tell you all about it and will do so as soon as I can!