Diligence is Quite a Virtue…

…working hard will never hurt you; when you’re through there’s always a reward.” So go the lyrics of the “Work Song” from the record “Antshillvania” that I remember listening to over and over as a child. These words came to mind the other day as I was working with my kids on our Latin exercises. (So of course I had to pull this clip up on YouTube and make sure it was inescapably stuck in their heads along with mine. :-))

Not unlike the process of learning to read music, understanding and developing a working knowledge of Latin is complex and difficult. Often one read-through of the lesson is not enough to fully absorb the material. Rather it takes a considerable amount of repetition, meditation, and implementation. How very un-American!

Borrowing from the Character First! Education materials, I find myself often quoting the definition of diligence to my children/students when laziness is the preferred pastime.

“Diligence is investing all my energy to complete the tasks assigned to me.”

I was reminded again of the virtue of diligence when I read the recent article by Rebecca Grooms Johnson highlighting a research project conducted on “Work ethic, motivation, and parental influences in Chinese and North American children learning to play the piano” (published in the October/November 2015 issue of American Music Teacher). Of particular interest to me was the great divide in weekly practice time spent by Chinese students (295.26 minutes) versus their North American/Caucasian student counterparts (159.29 minutes). This is a reflection of “the broadly prevalent Asian cultural philosophy toward learning with a strong emphasis on hard work rather than an inborn talent or ability.”

Rebecca ends her report with a series of questions, among them, “Will our children’s apparently low levels of motivation and work ethic doom our culture to mediocrity?” Yes, indeed! That’s why we must make every effort to inspire, equip, and encourage our students to rise above such an indifferent approach to life and learning. We must push our students to work hard, to excel, to embody diligence in all their endeavors. We must refuse to accept half-hearted, lazy, excuse-riddled work, whether it comes to counting rhythms precisely, memorizing effectively, or even carefully reading and following specific practice instructions. If we truly want to see our students succeed, we must help them realize that it is not innate talent or ability that will propel them forward, but diligent and consistent hard work.

Sign up for the NoteRunner Online Piano Competition

You still have a little over one week to sign up for the NoteRunner Online Piano Competition. The contest is open to participants of all ages (including teachers!) and is designed to help promote the work of independent composers. Winners can receive cash prizes. Check out the list of songs to find a piece that grabs your interest. And you can read all the contest details here. I love that these online competitions are becoming more frequent and look forward to having some students participate one of these days!

Q&A with Pierre from Flat

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Pierre is a co-founder of Flat, an online music score creator that allows you to compose with friends. Please welcome Pierre as he joins me for a Q&A session! *applause* :)

MMB: Could you give us a summary of what Flat is?

Pierre: Flat is a collaborative music score editor that offers the ability to collaborate in real time on the same composition with your friends. It’s like Google Documents. We focus on a new experience to create the simplest, easy to use music tool.

MMB: What inspired you to develop Flat?

Pierre: Basically, we’re 4 musicians. We all met during our computer sciences studies. Vincent my CTO & co–founder plays cello and I am a drummer. Back in those days, it was almost impossible for us to collaborate easily spur of the moment.

It was mainly due to two things:

-­ Existing software was too professional and the learning curve was so hard.

-­ None of software offered real time collaboration. Meaning, that to collaborate easily, you had to be in the same room, etc…

It clearly appeared that we could create a web application to change that. However web technologies weren’t mature enough at that point. Three years later, we had to submit a final study project to our school. We thought it was a great opportunity to try to develop Flat. We received distinction for our work and started over once we get graduated. We are now almost one year old and we’re proud to see that we managed to address the collaboration issue!

MMB: Could you take us through the steps of creating a score using Flat?

Pierre: Of course. It’s pretty easy, actually:

-­ Click on create score

-­ Enter your sheet music name

-­ Select your instruments

-­ Set the time and key signature

-­ Start to compose your masterpiece

Watch these steps in action!

MMB: Does Flat save all your music?

Pierre: Flat automatically saves your work. We called it the smart history! When you have made many changes or apply a major modification like changing instruments, a transposition, etc…
A version will be created. None of your work can be lost. You can go through all your version history and revert to an old one whenever you want!

MMB: The collaborative aspect of Flat sounds pretty cool, how exactly does that work?

Pierre: As I said previously, it’s just like a Google Documents. You invite a collaborator, grant him access, and you can start to collaborate. Based on a set of colors you’ll see what collaborators do. There is not a limit of the number of collaborators. Flat can be used directly within Google Hangouts video chat, as well. So users can collaborate in realtime and take advantage of the video. It happens often that we have 10 people inside the Google Hangouts session. It’s pretty stunning!

MMB: Can you create scores through a MIDI device and/or write in the music?

Pierre: As I am writing my answers, Corentin is going through the last checks of the first version of MIDI composition. It will be online by the beginning of the next week.

MMB: If you can use both methods, is it easy to switch back forth?

Pierre: You can use any kind of input to write in your sheet music. You can easily switch from your keyboard to midi and back to using your mouse. We’re spending most of our time thinking how to keep Flat as easy as possible. If something is inconvenient for us it will be worse for the user.

MMB: Can you create score through the microphone on your computer?

Pierre: We did some research on that topic. It’s a real challenge that we intend to implement within the beginning of 2016!

MMB: Is it mobile device friendly?

Pierre: We have maintained a mobile device version of Flat. However we have understood that usages are completely different on a computer and a mobile device. This is why, instead of developing a different experience dedicated to mobile on the same product, we have started to work on a mobile app of Flat. Crazy engineers have just joined the team to create it before the end of the year.

Check out Flat and start some real time composing with your friends!

Free Notation Software Deal & Giveaway

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To celebrate the 500,000th download of FORTE 6 Notation Software (a WINDOWS operating system software), starting right now (exclusively for MMB readers) until September 14th, you can download FORTE 6 Basic for free! (a $24 value) FORTE 6 Basic free download page

If you’re not familiar with FORTE check out their website! I’ve never used it, but from watching their introductory video it appears very user friendly and quite similar to Finale, a notation software I used to use.

Also, Music Matters Blog has been given the opportunity to giveaway to its readers 1 FORTE 6 Premium license (FORTE Premium a $200+ value!), so let me know in the comments if you’re interested in being entered and you might just win!

Practice Tips from The Musician’s Way

Gerald Klickstein’s newsletter is always a treasure trove of helpful links and resources. In his Summer 2015 issue he links to a couple of posts on his blog that I thought were particularly insightful, especially as I prepare for another year of teaching and consider what areas to emphasize with my students.

5 Tips for Successful Practice gives some great practical suggestions that teachers and students alike can implement to maximize their time at the piano! For some reason, I also had never come across his page of Downloads with a variety of helpful documents you can download and utilize for free. I’m especially drawing inspiration from his Practice Sheet with a specific breakdown of different kinds of assignments and succinct practice objectives that correlate with each one.

If you’re not already, I highly recommend subscribing to the fabulous quarterly newsletter from The Musician’s Way!

Free Music Fonts!

In working on curriculum for the Carnival of the Animals music camp in our studio next week, I realized that the Bach musicological font I used to use all the time on my PC was not rendering correctly on my Mac. With a little digging, I discovered a great new Rhythms font that works even better! Thanks to Matthew Hindson for doing the hard work and compiling a helpful list of free music fonts for both Windows and Mac!

A Free Downloadable Curriculum Based on The Topic Wheel

Yesterday I shared about The Topic Wheel and how I’m finding it to be a valuable tool in planning our studio summer piano camp this year based on a classical model of learning. In studying and preparing for it, I came across a great free resource that you can download and explore. It will give you an idea for what this approach looks like when applied to a curriculum unit. This particular resource is on dolphins and is based on the movie Dolphin Tale 2. I’m enjoying perusing it and gaining lots of inspiration and ideas!


Learning to Play the Piano Benefits You in Numerous Ways – Guest Post by Dustin Williams

Learning to play the piano provides numerous health benefits. Individuals find they experience less stress upon learning to play this instrument and their cognitive development and eye-hand coordination improve. Thanks to home study courses, anyone can now be playing this instrument in a short period of time.

The Benefits of Learning to Play the Piano

A study published in Cognitive Systems Research showed eye-hand coordination improves when one learns to play the piano, and regular practice on a daily basis instills discipline in the child. Neuropsychology reported in a 2011 study which found that musical training protects mental sharpness during the aging process, while the British Journal of Psychiatry found that music therapy successfully helps to treat depression.

Barry Bittman, a Pennsylvania physician, and Loma Linda University School of Medicine researchers found learning to play an instrument helps individuals to relax and stimulate their immune system. Furthermore, E. Glenn Schellenberg, of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, found that children who undergo music training witness a rise in their IQ. These are only a few of the numerous benefits of learning to play the piano.

Playground Sessions

Individuals wanting to learn to play the piano may find Quincy Jones’ Playground Sessions to be of great help. The program features innovative technology to teach users how to play the piano using video lessons. The program makes use of popular songs, so the user already knows the rhythm, and this makes learning come more quickly and naturally. The beats and rhythms of these songs are used to demonstrate musical concepts in the various lessons, and users learn to play by ear, make their way around the keyboard and more. Students may choose from the rookie, intermediate or advanced tour options.

Interactive Video Lessons

With the help of interactive video lessons, students quickly learn to play the piano. Each song is broken down in simple steps, making the music theory concepts easy to grasp. The student first views how to play the song, and then he or she plays along with the instructor. Constructive feedback is offered along with helpful tips.

Engaging Instruction

David Sides, known for his “Apologize” rendition on the piano, provides the lessons, ensuring users stay engaged. Sides makes use of progress visualizations to help students stay on track, such as charts, and students find the charts allow them to see where they are excelling and where more practice is needed. Seeing improvement in various areas helps to keep students motivated.

The Gaming Element

Real time scores and feedback allow the user to make adjustments immediately. This prevents bad habits from being formed and encourages the user to try harder to beat his or her last score. When a note is played correctly, it turns green. When the student is close, the note changes to a pink color. Miss the note completely and it turns red. The gaming element makes learning to play piano fun and something children will look forward to doing.

Individuals wishing to learn to play piano need to consider this program in their search for lessons, as many find it to be helpful. Playground Sessions offers the tools needed to succeed in mastering this instrument.

Playground Sessions 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.