It’s hard to believe that Musical U is already celebrating 2 years! What Christopher Sutton began as EasyEarTraining.com in 2009 is now an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to improve their knowledge and skills as a musician. To celebrate their 2-year anniversary as Musical U, they are giving away several free memberships to aspiring musicians. This would be a great resource for older students who want to go beyond the scope of what a traditional piano lesson will cover, friends, or parents of kids in your studio who have always dreamed of becoming better musicians.
The ear training section of the website still has a plethora of information and resources for those who want to develop a better ear and more musical playing.
One of my favorite things to do is brainstorm creative and effective ways to streamline processes and organizational ideas for both myself and my students. That’s one of the reasons that I develop a practice incentive theme for my studio each year. It provides a ways for students to set goals, manage their progress, and achieve success. Plus, it helps me remain organized from lesson-to-lesson and stay on track with each student’s goals. I also love using Music Teacher’s Helper to manage my studio bookkeeping in an organized and professional manner. However, one area I have consistently struggled with is keeping track of my students’ repertoire in a systematic and organized way. I’ve tried a variety of different approaches, both pen-and-paper style and digitally, but nothing has ever clicked for me in a way that I was able to maintain consistently. Until last month.
Amy Chaplin’s inspirational series on using Evernote for studio organization prompted me to re-download the free software and give it another try. I first tried it several years ago, but wasn’t able to stick with it. Even after downloading it this time, it sat on the “back burner” because I couldn’t figure out quite how to use it in a way that worked for me. But it all started to come together when I was adding a book to my Goodreads reading list and writing a brief review of it last month. As I did so, I wished that there was a repertoire database like Goodreads that would allow me to search for a particular book, add it to my list, create and tag certain categories to place it in, and write my comments about it. I don’t know of any such repertoire database in existence (if you know of one, please let me know!), but as I lay in bed that night I began to wonder if I could use Evernote in a similar manner to at least organize repertoire for my studio and students…
By the time the next morning came around, I was ready to open Evernote and get to work! Amy’s series helped me understand how to use the tagging system effectively, so I started creating a folder-type system using tags. I am SO excited about this system and think it will finally be something I can maintain consistently! Here’s a screen shot of how I ended up structuring it:
Here’s the step-by-step run-down, just in case anyone else wants to give this approach a try!
- Create a tag named, “Repertoire.”
- Create what will become the next layer of tags: By Era, By Key, By Level, By Meter. Then I also added a few other tags that were included in this second tier: Duet, Rote Pieces, Sacred Arrangements, and Student Favorites.
- Create the next layer of tags that will be nested inside the previous ones. In the By Era one I created tags for: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, 20th Century, and Contemporary. In By Key, I created one for each major and minor key, plus a tag titled, “Modal.” In By Level, tags included: Beginner, Elementary, Early Intermediate, Intermediate, Late Intermediate, and Advanced. By Meter has: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 so far. (It’s tempting to try to think of every possible tag that I might want to use for a piece, but I decided to stick to these four main criteria so that it wouldn’t get overwhelming trying to keep up with every detail for every piece!)
- Within each era, I started creating a tag for each composer, titled by last name, then first name so that they appear in alphabetical order by last name.
Next, I created a tag and labeled it, “Events.” In this one, I didn’t nest any secondary tags, but instead I will create a note for each event in which I have students participating. The event is labeled by year, month, and then event title. For example: 2017.04 Music Progressions. This way they are arranged chronologically. In the note, I list each student and the pieces they are performing for the event, plus any other relevant information.
Finally, I used Joy Morin’s suggestion of creating tags for “Students-Active” and “Students-Inactive.” Then within the active students, I have a tag for each current student. Nested in that, I have three tags so far. Each one begins with the student’s name and then has either “Performances,” “Rep Ideas,” or “Rep Learned.”
This is where the tagging system is ingenious! Here’s the process for adding repertoire and assigning it to categories:
- Create a new note with the title of a piece of repertoire.
- Tag it with: which era it is, who the composer is, what level it is, what key it’s in, what meter it’s in, and then if I want to assign it to any particular student as a piece of repertoire that they’ve learned or as a repertoire idea for a piece I want them to learn. Now it is handily placed in all of those categories and is visible when I click that category. And to add notes, links, or any additional info, all I have to do is change the note once and it’s reflected across the board. So cool! Throughout the years I can keep adding tags to assign it to other students as well.
The other thing I do is click back on the event I created and tag it with the “performances” tag for every student who participated in that event. This way I can make any changes I need to to one event note, but then have it automatically updated for every student who participated in the event.
Now that I have a workable system in place that I love and that makes sense to me, I am so thrilled to be able to use it consistently for lesson planning, archiving events, tracking student participation, filing repertoire ideas and notes, and keeping a record of repertoire that every student has learned. I’m sure I’ll keep tweaking this in the days ahead, but for now I am excited to have one landing place for all things event and repertoire-related!
Piano teachers are notorious for keeping busy, and Jerald Simon is perhaps at the top of the list! As a Utah piano teacher and prolific composer, he keeps busy creating and providing all sorts of music and resources for the piano teaching community. I was thrilled to see that he has compiled many of these onto a page of FREE Piano Resources on his website. This is a page I’ll be back to often as I search for just the right resource for each of my students!
When I’m selecting new music for my students the first criteria that it must pass is that I like the piece. I know, that’s probably a bit self-serving of me as a teacher, but I figure if I’m not excited about the music, then I’ll have a hard time encouraging the student to be excited and to work hard to learn it. So it’s really for their own benefit. Right? 🙂 I also know that I really like a piece if I get to the end of playing it and find myself wanting to play it again. Just for fun. That’s the kind of music I want my students to learn.
New composer, Chris Owenby, scores on both of those points. After playing through “That Fall Feeling,” I had to play it again. And again. When I played it for a couple of my students and asked them what they thought, they remarked, “It’s pretty!”
Now, for the best part…Chris has offered to giveaway two of his compositions to two Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. Two winners will be drawn using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Friday, April 7, 2017.
Somehow I just came across this fabulous compilation of free downloadable assignment sheets that Amy Chaplin, of the Piano Pantry blog, has either created or adapted! Even though I always create custom assignment books that correlate with our practice incentive theme for the year, I absolutely love the variety of ideas that Amy incorporates into these sheets. Whether you’re looking for an assignment sheet that includes helpful theory concepts, or one that outlines technique warm-ups, or even one that is based on specific practice tips, you’re sure to find one that is just the right fit for your students and studio!
If you haven’t been over to MusicTheoryLessons.net lately, check out this incredible collection of free worksheets that you can download and use with your students! Since I rarely use theory books with my students, I am always on the lookout for specific worksheets that I can use to reinforce various concepts. These are also a great tool for ascertaining a student’s actual understanding of a particular music theory concept.
Dan Vrancic, the teacher behind the website, also has a blog with some helpful blog posts for teachers and students alike. I’m excited to have this resource available, and I know I’ll be back often looking for just the right free music theory worksheet to download!
If you haven’t already seen it, I encourage you to check out this excellent series of posts by Dr. Julie Knerr (one of the creators of the fabulous Piano Safari method!) on how to train students to be “Super Awesome Sight Readers.” This inspires me to remain dedicated to the process of guiding my students to become confident, excellent sight-readers!
Here’s a quick link to the posts along with my favorite quote from each one:
Part 1: It Takes A Long Time!
“It takes an average of three years of diligent work for children to become confident music readers. This means that as we work with students on their reading skill week after week, month after month, we should not become disheartened if a child who has been playing for a year or two still needs help to analyze and decode a piece or a sight reading card.”
Part 2: False Assumptions
“It is so important to lay the foundation correctly when developing a student’s relationship to the notated score!”
“Reading music is a complex skill that requires not only knowledge of note names, but an incredible amount of spatial awareness on the page and in the hands, combined with rhythm in real time. “
“Valuable insight into the student’s thought process can be gained by occasionally asking the student to be the teacher and explain to you how to play a piece.”
“Repetition builds confidence and fluency.”
(Also, I love the idea of contour stories!)
Part 6: Ingredient #3 – Rhythm
“Not only can good readers intuitively read any rhythmic pattern immediately, but they have a great sense of the macro rhythm. When reading, they do not feel all the subdivisions. Instead, they are able to feel the large beat and fit all the subdivisions between the large beats almost automatically.”
Part 7: Ingredient #4 – Note Names
“The goal is for students to see a note and know it immediately, just as they see the letter “A” and know it is an “A” immediately.”
(Dr. Knerr uses an approach similar to the NoteStars Challenge that I use with my students.)
Our Vanishing Voices studio practice incentive theme has been a huge hit so far this year! The students are enjoying collecting composers for their portfolios, and I’m enjoying learning tidbits of new information from the research that they do for each composer. In fact, I can see how my whole understanding of the timeline of history has been heavily influenced by my own study of music history over the years, so I’m excited to provide an opportunity for the students to increase their knowledge of history as well!
In light of that, I’ve been compiling some of my favorite composer research resources:
By far, my all-time favorite book on music history, Bigwigs of Classical Music, was written and illustrated by cartoonist Ben Lansing. In fact, he even generously granted me permission to use his composer portraits as part of our theme! Witty and engaging, Ben’s writing style brings these musical masters to life in a way that even students find entertaining and enjoyable.
Classics for Kids houses a large compendium of biographies, activity sheets, podcasts, and musical excerpts to introduce students to notable composers. I love that you can search alphabetically by composers last name, by country, by time period, or by utilizing the interactive timeline!
Do you have any other favorite composer resources? I’d love to know about them!
Technology is an incredible tool in the classroom. It can give teachers new and exciting ways to engage students, improve the learning process and make tracking progress easier. So why can’t this same philosophy extend to music?
There are more than 80,000 education apps designed just for the iPad alone, and many are designed with music educators in mind, according to Apple. With mobile devices serving as invaluable tools to supplement lessons, music educators have a unique opportunity to take advantage of the massive library of education apps as well as many focused on music specifically.
The Impact of Music Education Apps
Mobile apps offer new methods to accomplish things in the classroom. In music classrooms, technology can spark motivation. While some students are more apt to participate in a music lesson, technology can help other students become engaged. Whether it’s a music-related game or just fun with a keyboard on a tablet, children will be more motivated to take part in learning.
Technology has made it easier to analyze and create music. In music classrooms, students can use apps to break down a piece of music, its rhythms, tempos, harmonies and more. Students can use apps to look at music from the point of view of different instruments.
For teachers, apps provide a chance to differentiate instruction. If music teachers need to work with certain students, they can use technology to ensure that others are engaged. Apps can help students work at their own pace. If students need more instruction on a particular topic, an app can give them the practice they need to ensure they understand.
>>Continue reading about Music Education Apps in the Classroom>>
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