Piano – The Book

This beautiful, interactive ebook has accomplished what no other iPad game or resource has yet been able to accomplish – it has gotten me excited about using the iPad with my students in their lessons! As much as I love technology, I confess that although I’ve wanted to figure out ways to incorporate it effectively in my teaching, there just hasn’t been anything compelling enough to motivate me to make it happen yet.

Piano – Evolution Design & Performance by David Crombie has changed all that! From the minute I downloaded and opened the ebook on my iPad, I was drawn in by the gorgeous images, accompanied by related audio files. Students always seems astonished when I first inform them that the piano didn’t always exist. 🙂 I love introducing them to the piano’s predecessors, showing them pictures of ornate harpsichords, explaining the contrasting action, and letting them listen to a demo of a harpsichord sound on the studio Clavinova. Now, I’m super excited to be able to open up this ebook on my iPad, show them the full color images and listen to quality audio recordings as we discuss the history of the piano.

You can also explore the evolution of electric pianos, peruse myriad styles of pianos (ever heard of the rocking piano?!), learn how the action works in upright and grand pianos, find out about the history of dozens of piano houses, and even discover some of the science behind how sound is generated. So fun!

Can you tell I love this ebook? I don’t receive a penny for any sales from it, but highly recommend it to every piano teacher, student, and enthusiast as a go-to resource for information about this magnificent instrument. You can view additional screenshots and download it from the iTunes website.

You may also want to check out David Crombie’s World Piano News website for all-things piano:

What incredible resources we piano teachers have at our fingertips!

Activate the Brain!

I love to attend workshops or participate in courses that really make me think. You know, ones where the presenter shares fascinating research or information, and then you have to process it yourself and figure out what to do with that information, or how to apply it to your situation. Sometimes it’s also nice to have people who have thought through the information for you and are willing to share how they’ve implemented it effectively in a variety of scenarios. Well, in her “Activate the Brain!” online course, Jennifer Foxx does both!

The course includes 11 modules and several sets of bonus resources, including a fillable pdf so you can take notes as you watch each video. Here are some highlights from the first few modules:

Module 1: Introduction
This has a hilarious video clip that will resonate with every teacher and parent!

Module 2: Activate the Brain!
Drawing on the research of several neurological specialists and educators, Jennifer gives an overview of the different parts and functions of the brain. She reveals how the reticular activating system may be the culprit when you attempt to review something with a student only to have them respond, “you never taught me that.” [Sound familiar to anyone else?? :-)]

She goes on to share how stress impacts a student’s ability to learn and then gives many practical tips that teachers can use in piano lessons. I appreciated the reminder of the importance of review for making neurological connections in the brain. Jennifer ends Module 2 with a “Recipe for an Engaged Brain” that provides lots of great food for thought!

Module 3: Bloom’s Taxonomy and the National Core Music Standards
Developed in 1956, Bloom’s Taxonomy laid the foundation for future educational philosophies and standards. Jennifer gave an overview of the triangle, explaining each part in more detail:

  • Remembering – Can the student recall the information?
  • Understanding – Can the student explain concepts?
  • Applying – Can the student use the information in a useful way?
  • Analyzing – Can the student distinguish between different parts?
  • Evaluating – Can the student justify a decision?
  • Creating – Can the student make something new?

Jennifer emphasized that while these are arranged as a triangle, there is no hierarchy in the relationships of each aspect of learning. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a theory, and as music teachers we should experiment and consider our own findings. After this, Jennifer went through the National Common Core Music Standards, sharing ideas and examples for each one.

As you can see, this Activate the Brain course is a wonderful combination of both learning philosophy and practical ideas to implement in your teaching. Just to whet your appetite, here are the remaining module topics:

  • Module 4: What is Engaged Learning?
  • Module 5: Teacher and Student Roles
  • Module 6: Learning Styles
  • Module 7: Teaching Styles, Strategies, and Techniques
  • Module 8: Create An Invitation to Learn
  • Module 9: Characteristics of Age Groups
  • Module 10: Over 30 Ways to Check for Understanding and Engagement
  • Module 11: Recap and Conclusion

If you’re looking for a way to continue your own education (from the comfort of your home!) and get the “wheels” spinning to come up with new ideas and approaches to try with your students, Activate the Brain would be a great course to take over the summer! And to make it an even sweeter deal, Jennifer is offering a special coupon code for all Music Matters Blog readers. Use the code ENGAGEDLEARNING to receive 15% off the course between now and June 30, 2017.

Playground Time!

Have you seen Kristin’s Piano Teacher’s Playground?

This is one of my favorite stops for fun, colorful, yet clean-looking free worksheets to use with my piano students. In fact, since our Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme incorporated doing a theory worksheet every three weeks to earn Mental Miles, I used her Scale Detective, Identifying Half and Whole Steps, and Spot the Note worksheets with multiple students throughout the year. I am always so grateful for the creativity and generosity of the music education community and the devoted teachers who make resources like this available for everyone!

Win a Free Membership to Musical U!


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.

Finally a Way to Track Repertoire!

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!

  1. Create a tag named, “Repertoire.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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!)
  4. 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:

  1. Create a new note with the title of a piece of repertoire.
  2. 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!

Page of Free Piano Resources

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!

Review and Giveaway of New Music by Composer Chris Owenby

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!”

Chris has several other nice selections in his online shop at PracticeHabits.co. Candle in the Night is an open, airy composition that would be great as a rote teaching piece!

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.