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Although the program’s face seems outdated, it was easy to use and I liked the self-paced nature of it as well as the laid-back but in-depth feel.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–>

Review of How to Become a Confident Performer by Clive Stocker

To visit the book’s site click here

With his experience as a teacher and music practitioner, Clive Stocker offers his  expertise and self-help tips for those looking to improve their performance quality. The suggestions in his book range from simple breathing exercises to step-by-step approaches to becoming more confident on a small or grand stage.

The book is comprised of 31 chapters of illustrations and explanations of methods, and at the end of many of the chapters, it summarizes the explained method into an ordered list of steps. After chapter 31, you will find two chapters with references and acknowledgements.

While I do believe Mr. Stocker has some good, helpful approaches and thoughts to becoming a more confident performer and musician in his book like…

“The real truth is that you will never be like James Brown and nor should you be! We all need to be the best version of ourselves we can be on stage but we can borrow actions and ideas from other performers that we know will work for us.” (Page 111)

…I do take issue with a couple of major things about Mr. Stocker’s work:

1) One of the big things proposed about this book is that it offers quick fix solutions for your lack of performing confidence. While the book does have some easy-to-try exercises, I think it’s a very hard thing to claim that your approaches will provide easy fixes for performers across the board. Yes, they might have proven successful for some, but for many performers – young and old – there are just some things that will take time for them to work through in order to become more comfortable/confident in the spotlight.

2) To me, there ‘s a very strong underlying theme of hypnotic approaches in Mr. Stocker’s book, as well as connecting to your feelings/imagery-that you have the power within your mind to find the confidence you need. This is also very prevalent in his “Guided Meditation“ CD.

I am not a proponent of spiritualistic type approaches to music or life in general, nor have I been successful overcoming obstacles – specifically with learning and performing piano music – believing I can do it through myself. On top of being well prepared, I have only found complete confidence and peace during a performance when I quote these verses to myself from the Bible:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
-Philippians 4:13

“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
-Isaiah 41:10

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:7

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence…”
-Proverbs 14:26

So in conclusion, I do believe Mr. Stocker is quite knowledgeable when it comes to enhancing your performance skills, but I don’t always agree with the avenues he takes or teaches to becoming a “confident performer.”

To learn more about Clive Stocker’s material visit his website: Confident Performer.

Review of Ear Master Pro


I have yet to review a product I liked better or found more musically resourceful than Ear Master Pro, an ear training & sight-singing software! This program is loaded with exercises to help improve students’-even teachers’-ear and sight skills, and I found it to be very nicely laid out, as well as user-friendly and effective.

Upon opening the program, you can first choose a mode and activity from the options pictured below. (Yes, there is even a “Jazz” mode! I’m not super familiar with the jazz style and I didn’t delve into that mode extensively, but I do find it pretty neat they have that as a feature.)

Within each activity, there are different modules you can choose from (some activities have over 20 modules while others have 1), and then you can choose what lesson of the module you’d like to start with. Once you do all that, you are set to begin your activity!

I found the interactive interface of Ear Master Pro to be pretty straight forward and easy to navigate which was really nice considering how many features it has. To be quite honest, I really enjoyed some of the activities myself. Naturally, I have a poor sense of rhythm and am definitely a “by sight” pianist, but I thought I’d give a rhythm dictation activity a try and…I ended up liking it. I believe some contributing factors to me liking this training program so much is 1) the good selection of activities, 2) how much you can customize the activities to fit your needs, 3) it has a fun, educational and techy feel, and 4) the fact that it utilizes so many different aspects on the computer: onscreen piano keyboard and staff, computer keys, the ability to use built-in audio functions or hook up a midi keyboard.

One thing I think is huge about this program is the clear sound quality it has. So often ear training games, sites, or CDs have very tinny or muffled sound, and that can really affect the listener’s ability to distinguish what they hear-especially if they are doing melodic dictation. I can see having Ear Master Pro in your studio as a teaching/training tool for your students being incredibly instrumental in helping them improve in areas from simple rhythmic dictation to chord identification.

Even if you’re not convinced yet to go buy your own downloadable copy, you should definitely download the trial version of Ear Master Pro and try it for yourself! There is also a Teacher Edition you can take a look at on the site.

 

 

Review and Giveaway of Supersonics Piano by Daniel McFarlene


I’m greatly inspired by Mr. McFarlene’s (creator of the Supersonics Piano website and piano music) innovative spirit and how he takes full advantage of the modern technology available to us today. All of McFarlene’s music is completely digital and can be downloaded at SupersonicsPiano.com, making it possible for you to have his songs at your fingertips within minutes wherever you are in the world. The piano music offered on the site ranges from elementary to early advanced, each with its own modern flare.

I love Mr. McFarlene’s ambition behind his site and music, but unfortunately I did not fall in love with his music like it seems some have. As I played through his songs, I felt like many of them lacked strong melodious character. What I mean by this is that the melodies were either hard to detect or abstract, and the harmony would seem to collide with the melody in various songs rather than complement it. On a more positive note, however, because of the recurring patterns incorporated into his songs, I can see McFarlene’s music being an awesome resource for earlier level students learning how to identify patterns throughout a song!

On the Supersonics Piano website you can also find duet/trio music, as well as audio recordings and McFarlene’s video channel.

Starting the 4th of August Supersonics Piano pieces will be featured in the Piano Maestro app and Daniel McFarlane has generously offered this code: JTS3MSUPERSONIC for Music Matters Blog readers to gain access to the entire app one month free!

Additionally, we are having a giveaway! Comment on the post saying you want to be entered and three lucky winners will each receive a single print piano e-book of your choice (from Levels A, B or C) which can then be printed, accessed on your smartphone, iphone/tablet, and computer.

If you are looking into purchasing some music on Supersonics Piano website you can use this code: musicmatters to receive a 10% discount. But don’t waste too much time, it expires 8/6/13.

Supersonics Books A, B, & C; The Lake (Intermediate Piano Book)

Free Giveaway of 44 Birthday Variations by Forrest Kinney!

Those of you who have been around here for a while know that my teaching philosophy and approach has been largely influenced by Forrest Kinney and his Pattern Play books and teacher workshops. I am excited to share that he has a new website and has been working on lots of projects to share with fellow pianists and teachers!

And, even better, he has graciously offered to giveaway a complete set of his new 44 Birthday Variations to one Music Matters Blog reader! You can listen to sample recordings of them on the individual variation pages (e.g. here’s the New Age one). Just leave your name in the comment section below, and a winner will be selected using a random number generator on Friday, July 11, at 12:00 noon (CST). I know you and/or your students will love these!

Review of Fiddlewax Blue

Fiddlewax Blue is an interactive iPad or iPhone app developed by Alex Kumpf that allows the user to experiment with different chords and keys without a piano. The app has a variety of settings that you can change such as what instrument you use (preset or custom), what key you want to mess around in (CM, bm, e harmonic, etc), which of the 8 functions you want displayed, and even more I didn’t delve into much.

Before I tried out the app, I watched this tutorial (below) by Alex Kumpf to get an idea of what its features were and that really helped me see and understand what it was capable of doing. It was really hard for me to grasp what the Fiddlewax Blue app was by just reading the description, so it was nice having a visual aid.

And then here is a video of him giving viewers a sample of what it looks like to actually “use” the app:

Fiddlewax Blue also has a feature where you can record compositions you create within the app and either email it to yourself or access the recording through your computer later.

I like the idea of this app and the potential it has to give users a greater understanding of musical keys and chords, but after dabbling in it for a while, I felt like it could have been a bit more user friendly and the sound quality could’ve been better. However, I’m sure these are things that will be updated the longer the app is available.

Review of Black Key Blast by Wendy Stevens

Black Key Blast By Wendy Stevens

Wendy Stevens has produced many music resources over the years, spanning from theory tests (which I personally benefited from), to piano music, rhythm books, and now one of her most recent products: Black Key Blast-a beginner pre-staff songbook. In this book you’ll find 6 upbeat and energetic pieces with accompanying teacher parts, and lyrics to boot! Just to give you an idea of what you’d be in for, check out the title for each song…

- Movin’ and Groovin’

- Click Clock Click

- Round and Round

- My Imaginary Friend

- I Am the Princess

- Ninja Power

Natalie and I decided to play through Black Key Blast together to get the full effect, and I’m really glad we did because it helped a lot! When she and I finished the book, I really liked, “I Am A Princess” because I thought the student and teacher part complemented each other very nicely. I can’t say I felt the same way with the other songs after we had played through all of them. It took Natalie and I a couple times of playing through each song to really start getting an idea of what the duets should sound like. Even still, with some of the duets, Natalie commented, “They just don’t seem to fit.” Each part was actually quite fun, but, but it was just a bit challenging to get the duets to flow rhythmically and melodically.

I watched Wendy’s YouTube video for her Black Key Blast book and it definitely helped with understanding how the songs should sound. The songs in Black Key Blast seem like they’ll be really fun and exciting for beginner students to play as a solo or duet, but once those teacher parts come in, I can definitely see the students finding it a lot more challenging rhythmically. Even though this wasn’t my favorite elementary book, I do think your little students will enjoy learning these songs and even the challenge that may come with playing the duets!

To purchase your own copy click here>> Black Key Blast

To check out Wendy Stevens’ site click here>> ComposeCreate

Review of Learning Strategies for Musical Success by Michael Griffin

Learning Strategies for Musical Success

Michael Griffin has become quite a familiar name for Music Matters Blog readers. Just from the little I’ve been exposed to his work and the little I know about him, Mr. Griffin is a thoroughly impressive music educator and has definitely earned the recognition and promotion he’s received on the blog. Author of Music and Keyboard in the Classroom and developer of Music Education World, Michael Griffin has produced yet another excellent resource for the music community!

I might’ve not agreed with everything in the book, but very rarely do I come away from reviewing a product feeling INSPIRED! While reading the book, I discovered that Natalie uses some of the very same methods that are encouraged for greater musical success-methods that were used to teach me and help me excel in my musical endeavors, particularly the “student-teacher” method Griffin discusses.

“We learn…
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear 
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what is discussed with others
80% of what is experienced personally
95% of what we teach to someone else.”
-William Glasser, American Psychiatrist (found in the book)

Developing this fact-based, informative, well-researched, and personal-perspective book was clearly no walk in the park. I can only imagine the hours that were poured into getting this work published! By the time I finished the book, I was inspired to keep learning and challenging myself; I was inspired to strive more for excellence and be willing to work hard to achieve that. I felt like Mr. Griffin clearly communicated his message-and with a passion: “With a growth-mindset, and repeated and sustained effort, we can substantially improve in our endeavors.” He definitely holds to a similar theory in musical excellence and success as Einstein did in genius: “Genius is 1 % talent and 99% hard work…” I appreciate Mr. Griffin’s desire to re-instill this in people because the mindset to work hard and not take your talents for granted is deteriorating quite rapidly in our society-especially in younger generations.

If you’re a music educator-or maybe even hold another occupation-I believe you will find this book incredibly beneficial and inspiring! Plus, the book is nicely laid out into six chapters with thoughtfully divided sections and includes numerous illustrations, making it very “reference-friendly.” Take a peek inside!:


(Pg. 74, Figure 19: Higher-Order Thinking Skills)

“The self-directed action of doing something for its inherent value, for the sake of self-growth, is characteristically exhilarating, gratifying, uplifting, and enjoyable.”  -David Elliott (This is a quote used on pg. 77, section “Enjoyment”)

“Successful people overcome obstacles and even turn them to their advantage.” (pg. 81, section “Attitude of Mind”)


(Pg. 120, Figure 26: Multiple Intelligences Model)


(Pg. 121, section “Multiple Intelligences Theory”)


(Pg. 124, section “Music and the Brain”)

I loved portions of chapter 3 (“The Soft Skills of Achievement”) and chapter 6 (“Music and Intelligence), and found chapter 6′s, “Music and the Brain” section particularly fascinating!

To find out more about the book and/or get your own copy, click here! And if you’re interested in staying up-to-date on Griffin’s latest musical strategies, hop on over to his blog: Learning Strategies for Musical Success

Enjoy!