A Creative Composition Project

In case anyone here didn’t already know how in love I am with the Piano Safari method, I thought I would share a highlight from the lesson this week with my new beginning student Alyssa. We learned the piece, Outer Space from the Level 1 book over the last couple of weeks. Outer Space is a perfect combination of rote learning, composition, and creativity.

The main theme is taught by rote, but then the student is asked to draw a picture representing a couple of objects from space and compose an ending to match each one. Alyssa chose Saturn and Jupiter for hers and we discussed what things the planets have in common and what different characteristics they have. We also listened to some excerpts from Holst’s suite The Planets for inspiration!

I told her that if she could draw full page images for each of the endings – Saturn, Jupiter, and the given shooting star for the final ending – that we could create a simple music video to go with them. We used my Nessie mic, the free Audacity recording software, and iMovie to put together this simple, but memorable creation.

How fun for students to begin experiencing the joys of music composition, creativity, and technology within the first several months of lessons. There is a whole world just waiting to be explored and discovered!

Music Education Apps – A Guest Post by Campbellsville University

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>>


Campbellsville University 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 us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

Group Piano Class Highlights

Here’s a 1-minute video (created on my iPhone using the Videolicious app) of our first Vanishing Voices group piano class of the year!

We had a great time playing a round of Composer Trading, performing for each other, learning about Josquin Desprez, listening to a couple of his compositions, and attempting to decipher the Latin text (or at least a few key words!).

Note: Sorry for the choppiness of the sound with the music cutting in and out. I need to do a little more experimenting either with this app (if I buy the premium version) or with some other video app (any suggestions?) to see if there is a way to keep the music from the video clips going even when still shots are incorporated.

Review and Giveaway of Informusic App

The timing could not be more perfect for the launch of the fabulous new Informusic app! It’s everything I would have come up with myself to provide a handy and useful reference tool for my students as we spend the year learning about composers and music history with our Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme.

You can easily scroll through a list of composers and select the one you’re interested in researching. The click will take you to a biographical sketch with links to a couple of his most notable compositions that you can either view in score format or listen to as professionally recorded audio files. While enjoying the virtual concert, read more about the work – when it was composed, what inspired it, and what musical elements are included.

A quick slide of the finger at the top of the screen will transport you to an extensive timeline of the composer’s life with clickable icons associated with each year that will reveal yet another timeline that places the event in context with other happenings in the world. You can even manually select which kinds of events to include in the timeline from a dropdown list, including: Architecture, Art, Literature, Medicine, Music, Politics, Science, Technology, and War.

This is a fabulous reference guide that every teacher and student can and should have at their fingertips! I am excited to make this available to my students on the studio iPad this year so that they can research various composers and listen to their compositions without having full access to the internet.

Even though the Informusic app is well worth the introductory rate of $.99, the app developers have graciously agreed to offer 3 free copies to 3 Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winners will be drawn using a random number generator on Friday, September 9, at noon (CST).

Win a Free 3-Month Subscription to the New Piano Cub App!

Dr. David Brown, an innovative music educator, has gathered a team and developed an app to help students learn to read and play the piano. He has just recently launched PianoCub (and has a Kickstarter campaign running right now), and he has offered to giveaway a free 3-month subscription to one Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winner will be drawn using a random number generator on Friday, July 29, at noon (CST).

Here’s a preview of the first lesson:

Dr. Brown says,

PianoCub is a brand new piano education tool that’s perfect for students as well as a supplement for piano teachers. PDF lessons are accompanied by HD videos and state-of-the-art graphics with notes that highlight in correspondence to video performance. You can check out a video and samples at http://www.pianocub.com/.

Why Apps Motivate Students – A Guest Post by flowkey

“How can I motivate my students to practice piano at home?” This is a question parents and piano teachers have long reckoned with. Today, this challenge is even greater thanks to technological developments. Let’s face it – smartphones, tablets, and computer games are more exciting than the average practice book. But distracting devices needn’t be your enemy.

On the contrary, new digital tools can liven up your students’ practice routines in new and exciting ways. After all, electronic devices have revolutionized just about every aspect of our lives. We buy plane tickets on our smartphone, boost our fitness with the aid of an app, and carry enormous libraries of films, books, and music in our pocket everywhere we go. Why not explore the benefits of innovative technologies for teaching piano, too?

It’s hard to find a child who isn’t fascinated by smartphones and tablets these days. Having noticed this, some resourceful piano teachers have already begun to make use of this enthusiasm for technology. The simple inclusion of a tablet PC in piano lessons lends an inexplicable “coolness factor” that makes learning a little more thrilling. Ear training and other music theory exercises become fun games to play on the go in the form of an app.

If you’re keen to give your teaching a technological edge but aren’t sure where to start, check out Christopher Sutton’s great guest post on making the most of online resources. Online communities are a great way to learn from other teachers’ experiences, ask questions, and find inspiration. Research and start experimenting with a range of tools. Soon enough you’ll find the ones that suit your students’ needs.

The kids of today have grown up with a love of digital devices, and a few innovative tools are often enough to make even the most frustrating practice sessions fun again. This goes for older students, too. Most piano students who learn to play piano as an adult often have two things in common: they want to improve fast, and they don’t have much spare time on their hands. The solution? Make practice efficient and fun with the help of an app.

One such app even provides an entirely interactive learning environment. With flowkey students can engage with a friendly and intuitive app that gives them immediate feedback on their progress. Apps like these show that new technology isn’t just a distraction for piano students. Far from it! By making the most of devices, apps, and online resources, students are able to create a practice routine that truly suits them.


flowkey 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 us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

Music is in [and on!] the Air!

We’ve had another fun week in the studio polishing up some cool piano pieces…

[“Cool Walkin'” by Melody Bober from Grand Solos for Piano, Book 3]

…recording important information (in our Mini Music Manuals, of course!)…

[It’s exciting to see the new level of ownership students are taking to really know all of their musical terms and symbols!]

…trying out our new Nessie Recording Mic

[I love utilizing technology to enhance the students’ musical experience and inspire them to greater heights in their piano playing!]

… and creating cool percussion tracks to accompany favorite repertoire.


[“Sneaky Ape” by Wendy Lynn Stevens from Piano Safari, Level 2]

Notes from Making Sense Out of Digital Scores

As I mentioned, I just attended the live webinar presented by George Litterst in collaboration with MTNA: Making Sense Out of Digital Scores.

Early in his presentation, George reminds us that “The best way you learn something for yourself is by teaching it to others.” I also tend to focus and learn a lot when I write about it, so I thought I would jot down some notes from the presentation to share with those of you who are interested in learning more about the current state and future of digital scores.

Why Electronic Scores?

We’ve all suffered from the OPBS (Overflowing Piano Bench Syndrome), right? Even my carefully planned system of organization eventually overflowed the file cabinets and I finally had to take drastic measures to reduce my collection of printed music. All of this becomes a non-issue with the use of digital scores, which are all contained in the form of bits (binary integers) on a single mobile device. Along those same lines, an iPad – or similarly-sized device – is easy to transport, and you don’t have to worry about printed scores getting damaged, stained, or yellowed over time.

Mr. Litterst also spent some time discussing various wireless page turning devices and demonstrating how they work via foot pedals. Some move the score up one stave at a time; others flip the top half, then the bottom half of the page; others function more like a full page being manually turned.

He makes a point to let us know that the buttons that supply functionality in many electronic scores are often hidden from view. It’s often necessary to tap or hold your finger on the screen to display additional features and functions. Using the app ForScore Mr. Litterst demonstrates selecting and using an annotation feature to jot down notes directly onto the score.

Drawbacks teachers might experience include unfamiliarity, inability to place stickers on the page, absence of that new book scent, and a smaller size page.

Types and Availability of Electronic Scores

Mr. Litterst continued his webinar with an overview of the types and of electronic scores and where to find them. You can scan them in yourself, converting printed scores to PDF files. You can download them for free from the Internet (IMSLP.org is a fabulous repository of public domain music available for free download!). You can print to PDF from a notation software. You can also purchase and download electronic scores either in PDF or using a proprietary program. He briefly discusses the challenge of organizing electronic scores once downloaded and mentions the app NextPage which allows you to drag and drop files using a computer window (using either iTunes or iMazing for your interface). One of the webinar attendees also recommends the app iMazing for iPad organization.

What to Look for in Electronic Scores

After a discussion of important considerations when acquiring electronic scores, Mr. Litterst goes into the more technical side of things, discussing the advent of Music XML. Music XML is a code designed to be both human-readable and machine-readable. A quick glimpse of the code behind an electronic file reveals lots of familiar terms indicating placement of clefs, symbols, and more. For practical use, a teacher could export an XML file of a composition in Finale, then import it onto an iPad via an app designed to read XML files and allow interaction on the user end. He reminds us that there is no substitute for exploring the options on your own, building familiarity, and determining what works best for you.

It’s truly fascinating to hear about the technology being developed in the music world and consider the possibilities for the future! Thanks to George Litterst for all the time he has spent not only learning and developing these possibilities, but also sharing them with the rest of us!

Mr. Litterst will also be presenting at the 2016 MTNA Conference in San Antonio, TX, so be sure to catch his session there if you want to learn more about this technology!

Making Sense Out of Digital Scores


Even though I love technology and am always up for trying out new things, the iPad mini that I acquired earlier this year has spent much of its time relegated to the top drawer of my night stand. (Doesn’t it look sad and neglected?) I know some of th neglect has been so to my shifting educational philosophies, but some of it is also because I haven’t taken the time to educate myself on the best and most efficient ways to utilize the latest technology. So, I’m excited to be signed up for a live webinar in less than an hour with George Litterst, a pioneer in music education technology, on “Making Sense Out of Digital Scores.” I’ll try to report back on what I learn and let you know if my iPad will be receiving a little more attention in the days ahead!

Got Wolfie?

If you haven’t heard about the Wolfie App yet, you might be living under a piano bench… 🙂 This interactive app for both teachers and students is taking the piano teaching world by storm! If you have students preparing for a recital or competition, the next webinar they are offering is for you. Wolfie’s Digital Education Expert, Nathan Smith, will be walking attendees through the process of using the app to help students observe and fine tune performances. The webinar will be this Thursday, November 12, from 11:00-12:00 CST.

Even though I’ve become somewhat averse to emphasizing technological use in the studio (thanks to all that I’m learning as we shift to a Classical model of education as we homeschool our children), I am intrigued about the possibility of using apps that truly help students improve their piano playing skills. I have Wolfie downloaded on my iPad, and I’m hoping to take a closer look at it over our Thanksgiving break so I can see if and how I should best utilize it in our studio. I’m also excited that Nathan will be offering a regular Wolfie Hour each (non-holiday) week via the GoToWebinar platform so that teachers can drop in, ask questions, and discuss teaching-related issues with one another.

If you’re interested in checking it out or attending the live webinar, you can view all the event info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/957571657619477/. And if you’ve used Wolfie in your studio I’d love to know what you think of it and what aspects you have found most helpful for your students!