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.

Overview of Go for the Gold! Recorder by Kevin Babuder

Go for the Gold! Recorder is a multi-touch book created for a Mac or iPad and can be purchased through iTunes to read and enjoy in your iBooks. This is a beginner edition and from what I’ve read, to take full advantage of the interactive aspects the book offers, it’s best to use an iPad.

Not only will readers learn the basics of playing the recorder, but they will learn about different sports as well as some fun facts about different countries’ geography, culture, and music. This book has somewhat of an “Olympic” theme to it!

I love it when multiple subjects are incorporated into one resource because, at least from my own experience, when events, historical figures, and/or subjects are correlated, I tend to retain that information a lot longer. I’m not sure why exactly this is, but it seems like our brains naturally gravitate toward retaining pieces of information that relate to each other-especially when they’ve been learned at the same time. The ability God’s given our mind and memory is incredible!

According to the website, it appears that when you purchase the interactive book, the student receives a one-year subscription and it’s not a one time purchase. That detail is pretty unclear if you’re just looking at the product in iTunes. On the website, it shows that Go for the Gold! Recorder has some competition involved and that there’s also a ”teacher” subscription you can purchase. Check out the website for more details about these things!
To view on iTunes:

Review of The Piano Bench Mag

Karen Gibson, publisher of The Piano Bench Mag, has established an “on the go” music magazine for teachers! Whether waiting for an appointment or just sitting at home, you’ll find a plethora of different ideas in her monthly publication.

The magazine has a specific topic for each month. December focused on Practice, January was Games, February takes a look at Students, and the most recent focuses on Technique. I really like how Gibson includes a variety of articles, as well as resources and helpful tidbit pages. I am much more inclined to look through an entire magazine if I can acquire information apart from just reading articles. Each monthly issue seems to be pretty substantial, too, so you’re pretty well guaranteed a good amount of information and ideas!

If you’d like to purchase an issue or subscribe to The Piano Bench Mag – providing resources and inspiration for piano teachers, it’s available for mobile devices through Apple Newsstand and Google Play (for Android). You can also find The Piano Bench Mag on Facebook.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-piano-bench-mag/id712098279?ls=1&mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bdhjefeedd.gfcbdhjefeedd

https://www.facebook.com/PianoBenchMag

To try it out, I downloaded it to my iPhone Newsstand (which I have never used before) and I could navigate it pretty well, but from what I could tell, the formatting for the iPad version looked nicer.

If you want a free 3 month subscription, be one of the first three to comment “subscribe me” and the free subscription will be yours!

UltraMusician

In a world of advancing technological capabilities, I love discovering new inventions that create more efficient ways to do things or provide another outlet to learn.

Even though I have not personally tried UltraMusician, I like the approach that David Mann has developed for people to learn music on the site. UltraMusician teaches full music comprehension by using 4 of the most essential skills (instrument, theory, sound, and notation) to become a well-rounded musician.

The program is designed with a game-like interface that moves from one skill to another so that everything remains cohesive. And it’s not just designed for youngsters but anyone wanting to learn music.

Below is a video giving further detail about this total music comprehension site and how it works, as well as introducing their desire to launch development of the “UltraMusician Mobile App”.

If you’d like to support UltraMusician’s App Project, head on over to their Kickstarter page before their campaign ends March 2.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1538038397/the-ultimate-mobile-app-for-learning-music?ref=search

You can also check out UltraMusician for yourself by going to their website:

http://www.ultramusician.com

 

Saving Money on Expensive Music Software – Guest Post by Chad Criswell

When you think about the music technology software that we use on a regular basis in the classroom you start to realize just how expensive it can be to upgrade to the newest versions.  Worse yet is if you don’t own the software to begin with and have to purchase a new license for Finale or some other program at prices well above $300 per copy even with a teacher’s discount.  There are some other options though for people that simply want to get their music down on paper without having to spend the big bucks for the big name titles.  Here are some suggestions for ways to find low cost music software alternatives.

High Tech Low Budget
The first, and highly recommended place to find alternative options to high priced software is an article over at MusicEdMagic called, simply enough, High Tech, Low Budget.  I put this together to accompany a presentation I made at the 2012 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and I keep it updated with new products as they come onto the market.  It’s packed with dozens of ideas for music notation software, audio recording and editing software, video editing software, music theory software, and many more as well.

AlternativeTo.net
For any music software programs that you can’t find on the High Tech Low Budget list check out the website known as AlternativeTo.net.  I use this one all the time for finding alternative software recommendations, both paid and free, for almost every product under the sun including lots of music related programs.  The only problem I have with them is that they make it confusing to find the link you need to actually go visit the website of the product you are looking at.  They like to keep you on the site as long as possible.  Other than that though it is a great little site with plenty of great low cost alternatives.

OSALT.com
Open Source Alternatives is another useful site for those that are seeking other software options for common everyday tasks.  It’s not as friendly to use as AlternativeTo is and is not categorized like the HTLB article but it has one of the largest lists of alternative software programs available.  Plus many of them are open source and quite often free.

Between the three suggestions given above you can find just about any piece of software you might ever need.  Remember, for every high priced piece of software there are almost always some low cost or free alternatives.  Before shelling out hundreds of dollars for a commercial music program check these lists to find a more budget friendly alternative.


Chad Criswell is a noted music educator living and teaching in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa.  His articles have appeared in dozens of publications both online and in print.  He currently serves as the national music technology writer for NAfME’s Teaching Music Magazine and webmaster of MusicEdMagic.com.

Finale – Essential Piano Studio Software

One of the first new software programs I ordered when I got my new computer system was Finale 2012. I had been using an older version on my last computer and knew I couldn’t live without it! We use Finale all the time in the studio for compositions, but especially this time of year when students are working on their Psalms Projects.

One of the great benefits of Finale is that students can download the free Finale Notepad to use at home to input their compositions, then send the files to the studio for final tweaking. Most of the time students prefer to work on their notation input here at the studio, but for those who want to familiarize themselves with the software and work on their own, this is a great option!

[How to] Expand Your Teaching Practice Online – A Guest Post by Phil Amalong

It is now second nature to turn to search engines like Google and Bing to find just about anything. Guess what? Your potential students (and their parents) are searching for a music teacher online right this minute. There are over 1 million music-learning-related searches every month on Google alone!

There’s a growing wave of music teachers benefiting from this trend by moving their studios online: teaching students across the globe, filling slow hours with students from other time zones, building their rosters…and earning more income!

Is it for me? Can I actually do this?

You’re already a great teacher and that’s the most important thing! Here’s a checklist of considerations to begin teaching music online:

* Have you used your webcam for Skyping or other video chat applications?  This is your fundamental communication tool. Setup for live online music lessons is easy and generally just requires a laptop with a built in webcam. Here are some ideas on how to set up your online teaching studio.

* Do you have adequate high speed Internet? Great video quality needs at least 1 Mbps of ‘upload’ speed (test your connection speed here: www.speedtest.net). If you consider that each online student spends at least $60 per month on lessons, upgrading your internet connection is well worth the investment.

* Are you active online?  Kudos to you if you’re already spending time building your online presence with a website, a blog, YouTube channel, or by participating in forums. Check out these 4 simple ways to build your online presence.

Does it really work?

Most emphatically, yes!  Many teachers report that students exhibit higher levels of concentration and faster progress when focused on a screen. Wayne Land, a saxophone teacher with 40+ years experience had this to say of online music instruction:

There’s no guarantee that any method of taking lessons will work unless the student is committed to practicing.  That commitment needs to come from a profound desire to learn.  When one has that kind of internal need to make music, the practice time is something the student looks forward to and enjoys.  Likewise, the lesson time should be something looked forward to and enjoyed.  With everything in music learning, lesson time and practice time, I strongly believe that if you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing you aren’t improving.  Conversely, if you are enjoying your effort you “are” improving.  It makes little difference whether the teacher is sitting in the room next to you or speaking to you via online video chat unless there is a difference in the level of enjoyment.  Considering the advantages of taking your lessons right in the comfort of your own home, the online experience may actually improve the level of enjoyment and that is a very good thing indeed.

Yes, it works.  In fact, if the student has a more enjoyable experience, is less apprehensive and more enthusiastic, it can and will work “better” than in person.

How do I get started?

So you’re ready to start building your online teaching studio. Now what? The web is a massive space and…chock full of great ways to waste your money and valuable time!

If you plan on going it alone on a platform like Skype, you’ll need to split your time between teaching and marketing. That’s a tall order when you consider that a website, blog, ads, and a Facebook page (among others) are essential to getting the word out about your service.

If that sounds like too much of a distraction from the teaching itself, consider joining an online music lessons platform like The ZOEN. Let the professionals make a daily habit of using their marketing tools to attract students so you can focus on what you makes you special and valuable: teaching music!

However you choose to slice it, online music lessons are a great opportunity for teachers, and the possibilities for online music instruction are endless.


Phil Amalong is a teacher, composer, performer, entrepreneur and VP of Community and Content at The ZOEN. For more insights into online music teaching and best practices, visit Phil’s Blog. To start teaching for The ZOEN, apply now.


The ZOEN 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.

Sample Lesson Note Template

Leila Veiss has written a wonderful post about the “Apps I Use at Every Lesson” that relate to the business side of studio operations. One of the listed apps is Evernote, but she also includes with it a Sample Lesson Note Template that is fabulous!

I love the Glossary of Terms section, especially the brief explanation of what “Learn” and “Master” mean (I guess my students aren’t the only ones that seem confused by what I really meant when I told them to learn a particular piece or portion thereof… :-) ). I also really like her Progress Score numbers and explanations. What a great tool for maintaining consistency and providing tangible instruction and feedback for each lesson!

Skype and Three Other Solutions for Snow Days!

Our area has received an inordinate amount of snow in the last week so we’ve had a couple of snow days. Whenever my students ask if I’ll be teaching I tell them that my philosophy is that I don’t have to go anywhere so I’ll gladly teach anyone who wants to come for a lesson. :-) However, I know that sometimes it’s not safe or desirable to traverse the icy roads to make it to a piano lesson, so it’s nice to have some other options in place. Plus, I have a number of rural students who were literally snowed into their homes and couldn’t make it out the driveway. Since I don’t offer refunds or make-up lessons, it’s nice for families to know that our studio has other possibilities available to them for these types of situations. Here are some possibilities:

1. Skype (or Facetime for those who have Apple products) – This is definitely the most ideal alternative for those who can’t make it to the studio. I usually use the Skype app on my iPod Touch, but you can also download a free desktop/laptop version which makes this a great option for almost any family!

2. Phone Call – Yeah, this feels pretty 20th Century now, but I actually did give a lesson over the phone yesterday. The internet went out for one of my families, so the kids put their cordless on the speaker phone setting and then propped it on the piano.

3. Instant Messaging -Yes, we’ve actually resorted to this a few times for lessons when we were having sound issues with the video chat. Obviously it doesn’t work for listening to the student play, but you can at least touch base with them, go over assignments, and answer questions. Plus, this is a fun way to invest in your relationship with students and get to know them better!

4. E-mail – Sometimes just putting together an e-mail with some specific suggestions and assignments for the student for the following week can be helpful so they have some direction for their practicing. Even a little bit of accountability and focus like this can help students maintain a regular practice routine.

The bottom line is that I want to be available for my students in any way I can during their lesson time. How do you handle snow days? Any other creative ways you’ve found to teach lessons?