Best Easy and Effective Note Identification App

Alyssa and I have been focusing a lot the last several months on her note identification speed. We’ve been doing a modified version of our NoteStars Challenge and she has made great progress, so when I came across this NoteRush app recently I immediately thought of Alyssa.

The app is simple and intuitive, so in no time at all we set it up with the same “levels” as NoteStars and gave it a try. She loved it! The app calibrates to middle C on your instrument and then listens as you play in response to the notes shown on the staff. If you get it correct a new note quickly appears. If you are incorrect, the note remains and you can opt in the settings to have it offer you a prompt. A student could easily manage NoteRush on their own in a technology lab setting, or it’s a quick, hassle-free game to reinforce and evaluate a student’s note identification skills in a couple of minutes at the beginning of a piano lesson.

Questions to Ask Students

At our local music teachers association meeting this morning we watched a webinar by Dr. Barbara Fast and Dr. Andrea McAlister on Overcoming the Brain’s Negativity Bias: Empowering Students Through Positive Engaging Language. From Dr. Fast’s segment, I especially appreciated the specific questions she suggested using during a piano lesson (some she gleaned from a masterclass with Leon Fleisher):

  • What did you focus on this week?
  • What did you practice the most?
  • Can you tell me how you succeeded in what you were trying to achieve?
  • To what extent did you achieve what you wanted?
  • What questions remain for you?
  • Any places that you wish were easier to play?

I love these open-ended questions and hope to employ some of them with my students this week!

Dr. McAlister shared many helpful definitions as she discussed the importance of language. These are the top three memorable points she made that I hope to keep in mind as I teach:

  • Listen with the intent to praise, not criticize.
  • View those sitting on our piano benches not just as students, but as musicians.
  • Encourage curiosity (“the desire to know”).

I’m so grateful for the inspiration and fellowship of our local association meetings and teachers. If you’re not part of such a group, I encourage you to check out the MTNA website and get plugged in with an association in your area!

Unlimited Repertoire All Year? Yes, Please!

After a quick glance in July, I mentioned Chris Owenby’s new Practice Habits Online Community. However, over the last week I’ve spent more time digging into all that is included in the membership and I’m even more excited about the prospect of utilizing this throughout the coming year! If you sign up for a Gold or Platinum Membership, you will have access to unlimited downloads of sheet music, scale exercises, lead sheets, practice guides, and more.

As you can see, right now there are 65 pieces of sheet music and technical exercises available, and Chris is constantly adding new material to the site. His goal is to inspire students to practice, and so far my students have loved playing his music!

Now, for the best part – from today through January 12, Chris is running a special New Year’s promo. Just use the discount code (natalie) at PracticeHabits.co to receive 30% off any level of membership!

WIN A $50 AMAZON GIFT CARD!

Actually, maybe this is the best part…:-)…if you decide to give the PracticeHabits.co community a try, Chris is running a special contest where whichever blogger refers the most new members receives an Amazon gift card for $100. So, if you leave a comment below letting me know that you signed up with my discount code and I win the contest, I’ll split the gift card! I’ll use a random number generator to select a winner from everyone who comments and then I will send the winner an Amazon gift card for $50. And we all know we can use $50 at Amazon, right?!

Start the New Year by Sharing Your Resources and Making Money!

I know there are many music teachers who have websites or blogs and produce all kinds of cool resources for their students, but have never set up an online store to share those products with others. If that sounds like you, perhaps as a New Year’s goal you’d like to delve into the world of eCommerce!

Ecwid

I’ve used a number of website store solutions since starting Music Matters Blog in 2005, but by far my favorite has been Ecwid. It interfaces seamlessly with any website, is intuitive to use, and its versatility makes it easy to sell both physical and downloadable products. Plus, the support staff has been awesome and is always a quick chat box away.

If you end up setting up a store on your site, or already have one, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email with a link because I’d love to do a post after the first of the year with quick links to other teacher websites with resources that are available for the rest of us!

$10 Off Any Item or 50% Off in the Music Matters Blog Store!

As we finish out these final few weeks of 2017, I wanted to offer a small gift to all of you Music Matters Blog readers. It’s been a full year with lots of unexpected happenings in my life, so fewer posts have made it to the blog, but I am still so grateful for this incredibly supportive and creative online music education community. From now through the end of the year, you can get $10 off any item or 50% off any two or more items in the Music Matters Blog store. Feel free to check out these testimonials from other teachers to find out what some of their favorites are to use with students in their studios. Just use the following codes accordingly:

To receive $10 off any single item: Christmas2017

To receive 50% off any two or more items: 50Off

Merry Christmas from me to you!

Free Downloadable Rhythm Cards and Game Idea

One of my studio go-to’s for an easy, educational game for group classes is Team Rhythm Dictation.

The students are split into two teams and are given a set of individual rhythmic note cards to use. (Click here to download a free set of individual note cards to use in your studio.) The barlines are made from some scraps of black foam board.

I indicate what the time signature is and then play a two-measure rhythm pattern on the piano. The students are encouraged to tap and count along, then see if they can place the correct note cards to replicate the rhythm that I played. Typically, I will play the rhythm 3-4 times, but after several patterns, the students were catching on quickly and often getting the dictation after only one or two plays!

A Fun Simple Rhythm Game for Piano Lessons

In keeping with our rhythmic focus for this year’s practice incentive theme, Beat the Pirates!, I’m trying to come up with new ideas we can implement in the form of simple, fun activities incorporated into a few minutes at the beginning of each piano lesson. Our latest one proved to be a big hit!

(This is a variation on the “Tune Tappin'” game included in 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson)

  1. Ask the student to name her top 10 favorite Christmas songs and then list them on a dry erase board.
  2. Close the piano fallboard and place the board so we can both see it.
  3. Take turns selecting and tapping the rhythm of one of the listed songs and see if the other person can identify which song it is.
  4. And that’s it! Have fun with this super simple game to encourage good listening and work on rhythm skills!

Review of New Piano Music by Lynette Sawatsky

One of my favorite things to do as a pianist is to play through new music. It’s so fun to pick up an unknown book and anticipate the gems that might be hidden within its pages! These delightful books, Waddle & Quack and Shimmer & Strut by Canadian composer Lynette Sawatsky contain many such gems.

They could easily double as coloring books besides with the beautiful sketches that accompany each piece! Many of the pieces are prime rote material, my favorites being “New Lamb” and “Alpha Betta” from the first collection because of their colorful and patterned use of 7th chords. Even though the preface states that they are intended for early elementary readers or for rote teaching, most of my early elementary students would probably have difficulty deciphering the notation for themselves. Many of the pieces employ clef changes, movement to different hand positions or places on the keyboard, playing on all black keys, and more advanced rhythms (triplets, dotted eights and sixteenths, and slight syncopation). That said, for a little more advanced reader or those students who are eager to learn harder-sounding pieces by rote, Waddle & Quack offers musical imagery that captures life in the Animal Kingdom.

The second book, Shimmer & Strut, was written to provide more challenging pieces and it delivers on that intent. Despite the notation choices sometimes being a little difficult to decipher, each animal-themed selection paints a picture in sound of the defining characteristics we would expect that creature to exhibit. It could be a fun group class activity to play some of these and see if the students can guess which one it is from a list of animals! Three of the pieces include a teacher duet accompaniment, but the remaining eight are solos that any late elementary student could feel proud playing. The variety of styles, from the playful staccato 2nds of “Tiny Frog Waltz” to the serene parallel 4ths of “Gentle Panda” to the catchy inviting rhythms of “Shark Tango,” will provide any student with just the piece to fit their personality.

Thanks to Lynette for sending me a couple of sample copies so I could review them. Check out her website if you’re interested in finding out more about her other compositions or listening to recordings of the pieces. Enjoy!

Free Piano Masterclass with Robert Levin

One of the teachers in our local music teachers association alerted us to an initiative by Juilliard to live stream a series of masterclasses by various musicians.

I am thoroughly enjoying watching the recorded masterclass with Robert Levin and appreciate his down-to-earth style coupled with incredible insight into the music of various composers and how to interpret it effectively. Perhaps one of my favorite ways to learn is by observing master teachers working with students on musical concepts and diverse repertoire, so I’m looking forward to checking out the forthcoming masterclasses with pianists András Schiff and Murray Perahia as well!

Awesome Folding Standup Desk for Teaching Piano!

I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent dozens of hours typing in every search string I could think of and perusing every shopping place that came to mind in order to find my newest piece of studio furniture. Although I’ve made many efforts over the years to do a better job of standing while teaching I always found myself gravitating back toward my trusty office chair. I finally realized that a major deterrent was the need to constantly refer to the student’s assignment book and jot down notes. What I needed was a standing desk!

Little did I realize how hard it would be to find exactly what I wanted! My criteria was that it had to be relatively stylish, adjustable height-wise, and able to be collapsed and stored out of the way when not in use. You try searching for that! 🙂

Actually, I’m happy to report that I found exactly what I wanted and I LOVE it! Just in case you happen to want this little beauty for your own studio and teaching, you can find the Origami Up Down Stand Desk on Amazon.com. See how handily it folds away in the corner? And it’s so wonderful to have a spacious worktop for my laptop, colored pens, and plenty of room remaining for assignment books and other paraphernalia. Can you tell I’m excited?! Sometimes I just can’t help it if little things like this keep me excited and looking forward to teaching each day. 😉


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