Cyber Monday

Happy Cyber Monday!  Are you buying anything fun today?  This morning I bought a powerpoint projector.  I have been wanting to get one for my studio for a while now and am excited for it to arrive.  Details on how I would use the projector in my studio will come at a later post.

Another fun thing that I have been keeping my eye on is the Flip-Pal.  If you have never seen this, the first thing you need to do is go to their website and then click on the video link.  This isn’t your ordinary scanner.  How cool is that?  Now tell me how would you use the Flip-Pal?  If you decide you want to get one, be sure to take advantage of the black Friday deals by clicking on the Black Friday link on the home page for the coupon codes.

So tell me are you getting anything fun for the studio today?  Do share!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  This week we are kicking off Christmas camp!

Rhythm Based Activities

Frank Thompson with AZ Rhythm Connection presented to us at our November music teacher meeting. I have been looking forward to his presentation since I had contacted him almost a year prior.  Frank shared a variety of rhythm-based activities that can work in any classroom or small group.  Remember a small group can be two or more people.  So if you don’t hold group lessons, you can still do these activities with just teacher and student in the private studio.  This presentation explored the possibility of low cost but effective music activities that provide an opportunity for individual expression through supportive group interactions.

He began by introducing what is called Body Beats (you can purchase these cards online, look for Body Beats by Christine Stevens)  Even though we used these cards, you can do these activities easily without them.  We were separated in about 4-5 groups.  Each group had a 4 beat rhythm that we performed using our body.

The main body beats we performed were:  Snap (fingers), Clap (hands), Whap (pat stomach), Tap (feet) and Slap (legs)

An example of a beat that a group might have done would look like this:



Clap Clap


Each group would first practice their body beat and then Frank would lead us into performing our rhythm at the same time when our group was led in.  As we got more comfortable with our body beat he would add in dynamics and occasionally stop and start different groups while there was always an underlying beat going on.

A fun instrument that he shared with us was called a Shekere (pronounced Shake-A-Ray), a great tool for keeping time.  He showed us a couple homemade shekere’s that we could make if we were so inclined.  I was really impressed with the homemade version and plan on making one hopefully soon. To make this instrument you will need a dried gourd (there are places that sell dried gourds which would save you a lot of time so search around), string, beads and shoestring.  Frank will be giving me instructions on how to make this instrument soon.  As soon as I receive it, I will post the instructions.  In the meantime, you may enjoy seeing the process on YouTube.  Here is a 4 part video you can view to get an idea how it’s done:  Homemade Shekere

We also played around with boomwhackers, shakers, and drums.  I was so busy enjoying myself that I forgot to take some pictures.  Shakers are perfect for allowing students to feel accents.

A big part of this meeting was realizing that you don’t need to invest in a lot of rhythm instruments or equipment to explore rhythm with your students.  Frank talked about what he called “Found Sounds”.  There are always sounds around you.  He asked how many of us had keys (all of us raised our hand).  He asked us to get them out.  He showed us some ways to make rhythm with the keys (shaking, slapping down on a table or your leg, etc…)  Later he had us go stand by the wall and had us do some drumming right on the wall.  We not only used our hands to drum but our fingers, which can help students with finger dexterity issues.  Keep it simple!  Rhythm activities don’t need to be complicated.

A great question was asked by a teacher, what about the student that likes attention and drums crazy (not in rhythm at all) or maybe they just aren’t simply feeling the beat and are totally off from everyone else?

Frank answered this question by having one of our students pretend they were the student who was out of control and showed us first hand what he would do.  He first stressed to all the teachers that we manage students that are out of line by never singling them out negatively.  The last thing you should do is to chastise the student.  Instead start by giving them a solo for a moment so they can express themselves positively.  Then later if this student starts doing this as an obvious way to constantly steal solo time and get attention, then as the group is drumming, when this behavior begins, tell everyone to switch instruments and guide that particular student into taking something like a shaker.  This will change not only the rhythm and sound (shakes are softer than drums for example) but gives a new focus to the student without giving any negative feedback.

Students should always be comfortable in using music as a safe outlet to express themselves.

Rhythm activities have always been one of my most favorite activities to do with my students especially in the last 5 years or so.  Drum circles being one of my most favorite of the activities.  I know when I participate in these activities I feel such a musical high from them, I can’t help but enjoy myself.  I can see this in my students as well.  They really enjoy expressing themselves through rhythm.

Next month, for our December holiday social we are lucky to have Frank Thompson back to facilitate our group for a drum circle!  I am so excited about it I can hardly wait!

There’s an App for That!

About 4 months ago I bought an iPad2 for my studio.  I absolutely LOVE it!  I downloaded all my pdf sheet music onto it.  And have enjoyed many different music apps with my students.  I don’t give my students the iPad to use on their own.  Instead we may take a few minutes to play a short game or use a fun tool during the lesson.  Here are the apps that I have on my iPad, many of which are also compatible with my iPhone.

-Home Concert Xtreme- allows students to play along with midi files
-Music FlashClass- Note drills in flashcard style.  Can customize what notes to drill. Hot Potato game is a favorite!
-GarageBand- Keyboard, Bass, Drums, Guitar amp, Audio Recorder for voice…
-ReadRhythm- Rhythm drills
-Music for Little Mozarts- my younger students LOVE this app!
-Note Squish- Fun note drills.  Reminds me of that gopher game at the video arcade where you try to hit the hammer with the gopher before it goes down.  The only thing I wish you could do with this one is have both treble and bass clef note drilling at the same time.
-Flashnote- Horse Derby style note drill game.  Can customize what notes to drill.
-PianoBird- Cute, can customize notes to drill
-Play it Yourself (PIY 4 HD)- I haven’t used this one yet.
-Music Notator- a basic composition app
-Slow Notes- Can slow down audio files
-Metronome apps (I have 3 different one’s, don’t ask why- lol)
-JustPractice- a convenient app for keeping track of practicing
-Musicnotes- sheet music viewer
-Teacher Diary Free- I haven’t used this as I subscribe to Music Teachers helper, but it is an app where you can keep track of your scheduling
-iSpud Free- a fun way for students to play a section more then once adding to the potato guy
-My First Classical Music- an interactive music app where students can learn more about instruments, composers, classical music, etc.
-Music Theory Pro- an app that drills notes names, key signatures, intervals, chords and ear training
-iSwift- an app that allows you to view flash!
-DoodleBuddy- a free whiteboard app
-Whiteboard- another whiteboard app (see below what I use the whiteboard apps for)

One of my favorite resources for my iPad is Anne Crosby’s (Piano Discoveries) and Wendy Chan’s music backgrounds that you can download onto the Whiteboard or the free DoodleBuddy app.  These music backgrounds are a wonderful tool to use in the lesson!

For Anne Crosby Gaudet’s backgrounds go to:

Wendy Chan’s backgrounds go to:

I also use YouTube and iTunes on my iPad.  I log into Music Teachers Helper on my Ipad.  You can now do MusicLearningCommunity games via the iSwift!  I now am also able to check students scores on my iPad.

Teachers, Anna Fagan and Priscilla Heffield shared a great printout that they put together for a music teachers presentation they did in Florida.  The printout lists apps, descriptions and prices.  Most of them I had, but there were some I didn’t.  I noticed that some of the prices are now out of date, which really stinks when you go look it up and it’s more.  So one thing I learned, if you think you are interested in the app, go ahead and get it then because the price could go up.  (For example, I remember when My First Classical Music app came out.  It was around $2.99.  Now it’s $4.99.  But I would say that it’s still worth that price)  Anna gave me permission to share their handout to you.  You can view it here:  App Handout.  Thanks Anna and Priscilla!

Do  you have an iPad or something similar?  What are some of your favorite apps or tools that you like to use with your students?

“That was EASY”

I have an EASY button that sits on my piano for students to push.  I typically have them push it after they get through a difficult passage they didn’t think they could do, or maybe they sight-read a new piece perfectly.  I have to say hearing the words “That was EASY” never gets old.  I chuckle every time.  It’s funny how one simple thing like an EASY button can boost self confidence.

I came across this blog article, Make it EASY, then Practice HARD over at Music Teachers Helper written by Leila Viss. I thought it was such a great idea for a theme and had no idea there was even an EASY stamp!  I just had to share!  Enjoy!