More Music Apps 2

So the subject of music apps have come up on the online message boards recently and I thought I had most music apps that were out there.  But then Sandra Bowen posted some of the one’s that she enjoys (Thanks Sandra!) and my eyes lit up to all these apps I weren’t aware of.  So exciting!  I just had to share them with all of you for Tech Tuesday!

Treble Kids (this is a series of apps!)

Sheet Music Treble Game



Rhythm Repeat


Scales and Modes


Ear Trainer

Young Music Genius

Princess Piano

Dr. Seuss Band (This one was recently featured on PianoAnne’s blog.  It’s free for a limited time!  I’ve already used it with several younger students and they love it.)

Now I need to go buy some more iTunes gift cards so I can buy some of these apps!

BTW- I’ve been a victim of someone wiping my iTunes credit out and it is a pain in the neck to get it back.  I was able to in the end but it was a royal pain, apple doesn’t make it easy.  I was just thankful that I don’t have my credit card on file with iTunes.  I only use iTunes gift cards.  Just thought I’d give that little tip.  Also make sure you have a really strong password.  I thought mine was strong enough but apparently it wasn’t so I made it stronger.

Tech Tuesday- YouTube

Occasionally during lab time I will have my students watch a performance from YouTube.  Sometimes I will have them evaluate the performance, other times, I will just have them enjoy.

When I do have them evaluate a performance I will download and use Natalie Wickhams’s with MusicMattersBlog – YouTube Performance Evaluation sheet.

I thought I would share some fun and different YouTube video’s you and your students might enjoy.

Among my favorite’s lately is from ThePianoGuys.  If you haven’t heard of them yet, you must check them out!  I subscribe to their YouTube channel and they have some really fun performances!  Be sure to check out Cello Wars

A couple others that I just learned about from some teachers is 12 Pianists at 1 Piano.  How fun would that be?  Here’s another one:  Gershwin Comedy Duo.  Another funny duet that I enjoy, The Scarlet Cape

Victor Borge video’s are always a hit, so are the 5 Brown’s.  Now of course you don’t always have to show “funny” performances, but these are a few I got a kick out of and thought I would pass along.

How about you?  Do you use YouTube as a teaching tool in your studio?  Do you have some YouTube favorites that you enjoy sharing?


Using Listening Examples to Teach Expressive Playing

This was a topic that was presented by Denny Coiro at a recent music teachers meeting that I attended.

This excellent presentation was totally interactive.  Denny had teachers actively participate, give feedback and even dictate throughout this presentation.  I really appreciated that as it allowed me to really get an idea of how I could apply what I was learning directly with my students.

There were 5 different things Denny shared with us to listen for in music.  I should preface and mention that we listened to all different styles of music.  From Pop to Jazz to Country to Rock to Classical to 20th Century and so on…

1)  Listen for the Meter in different musical styles and figure out the time signature.  Denny would play several musical examples.  Because we were teachers he challenged us a little bit more than he might of with a student.  I was surprised how well I did with this.

2) Listen for the Articulation.  One thing that I struggled with at first is I was confused as to what to listen to when it was a piece that had singing.  I wasn’t sure if I should be listening to the voice or to the instrument(s).  Turns out you can do both!  ha! ha!  Side note:  Most of the music people listen to IS vocal music.  Be sure to use listening examples that people are used to listening to.

3)  Listen for Melody Shape and Phrasing.  This one can really get discussions going into why they shaped the melody the way they did, etc…

4) Rhythmic Dictation.  When was the last time you did rhythmic dictation.  College?  I was surprised how challenging this was for me.  This is something we can do with our students right at the beginning when they are learning their rhythms.

5) Melody Dictation.  Denny had us go to the piano and listen to the music first.  He would then let us know the starting note and then we figured out the basic melody.  After we figured out the basic melody, he showed us how we could expand on that.  First, by having him add in some simple octave or chord accompaniments and then teaching us how to combine those two together and then building from there.  This is a great way for a student to learn a piece they want to play that’s on the radio.  Usually learning just the main chorus of that piece is all it takes for them to get excited and want to show their friends what they learned.

Denny mentioned a study that showed that those who listen first perform more accurately.  This makes a lot of sense because playing is much more than just the notes.  Sometimes I am a little nervous playing a piece for a student especially if they have a good ear, because after all I don’t want them to depend only on their ear.  I want them to become good note readers as well.  But I think there is a happy medium to this and is important for our students to listen to the music they are learning.  Not just to the notes, but to all the other elements in the music as we learned in this presentation.  Nowadays there are so many listening tools for students.  A lot of method books now include or at least offer CD’s or Midi accompaniment.  There is iTunes, YouTube, the Radio, etc…  Listening examples are at our fingertips.

Denny gave me permission to share his Listening Examples To Help Encourage Expressive Playing that he used for our presentation (including notes).  Feel free to download.

Listening is a skill that most of us could improve on.  I came across a few articles that I thought were interesting and wanted to share…

Listening to Music Can Help Students be More Productive in the Classroom.  This short article is from a classroom teacher who advocates students to listen to music while they study.  She has found they are more productive when they do and will include it to a students IEP and share with their teachers if she feels that it will help.  I love this!

Can Listening to Music Help Us Work Better?  This article claims similar findings that workers can be more productive in the work field when listening to music.

Active Listening  “We listen to obtain information. We listen to understand. We listen for enjoyment. We listen to learn. Given all this listening we do, you would think we’d be good at it!”  I’m sure we can all relate to this article.  It is a helpful article with steps to help on becoming better active listeners.

Tech Tuesday- Music Technology; It Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Happy Valentines Day!  About 3 1/2 years ago I was serving as Music Technology chair on our state music teachers association board.  I wrote an article that was published in our state’s MusicGram that I thought would be fitting to share for Tech Tuesday.  Enjoy…

Music Technology- It Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Jennifer Foxx

August 29, 2008

Sometimes we make things much more complicated than they really are.  This is so true when it comes to music technology.  Technology can be complicated, it can be overwhelming and it can be confusing.  But does it need to be?  No.

This year ASMTA is going to focus on using Practical Technology in our music studios.  Practical Technology is for teachers who want to dip their toe in the water, for teachers who are looking for more ideas to what they are currently doing, and for teachers who have perhaps rejected the idea in the past but are now open to new possibilities.

Chances are you are already using some form of technology in your studio and you didn’t even realize it.  CD players, tape or digital recorders, video cameras, accompaniment disks, computers, keyboards, digital metronome, IPods, the internet- all of these are example of some of the technology tools many teachers already take advantage of.

Starting a computer lab might seem overwhelming, but remember – start simple.  You don’t need to have everything all at once.  Many teachers start their labs with a single program.  Over time as you familiarize yourself with the tools it’s easy to add a little more at a time.   If you already have a computer it doesn’t take much more to incorporate a computer lab in your studio.  There are many free and affordable resources on the internet such as and  These resources can offer many software titles that won’t break the bank, yet can provide numerous benefits for your students.

Another great internet site to help you with your music technology and software needs is  Michelle Sisler, who runs the Keys to Imagination website, has written a fabulous book, Studio Makeover: Technology “Addition”. This book covers building a studio lab from the ground up.

Marci Pittman, a piano teacher from Chico, California, has her private students spend fifteen minutes at each lesson practicing music theory in her computer lab.  The software they use reinforces musical concepts and strengthens the students’ note reading, rhythm, and listening skills.  “Our students are growing up in an age of technology and they use it more than any generation before them.  As a piano teacher, I want to use technology as a tool to enhance the study of the language of music in lessons and in the computer lab independently.”

In addition to theory software, Pittman supplements her lessons with a series of music history CD-ROMs.  “The music history and great composer CD-ROMs give multimedia presentations of the periods of music history and the composers who lived during them, all the while using musical examples from that time period or composer,” said Pittman.

D’Net Layton, a member of ASMTA in Mesa, uses Finale’s Print Music program to make piano arrangements for her students.  She also has her students notate their own compositions for the Desert Valley Music Teachers Association Composition Festival.  “After students are finished with their composition, we take things a step further. Using a picture that the student drew, or an image we found on the internet, we design a cover for the composition. The students are then presented with a beautiful piece of sheet music. I love the look in my students’ eyes when they see their composition ‘published’ for all to see!”

Digital pianos and keyboards are a great way for students to explore new musical possibilities.  These tools make it possible for students to play with background accompaniments and record their pieces.  Students enjoy playing in ensembles, using different sounds as they play along with an orchestra or band.  Many teachers use the built-in rhythm features to reinforce good rhythm and listening skills.

Genny Rafferty, an ASMTA member located in Peoria, takes these tools to another level.  She uses her digital piano to record accompaniments and parts for her voice students, then burns CD’s on her laptop computer.  Her students are then able to practice with the CD’s at home.  Rafferty also records her students’ performances and provides a CD that can be shared with their families and friends.  Rafferty explained, “I think that piano teachers have a unique opportunity today. Never before has such a breadth of media and technology been available for use in our studios. Much of it is right at our fingertips!”

MIDI Disks have proven to be a great Practical Technology tool that can help students when learning a piece.  Many publishers include MIDI disks that accompany their method books. Marcia Vahl, a piano teacher from Maple Grove, MN, uses a digital keyboard to play MIDI disks provided with the Piano Adventures method series to help her students play at a good performance tempo.

“I love using the Piano Adventures MIDI accompaniment disks with a student who is not able to keep a steady beat or makes a lot of rhythm mistakes.  It instantly shows the student what their error is and helps them get on track. They always respond positively to orchestrated accompaniments and the arrangements help them internalize the steady beat,” said Vahl.

Practical Technology doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and it should never take over the lessons.  Practical Technology can give students that extra boost that they might need when they are experiencing burnout.  These tools can serve as a great supplement in preparing for the Arizona Study Program, Guild, College exams, and other achievement programs.  Music Technology is not meant to replace the teacher and should never be used as such.  Instead it should serve as a beneficial teaching tool and help enhance the learning that is provided by the teacher.

No MakeUps

Several weeks ago I had a crazy week where I had 14 students miss their lessons in one week!  Yep, you read that right 14!  I have 32 students right now so that is almost half my studio gone in one week.  7 of them were sick, 4 (one family) were coming back from out-of-town and wouldn’t make it, 1 had a b-day party to go to, and the last 2 (sisters) the parents had a work conflict.  Can you imagine if I did make-up lessons?

If you are currently doing make-up lessons you are working overtime without pay.  The time/day the student misses passes whether or not they are here for lessons.  So if they miss their Tuesday 4-4:30pm lesson you can’t go grab someone off the street and have them pay for a lesson, the time passes and if you rescheduled them on Friday from 4-4:30pm instead you are officially working an extra 1/2 hour on your day off for no extra compensation.

This is what it says in my studio policy:

Tuition is based on a 10 month period (Aug-May) and divided into monthly payment installments that can be paid with different payment options listed on the registration form. The studio runs much like a private school; Tuition remains the same each month and is based on enrollment, not attendance, reserving your child’s exclusive lesson time throughout the piano year, whether he/she attends lessons or not. (I can’t teach another student when a student misses a lesson without replacing the student altogether.) 

A student who does not attend a lesson will simply miss the benefit of that lesson. Your tuition reserves you a weekly time slot and benefits within the studio. There will not be any make-up lessons when cancelled by the student; however keep in mind there are up to 3 bonus lessons scheduled throughout the year. You may refer to the student roster exchange list to swap lesson times with someone in case of illness, vacation etc… Please inform me of any changes. Should 2 people arrive at once, I will teach the one whose lesson is normally at that time. Please inform me if you do not wish to have your name included on the exchange list. If you cannot attend please call or I will worry. If I must miss a lesson I will call and reschedule with you.

When I create my policies I try to come up with win-win solutions for both the families and myself.  I don’t want them taking advantage of me, nor do I want the constant stress but I do want them to feel like the policy is fair and not just one-sided.  So my solution to my no make up rule is two-fold.  1) Offer an exchange roster for families to use.  They may opt out of being listed on this exchange roster but if they do, they understand that they will be unable to use it.  Right now, I have one family that opts out.  The exchange roster does come up with a set of rules for them to follow so it is not abused.  I have never had a problem with my exchange list.  I would say about 20% even end up using it.  But it is available if they would like to use it.  2) Offer bonus group lessons.  I hold quarterly group lessons for ALL students.  I tell my families that if they don’t miss anything that quarter than they can call it a “bonus” lesson, if they did miss, they can call it a “make-up”.  Regardless I want all students to participate.  Another option and one I have done on occasion if it works out and if it’s in the middle of my day versus the beginning or end… if another student cancels that SAME week then I will offer the other student that cancelled to come in their place.  I do not make this known on paper but occasionally if it works out and I want to offer it I will.  After all, I’m not working overtime in these instances.

I have heard other teachers putting so many lessons included in the yearly calendar let’s say 40 but the tuition reflects for 38 lessons so the students are getting two free lessons that year in lieu of doing makeups.

There is a wonderful article by a parent of a Suzuki student that has been working its way around music teacher land for many years.  It’s one of my favorite articles and if you haven’t read it, it’s a definite must read.  Make Up Lessons from an Economist’s Point of View.  If you have any parents that just don’t get it, forwarding this article might just open their eyes.

I hear some teachers say, “it’s in my policy that I don’t do makeups but then they ask and I cave in thinking I’ll do it just this once.  But then they ask again and give me a hard time because I did it before.”  My advice to you is you need to create a policy that you are comfortable with but doesn’t allow them to walk all over you.  You deserve to be respected and those who follow your policy are respecting you and your business.  Those who don’t, aren’t.  If they aren’t you need to remind them of the policy and just keep referring back as many times as needed.  If they respect you, they will back off.  If they don’t, they will quit and then you will have a load of stress that will be lifted from your shoulders.

I have a pretty strict policy.  This has not hurt me from getting new students, most of the time I have a waiting list.  Besides the occasional new parent that tries to test it, I have no problems.  For the new parent that tries to test it, it only takes the one time reminding them of my policy and I never have a problem with them again.

Tell me, do you do makeups?  Are you working overtime?  If the answer is yes, why?  If the answer is no, what is your policy?

NO Makeups!  NO Overtime!

Tech Tuesdays- Website Feature

I thought I would feature a website that I just happened across for this weeks Tech Tuesdays post.  It’s called TeachersPayTeachers.

In the About Us page they describe what this website is all about…

TeachersPayTeachers® is the world’s first open marketplace where teachers buy and sell original teaching materials. It was founded in 2006 by Paul Edelman, a former NYC public school teacher.  
TpT’s mission is to make teachers lives easier by bringing together those who create curricula with those who are seeking fresh new approaches in the classroom. Teachers work hard and deserve extra compensation for all those hours spent lesson planning. Newer teachers and those looking for ideas can save time and leap ahead in competency by learning from veterans. We strongly believe that the ensuing exchange lifts all boats and leads to the better sharing of best practices. In the end everyone wins, especially our students.

You will notice that many of the products out there are free, others have a price.  The music section alone has 995 different items you can discover!  Whether you decide to sell your products or just take advantage of what is out there, this is a great resource for all teachers!  Check it out!


*Do you have question or idea you would like to see featured on Tech Tuesdays?  Let me know!*

Oh Snap!


Chances are sometime in your teaching career, you will have a student that will injure their arm, wrist, fingers…  When that happens, are you prepared for THE question that will be asked?  “Do we still have lessons while I’m recovering?”

My answer is YES!  Although an injury whether a break or a sprain can be traumatic for a student, there is so many things we can still do in lessons during that time.  One fun idea I heard from a piano teacher that I started to do is have the student sign one of my “one hand only” books and write down what their injury was and how it happened (if they want).  Then I take a picture of them at the piano with the book.

There aren’t a lot of one handed piano books out there.  But don’t worry too much about that.  You can take any piece that doesn’t have hands together (these are typically primer pieces but not always) and make them “one handed” pieces.  I happen to own a Yamaha grand with a disclavier.  So another thing that I can have students do is have the disclavier play one “hand” while the student is playing the other.  If you have midi accompaniment or CD’s that go along with their music.  They can use the background music to make their pieces sound more full when they are just playing one hand.  With some injuries doctors actually encourage students to continue playing as part of their recovery therapy.  Be sure to find out if this is the case with your students.

I have recently put together a parent handout for these instances.  (See link below)  This will give a list of ideas of what we can do during lessons while they are recovering.  They can choose their favorites of the list or I can suggest a good plan of action.  Feel free to print and share with your parents when the time comes.

Broken Bones