Tech Tuesday: Apps

I almost forgot today was Tuesday, so better late then never for a little tip right?

I recently came across a few apps that I am really enjoying. Why? Because they alert me of free or discounted apps.

AppGratis features at least one free app a day and share some discounted apps as well.

AppsGoneFree usually features about 5-6 free apps a day.

App Hits features both free and discounted apps for iPhone and iPad, and you can search for them under a particular subject you are interested in.

Apps like these are great to stay in the loop for special deals that you otherwise might miss.

Speaking of special deals don’t forget that KinderBach has their complete app on sale for 50% until the end of the month!

Tech Tuesday: ThinkMusic announcement

Last week I mentioned about an amazing notation app coming soon from ThinkMusic. At the time of that post, they said they will have a big announcement in a week. The announcement came today and I must confess I was a little disappointed. What I didn’t expect was their announcement was asking for financial support of this app through KickStarter. This came to a surprise to me, as I thought this app was way past the point of needing KickStarter. All the advertising and hoopla of what this app could be came across that it was in the finishing stages.

Now if you are not familiar with Kickstarter… Kickstarter is actually a great resource for people who have these wonderful ideas but don’t have the funding to make it real. People like you and me donate money to back the project and allow it to happen. ThinkMusic is asking for $170,00. They have until February 17th to get funded or…., well if they don’t get funded I’m not sure what their next step will be. As of right this second they have $3,585 donated. There are several donation options that promise certain perks if you financially support this project. The one that I am considering is the $20 donation because when the app becomes a reality, I will get the app for free and save $10.00. So in my mind, it’s like pre-purchasing something at a discount. Worst case scenario is I donated my $20 and the project failed, I could be out $20.00, however I can count it as a donation and write it off.

Which brings me to a question I always wondered about, what if the project fails and never happens? ThinkMusic says on their Kickstarter page that they anticipate the project will be finished by October 2013, less than a year away. However there is nothing that makes sure that happens. Kickstarter has a great FAQ page on accountability to those that ask for funding. It’s well worth the read so you know what you are getting into.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting projects like this one. I just like to make sure I make safe investments. So for me personally a safe investment is $20.00. What that is to you, well… that is up to you to determine. I hope they do get the funding they need and more importantly I hope that I will be using this app on my iPad in October 2013!

Creative Composition Toolbox Workshop

This last Friday, I was invited to attend a workshop given by Wynn-Anne Rossi on Composition. Wynn-Anne along with Kevin Olson had written Music by Me with FJH years ago. She has since moved to Alfred and has written another series called Creative Composition Toolbox. The two books are very different. I have used both in different settings. Wynn-Anne explained that Music by Me fit well with group instruction or a camp/workshop type of setting and the Creative Composition Toolbox worked best with the one-on-one setting; which is exactly how I had been using these books. So I was glad to see that I interpreted them in the same light.

Composition is always a subject I am eager to learn more about. When I was young and taking lessons I composed a few pieces and as an adult I have done a few others. But it’s always a different experience for me, anyway to teach composition.

One of the first things Wynn-Anne said was Music is a language- but that it’s so much more than an emotional language. It has every element/aspect of a language you can find in music and more! First thing you do as a baby is listening. True as music as well. (For some this is as far as it goes). Listening used to be extremely important when learning music but now it seems that listening is something that is either skipped or not touched on as much as it should be. Musicians speak through their instruments. We take it to interpret,comprehend,read, becomes more involved and complex.

Part of becoming fluent in the language is writing which is the most complex. Composition offers vocal chord (expression), applied theory and accomplishment. For example a scale is a building block to go someplace; make something.

Teaching original composition- You can’t control it very well… Students will come in with all kinds of things. Self expression- anything can happen. (And it’s okay!)

How to find time for composition? Almost all of it happens at home. Your job isn’t to correct, but to coach and say “wow that’s cool”. The students will get better the more they do it because all the music they are studying goes into affect. They will naturally improve and advance. Just encourage and make them feel safe. The same way you encourage someone who is young to speak. 5 minutes at lessons is more than enough. 2-3 minutes even works. An assignment to a student might be to work on their composition only for one of their practice days. They love this!

You can use group lessons or camps to focus on compositions. (This is what I usually do) After a camp follow up and continue on into their private lessons.

It is extremely important to share their pieces. The very least for their teacher. Encourage them to play for family, friends, peers. Be careful how you say things. Make sure it’s encouraging, not correcting.

Wynn-Anne does a composition recital every third recital she holds during the year. She says give plenty of prep time for students to work on their composition before performing it. She gives about 4+  months to prepare for it. Sometimes she will divide the in groups that have themes and they write in that theme.

Notation is the hardest. This can shut some young composers down. Her students do not start on staff paper. The creative composition toolbox, Book 1 has some good examples in how she has her students first notate. But the important thing to know is to have students write down anyway they want to so they won’t forget it. Rhythm is the strongest part of the memory so if they just write the notes down and not the rhythm. For students who still struggle on notation (usually are better improvisers), recording their thoughts down can help them remember.

After nontraditional notation, then move slowly into staff notation. Wynne-Anne explained that at the beginning when moving to the staff she doesn’t worry too much about correct stems and so on at the beginning; she will work on notation rules with them later.

She recommends her students download MuseScore (free). MuseScore allows you to change key/time signature, different instruments, plus has YouTube tutorials,

When students are composing, encourage them to use the entire piano to create a composition, there is no need even when they are early beginners to stay in a position.

When teaching one of the most important to teach is repeats and patterns.

At the beginning, it’s helpful to have a book or some kind of guidance or boundaries especially students who need to feel safe, which is why she wrote Creative Composition Toolbox to have a tool for teachers to use with their students. It’s written in a “monkey see, monkey do” type of environment, which creates the safety aspect.

The last thought she left before starting a masterclass is that some are better writers, some better readers but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t learn both.

The Masterclass was fun to see. There were two students, both teenagers, who participated. I believe this was their first composition for both as well. The first student composed a piece called “Dark”, as you might guess composed in a minor key. It was an exciting piece, perfect for Halloween time or just a fun piece to play. The second student composed a more lyrical piece titled, “Waterfall Lullaby”. This was composed from an idea of a tune her sister was singing at home one day. The older sister (the composer) really liked the tune and decided to compose something on the piano and expanded the idea. It was beautiful.

I just wanted to share the last thought that Wynn-Anne shared with the last student in closing to the masterclass. I really thought it was a great idea and something we all can do when composing.

Create a musical picture album-

What is it that you want to express?

What is meaningful to you?

As you create your album of music think of what you want in there.

Musical memories… Collection of pieces that represents who you are.

What is in your musical picture album?

Tech Tuesday: Creating your own animations for your studio

Happy New Year! I first wanted to thank each of you for being a reader of my blog. I appreciate your comments and support. May your studio’s flourish in 2013!

Now for a fun Tech Tuesday. You may have seen some of these animations on YouTube but maybe you didn’t know where they came from or how it was done…

GoAnimate is a do-it-yourself animated video website. Simple and short animations are free to create and then you can upgrade for more options if you desire. With the free version you typically have a few characters and scenes to choose from and 10 lines of dialogue to work with. Let me warn you thought, those 10 lines get used pretty quickly.

I created a short animation to try it out and within a few minutes I had a fun 1 minute long animation that I could share with my students. The hardest part was to come up with the dialogue.

Full video makers (upgrade) offers total creative control, still allowing with easy drag and drop tools. The libraries contain thousands of characters, backgrounds and props and even allows the user to create custom characters and audio. So if this is something you can see using a lot whether for personal or studio use, upgrading would give you the most tools to choose from.


And now for my GoAnimate debut you can watch my animation, Hidden Treasures!