Tech Tuesday: Interactive Listening iBook Review

I am super excited to share this fantastic resource with everyone today as I’ve never seen anything like it! Interactive Listening is an interactive iBook created by Pete Carney and Brian Felix. Once purchased, the iBook downloads directly to the iBooks app on your iPad. As explained on their website, “The Enhanced Digital edition offers 230 pages of videos, interactive pictures, interactive quiz questions, over 120 built in music samples…” Upon opening the book, you will be transported to an inspiring video on Music. Asking questions like when did music begin? How old is it? Why Music? Touching on the historical and cultural backgrounds, the emotions it causes, etc.

After watching the video the book will open up to a big tray of musical dessert awaiting you and your students! In the beginning of the book it explains that “Interactive Listening is a new book that challenges today’s connected but distracted listeners.” Isn’t that the truth? I hate to admit it, but I tend to also find myself in that category at times.

Chapters include:

The Ethos of art: the importance of music
Why Music?
Musical Reconstruction
The Science of Music
Musical Instruments
The Woodwinds
The Brass
The Strings
Fundamental elements- roots
Extended terminology- branches
Melodies as Characters
Articulating your Opinion
The Modern Conductor
Using the Symphony
Modest Mussorgsky
The Gnomus
The Old Castle
Global Connections
Performing Jazz

Each chapter is filled with so many interactive opportunities for students. You will find survey’s, drawings, video’s, audio files, research questions, quiz’s, podcast and YouTube links. There is so much information in this book and activities for students to do that you can literally use this resource over the course of a year. It is perfect for lab time if you have a lab in your studio, as well as group lessons or a classroom environment. Quizzes, research questions and survey’s can be emailed to the teacher (love this!).

There is a video that really stood out to me called “Orchestrating Nature” that gave little word clips describing the instrument(s) and their dynamic and artistry that was chosen in conjunction with the beautiful scenery that was being shown. My recital rehearsals are in a couple weeks and you can bet I will be showing this video to my students to reinforce the concept of artistry and how dynamics, articulation, etc… really affect the piece and tell a story.

Another section on “Melodies as Characters” that would be a fun group lesson activity is creating a fictional drama with students. Included is scenes for students to act out with Beethoven’s 9th symphony; 1st movement. The written scenes stop at a certain point and encourage students to finish their own scenes with the rest of the piece. I really like this because it gets them started and thinking and then they take over with their originality. From there you can even expand it and use another piece doing the same thing.

There are just a couple little sections that you will want to preview before deciding if it’s appropriate for all your students. Both can be found in Chapter 3: Elements of Music. The first one was the “Dark Side” section. The video, “The Ethos of Expressionism” may be a little too scary for younger students. Also in the “Dynamics section, there is a video of Spinal tap talking and both him and the person interviewing are smoking. Just a couple things to be aware of so you can decide if it is appropriate to show.

Interactive Listening is $14.99. You definitely get your money’s worth with this iBook app. You can find out more by visiting their website, Interactive Listening or visiting the app store.



Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the i-book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Studio Policies: Part 1 of 5

This week my re-registration forms are due. The nice thing is all of them have been turned in! So I already know who is continuing next year (everyone- yay!) and I already have the summer schedule out and ready to go. My summer and re-registration forms are due by May 1st. Though because many of my parents are anxious to receive the summer schedule I may change the deadline a little earlier next year. I require participation in summer camp (or workshops depending what I do that year) in order for their spot to be held for Fall.

Because this is the time of year that everyone is doing re-registration and revamping studio policies, I thought I would share what I have in my studio policy that works well. Rarely do I have an issue that comes up. I broke up this subject into 5 categories:

1) Lessons

2) Tuition

3) Attendance (including discontinuing/dismissal)

4) Practicing

5) Misc.

Today’s post focuses on Lessons…


• I offer a couple options for piano lessons: Private Lessons, Early Childhood and/or Special Need Lessons. These
are both held once a week following the yearly calendar. The yearly calendar is published on the studio website:
• Group lessons are held 3 times a year and will be served as free bonus lessons. The bonus group lessons may serve
as “make-ups” for those unavoidable occasions when a student or, rarely, the teacher must miss a lesson. Students
with perfect attendance may consider these as bonus lessons.
• Piano lab will be a variety of technique, theory, rhythm and ear training skills, music appreciation as well as
composition. Students are expected to respect all studio property and to use equipment carefully. If a student does
not respect the property in the lab, their use of the lab will be discontinued and you will be charge replacement cost
of intentionally broken items. Normal wear is expected.
• Please be on time for your lesson and when picking up your child. If your lesson is from 4:00pm-4:45pm and you
come at 4:10, the lesson will still end at 4:45pm. This insures that none of my lessons will run behind. Please do
not arrive more than 5 min. before your lesson time or pick your child up more than 5 min. late.
• Students are expected to continue lessons in the summer months and participate in Piano Camp Workshops.
Students, who do not continue lessons in the summer or participate in Piano Workshops, will be added to the bottom
of the studio waiting list. However, if you wish to hold your spot, you may continue to pay the monthly piano fee
during that time. Piano Workshops are held in December and during the summer. There are no regular lessons when
workshops are held during those two months. December’s workshop is considered when tuition for the year is
totaled and divided. It is the same tuition fee schedule you normally have during the year.
Disclaimer: Not all of the wordings in my policy are original. Over the years I have come across great ideas in teachers policies that were willing to share so I have adapted them into my policy as well. If you see something that is your original idea, thank you! And feel free to credit yourself  the comments. 

Finally Joined the Clavinova World!

I finally was able to purchase my first Yamaha Clavinova! I can’t tell you how excited I am. I have literally been saving my pennies for years and years in hopes of one day owning one in my studio! The day has finally arrived!

P1080337Doesn’t it look great in my lab room? Yay! If you have a Clavinova in your studio, please share with me how you use it with your students. I can’t wait until this summer when I can dive into all the possibilities!


MTNA Conference: Conclusion

This is my last post on MTNA conference. Hard to believe it was 6 weeks ago! I always enjoy going to conference, this one was my 4th conference. My first one was when I was living in Utah and it was held in Salt Lake. That was awesome! Then I went to Albuquerque, New York and then Anaheim. While I don’t always make it every year I really enjoy going when I can. Not sure I’ll make it to Chicago but I will definitely be there when it’s in Las Vegas the following year!

I just wanted to close and share some of the pictures I took. I like to take opportunities to get pictures with teachers and exhibitors I’ve known for years online and finally get to see and meet in person. Enjoy!


This was my first time meeting Susan Paradis in person! So excited!


Also my first time meeting Mario Ajero in person!

P1080031Always love seeing Natalie Wickham!

P1080036And Marci Pittman! 🙂

P1080037With Mary Gae George!

P1080038With Jennifer Linn!

P1080039With Shelagh McKibbon!

P1080041Shelagh and Glory St. Germain

72440_10151256998856362_199757587_nFirst time meeting Kristin Phillips in person!

P1080054Finally met Jennifer Eklund!

P1080058With Michelle Sisler!

P1080060With Christine Hermanson

P1080061MLC family- literally!

P1080090With Karen Koch!

P1080093With Lori Frazer!

P1080040With my good friend Angelica!

I know I missed out on a lot of others that I didn’t get pictures of! But I enjoyed seeing and meeting everyone. It was a great conference!

Tech Tuesday: Digital Clavier Companion

One of my most favorite music magazines that I look forward to receiving during the year is Clavier Companion. Clavier Companion started to do a digital version of their magazine this past year which I am enjoying. If you subscribe to the print edition, you automatically receive the digital version for free. I like the convenience of having the digital version available especially when I’m “on the road” so to speak. I can just go to the Clavier Companion app and not worry about taking my print edition with me. Another option is to just subscribe to the digital version. The digital version is less expensive then the print version at just $12.99 for a year subscription. In addition you can just purchase a particular digital issue.

For example, this months May/June issue is on “Managing Your Hectic Life”. The issue is packed with great ideas and highly recommended. (Plus you will want to check out my contribution on page 29! It was neat to be able to contribute along with some other wonderful teachers!) You can purchase the digital issue for $4.99. (Better deal would be to subscribe for a year…)

To find out more about Clavier Companion and subscription options visit their website.

MTNA Conference: Wednesday Session; Learn at First Sight- A Review of Sight-Reading Research

By Margaret M. Young

What is Sight-Reading (or sight-playing)? Performing from written notation without prior playing.

7 Stages:







3 Stages

-Perceiving notation

-Recalling previously played music

-Programming muscles

Interesting things about sight-reading:

Almost all sight readers examine score they begin playing.

Novices focus on musical parameter.

Eye movements- does not remain static while sight-reading. Each fixation lasts between200-300 mill-sec.

Saccades can be forward or backward looking Located on note-heads, spaces, dynamic markings, bar-lines, and other musical cues.

Experts extract more info per saccade and have fewer saccades than do novice readers.

Skilled Reader- read 1 pattern; Unskilled reader reads note by note.

Our eyes can take on more if the tempo requires it.

Eye hand span- distance between production and perception (varies with difficulty of music)

Perceptual Span-amount of info taken in during one fixation (usually 2-4 bbets- 1 measure)

Recalling previously learned musical material (2nd stage of SR)

-Recognizing patterns: combinations of notes are stored in memory as chunks to be recalled in anew context. Pianists have superior pattern recognition skills. Expert sight-readers use their training and knowledge to predict what happens next. Expert readers can infer the correct note if it is altered or erased. Expert readers let the structure of the music to guide their performance. E.R. play tonal music more accurately than atonal music.

Programming the Performance:

-Usually automatic

-Complex movements are specified as cognitive representations of individual actions.

-Opposed to other skills, like typing the duration of actions while SR is paramount.

Kopiez and Lee 2006 create 23 factors to predict SR success (see picture below for list)


Sight-read easy pieces can be predicted by SR experience info processing speed

Sight-read difficult pieces can be predicted by: trilling speed; info processing speed.

High sight-reading can be predicted by trilling speed, non-right handedness. (decreasing RH superiority)

Ways to become a high performing Sight-Reader-

Visual reaction time shorter then 170.5 ms.

Slow visual reaction time, slow reaction to auditory stimuli and more then 631 hours 3 of accumulated sr experience

Fast auditory reaction time and more then 9,4944 hours of SR.

Speed matters, highly individualized paths to the high performance group, SR experience should be acquired before age 15.

Deliberate practice is not enough to account for the discrepancies in SR ability.

Kopiez and Lee 2008

Best combination of factors

Trilling speed

Reading experience before 15

Speed of info processing

Aural imagery. (hear score without playing it) Are able to imagine how the sight-reading example will sound with only visual input.

Other factors that influence Sight-Reading:

-Performance of rehearsed music

-Taking Lessons

-Accompanying experience

-Teacher that emphasize SR


-Age (how much they can attend to one time.)

Rhythm Reading- Rhythm is one of the most common mistake in sight-reading.

-Improve Rhythm Reading:

Body movements

elongating note-heads (did not improve)

Color-coded notation (did not improve)

Error detection- listen and/or see note errors.


Chunking procedures

Rhythm reading drills

tonal pattern drills

Pre-playing score study

Sight-read before you Begin


-Should select music in advance.

-Should be easier than music they study for lessons.

-Find appropriate and variety of music

-Teach students to read intervallically (relationship between notes is most importantly)

-Consistent fingering patterns

-Don’t cover score to help with sight-reading. Sight readers look forward and backwards


-Examine score for relevant info (musical parameters, rhythm, melody, harmony)

-Select tempo they are able to maintain throughout score

-Avoid looking at hands

-Read ahead and anticipate what is coming next

-Encourage students to chunk note groups.

-Focus on the big picture (errors and omissions are ok; get to notes however you can.)

After you finish-

Identify the mistakes you made.

Misreading (error occur during processing stage)

Misexecution (errors occur during execution stage)

Keep a sight-reading journal.

Keep track of common mistakes, pieces you would like to sight-read, sretagies that work well.

Suggestions to improve Sight-Reading

  1. Practice – start early
  2. Find music that has clear patterns.
  3. Search for and learn different patterns with your students. (***have students describe out loud those patterns)
  4. Practice Sight-Reading in groups. (requires to continue playing in spite of mistakes)
  5. Do your own experiments.

Here is the Learn at First Sight handout you can download.


MTNA Conference: Tuesday Showcase; JoyTunes

One of my students favorite apps is the app, Piano Dust Buster. So when I saw that JoyTunes, creator of Piano Duster would be doing a showcase, I wanted to attend.

If you aren’t familiar with Piano Dust Buster you got to check it out.

The storyline is the granny dusting off the notes when students play it correctly. It is not intended to be a teaching tool. This app was intended for the beginner phase to get students psyched about piano. The app download is free and includes a song pack purchase. From there you can purchase additional song packs.

The exciting announcement at their book and their showcase was about a new app called Piano Mania. I am currently beta testing this app with my students and I can’t wait until it is available to the public. Think Piano Dust buster with more!

A few things we learned about Piano Mania:

– It is designed for piano teachers as a tool for teaching.

– For practice motivation and a solution for teachers and parents.

– Covers treble AND bass clef

– Will have free play- users side of app

– Gradual learning experience by advancing Ranks.

– Customizable- adjust tempo, note names shown or hidden, wait for correct notes as you play or perform

– Will score technique, rhythm and sight-reading.

– Students will not be able to jump ahead, they will need to do it rank by rank.

– RH or LH separate or both hands.

– There is a find at teacher section in app based on location, name, level, review…

– Teachers can get progress reports fro students, how much practice time, scores, etc… Then teacher can give feedback from a single click. (Good job, amazing etc.)

– For Parents- an idea is to have parents and child challenge to a piano “duel”.

– Will have chart buster pieces on this app as well. (This is good news because chart buster is my students favorite section of the dust buster app)  Good motivation to advance ranks.

– Has time signature. Will have key signature changes.

More about Piano Mania when it comes out! Which shouldn’t be too far away!

MTNA Conference: Tuesday Session; Movement Pathways in the Brain: From Sound to Movement to Learning

Another presentation that I attended on Tuesday was by Lois Svard and Kay Hooper: Movement Pathways in the Brain: From Sound to Movement to Learning

While it was an interesting presentation, it was really one of those presentations that is hard to blog about. One of those, you really had to be here presentations… So I’m just going to share a few quotes that stood out to me.


“Music is about sound. When we connect sound and movement it results in moving.”

“Each time we repeat an action or connect an action, that pathway to the brain becomes stronger. Fired together- wired together. If we are practicing with mistakes or tension, that also gets wired.”

“We need to practice new information to create a new pathway. Then old pathways disconnect. Use it or lose it.”


Tech Tuesday: Music for Little Mozarts Video Demonstrations

Hard to believe it’s Tech Tuesday already! The last couple weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind and things aren’t going to be slowing down until about mid-June.


A lot of you are familiar with the Music for Little Mozarts books and program. When I first started teaching early childhood classes, I used Music for Little Mozarts. I loved that I didn’t have to pay a company a percentage of my salary, and I really loved the discovery book especially the fun activities and songs on the CD.

While I don’t teach early childhood group classes anymore, I do use some of the songs and activities from the books with my younger students.

Alfred has recently come out with 5 video demonstrations with Christine H. Barden teaching some very cute boys who look like they are having the time of their life. I would imagine that they will be coming out with a lot more of these video demonstrations. I love watching video demonstrations and wanted to share the link if you haven’t seen them.

Watch: MFLM Videos

While you are on the website, take a look at all that the program now offers!

MTNA Conference: Monday Session: Engage the Brain: Cognitive Warm-up activities for effective music lessons




This presentation by Dorothy Yan was an interactive presentation on activities we can do with our students to wake up the brain so to speak. I wanted to get a hold of Dorothy before blogging about this presentation to see if she happened to have any video’s on the activities that she shared at the conference. But I haven’t had any luck. So hopefully you can visualize from my notes. I think if she hasn’t already, it would be awesome for her to make some video’s and share them on YouTube.

In Dalcroze, the body is first instrument. Rhythmic movement, ear training, vocal, physical and instrumental improv.

Mental game of sports- hitting is 50% + mental.

Teach-Practice-Teach method. (teach, practice, re-evaluate)

Keep verbal communication at a minimum for maximum results.

Repetition is Key.

Benefits of brain warm-ups- helps set goals early in the lesson; fully engage the students brain as soon as possible; establish a level of respect; inspire creativity.

Musical objectivities-







-Note Values

-Inner Pulse


-Subdivisions of beat


Thumb/Pointer activity– set a tempo on hand points, the other thumbs up then switch; then pick speed on metronome, then turn metronome off and then back on and see if they are where they left off.  Rhythm- do it to a particular rhythm.

X Marks the Spot– One hand beats fist on leg, the other hand rubs forward and backward with the other hand. Subdivisions of the beat- take right foot half notes, “x” hand is doing quarters, sliding hand is eighth notes, steady tempo. Mouth is saying 1&2&

Body Canon– stand up, leader starts taps a body part and says the body part and then we come in 2-4 beats behind and follow behind. Variation, the leader says wrong body part when tapping another- don’t say body part if it’s said wrong.

Canon, subdivisions of the beat, memory

If students lead- put metronome on.

Hip Hop– Uses circular clapping. Use word hip and hop. Hip means to go two times slower then beat, hop two times faster than beat.

Subdivisions of the beat, quick response, steady tempo

Variations- Tap hip hop rhythm on each other’s hand

Yes/No– Fun to do at beginning of lesson. Patterns, Focus, Quick Reactions. Yes or No questions. If answer is Yes, head will do the opposite.

Variation- switch it. Mouth says wrong answer but head does right answer.

Up/Down– similar concept to yes/no but pointing up and down. Can add rhythms.

These activities do not always have to be at the beginning of the lesson. Can be used as tools to “fix” something or refocus.

A1/B2– One hand motions and starts A, other hand does 1, then B…2, C…3

Patterns, steady tempo, rhythm patterns, subdivisions of the beat, concentration

Variations: Add random words like “white” things. A, 1, paper, B, 2, clouds, etc…..

Thumb Tappers- Tips of fingers (“donut holes”)

3 5 4 2 4 3 2 5 – tap in order, backwards

Variation– minus 1, plus 1 (5 stays the same)

Add rhythms underneath

Benefits of doing these activities with students: 




-Goal Setting

-Practice Intensity

-Self confidence

-Emotional control

-Personal Responsibility