Review & Giveaway: Note Rush app

13246163_248194038873284_8983692676277542062_oToday, I am so excited to introduce to you a brand new app for music teachers called Note Rush. As I have been experimenting with this app during beta testing, I soon discovered just what a useful tool this app is for my students. Note Rush has become my favorite app for piano teaching.

Note Rush is a note reading app that is simple, intuitive, and fun. Unlike other note identification apps that present a note and require the user to name the note by letter name, Note Rush “listens” using the iPad’s microphone to identify whether the user is playing the correct piano key. It’s so important for students to learn to associate staff positions with the corresponding piano key in the correct octave, and Note Rush encourages this!

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The app automatically calibrates to the piano, allowing the app to be useable even if the piano may be slightly out-of-tune.

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Allowing you to choose from a variety of levels — covering various ranges of notes in treble clef, bass clef, or the entire grand staff — the app is customizable to the user’s ability.

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Because the rounds are timed, students are invited to repeat the rounds to try to improve their times.

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The three themes appeal to a wide range of students while not creating a distraction through too many options.

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Tell your students to buy this app instead of a box of flashcards. Note Rush is available in the App Store for $3.99 USD. Be sure to visit the Note Rush website and like their facebook page.

Note: I bought this app. As always, my reviews contain my honest opinion.

The Note Rush developer has kindly offered two promo codes for a giveaway! For a chance to win a free download of Note Rush, leave a comment below before Tuesday, June 28 at midnight (Eastern time) sharing your favorite aspect of Note Rush. Two winners will be randomly chosen and contacted the following day.

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2016 Composition Summer Camp: Day 4/4

[Click to view Day 1Day 2, or Day 3.]

On our final day of camp, students reviewed the drafts of their composition that I had updated and printed from Finale the previous evening. We made small tweaks and reprinted as needed.

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Students took turns using the piano and keyboard to practice their compositions, so that they could perform them for the group.

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A group selfie taken during our snack break.

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Then, it was time to share our compositions.

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It was fun to hear each student’s piece.

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There were a number of other games and activities we used throughout the week, but I mostly wanted to highlight the process of guiding all ten of my students to complete a composition by the end of the week. It wasn’t easy!

What helped was to create daily goals and clearly communicate those goals along the way. I was proud of how the students rose to meet the challenge.

Here are a few of the resulting compositions.

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I used guiding questions to help the students figure out how to dictate the rhythm and properly notate their compositions.

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I made very little critique of the student compositions. The goal for this four-day camp was to experience the process of expressing something through the piano and writing it down. Honing of their compositional skills can occur during later opportunities! I have no doubt that this group of students will be composing more pieces down the road, sooner rather than later, at which time we can spend more time on refinement during their private lessons.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how the week went and with the resulting compositions!

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2016 Composition Summer Camp: Day 3/4

[Click to view Day 1 or Day 2.]

The goal for Day 3 was to have our compositions basically finished by the end of the day. With that in mind, we spent time discussing form (AB, ABA, through-composed, etc.) as well as various aspects of proper music notation.

My cat, Coda, loves to help my students with their compositions.

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It is exciting to see our compositions taking form!

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Halfway through each day, we enjoyed a snack outside on the patio. On this particular day, one of my students brought in a birthday snack to share: homemade ice cream sandwiches!

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Composing is hard work. ;)

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That evening, I updated each student’s composition in Finale and printed nearly-completed drafts for students to work from the following day.

[Click here for Day 4.]

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2016 Composition Summer Camp: Day 2/4

[Click here for Day 1.]

On Day 2 of our composing camp, our goal was to get a good amount of our pieces composed and written down by the end of the day.

We used the piano or keyboard to improvise until we found music we liked.

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Then, we started writing it down on staff paper.

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I had two stations arranged: my piano and my keyboard with headphones.

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Students worked at the table and then took turns using the piano/keyboard.

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I went from student to student, helping them as needed.

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Hard at work, yet having fun!

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It’s exciting to see the compositions taking form.

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That evening, I took it upon myself to enter each student’s composition so far into Finale. I printed these drafts out for students to work from the following day.

Stay tuned for photos of Day 3. [Click here for Day 3.]

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2016 Composition Summer Camp: Day 1/4

As mentioned previously, this week is the week: it’s composition camp for my students and me!

So, You Want To Be A Composer?
June 13-16, M-Th from 10am-noon
Throughout this camp, students will experience the joy of creation while composing their own music: from the energy of the initial creative urge, following the path of their personal inspiration, then settling it all into a captured vision. By the end of the week, each student will take home an illustrated copy of their composition, printed using professional music notation software. In addition to individual work, students will get to take part in group-based improvisation and composition throughout the week. For students ages 5-14. No previous musical background necessary.

As it turned out, ten students — all current piano students of mine — registered for this camp.

On the first day of camp, our goal was for each student to (1) chose a subject for their musical composition and (2) draw an illustration.

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It is so fun to see what each student chooses and how they choose depict the subject matter through their drawing.

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Later in the day, each student took a turn improvising at the piano inspired by his/her drawing. This allowed us explore and experience the process of expressing through sound.

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The rest of the group provided feedback about how the improvisation made them feel or what the music reminded them of.

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This is good preparation for Day 2, when we will start formulating the structure of our compositions and writing them down on staff paper.

That evening, I scanned each students’ illustration so that it would be ready to digitally insert into each student’s composition in Finale later in the week.

Stay turned for more photos of our camp week! [Click here for Day 2.]

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On Establishing A Daily Habit (Practicing the Piano or Otherwise)

Establishing A Daily HabitFor a long time, I have identified myself as someone who is terrible at remembering to take my daily multivitamin pill.

I wanted to do better. I believe in the benefits of taking multivitamins, and I wanted to take them daily.

I was motivated, but I just couldn’t seem to do it each morning.

So, I started experimenting with putting my multivitamin bottle in a certain place in the house that might help me create a daily habit of taking my multivitamin each morning.

First, I put the bottle in the kitchen on the countertop, in plain sight. I hoped that seeing the multivitamins when I came into the kitchen for breakfast would serve as a good reminder every day. This worked for a little while, but I didn’t like having the bottle sitting out. I like having clear countertops. And I didn’t want my multivitamins sitting out when having visitors, so I tended to tuck the bottle out-of-sight on those occasions…which caused me to forget the next day.

Next, I tried putting the multivitamin bottle in the bathroom, near my toothbrush and other getting-ready-for-the-day items. This didn’t work, either. The problem was that it wasn’t convenient to get a drink of water for swallowing the multivitamin. I had to find my water bottle (which tends to travel all over the house with me) or go to the kitchen for a glass. Because it wasn’t convenient enough, I ended up skipping my multivitamin most days.

Then, I tried putting the multivitamin bottle in the kitchen pantry, on the shelf just below the cereal boxes. I tend to eat a bowl of cereal every morning, so I thought this would be a good place. And I liked that the bottle was out-of-sight instead of out on the countertop. As it turned out, however, my eyes did not always see the multivitamin bottle there in the pantry. There were too many other cans and bottles in the pantry.

So, what finally worked? How did I successfully create a habit of taking my multivitamin pill every morning?

I put the bottle in the cupboard, next to the cereal bowls. Why did this work? This works because I always take out a cereal bowl every morning, so I can’t miss seeing the bottle. Being in the cupboard means that the bottle is never in plain sight or in-the-way on the countertop. Getting a glass of water is easy, because the glasses are within arm reach and so is the sink. I am reminded to do it each day, and it is convenient. 


This experience made me wonder: What other behavior changes can I make in my piano teaching or in other areas of my life? How can I apply what I learned about my new multivitamin habit to other habits?

How about this one: How can I help my students become consistent practicers?

We piano teachers tend to cite a lack of motivation when it comes to students failing to practice regularly. But what about when the problem isn’t a lack of motivation? Many of our students want to practice, but there are barriers preventing it from occurring daily.

Remember, in my case with the multivitamins, I wanted to take them but it wasn’t convenient enough and I didn’t have a sure way to remind myself to do it in the first place.

Instead of focusing on motivating our students to practice, what if we helped our students brainstorm and implement practical ways to eliminate the barriers that make practice difficult or inconvenient? What if we helped them come up with effective reminder systems for daily practice? How can we help students create their own opportunities to achieve “small wins” on their way to establishing new habits?

Please share your input in the comment section below.

Posted in improving as a teacher, practicing | Tagged , | 10 Responses

Check Out Composer Sara Tomlinson’s Music

paper airplane coverGood day!

Today, I am so happy for my friend, Sara Tomlinson, who recently was accepted into Jennifer Eklund’s Composer Community through PianoPronto.com. Please take a moment to listen to Sara’s piece “Paper Airplane” via the video below.

Paper Airplane is a flowing, intermediate-level piece in the key of Eb. You can preview the digital sheet music and purchase via digital download here.

To receive notifications when Sara’s other compositions became available, please like her Facebook page or join the email list at her website.

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Free: Editable Form for Summer Lesson and Music Camps Selection

Today, I thought I’d share the form I have been handing out to my students for the past couple of years in order to present summertime camp/lesson options.

The top of the handout presents the music camp descriptions and dates/times.

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At the bottom, there is a form where students can make their selection regarding the summer camps and lessons. I provide my students with a few package options to choose from, while expecting them to continue making the normal tuition payments each month. This gives us both the flexibility and consistency we need for summertime.

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Feel free to download this editable Microsoft Word file: “Summer Lesson and Camp Selection form” via the link at the bottom of this post or on the Printables > Studio Business page.

  Summer Lesson and Camp Selection form (143.4 KiB, 160 hits)

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My 2016 Summer Camp Offerings

The weather is warming, and summertime is practically here! I don’t know about you, but I’m gearing up to offer a couple of music camps this summer.

summer camp descriptions

 

I first offered a composing camp to my students back in 2012 and have decided it is time to offer something similar this summer. I plan to use my So, You Want To Be A Composer? curriculum while pulling in some newer ideas and resources.

The second camp, Music History Blast From The Past, is one that I have been offering my students for the past four years. We focus on a different historical time period and a specific composer example each day. Students love the hands-on crafting and the discovery of what they can relate to from composers’ lives. I find this camp gives us a great foundation of knowledge for us to refer when learning to play staples of the piano teaching literature. To study each composer, I use the composer lapbooking curriculum that is available in my shop. Check out the general lesson plans here.

Here are the descriptions for the camps I’m offering this year.

So, You Want To Be A Composer?
June 13-16, M-Th from 10am-noon
Throughout this camp, students will experience the joy of creation while composing their own music: from the energy of the initial creative urge, following the path of their personal inspiration, then settling it all into a captured vision. By the end of the week, each student will take home an illustrated copy of their composition, printed using professional music notation software. In addition to individual work, students will get to take part in group-based improvisation and composition throughout the week. For students ages 5-14. No previous musical background necessary.

Music History Blast From The Past
July 11-14, M-Th from 10am-noon
Back by popular demand! This camp gives students a glimpse into the lives of four great classical composers. As we study each composer’s childhood and career, students will learn about the music, fashion, art, and architecture of the time. Every year, students are fascinated to find that they can relate to the life stories of composers who lived hundreds of years ago. In the long run, having this broader context of music history enriches later years of piano study, especially when playing classical piano literature. Each day, students will take home a crafted scrapbook page about that day’s composer. For students ages 5-14. Previous musical background preferable, but not necessary.

What summer camps are you planning this year?

Update: Check out the form I give out to my students in order to present summertime camp/lesson options.

Posted in music camps | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

2016 Studio Recital

My studio recital this year was held in March, but I’m blogging about it today! I have lots of pictures to share.

In this photo, I’m welcoming the audience to our 2016 Studio Recital.

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Our venue this year was the historic Pemberville Opera House. It is so beautiful inside, and they have a wonderful piano.

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My Explorations of Yoga as a Pianist & Teacher

Each year during the cold and snowy winters of the Midwest U.S., I miss being active outdoors. The last couple of years, to scratch that itch, I’ve started getting into yoga.

I chose yoga because it has so many health benefits — both physically and mentally — some of which are particularly useful to musicians. I have already noticed a degree of improvement in mindfulness and bodily awareness — both crucial skills for any musician.

In this post, I’d like to share a bit about my explorations of yoga over the past couple of years and about a few resources that have helped me learn.

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Photo: Me, inspired to invent a new yoga pose during a trip earlier this year to the Joshua Tree National Park in California. 

Let’s start with the practical: How do I fit yoga into my routine?

yoga studio appI like doing yoga in the evening, as a way to wind down before going to bed. Sometimes, I’ll also do a few stretches in the morning or at various points in the day when I feel I need it.

I’ve been using a wonderful app that I highly recommend: Yoga Studio (currently $3.99, and worth every penny!).

The app contains quite a variety of workouts to choose from: beginner, intermediate, advanced; 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes.

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Studio Inspiration from Susan Hong

During the 2016 MTNA conference a few weeks ago, I stayed with my dear friend, Susan Hong. During my visit, I took a few photos of her beautiful studio and she has given me permission to share them with you today!

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Here is the entry way.

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