Conferences, Technology

2010 MMTA Conference (5): Technology Tips by Martha Hilley

What follows are the notes I took from a session with Martha Hilley at the 2010 Michigan Music Teachers Association conference.  This post concludes the posts about this year’s Michigan conference!


Today we will be covering a variety of technologies that teachers can incorporate into their studios.  Remember – if you aren’t already, you can consider charging a technology fee each year to help cover your technology expenses.

1. Powerpoint software (part of Microsoft Office 2010 Home & Student).  Powerpoint is a presentation software that can work well in class piano settings in order to project chord progressions or rhythms on the wall or screen for all to see.  Powerpoint allows you enter graphics and even sound files of percussion or accompaniment backgrounds that you can play while students are playing the chord progressions together.

2. Roland Edirol R-09.  This is one example of a digital recorder that you can use to record students playing (or yourself playing exercises/accompaniments/duet parts for them).  This model costs around $299.  (Note: I personally use the Zoom H2 recorder and have found it to be fairly easy to use.)

3. Flip Ultra Video Camera.  This super portable videocamera costs around $149 (or $199 for an HD model with better resolution).  The sound quality will not match the quality of the recorder mentioned above, but it is decent.

4. Portable hard drive.  If you don’t currently have one of these, that means you’ve probably never had your computer crash and lost everything before!  A portable hard drive connects to your computer via USB and allows you to save a backup of all the files you have saved on your computer.  If you own a computer, you should probably also own one of these!  They cost roughly between $50-100 depending on hard drive size, but they are worth it for the peace of mind.

5. USB memory stick/flash drive.  Depending on storage space, these cost anywhere from $8-50.  These handy little items allow you to save a small number of files in a portable way if you are traveling between computers, or going to the store to print photos, etc.  You could consider loaning these out to students in order to send them home with mp3 files of accompaniment recordings, etc.

6. Digital Piano with On-Board Arranger and USB port.  These digital pianos cost between $4,500-6,500.  Digital pianos in this price range usually have pre-installed software that can automatically create accompaniments for you, based on whatever chord you are currently playing.  Using the USB port, you can make and transfer accompaniments to your computer as MIDI or mp3 files and send them to your students.

7. Computer Station: laptop, headset/earbuds, digital keyboard, iPad, music software.  Many teachers maintain a computer station where students are required to spend 15+ minutes each week before or after their lesson (this is where the technology fee also comes in).  There are many music game softwares you can purchase.  Or you can assign listening to pieces on YouTube.  There are many options here to consider!

8. Finale or Sibelius.  These are two examples of the most well-known music notation softwares available.  The educational versions usually cost around $250.  There are often also available simplified versions for cheaper that are slightly less functional (but also much less overwhelming!) than the full version.  Using this software, teachers can create their own worksheets, notated rhythms, arrangements, and (student or teacher) compositions.

9. Audacity.  This software is a free download at  It allows you to edit your mp3 recordings that you captured using your digital recorder (#2 above) or your digital piano (#6 above).  (Note: also view my tutorial on using Audacity.)

10. Adobe Dreamweaver, iWeb (by Apple),, and others.  Software such as Dreamweaver and free services such as allow you to create your own studio website where you can create playing and listening assignments for students to complete on their own time or during weekly technology time.  For example, you can post the mp3s recordings of accompaniments plus rhythms for them to play that you notated using Finale.

These are just a few ways that you can incorporate technology into your studio.  Share your own ideas in the comments below!

In the interest of full disclosure: this post contains Amazon affiliate links.  If you purchase an item through an affiliate link, Color In My Piano earn a small percentage of the item’s cost.  Thanks for helping keep Color In My Piano alive and well on the web!

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