Reviews, Technology

iPad App Review: Piano Carnival

Check out this awesome, recently-released iPad app:

app Piano CarnivalPiano Carnival Interactive E-Book – FREE for iPad only.

This app was created by Sonya (a friend of mine) and her sister Elizabeth Schumann.  Piano Carnival is an interactive eBook that contains delightful illustrations, reads the poetry aloud to the view, and plays videos of the Schumann sisters playing Saint-Saens’ music “Carnival of the Animals.”

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Here is a quick video that demonstrates what this delightful app can do:

This trailer video gives some background into the app’s creation.  Sonya and Elizabeth have also created a companion page on their website that contains lesson plans and more resources related to Carnival of the Animals.  Be sure to take a look at all of the resources offered there!

It is exciting to see more apps released that take advantage of the full capabilities of the iPad!

Reviews, Technology

Review: Oontz Angle Bluetooth Speaker

For Christmas, my husband gave me this handy little speaker: the Oontz Angle Wireless Bluetooth Speaker.

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In the past, I always plugged a pair of old computer speakers into my iPhone, iPad Mini, or computer when I wanted to play music during lessons, group classes, or while cleaning the house.  :)  They worked okay, but I found that if I turned the sound up too loud, the sound became distorted.

I am so pleased with this handy little speaker because I can turn the sound as loud as I need too without hearing distortion.  I’m very pleased with the quality of the speaker!

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And, of course, it is handy that it is wireless.  It connects via a bluetooth connection.  Pairing the speakers to a device only takes a minute.  Plus, it remembers what device you paired it with last and will automatically connect to that same device if both are turned on.  I’ve owned bluetooth devices in the past and they did not connect this easily.  Technology has certainly improved.

It comes with a USB cable so that you can recharge the battery by plugging it into your computer.  The battery can last for up to 10 hours of playing time.

Just thought I’d share about this fun little gadget!  Did you receive any Christmas gifts that have been useful for piano teaching?  If so, please share about it in the comments!

Studio Business, Technology

In Snowy Weather…Teaching Via FaceTime/Skype

This is what it looks like outside our house today:

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Much of the U.S. is currently experiencing a “polar vortex.”  Here in Ohio, there is around 8 inches of snow on the ground and the wind chill has been around -35 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime.  Local schools and universities have cancelled classes yesterday and today.  Our county has declared a Level 3 Snow Emergency, which means people are not allowed to travel on the roads unless it is an emergency (or else risk a fine or arrest).

What to do about piano lessons?  Continue reading “In Snowy Weather…Teaching Via FaceTime/Skype”

Technology

My CD Project: Favorite Piano Classics for Students

Here is a peek at the project that has been occupying my spare time for the last two months:

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In November, I got the idea to record myself playing some classical pieces that I were my favorite to learn as I was growing up.  I thought it would make a nice Christmas gift for my family, friends, and piano students.  The project turned out to take MUCH more time than I had originally anticipated, but I am very pleased with the outcome!  Continue reading “My CD Project: Favorite Piano Classics for Students”

Giveaways, Technology

NoteWorks app Giveaway and News: Now Available for iPhone as well as iPad

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 9.18.48 AMAbout a year ago, I wrote a review for the NoteWorks app for iPad (read it here).  The developers of NoteWorks have notified me that they have recently released an iPhone version of NoteWorks.  This is great news for any of your students/parents who own iPhones but do not own an iPad!

The iPhone version works very much like the iPad version.  The only possible downside I perceived is that because of the smaller screen, the size of the staff and notes is smaller.  The game still works very well, though.  With young beginners, I would opt to use NoteWorks on the iPad, though, for the sake of the larger staff size.

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The new iPhone version introduces a new way for students to select the range of notes on the staff they would like to practice.

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Here are links to all of the versions available:

GIVEAWAY: NoteWorks has generously offered promo codes for FIVE lucky winners to be able to download this app for free.  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below before midnight EST on Monday, November 11, 2013 with a fun tip for teaching note names to your students.  (Note: the giveaway is for the iPhone version of this app.  However, the developer let me know that it is possible to use the iPhone version of NoteWorks on your iPad.)

Reviews, Technology

App Review: NotateMe

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 1.07.21 PMNotateMe (this public beta release is currently half off: $13.99) — for iPad/iPhone (also available for Android).

NotateMe is a music notation app that allows users to enter music by finger or using a stylus.  As the notes are drawn, the app interprets your handwriting and creates printed notation.  This technology is impressive!

Here is a screenshot taken from the app store:

screen480x480 Continue reading “App Review: NotateMe”

Reviews, Rhythm, Technology

Review: Rhythm Lab app

11397_492880264102613_200460320_nRhythm Lab app — $2.99  *for iPad only*

Rhythm Lab is an app created by Jon Ensminger (a piano teacher in Michigan) that is designed to help students improve their sense of rhythm.  The app provides a series of graded rhythm examples for students to tap using the large, on-screen buttons.  The app even evaluates the accuracy of the students’ performances.

I frequently use printed rhythm cards with my students during their lessons, but I have also been using this app recently with a few of my older students who really need help with rhythm and who have their own iPads at home.  During the lesson, we practice a few rhythms and discuss strategies for accurate and musical rhythm performance (e.g., helping the student feel the meter beforehand).  Then I can ask students to practice certain rhythms on their own at home.  For students to use at home, Rhythm Lab is better than printed rhythm cards because the app can provide students with instant feedback.

There are a variety of one- and two-handed rhythms available, divided into 10 levels.  The simplest rhythms feature basic rhythms and time signatures (2/3, 3/4, and 4/4).  The more advanced rhythms feature mixed meter (5/4, 7/8, etc) and various tuplets.  Continue reading “Review: Rhythm Lab app”

Technology

App Review: Treble Cat & Bass Cat

imagesTreble512-300x300 (1)Treble Cat & Bass Cat ($2.99 each for the iPhone versions and $3.99 each for the HD iPad versions)

These two apps are excellent for students to practice identifying notes on the staff.  It is a great pair of apps to recommend to parents/students to use at home.   I love how simple the concept of the game is — even young piano students will be able to independently use this app.

In each level, the player is given sixty seconds to find all of a given note(s) as a variety of different notes scroll across the screen.  If the player misses more than 3 notes, they must re-try that level.

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The graphics and the background music in these apps are fantastic! Continue reading “App Review: Treble Cat & Bass Cat”

Reading Notation, Reviews, Technology

Aug 2013 Giveaway: SightReadMinor app for iPad

mzl.kzclobbb.480x480-75Remember my review for the SightReadPlus app for iPad?  Well, here is an update:

I’ve been using it here-and-there with students during lessons with great success.  I love being about to choose the key and make the student have to really think about the various key signatures.  As I mentioned in the previous review, I appreciate that the app keeps the student accountable to the beat so the student does not feel it is an option to stop playing if they make a mistake.

I’ve also recommended SightReadPlus to a few of my adult students, who love that fact that the app shows them how well they did — both with the pitches and the rhythm.  It’s like having your teacher at home with you when you practice!  I have really been impressed with the usefulness of SightReadPlus.

Good news — The developers behind SightReadPlus have just released a sequel: the SightReadMinor app.  SightReadMinor works much the same way as SightReadPlus, but it contains 2880 short exercises in all minor keys for $4.99 (SightReadPlus contains 4800 short exercises in all major keys for $7.99).

More good news — The developers have also offered two promo codes of SightReadMinor for a giveaway!  In order to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post about how your Fall studio planning is going.  :)  A winner will be randomly chosen after Midnight EST on Thursday, August 15 and announced the next day.

Reading Notation, Technology

App Review & Giveaway: SightReadPlus

bg-1-273140SightReadPlus — $7.99 *for iPad only*

Update: also check out my short review of SightReadMinor ($4.99).

SightReadPlus is an app for iPad for piano students.  The app not only contains thousands of sight-reading exercises, but it also “listens” to the student play on their piano and evaluates their performance based on accuracy of pitch and rhythm.  I love this technology!  SightReadPlus is a great tool to improve students’ sight-reading abilities, especially in preparation for examinations or adjudications that require sight-reading.

The 4800 sight-reading examples in this app are appropriate for beginning and elementary students.  The range of notes in each exercise is limited to major five-finger patterns, and all exercises are either for RH or LH (never together).

The exercises are divided into 10 levels.  Level 1 begins with half note and whole note rhythms in 4/4 time, with intervals limited to 2nds.  The more advanced levels contain intervals up to a 5th, rhythm values such as dotted quarter notes and eighth rests, and a variety of time signatures (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8).  The exercises can be played in any key.  Continue reading “App Review & Giveaway: SightReadPlus”

Technology

iPad Staff Paper Background

Remember the music whiteboard I created using a plexiglass frame from IKEA?  Here is my new digital version.  :)

IPadminiWhite staff paper

In the photo above, the staff paper is being used in the GoodNotes app.  You can download a multi-page pdf containing the various types of staff paper by visiting the Printables > For iPad page.

These files will probably work just as well on non-iPad tablet devices with a similar app.  If anyone tries it, please let me know!

Technology

Annotation Apps for iPad / GoodNotes Pro Review

IPadminiWhite screenshotOne of the cool teaching tools the iPad provides the piano teacher is the possibility of completing worksheets digitally during the lesson — or using the iPad like a music whiteboard with a custom background.  A few of my favorite piano teaching blogs have shared some great resources for using the iPad in this way:

  • Anne Crosby — Check out her colorful whiteboard backgrounds by searching “iPad” on her blog, and be sure to see her Music Discoveries digital method book, too (pictured at right).
  • Wendy’s Piano Escapades offers a few different types of colorful whiteboard backgrounds.
  • Susan Paradis has a variety of colorful worksheets/games that would work well on the iPad. 
  • Jennifer Fink from Pianimation has some sight-reading cards (sets of jpg files) that are fantastic.

To use these wonderful resources on your iPad, you will need some kind of whiteboard or annotator app that allows you to upload custom “papers” or “backgrounds” upon which you can draw and erase.  There are many different options available.  Over the weekend, I spent some time researching and testing apps until I found my favorite.  Here are the features I was looking for:  Continue reading “Annotation Apps for iPad / GoodNotes Pro Review”