Archive for the ‘for Teachers’ Category
Tablets PC’s in the Piano Studio
I have always been fascinated with J.S. Bach’s — Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. This simple baroque folio gives us a glimpse into the methods of one of the first great pedagogues of the keyboard. Of course, at this time there were no keyboard methods written. J.S. Bach could’t go down to the local music store and get a copy of the latest Piano Adventures.
To me , I found a couple intriguing observations. One was that sometimes there was only a part of a composition written. I gather from this that Bach, and perhaps other teachers of the Baroque, was very interested in teaching not only the mechanics of technique but also the theory of composition as well. Another interesting point was that The Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach also had a couple sheets of blank manuscript paper. A teacher with the gift of improvisation as J.S. Bach would carry on that gift to his teaching. He was ready at a moments inspiration to write out something he found necessary for his student’s continuing musical education.
This whole idea of Notebooks got me to thinking of possible advantages that we could bring our students in our age when so much is prepackaged for our student’s consumption. The individuality of each student can easily get lost. But individuality was NOT lost in the day of Bach. It seems it was a natural part of the way students were taught music 300 years ago. The Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach was written for a specific individual — Anna Magdalena Bach. That in itself is an important point to ponder.
APPLYING THIS TO MY HP SLATE 500 TABLET PC
During my research of finding a suitable tablet device and I came across the HP Slate 500 I began to see how I could design an electronic version of The Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach for each of my students. Once I saw this was a real possibility, it became the main focus of my research.
With the great portability of a tablet PC; the HP Slate 500 also included a digitizer pen. I could take notes on each of my students without the need of a bulky keyboard or the limited functionality of the screen keyboards found on many tablet computers.
Many times I would end a lesson and the thought would come to me that I needed to go over some musical material at the next lesson. Maybe I taught the student about scales but I didn’t have enough time to show the relationship between scales and chords. If I had a file for each student I could write down a note so I have the reminder I needed to teach this at the next lesson I saw with this student. I found this would be a very doable way of using a tablet PC.
On most lessons I don’t have enough time to cover every book in which I have a student working. This would be another very doable application because of the portability of a tablet PC. On the student’s file I just needed to jot down a quick note of any uncovered material that needed to be covered first in the next lesson.
I’ve also found that many students would purposely avoid playing a piece or a book. Sometimes the student would postpone playing a piece for several weeks. Writing down all uncovered material in a special file on my tablet PC solves this issue. Now my lessons would have much better continuity than previously.
Microsoft OneNote and the HP Slate 500
About this time in my research I found that Microsoft has a fantastically flexible piece of software that could be a piano teacher’s dream for creating Student Notebooks patterned after Bach’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. The software is OneNote. It’s part of the suite of applications found on most versions of Microsoft Office.
The HP Slate 500 comes equipped with a digitizer pen and excellent handwriting recognition software. It works beautifully in conjunction with OneNote.
First, I made a Notebook for each student. I saved all my Student Notebooks on Microsoft’s SkyDrive. I can give each student (and parent) a web address where they can always view my most updated version of their Notebook. For my parents that are not so computer savvy I can eMail them the contents of their child’s notebook. OneNote has the built in feature where I can eMail the parents directly from within OneNote. (As you continue reading this blog you will see how useful this ability can be).
For my students that do not take their lessons at my studio where I may not have access to the internet, I’ve also a copy of each Student’s Notebook on a 32 GB SD card. (If I chose, I could also store the Notebooks on the 64 GB hard drive that comes standard on the Slate 500.) Windows 7 also has a feature where I can synchronize all my student Notebooks on my Slate 500 with the Notebooks on the SkyDrive.
The Student Notebooks and using them with the Slate 500
The first thing I should mention is that the Student Notebooks are NOT assignment books. Assignment books are for the STUDENTS BENEFIT. The OneNote Notebook is for the TEACHERS BENEFIT, but also has great usefulness to the student. It’s a tool for the teacher to keep track of what’s going on educationally and digitally with each student.
I organize each Student Notebook into MONTHS. I create a new page at the first lesson of each month. I update the REPERTOIRE LIST I create for each student. The REPERTOIRE LIST contains all the major compositions a student is working on. I carry over my studio color code system directly into my OneNote Notebooks. Regular pieces are listed in BLACK. Memory pieces are marked in RED. (I use red paper clips in my student’s books to indicate a piece that is to be memorized.) Performance pieces are marked in BLUE. ((I use blue paper clips in my student’s books to indicate a piece being prepared for a performance.) As pieces are completed for study I ask the student if they would consider the piece for their yearly Guild Auditions. If they say YES – I highlight that piece in GREEN. If they want to be completed with a piece I highlight the title of the piece in GREY.
A REPERTOIRE list may look like this …..
- Alpine Sonatina – MVT III
- Funeral March of the Marionette
- Highland Jig
- Alpine Sonatina - MVT I
- March of the Migrant Mouse
Having this list gives me, at a quick glance, a quick review of the exact work load of each student. This is very beneficial to me where I can instantly organize the student’s lesson.
Another very helpful organizational note I can make in a Student’s Notebook is to make a notation as to something I need to cover the next lesson. For example – If I notice a student is having difficult memorizing a composition I make a notation in the Student’s Notebook. Like this …..
NEXT WEEK: Give memory techniques for Highland Jig
I often don’t get everything book covered in a lesson. OneNote is the perfect memory jogger. A simple notation is all I need.
FIRST NEXT WEEK; TECHNIQUE – finger joints
GOING DIGITAL ON THE SLATE 500
One of the coolest features of the Slate 500 is that you can add hyperlinks to a Student’s Notebook. If I’m working with a student on the old English folk song Greensleeves I can, not only, play it for the student using the Slate 500 by going to YouTube but I can also add the link and make it a part of the Student’s Notebook. I simply copy the link from my WebBrowser and paste in into the Student’s Notebook.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVWhxoIkHtY Baltimore Consort:Greensleeves
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0GQceYJPdE&feature=related Greensleeves (arr. Vaughan Williams)
Another way I can record using the Slate 500 is by recording a mp3 file. If I record myself within OneNote it will automatically put the link into the Student’s Notebook. What I can do is simply sent the student’s notebook to the student’s eMail address and the file automatically becomes an attachment. Click on the attachment and the student can hear the recording.
Many times a student wants me to play a new composition for them so they can hear it. It takes no extra time to prepare the Slate 500 to make an mp3 recording of their new piece. Again, OneNote’s recording capabilities are all part of the OneNote package. There’s no need to exit OneNote to a piece of recording software and then import the mp3 file into OneNote. This can all be done within OneNote itself!
The eMail client I use is Mozilla’s Thunderbird. Within OneNote itself I can directly export a Student’s Notebook to their eMail address. ALL mp3 and videos are sent to my students through attachments. In our example above the student would not only get my personal mp3 recording BUT ALSO the two versions of Greensleeves!! All attachments are included in the eMail automatically!
Of course, just like the iPad, the Slate 500 contains two cameras; one for Skyping and another for “stills” and “videos”.
One time I was teaching a student about legato pedaling for the first time. It is always a bit confusing. So, I recorded the whole little lecture. After I recorded the lecture it automatically created a mp3 link in hypertext as part of the student’s OneNote notebook. The student had this mini lecture for her future reference just by finding the file and playing it again. I recommend all my students make a special folder in their eMail program called Piano Lessons PLUS for all their correspondence I may send them.
For anyone seriously interested in the Slate 500 I should mention that it comes with a Docking Station. The Docking Station comes equipped with a port for external speakers. I purchased a pair of Bose Speakers and the sound quality is excellent. My students get exceptional sound quality for everything I play for them from YouTube. One of the greatest features of the Slate 500 is its expandability.
Using HDMI with the Slate 500
HDMI gives the Slate 500 the ability to connect to large screen computer monitors; even large screen TV’s if so equipped with HDMI. I have my Slate Docking Station connected via HDMI to a 24 inch computer monitor. When I place the Slate 500 on the Docking Station the screen on the Slate 500 is projected on to the large monitor. This is a very nice feature when I’m playing a symphonic composition on YouTube. When I set YouTube to play in full screen mode the 24 inch monitor adjusts to full screen mode too. Students get an excellent view of the full symphony orchestra.
A really great educational feature of having the HDMI monitor is that I can to “chalk talks” using Windows Paint (a program included with Windows 7. The Slate 500 comes automatically loaded with Windows 7 Professional). After I’ve completed the “chalk talk” I can save the “chalk talk” as a .jpeg file and import this directly into the Student’s Notebook. Where I used to do “chalk talks” on a dry erase board all I could do is erase them and hope the student remembered the material. NOW I can import the chalk talk into the Student’s Notebook and when I send this via eMail it can be printed out and reviewed. Students know that when they go home there’s an eMail waiting for them with valuable information in what they just covered in their private lesson.
The nice thing about Microsoft Paint is that my “chalk talks” are in full color. This is very handy. If I am teaching a student about chord inversions, I can always color the ROOT in red and this helps the student easily identify their chords as they are first working through the material. And don’t forget, this is very easily imported into the Student’s OneNote Notebook.
I’ve made several .jpeg files of music staff paper. If my “chalk talk” requires the music staff, which it often does, I’m ready to go in no time. When I’m done with the little lecture I simply give the file a new name using “SAVE AS” and the file is ready to import into OneNote. Actually, OneNote has drawing capabilities, but I find Windows Paint is more powerful for my “chalk talk” needs.
Another thing I have done it to convert all my Method Books into .jpeg files. I can then import any composition of my method books into Microsoft Paint and make a theory lesson from their Method Book. This saves a lot of superfluous writing in the students method books. I think this simulates what J.S. Bach did by only writing out a single part of a composition. The student could more easily learn their composition “brick by brick“.
Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse
Through one of the three USB ports one can connect a keyboard and mouse if one wants to use the Slate 500 for cleaning up a student’s notebook or for writing a studio wide eMail to all the parents of your student. If you use Microsoft Office you can do work on any Microsoft Program; Excel, Powerpoint, Word and, of course, OneNote.
This blog only covers how I’m using the Slate 500 in the creation of Student Notebooks using OneNote. But just this one application alone has brought my teaching fully into the 21st century. I’m am fully satisfied with my purchase and I hope it has stimulated you into opening up your mind to new possibilities into using tablet computers.
The Slate 500 was specifically designed for professionals in both business AND education. I think you can see through this blog how the capabilities of the Slate 500 has tremendous hardware capabilities that can enhance the educational possibilities of any music teacher.
I think ol’ J.S. Bach himself would be pleased.
Posted in for Teachers, Piano Teacher Press, tagged Android devices, hardware for piano studios, iPad, MTNA, music technology, National Federation of Music Clubs, NFMC, piano education, piano lessons Cranberry Twp PA, piano lessons Wexford PA, piano pedagogy, piano teaching, tablet PC on July 18, 2012 | 5 Comments »
Why I Chose a Windows 7 Based Tablet
A couple months ago I finally made the plunge into the world of tablet computers. It was a long journey as I bounced from iPads to Android based machines and finally to Windows based machines. Throughout my journey I wavered between these three basic choices several times. Many, in fact most, of my piano teacher friends were choosing the iPad. There seemed to be an almost limitless number of useful apps written for the iPad. I was strongly considering the iPad and researching all the ways I could utilize the iPad at my studio.
My son in law is a computer professional and I sought his advise. His advise was to wait. This type of computer device wasn’t really ready for prime time. He said to wait for a couple generations until this device was sufficiently designed for end users. My research led me find that Bill Gates had come to the same conclusion. Bill Gates main complaint was that, even with the iPad, this device needed better input capabilities. He mentioned that in the research labs there were some fine advances in the making but they were not quite ready. Another legitimate complaint with both iPads and Android devices was the limited amount of expansion capabilities. With this rather disheartening information I dropped the whole idea for several months.
After the iPad 3 came on the market my interest was again kindled but the main complaints of my son in law was not addressed with with the iPad 3. The iPad 3 didn’t address the limitations of expansion and limited input devices.
Then I noticed that Windows was coming out with Windows 8. Windows 8 was to be designed with the touch capabilities on par with the iPad and other Android devices. Touch is a big selling feature of the iPad and Android based devices. Before this time I didn’t do any research into anything Windows based. This information caused me to research out this avenue. Having a tablet computer that would run programs as Microsoft Office seemed to be a necessity for business and educational applications.
YouTube was a great source for research. Many people devote themselves to reviewing high tech equipment. I found there were several Windows based tablet PC’s that were on the market. Some were rather expensive but others were very comparable in price to the iPad and Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy. Many of the reviews addressed the same limitations of the iPad that I was already familiar.
Basically, analysts divided the tablet market into two major groups; the business community and the non-business community. Both markets have different customers they are trying to satisfy. Of course, this helped me see why Bill Gates/Microsoft and Steve Jobs/Apple would have different perspectives. The different visions of each man led them to create very different products.
Eventually I came across a Windows 7 based device manufactured by HP (Hewlett Packard) called the Slate 500. This device made very clear the difference between the visions of the creators of the Apple and Microsoft. The creators of the Slate 500 designed this machine not only for business professionals BUT FOR PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS. This really captured my attention.
The limitations of input devices was eliminated because the Slate 500 has included a digitizer pen that has an excellent program that can read ones handwriting with remarkable accuracy. And not only that, commercial ARTISTS were pleased with using the Slate 500 for doing preliminary sketching. So, the problem of input into the Slate 500 was addressed successfully.
Second the problem of expansion was almost completely solved. The iPad’s memory capabilities are fixed. The Slate 500 comes with 64 GB storage AND with the SD card slot one can purchase all the extra storage one may need. I bought an extra 32 GB of extra storage for well under $20.
Another great feature of the Slate 500 is that it comes equipped with a docking station to charge the internal batteries or to use the machine when using an outside power source. But this docking station is so much more. The docking station also contains connections for HDMI. It also contains 2 USB ports and that’s in addition to the one on the tablet itself. There is also an audio port for connecting to external audio speakers. One isn’t limited at all in any desire for expanding the Slate 500.
The HDMI is very useful because I can connect the Slate 500 to a 24 inch HDMI monitor. This is a very useful feature for my studio work. I can use the HDMI monitor as a projector in conjunction with Windows Paint for little presentations I can make for my students.
The USB ports were very useful because I purchased a bluetooth keyboard and mouse from Logitech for under $30. When I need to use the Slate for more comprehensive work that requires more intense input I’m ready to work. In fact, because my PC wasn’t available to be used this afternoon I used my Slate to write this blog. Though for most work I do on the Slate the digitizer pen is completely sufficient.
Finally, the audio port included on the dock was easily connected to two Bose Speakers ($99) that gives my Slate exceptional sound quality when I want to play musical videos for my students.
To conclude, the reasons for my buying the Windows based Slate 500 are …..
1) It’s Windows based and runs Microsoft Office.
2) Its memory storage capabilities are not limited.
3) Using it with additional input devices (keyboards – mice – digitizer pens) is no problem
4) It capacity for expansion; including 3 USB ports, SD cards, and HDMI
5) It is capable to the touch features expected of other tablet devices and smartphones.
6) It was designed with educators in mind.
7) DIDN’T MENTION IT but this can run Kindle as a portable eReader, too.
8) It’s fully capable of browsing the web
9) Microsoft has always caught up to Apple in the past and the nifty apps now available with the iPad will shortly find application with Windows devices as they gain in popularity.
My next blog will be on how I use the Slate 500 in my Music Studio. Stay tuned.
Posted in for Teachers, Piano Teacher Press, tagged Guild Auditions, MTNA, National Federation of Music Clubs, National Guild of Piano Teachers, NFMC, NGPT, piano lessons Cranberry Twp PA, piano lessons Wexford PA, piano pedagogy, piano teacher, piano teaching on June 13, 2012 | 9 Comments »
The SILENT Piano Lesson
All teachers teach their piano student HOW TO PRACTICE. We often will take a couple minutes during a lesson and give the students pointers on how to effectively use their time. These pointers usually include things like — play hands separately — isolate difficult spots — practice away from the piano — play at a constant tempo, even if slower than the final tempo, that you can keep from the beginning to the end. I thought that after I went over this ritual, even at periodic intervals, I was effectively doing my job.
One day I found out how INEFFECTIVE this method was in teaching students how to practice. One day I said to several of my students — Today we’re going to have a SILENT PIANO LESSON. I’m not going to say a word. I’m just going to observe you practice. I may sketch down a few notes but for all practical purposes I want you to forget I’m here. I want you to practice just like you do at home.
This gave me a chance to see how effectively my little “how to practice” lectures took root in my student’s practice routine. I thought my little lectures were clear. I always thought my explanations were colorful and full of analogies they could grasp. I got feedback from the student that they understood my point(s). And to complete the lesson I would ask them “How are you going to practice differently this week?” They would answer with the affirmation that they would follow my instructions.
To my surprise most students practiced the same way. They would play one piece and then go on to the next piece until they played all their pieces. A couple of the students would play through the piece a couple times; but always the same way — from beginning to end.
It became obvious, regardless of what I thought was effective teaching, what I was doing was very lacking. Like most piano teachers we generally teach students that are above average academically. I can’t really blame the students. I also couldn’t blame myself. I was doing good work.
So the question is, what is different between the lessons time and their practice time? The answer —- ME. When I’m guiding the student I am providing the questions that need answered. I’m providing the direction. I’m evaluating the performance for them with the necessary commentary as to how the student should think about what they just did. This is actually very sophisticated work and students are not yet creative enough or critical enough in their thinking to solve the problems necessary to improve their repertoire efficiently and effectively. Students can improve and do improve week by week; but they do so with very inefficient and ineffective practicing.
I’ve come to the conclusion that students must be taught THROUGH CONSTANT MONITORING how to practice. And this can most effectively be accomplished through The SILENT Piano Lesson. Until the students learns the critical thinking skills necessary that’s part of practicing through the active participation of the teacher the student will only learn most slowly and most painfully.
We all want better for our students.
Students must learn learn the difference between playing the piano and practicing the piano. Most students don’t know the difference without the vigilant effort of a good teacher. To most students, even those that have played piano for several years, the difference between practice and performance is a very fuzzy and hazy concept. Most students think music lessons is a process of making music. Practice is what happens at the beginning and performance is what happens at the end. It’s like making ice cream. You start cranking and after you are done cranking you have ice cream.
But each (practicing and performing) is really an entirely different disposition. Practicing uses an entirely different set of mental abilities than does performing. Practicing is the creating of a reality from the notes on the printed page. Performance is the projection of those notes, of that reality, to an audience; even if that audience is only the performer.
When teachers are preparing students for performances it’s very easy to seamlessly move from performance suggestions to practicing suggestions. This is why I recommend that with some regularity we focus on The SILENT Piano Lesson. On The SILENT Piano Lessons we teach student HOW TO PRACTICE first by observation ALONE. BE TOTALLY SILENT. Be totally silent and observe how much of their personal critical thinking skills is taking place. In the last 5 – 10 minutes of the lesson TEACH the student to think critically through your observations. Do this repeatedly UNTIL critical thinking becomes second nature to the student. If a student needs a SILENT Piano Lesson monthly for several years it will be worth it.
Then by teaching the student the critical thinking skills necessary the student will eventually learn INDEPENDENTLY the creation of the musical reality found in each composition they study. I know teachers do this as part of each lesson, just as I described at the beginning of this blog; but, if we do it in ISOLATION as its own skill in developing critical thinking and being creative, I think, in time, students will learn HOW TO PRACTICE and not just do well in playing their repertoire.
Posted in for Teachers, Piano Teacher Press, tagged education, imagination, intermediate piano, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons Cranberry Twp PA, piano lessons Wexford PA, piano methods, piano pedagogy, piano teaching, piano theory on March 20, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
When I began studying music it was all a mystery. All the notes seemed to be fixed and I couldn’t change them. This was reinforced to my uneducated mind through the mistakes I made. Whenever I played a note that wasn’t notated on the page it sounded terrible. I assumed that any note beyond the notation was wrong.
I thought it was like the story I read of a famous sculptor who was asked how he would sculpt an elephant. The sculptor said it was easy. All I do is eliminate everything that doesn’t look like an elephant. I assumed music worked the same way. To play Yankee Doodle all I needed to do is eliminate every note that wasn’t Yankee Doodle.
There is a principle in teaching that instructs the teacher — GO FROM THE KNOWN TO THE UNKNOWN. It was obvious from my childhood assumptions above that there was a great deal of the UNKNOWN in my musical education. I remember that experience and assume the same process is going on in my student’s minds as they begin their piano instruction. My goal was to help my students not fall into the trap and limitations of holding on to the assumptions I had as a young student that were limiting at best and downright wrong at worst.
There are many ways I do that in my teaching but today I want to focus on only one of them. I’ve made several anthologies of “classical music” for my students. In several of the compositions I took some of the major ideas employed by the composer and applied it to a common folk song. If a composer uses imitation in a composition I take a folk song and arrange it using the same type of imitation. If a composer uses syncopation I take a folk song and apply syncopation within the arrangement. When the young music student compares the similarity between the classical composition and the folk song; what is unknown becomes known.
This method of learning helps the student understand far better than just giving a text book definition of imitation or syncopation. Let’s take a couple examples to demonstrate using this method in applying the principle of going from the UNKNOWN TO THE KNOWN.
Here is a popular teaching piece by Kabalevsky – Chit Chat. The piece is a simple piece of imitation; a measure is first played by the left hand and is directly imitated by the right hand in the following measure.
I always mention to students that imitation is something they are going to find very common in the music they will study. It will enter into their compositions in many different and creative ways. I use this piece as my “entry level” piece to teach the concept of musical imitation.
This little arrangement of Are You Sleeping? uses the same imitation technique as Chit Chat by Kabalevsky. To add a little variety and to give students another example I created a variation on the Are You Sleeping? theme.
Using this method helps students become aware of how a composer can use an idea like imitation to create a composition. For teachers who teach composition this is a good simple technique that can be used to guide students to make their compositions more interesting.
The page on the left is another way to reinforce the concept of imitation. The student is given the major phrases of the folk song Three Blind Mice. The student is given two measures to write out the imitation.
The teacher may certainly aid the student in helping him write out the imitation but most students do rather well in understanding the assignment and knowing what to do to fulfill the requirements.
A good piece to introduce students to syncopation is Morning Greeting by Gurlitt.
To reinforce the concept of syncopation to the student I created an arrangement of the popular folk song Cockles and Mussels. I used Cockles and Mussels because it also could be syncopated with the same rhythmic arrangement of notes as Gurlitt’s Morning Greeting.
The pedagogical use for the Ecossaise in G major by Schubert is that it is one of the few pieces that uses root position dominant 7th chords. Root position 7th chords makes a perfect springboard for the introduction of teaching 7th chords.
To compliment the Ecossaise in G I took the old madrigal Now is the Month of Maying by Thomas Morley and arranged it with several root position dominant 7th chords. Again, when students get an opportunity to see the similarity between the two compositions the student grows in understanding that music follows rules and traditions. When students are made aware of these rules and traditions their understanding and assimilation of their repertoire will be facilitated.
Finally, I would like to explain my way of helping students experience the common practice of changing from a major mode to the parallel minor. Kabalevsky makes use of this technique in a piece he wrote called The Little March. The first phrase is in C major and the second phrase repeats the same material in C minor.
To further the students understanding of the changing from major to minor I took the popular folk song Shortnin’ Bread. Through the little arrangement I alter the mode of the phrases going from major to minor. Being that most students are familiar with Shortnin’ Bread they can more easily discern the dramatic difference that this change of mode creates.
Using folk songs in this way has been a great way to teach my students the great musical tradition we follow. It has been one of the major ways I use to help my students go from the UNKNOWN and make it KNOWN by going from the KNOWN (folk songs) and showing the connection it can have to the UNKNOWN (our musical tradition).