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Friday, October 26, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop Inspiration with Leila Viss: Apps

After attending several music workshops hosted by UVMTA and IMTA this month presented by Leila Viss, author of 88pianokeys.me blog, my mind is humming with new creative ideas to try out with the students in my studio.   I thoroughly enjoyed her engaging style of teaching!


The handouts for each session
including links can be found at Leilaviss.com Past Clinics.

 Following are some of my notes and takeaways from the workshop.

 "TEACHING THE MOBILE GENERATION WITH TODAY'S HOTTEST APPS"  
In the piano blogging world, Leila is well-known for her use of apps in the music studio so it didn't surprise me when she started out this session with one of my favorite apps for note reading - Flashnote Derby (see Leila's review here).   I love how you can totally customize the settings for each student on this app and unlike traditional flashcards, you don't have to be the "bad guy" telling students when they get notes wrong!  My favorite feature is the capability of the app to detect what note students are playing so it reinforces letter names and piano key location at the same time.  It is helpful for strings and vocal instruments as well because you must play/sing the pitch in tune enough for the app to detect what you sing/play.

Next Leila demonstrated how to Make Candy Count using candy bar rhythms for clap backs, improvisation, ear training and to facilitate understanding of rhythm subdivision. We layered the rhythms by clapping/chanting them and adding each additional rhythm in succession (based on the candy bar we picked from the grab bag).  This activity would be great for a group lesson to help demonstrate the concept of subdivision of the beat.
You can access this candy rhythm chart in the free section of her store.  Layton Music also has a flashcard version of free printable candy bar rhythms that can be used for similar purposes.  I like to use these at my Halloween group lesson for a candy version of Rhythm Tag.

The MusicClock App (explained by Leila) provides a great backdrop for improvisation. The pentatonic scale is a great place to start students comfortably improvising. "When in doubt, Pent- out!" as Bradley Sowash says.  For example,

  1. Start by playing 1,2,3,5 and 6th degrees of a scale and have student guess what pitches they heard.
  2. Then have students mark them on the keys with animal erasers.  
  3. Suggest a set repeating rhythm to play on just one note from that pentatonic scale.
  4. Expand the options to 2, 3, then any notes on the pentatonic scale. 

"Start with a short leash and then lengthen it." This provides a safer environment for students nervous to dive into improv.

"You have to give someone a handle in order to grasp things." Relate new content to something the student is already familiar with. (Example: Candy Bar Rhythms, Relating Notes to Deep Blue C, Cow C, Middle C, Face C and Cloud C). You can see more details on the C names on "Is it Cheating to Teach a Piece by Rote?" post.

"Note Quest" includes the concept of intervals too. (see a review on "Creative Ways to Build Better Pitch Reading" post.

Effective ways to use your Camera (free on your device) in music lessons
  1. Technique - Slow motion video of the student playing scales to help them see trouble spots.
  2. Have students take videos of their own practice and send to you... (when they have pink eye!)
  3. Performance - simulates a higher stress environment for great performance practice to encourage students to keep going even if they make a mistake.

Book Creator App (read Leila's review here)
Create Instructional videos and pics in a video/storybook format
See "Be Cool and Play the 12 Bar Blues"  and "Understanding Intervals" and  "The Full Scoop on Chords" Resources

Royal Conservatory Apps include music concept tutorials with quizzes at the end and are student driven.

Additional Tips and Tricks
  • Type Lesson Assignments on Google Docs
  • Give each lesson a rating from 5 to 1. For example, 5 - Above and Beyond, 4 - Right on Target, 3- Ok But could have spent more time practicing, etc. (See A Piano Teacher's Planning Kit)
  • Print practice strategies on printable Avery labels that you can stick in their music.
  • Use hair scrunchies to hold stuffed animal on student's wrist to effectively demo concepts focusing on arm/wrist motion.
Leila's Music App Directory is my go-to resource for deciding on which music teaching apps to use in my music studio.  She has helpful reviews for a myriad of apps organized into categories such as rhythm, ear training, intervals sight reading, etc. and using them has definitely amped up the fun and learning in my studio.

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