Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interval Snap

Here's a card game I'm experimenting with and I'm quite excited to use in my classes to help students become more fluent at reading intervals. I've made up these cards that can be used on its own (as flashcards) or for a game of Interval Snap. 

Instructions to play:
  1. Distribute all cards equally to each student
  2. All cards to be placed faced down. Each student opens the top card and the person with the largest interval snaps up all cards. If there is a tie, students continue to draw cards to determine who has the larger interval. Game continues until a student wins all cards.
  3. For variation, the teacher calls out "move" and all students move to the right, playing the set of cards of the next student. Set a timer for a shorter game
You are welcome to print Interval Snap for your studio use. I've also included a card backing which is optional to print on the other side. There is also a template for anyone who wishes to create additional cards for patterning or melody playback activities. Game making is fun!....now it's time for a test drive with a few students :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Student Spotlight Corner

This post is inspired by Joy Morin's recent initiative with the new series of "Teacher Feature" on her blog. I really enjoy reading her interview notes and learning how other teachers run their piano studios. From Joy's wonderful idea, I thought it would give an interesting twist to interview my students and feature a "Student Spotlight Corner" periodically on my studio newsletter. 
As such, I'm aspiring to be quite a lot more observant this year at taking note of special student interest, achievements, skills, funny moments to share when highlighting students in the student spotlight corner. I'm sure the students will be so excited to see a photo or video featuring a performance of their song. I'm thinking of creating a short video and sharing it via a private link with the families in my studio. 
The video might have the student give a short introduction followed by a performance of their favourite song. 
I have a feeling that this is going to generate some excitement amongst parents and students and I am really looking forward to starting this project in the fall. It will likely be a very good motivational tool and gives something for the kids to look forward to as they work hard to polish their favourite pieces.
Have you done something similar to feature students in your studio? If you have, please share your experiences, it's so interesting to learn how you plan a fun project like this!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Going Paperless with Noterize

Another exciting discovery with a new iPad app called "Noterize". I have been writing down assignments on students' notebooks for years and this year, I am planning a change and was actually toying with the idea of emailing assignments to students and copying their parents on the email. When I received an email from an MYC colleague yesterday about emailing assignments from the iPad, it ultimately sparked my curiosity to find the perfect app that would do exactly what I want. I was looking for an app that would display pdf or jpeg files as a background so I am free to create templates and forms. Now there is a variety of apps that have this feature but this is clearly not enough. The next criteria was the ability to create text boxes, edit text, change fonts and move them anywhere on the screen. I thought finding the perfect app was tricky but I absolutely can't believe that an app is available and the best part.....FOR FREE! So, iPad users, hurry on to the app store and download Noterize! It is a must have in your studio if you're planning to do away with handwritten assignments.

To summarize, here are a few highlights of Noterize:
  1. The best part: Users can create text boxes and have options to include a border or display as a sticky note!!. Edit text, change fonts, pen size, colour and move the text box anywhere you wish on your iPad screen.
  2. How would you like to include audio clips to demonstrate a section of a piece, an articulation or phrasing?? It is now possible to attach an audio file to the assignment sheet. Share your assignments via email, dropbox, pdf, Facebook, Twitter or Google Docs
  3. Highlight, annotate and erase your notes easily. 
  4. Importing a document is easy. Transfer your documents through iTunes or simply download it from a web browser or dropbox. So Dropbox fans, there is an easy way to download your templates to Noterize.
  5. Noterize supports a variety of file formats: png, jpg, pdf, ppt
I created a template for weekly assignments that I am excited to try this year and here's a sample page that I had emailed myself from Noterize :) I think it's great that I'm able to save some printing cost and ensure that parents can be on top of their child's piano assignment when they are copied on the emails. The template is posted here if anyone is interested in this resource.

Monday, August 15, 2011

YouTube Channel For The Studio

This year marks quite a few changes with a new studio website, a new blog, a Facebook page, monthly newsletters and a few creative projects I'm excited to begin. Lately I've been trying my hands at video editing and I have to say it's very time consuming but SO fun!! I've caught a few video clips of student performances and watched quite a number of tutorials on creating movies. There is a big learning curve but definitely exciting for someone who loves to play at the computer. 
I have been intrigued by the idea of creating a YouTube channel for my studio after watching several piano teaching channels. I think it is such a wonderful idea to start and archive videos of student performances. YouTube also makes it easy for the user to share videos publicly or unlist a video from search results. What really made me think about setting up a channel? All too often, I've seen students working so hard on their repertoire particularly when preparing for festivals and exams only to lose that wonderful performance when they move on to new works. I thought it would be nice to capture their very best performances that enable us all to appreciate them, even years after. 
In anticipation of my plan, I handed out media release forms along with registration forms last September prior to the start of this project and very pleased that parents are in full support of this endeavour. It's funny when students tell me it's much more nerve-wrecking playing for a video recorder than a live person!! Students chuckle as I play back the videos and were more critical of their playing than ever!! And what else could teach more about style and presentation at the piano? My students laugh when they see themselves slapping their hands at the piano upon approaching the seat along with a smirk at the sound of a missed note. It's true that videos catch students' attention and do a good job amplifying my voice:) 
Summer's coming to an end but I've had a good time learning and accomplishing quite a few things on my to do list. I'm still working to get the YouTube channel set up and look forward to adding videos over time. I'm glad that students have enjoyed watching their performances and sharing them with friends and family from all over the world. There seems to be quite a number of YouTube channels of piano teachers featuring their students performing which really inspired me to create my own channel. I think there is a lot of benefits to having a YouTube channel for the studio as an avenue for students to evaluate their own playing, learn from each other's performance and share their music with friends and family.

Although there is some excitement, I was recently cautioned that there may potentially be copyright issues with uploading videos on YouTube. Does anyone know what constitutes "fair use policy" and the general guidelines for compliance when works of composers and their publishers are performed and shared on YouTube? I would love to know if this is acceptable practice. If anyone has a YouTube channel set up for their studio, I would love to hear from you .....and do share the link to your channel :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Home Concert Xtreme

This has got to be the BEST iPad app I have ever seen! I was completely sold when I first learned about Home Concert Xtreme by Zenph Sound Innovations through Mario Ajero's demonstration of the app 
Here's why it's SO cool. This app can:

Turn standard midi files into musical scores on your iPad
I thought about the collection and library of midi files that came with method books like Faber Piano Adventures, Alfred Publishing and the Hal Leonard series. They are all compatible with Home Concert Xtreme and the app displays the score right on the iPad once the midi files are imported. This alone is absolutely fascinating......imagine the entire collection of musical scores now available on the iPad. No more searching and carrying piles of music books around.

Turn pages automatically and provide orchestrations that match the performer's tempo, dynamics.
In other words, the performer is free to express his/her music as the app is intelligent enough to recognize the fluctuations in tempo and dynamics, imagine an orchestra or band that follows the soloist!!

I really salute the geniuses behind this amazing software. This app has provided me hours of fun exploring new music and I really look forward to using it during lessons. The library of midi files turned musical scores would also make a wonderful sight reading resource for students. It would be so much fun for students to play along with orchestrations and not to mention, this tool will definitely help students become more aware about the importance of staying on the beat.
There's much more that this app has to offer and I'm not going to go over all the bells and whistles on this post, feel free to read more about Home Concert Xtreme from Zenph Sound Innovations' website. In short, I'm really enjoying this app and this has truly become an indispensable tool in my studio. For those considering Home Concert Xtreme, you'll be happy to know that the app comes pre-loaded with a large collection of music and orchestrations from Faber Piano Adventures, Hal Leonard and Alfred Publishing to sample.

Meanwhile, here's a short video of Home Concert Xtreme in action with Christopher Norton's piece, "Celtic Lament" from Christopher Norton Connection Series. Yes, the midi files for the entire Connection Series are now available and compatible with Home Concert Xtreme. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Studio Decorations

I've been in studio decorating mode in the last week and one of the projects I enjoy most is building a collage of student photos each year. This year, I decided to hang individual photos on a clothesline made of raffia strings and securing them with mini clothespins. I created a template of 2.5" circle shapes with a simple design on my computer and centred photos on each circle.Then I printed out the sheets (with about 9 circle shapes on each) and cut out the circle shapes. To give a little dimension, I adhered the circle cutouts to 2.75" scallop circle shapes. This little gallery has attracted much attention in the last 2 years and I love putting in the effort to make this a special corner in the studio. 

Here's another section of my cork board now covered in red fabric with new trimmings on the edges. Circles and polka dots are my favourites so my bulletin board is not complete without these shapes. So I have arranged these little 2" felt circle pieces, all ready to use for patterns and solfege activities. I'm actually surprised how well they adhere to the cotton fabric. It's amazing how simple shapes in vibrant colours can instantly brighten up any space!

These A-F alphabet cards used to be stuck on the wall directly above each keyboard in the studio. I have been rotating these alphabet cards weekly so students attending group classes get an opportunity to play on a different keyboard each week. I was excited to find thin coloured dowels with mushroom shaped clothespins to clip on the alphabet cards. I attached small pieces of styrofoam on the opposite end of each dowel and the decorative rocks work like a charm to hold the dowel in place. And the lovely glass candle holders make it much easier to transport around the room, no more mess with sticking and peeling invisible tape :) It certainly feels nice to give the studio a little makeover. Anyone out there who is also working on studio decorations?
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