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Archive for February, 2015

Adding Technology to Music Lessons

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I have long considered the possibilities of adding more technology to my music lessons.  I have read about many neat things over the years, but recently I decided to “take the plunge,” and I am so glad that I did!

I had been investigating Piano Maestro for quite some time.  I first heard about it when the publisher of the piano method series that I use had their books put into the program.  I started following discussions on Facebook about this iPad app, and quickly learned that this little “game” can really help kids to practice correctly–every day.  Piano Maestro can “hear” the students play whether they are using a digital piano, keyboard, or regular acoustic piano.  It compares what the student plays to the actual notes and rhythms and then rates them on their accuracy.  It also gives fun background music to the songs that the kids can play along with.  That in itself is invaluable for proper counting.  Even though all of the great comments were pretty convincing, I did not have an iPad, and for now at least, it is only available on iPad.  So, I put that whole thing on the back burner while I saved piano lesson money to get the iPad.

The timing worked out perfectly!  The very morning that I decided to order the iPad, Kara had her first trumpet lesson with the college band instructor.  The band instructor wanted Kara to use Smart Music to practice for her lessons.  As we talked about it, I quickly learned that Smart Music is to band and orchestral instruments what Piano Maestro is to piano!  My iPad was already ordered, so it was just a matter of waiting for it to arrive to try out this great tool too!  Smart Music is absolutely amazing in the amount of material available to study!  I have used it with Kara’s trumpet, my string students, and John has even used it to practice for his college voice lessons!  Again, this program can “hear” the student and compares the performance to the actual musical notation.  It shows pretty clearly what needs to be worked on.  Tempos can be quickened or slowed for rehearsals, and, of course, playing with the accompaniments is pretty enjoyable.

If these programs had been around when I was a kid taking lessons, I wouldn’t have gotten much else done!  LOL! (I practically didn’t anyway!!!)

I have been working through the Piano Maestro app, and I am becoming more and more convinced of its value.  Yes, it is motivating, but more than that, it encourages proper practice.  Really I can not think of any better way to practice sight reading, note reading, counting, etc. than actually playing the songs and having instantaneous feedback.

The Prairie Family kids are all enjoying the new technology–and I can see sight-reading and rhythmic improvement in them already.  A few of my families that take lessons are starting to explore all of this as well.  It will be interesting to see how it impacts them as the weeks go by.  For those who don’t have the technology at home, I am trying my best to incorporate it during the lessons so that they can still benefit from it (and enjoy it at the same time!)

By the way, I am THRILLED with Kara’s trumpet lessons at the college.  Her new teacher is really helping her to learn proper technique and tone quality, and that is something that she has been needing.  I can help her with notes, counting, etc., but I just don’t know anything about playing a brass instrument.  I am thankful that God has opened this door for Kara.  It will take some time, but I know that she is going to grow a lot!

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