2011 Fascination Awards – Teaching Blogs

January 18, 2012 at 7:11 am | Posted in music education | 1 Comment
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It is an honor for us to earn a nomination for “2011 Fascination Awards – Teaching Blogs.”

The Fascination Awards is an annual collection of the web’s most inspirational and thought-provoking blogs.

To be nominated for the award, your blog must:

* Inspire your audience
* Encourage discussion through comment posting
* Contain genuinely fascinating content

Blogs are nominated by our editorial team and are voted on by our readers.
online phd programs

Voting begins on January 21st at 12:01 AM (EST). Check back for the ballot soon!

Category: Teaching Blogs

To qualify as a teaching blog, your blog must meet one of the following conditions:

* The blog is updated by a teacher, either a traditional school/university teacher, or a teacher of a specific trade or skill.
* The blog itself teaches a particular subject or skill.
* The blog covers the topic of teaching.

Cast your votes and we pledge to continue providing relevant and useful tips and resources for music teachers.


What is the Right Age to Begin Guitar Lessons?

November 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Posted in music education, Music Teaching Tips | 3 Comments
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What is the right age to begin guitar lessons? This is a question that is frequently asked by many parents who have young children who are five to eight years old. Many times they have taken them to a music store for lessons and were told that the child is too young to start and they should be ten to twelve years old.

However my answer is start as soon as they’re interested, but you have to have realistic expectations. For example a child who is five years old says “I want to play the guitar”. Most of the time they have no preference as to what style of music, rock, country, jazz etc… to them it’s just “I want to play the guitar”. On the other hand the parent, who can’t really remember what its like to be five, may be thinking “how could they possibly ever play like ________” (fill in the blank with your favorite artist) or that their fingers are too small or any number of reasons that would convince them that maybe they should wait till they’re older. So what is important here is to focus on the child’s interest not the multitude of limiting factors that an adult can postulate.

When a teacher says a child is too young to start it’s due to the fact that they do not know how to teach a child or they’re not willing to put out the effort that it takes to teach a young child. I see it this way, a child eats the same food as an adult but its cut in smaller pieces. The child has to learn the same way but it has to be broken down in very small attainable bits of information that can be easily acquired intellectually as well as physically.

A rule of thumb that I like to use is that you have one minute of attention span for each year of the child’s age, some have more some have less. So if I have a five year old for a half hour lesson I change the focus every five minutes, or when I see that the attention is drifting. I also like to make the lessons fun by joking around and relating to them on their level. I leave room for fidgetiness and don’t make repetitive harsh demands to sit still, sit up straight, pay attention etc… This would only make the experience miserable.

I also think it’s good for the parent/s to sit in on the lesson so they can understand the learning process. The main purpose of starting early is to develop the basic skills needed to play the guitar, not necessarily playing songs like an accomplished musician. The goal here would be to keep the child’s interest while developing the coordination between the right and the left hand and the individual use of fingers so eventually they will be able to produce a good tone.

The first thing may be to get them to pick just one string without hitting any others while getting them familiar with the names of the strings, then eventually how to place one finger on a fret and play a note on one string. Don’t expect that the notes will sound good, most likely you’ll hear a lot of doinks and buzzes and this is normal, remember the goal is keep the interest and develop the basic skills and at the same time you will be developing their attention span as well as their discipline.

What about practice time? Remember the rule of attention span, one minute for each year of their age, don’t get hung up on the hard line rule that they should practice at least a half hour a day. It would be better to take full advantage of whatever attention span the child has and formulate daily practice based on that amount of time. For example a five year old with the average attention span of five minutes can practice five minutes a day. A plan like this will achieve very important results as far as developing basic skills and discipline at an early age and as time goes on increase the amount of practice time as the attention span increases.

A parent can make practice a fun time by asking them to play for them rather than demanding that they practice. Ask questions about what they learned during the lesson. Sometimes they don’t remember anything but it makes them think and focus their attention. They should always keep a positive attitude and compliment their effort.

I use the example of a five year old but that’s not to say that a child can’t learn or at least develop the interest at even an earlier age. My oldest daughter started learning when she was two years old. I bought a cheap, junkie beat up guitar for five bucks and just left it sit around in reach. One day she just sat it on her lap and began strumming on the open strings. From there I showed her how to pick one string, then one note and so on, but nothing heavy or formal. It was just a minute or two here and there along with cheering her on. However it wasn’t until she was about six or seven when we began a more structured lesson time, she started to learn how to read music and had some regular practice time.

About the Author

Ed Kihm is a guitarist, teacher, arranger and composer with a Masters in Music Degree from Combs College of Music in Philadelphia and a Conservatory Diploma for graduate level studies from Neupauers Conservatory of Music. He began learning the guitar at the age of six, has been teaching guitar since 1987 and it’s his full time occupation with private students locally and around the world via web cam lessons as well as subscribers to his online video courses. He occasionally performs classical and jazz in fine dinning restaurants on weekends as well as contracting a variety of work in music production at his home studio.

Learning Perfect Pitch

November 1, 2011 at 6:27 am | Posted in music education | 1 Comment
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Perfect pitch can seem to be an intimidating and alien thing, especially for those who don’t have it naturally. For amateurs researching online and music PhDs alike, the question is: can it be learned? For some purists, the answer is no. They believe perfect pitch is something people are born with, or at least that they develop it around the same time they learn to talk. Others content it can be learned through patience and practice.

There doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all when learning perfect pitch. Although probably everyone could learn perfect pitch, the ability to develop it depends on several factors including the starting point of the person hoping to learn the ability. Students who begin from scratch or who might consider themselves tone deaf will probably have to work harder than the practiced musicians.

The traditional approach to teaching perfect pitch starts with music. If students working on a particular piece sing a note from that piece, then go to the piano to try to match it, that’s practicing to find perfect pitch. Students in high school bands do something similar. When a band instructor has each section play its tuning note, the musicians are trying to have perfect pitch when they play that note. Those truly interested in learning correct pitch learn by listening to those around them and then trying to match their own sound.

Another traditional method is to listen to songs in different keys. Whether using the high school band method, or listening to pop songs played in a certain key, both methods require hearing a note or a song and remembering it. Just like studying for a history test, simply listening isn’t enough: students have to listen, pay attention, practice, and learn.

Probably the best way to learn perfect pitch outside the traditional methods comes from David Lucas Burge, who in 1981 released a program now available on CD and as interactive software. Burge’s program explains what to listen for to develop and refine a sense of pitch. He then breaks it down so students, through repetition and a little common sense, can understand how to find perfect pitch for themselves.

Ohio State University and Calgary University did two independent studies of Burge’s Perfect Pitch program and each found this method of study to be legitimate and effective. Richard Bosworth, DM, who travels the world as a recitalist, soloist, chamber musician, and competitor, has reviewed different methods for learning perfect pitch, and also gives high marks to Burge’s method.

No matter the method of learning perfect pitch, all have certain things in common. No matter their level of musicianship, students must be willing to accept the repetition of hearing music and notes to understand and develop perfect pitch. Students must also simply be patient. Not everyone can learn perfect pitch quickly, but with dedication and perseverance, it is something anybody should be able to learn.

Written by: Elaine Hirsch

What’s the Right Way to Learn Music?

October 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Posted in music education | 2 Comments
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The right way to learn music really depends on what you want to learn what your interests and goals are and to what level of skill you want to develop.

I think when a person says “I want to learn the right way” they may be thinking they have to suffer through a long drawn out tedious frustrating process learning how to read music and practicing scales and arpeggios for hours a day in order to be able to play the guitar. Nah, this is not necessarily so.

Now I’m not anti-music reading or anti-scales and arpeggios but if your interest is to learn a very basic skill like strumming and being able to play and sing your favorite songs or being able to jam in rock and blues you don’t necessarily have to learn how to read music. If chords are to difficult to jump into right away you could take some preliminary steps to build up your finger strength or try smaller chord formations and just get started learning how to strum.

Sometimes for beginners that are in that direction I do recommend learning to read music in a good method book only for the development of the basic technique and it’s an easy step to take when getting your fingers use to the strings and the frets. I also let them know that it’s not absolutely necessary to finish the method completely and we’ll get out of the method as soon as they gain a little more control over the fingers and can handle chords. This way the learning process can be less frustrating because if you do start with chords and the chords are too difficult then you could struggle for months rather than developing the skill you need by taking small systematic steps.

Most songs in the blues, rock and country genre are really not that difficult and only require a minimum of skill. Really, I’m not kidding, I’ve had many students who only after a few weeks or months were able to either begin playing or were enjoying the experience of playing along with their favorite songs on a CD or even getting together with friends and jamming.

If you want to learn classical or jazz than that would require more serious study and practice and I would definitely learn how to read music because it will increase your ability to learn at a faster pace. Classical requires good technique, without it there are pieces that would be impossible to play while jazz requires a good working knowledge of music theory in order to develop the ability to spontaneously improvise.

If your desire is to be a more skillful or professional musician the more you know the better off you are. Let me digress and make some further distinctions, a professional musician is a musician who gets paid for what they do. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are skillful.

On the other hand, I know some musicians who are not professional but they are very skillful. Another popular myth is that if someone is famous they must be good or skillful and that is not necessarily true, many times it’s just a matter of someone’s opinion or they look cute or whatever and there’s nothing wrong with that. So there are different levels of skill and if you want to increase your skill than there are some very specific things that you can and should learn that will do just that which I will save for another article.

I’ve had many students who started by learning how to read music and then they gradually moved into the area of their interest and I’ve also had many students who started without learning to read music and after learning how to play the style of music they liked decided to learn how to read music and they increased their skill even further. So there are many ways that you can learn how to play the guitar what’s important is to find the way that works best for you.

About the Author

Ed Kihm is a guitarist, teacher, arranger and composer with a Masters in Music Degree from Combs College of Music in Philadelphia and a Conservatory Diploma for graduate level studies from Neupauers Conservatory of Music. He began learning the guitar at the age of six, has been teaching guitar since 1987 and it’s his full time occupation with private students locally and around the world via web cam lessons as well as subscribers to his online video courses. He occasionally performs classical and jazz in fine dinning restaurants on weekends as well as contracting a variety of work in music production at his home studio.

Fun Apps to Teach Music With

October 8, 2011 at 4:40 am | Posted in Music Teaching Tips | 3 Comments
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In the 21st century, mobile communication and cloud computing are the norm for many young people. To increase interaction and student buy-in, music teachers have begun incorporating applications or “apps” for mobile devices into their lesson plans. There is a vast array of resources available, to meet almost any teaching need, even if they are not teaching in online schools. Almost all apps are specific to a particular platform such as Android or Apple. This article will discuss free apps; many of them are “lite” versions of paid apps. There are hundreds of apps available, but this is a sampling of the most useful ones for education.

For Pianists

There are so many great piano apps for instructors to choose from. Most piano smartpone apps are virtual keyboards. For Android, there are such titles as xPiano and PianoPro. xPiano has only a 4-octave keyboard, but can simulate 12 additional instruments. Additionally, the width of the keys can be adjusted. On the other hand there is PianoPro, which has a full-size keyboard which can be displayed in one row or in two rows. For iPhone there is PlayItYourself, a simplified version of the paid app. This game-like app shows both the score and upcoming notes, which are highlighted on the keyboard display. There is also Virtuoso Piano Free, a simplified version of a paid app, which has a 6-octave keyboard with color-coded key labels.

For Guitarists

Guitarists have a wide range of apps to search, and most are very useful for visualization techniques. For guitarists there are chord tab reference apps–dozens! For Android try Guitar TabApp, it searches for tablatures online, by band, and can save, add, or edit tabs. On the iPhone you can get Chords, which shows the tablatures for 28 different chord types.

For Drummers

Since drumming can be really tough to get without both audio and physical repetition, using apps for drummers can be really helpful. Virtual drums include G-Stomper for Android and DigiDrummer Lite or BeatBox Free for iPhone. All of these are demo versions of paid apps; they can perform live beats, but G-Stomper and BeatBox Free can unfortunately only save one pattern. DigiDrummer Lite offers 8 drum kits and can save multiple patterns.

Practice Aids: Virtual Metronomes and Tuners

In this category, Android has more app offerings for free than iPhone does. There is Mobile Metronome, which can beat from 2 to 20 beats per measure and from 10 to 230 beats per minute. Beats can also be subdivided and compounded. There is also DaTuner, a chromatic tuner that plays the desired note for tuning any string instrument. Practice Makes Perfect combines a metronome with a really useful sectionizer that can play parts of pieces. This dimension seems the most helpful for students who are trying to get the bigger picture, or who are practicing harmony.

Finally Android offers a guitar scale reference for help tuning. The user can select any scale and the app will show the fingering. There are also metronome apps and chord progression that allow students and teachers to find various chord progressions through interaction, such as Chord Bot for the Android.


There are many free “pocket music studio” apps for Android devices, but sadly none for iPhones. Uloops Studio Lite builds tracks as a sequence of loops and mixes synths, drums, recordings and modulators. Similarly, Tape Machine Lite Recorder offered by Android is a high-quality sound recorder and editor with a powerful waveform display and looped playback. Using recording devices from a student’s phone like this can let them take their recorded music home, so they can hear themselves and better understand what they need to work on for their next lesson.

Theory and Ear Training

For theory and ear training there are available apps as well, which can be offer more interactive approaches to theory than workbooks for students. There is KidMusicalToys, which contains five separate games for following rhythms and identifying sounds of various instruments, and is often used for young children. Learn Music Notes shows the notes on a staff and the player touches the key to identify it. It give auditory and visual feedback for correct or incorrect answers. Music Tutor SightReadLite shows random notes on a staff and the player must identify them. This is a timed game which keeps track of previous scores to show progress. Finally, Perfect Ear offers eight different types of exercises for different instruments for ear training, and can be a useful addition to other theory practice.

New technologies are allowing music to be introduced to a new generation in formats that young people can understand and enjoy. Music teachers can have a lot of fun exploring the interactive mobile options available and coming up with new ways to engage their students.

About the Author:

Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. As a result she is grateful for the invention of the internet because it allows her to spend some time outside, rather than just poring through books in a library. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education. She also loves to travel and learn via interaction with other people and cultures.

Should You Offer Online Music Lessons?

September 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Posted in music education | 1 Comment
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Beethoven once said “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” Music teachers know lessons can be just as rewarding for themselves as for their students. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a steady influx of students seeking conventional lessons. Using the Internet to facilitate music lessons privately or even in online college classes can still be enjoyable and beneficial for both you and your students, but there are some things to consider before you take your services to the Net.

How Comfortable Are You With Technology?

Connective technology has made it easier to offer music lessons online. Widespread access to broadband internet coupled with the emergence of social media and file sharing services has made the realm of virtual music education part of our current reality. Free video chat programs such as FaceTime and Skype make it easy for you to offer music lessons from your home on one side of the country to students on the opposite coast, and instructors can easily check progress and keep up with former students.

However, all of these marvels depend heavily not only on the technology to facilitate them, but on your ability to use (and help your students use) that technology. Decide how comfortable you are with the technologies you’ll need to use before offering online music lessons. Give yourself some time to get comfortable with how the tools you’ll need before you dive into actually offering lessons online. If students get cut off or have trouble staying in touch with you, they aren’t going to be happy.

Meanwhile, no matter how great technology gets, there’s still something to be said for face to face contact between a teacher and student when learning a musical instrument. If you don’t feel it’s enough to offer tips and note progress as you watch a student practice over the Web, offering lessons online may not be right for you in the first place. Remember, it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. You can still offer lessons in person while offering online lessons, or supplement face to face lessons with web-based practice.

Sound Quality

Being able to hear the notes played by a student is a big part of a music lesson. This serves two main purposes. First, you judge students’ progress. Second, you can hear if their instruments are properly tuned. Some audio experts contend that some of the original quality is lost in digital audio. Realistically, though, there isn’t generally ever going to be enough loss that you won’t be able to tell how students are progressing or whether they’re in tune.

However, some instruments, such as cello and other string instruments, have certain subtle notes that are easier to detect in person. Ultimately, it’s a judgment call based on the instruments your students want to study. If you’re concerned about sound quality with some instruments, make a list of what lessons you will give online and which you prefer to offer in person.

How Do You Want To Reach Your Students?

By offering music lessons online you have the opportunity to reach more students. It’s very easy to advertise your lessons online. Without the need to transport yourself for lessons, it’s also easier to manage and keep appointments. Before you consider offering lessons online, decide how many new students you’re willing and able to accept. If you only have time for a few students a week, chances are you don’t need to offer lessons online in addition to your in-person clients. Decide how many students you can realistically manage and set limits. Additionally, consider if you just want students from the United States or if you’re willing to accept international students (and the additional associated administrative complexities).

Once again, remember you don’t have to stop giving lessons in person if you start offering them online. Particularly if you need more business as an instructor, it might be a good idea to consider web-based lessons. You’ll have the opportunity to reach potential students without the limitations of location. Assess your current financial situation to consider if it is worth the effort to set up online lessons. Web-based music instruction is great, but it has to be an option that will ultimately benefit you as well as the students you’ll be teaching.

How Flexible Is Your Schedule?

Not being bound by specific geographic location allows you to teach music to students anytime and anywhere. You have more flexibility in setting up your lessons. By the same token, students from across the country or even around the world will want to learn at different times. This means you’ll need to adjust your schedule accordingly depending on when you and your students are available. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Keep in mind that you can set a schedule and make video presentations and audio files available to students to practice on their own when you’re not available.

How much effort can you put into it? Online lessons require active involvement as much as face to face instruction. Decide if you have the time to promote yourself online. This includes creating an appealing website detailing your services and placing ads online. You can also promote yourself through social media at little or no expense. Whether you decide to offer lessons online exclusively or in addition to what you do now, the endeavor will only be worthwhile if you have the time to make it work.

Learning how to play an instrument is a skill to be appreciated for a lifetime and passed on to future generations. It takes a special person to teach music to others in a way that inspires and instills true passion and commitment. If you’re willing to make the effort, you can extend the scope of your teaching with web-based instruction and bring that passion for music to students you otherwise never would reach.


New Ear Training Games at Theta Music Trainer Make Music Theory Fun

May 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Music Teachers Resources | 1 Comment

Theta Music Technologies has unveiled three new innovative games for music lovers, along with a host of new features in the latest version of its acclaimed online ear training system Theta Music Trainer. A new personal feedback feature makes Theta Music Trainer the world’s first online ear trainer that can respond to students individually based on the results from their music games.

(PRWEB) April 21, 2011

Theta Music Technologies today added three new titles to its growing collection of music skill games, announcing the new games together with a new version of its acclaimed online ear training system Theta Music Trainer .

The new version features a Personal Trainer component, which recommends specific games and practice levels for each student, based on current skill level and previous game play. Individuals differ greatly in the specific areas of ear training that give them the most difficulty. The Personal Trainer feature helps to pinpoint these areas for each person, resulting in more efficient practice and faster improvement. With the addition of this new functionality, Theta Music Trainer becomes the first online ear training system to offer personalized feedback and recommendations based on automated analysis of game play.

Two of the new games, Dango Brothers and Speed Pitch, are designed to help students sharpen their sense of pitch and intonation. This is a vital musical skill that is required to sing on key or play an instrument in tune with others. The third game, Number Blaster, helps students acquire a basic grasp of numbers as they pertain to scale degrees and chord roman numerals. Much of music is based on numbers, with melodies and chord progressions often represented as numerical sequences.

The new version also contains several new features for music teachers, including online assignment and grade book capability. Theta Music Trainer is ideal for use in the classroom, and can also be used to supplement private instrument/voice lessons. The new version allows teachers to create homework assignments for ear training practice and view the results of each student’s game play. Students can find and complete their assignments online and receive feedback from the teacher.

Finally, along with many cosmetic improvements, the new release of Theta Music Trainer contains a Spanish mode, so that native Spanish speakers can fully enjoy the games, explanations, and other site content in their own language. Launched initially in English and Japanese, Theta Music Trainer was designed from the beginning to be multilingual, and more language translations are planned for future releases.

What Makes a Great Music Teacher

January 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Music Teacher Profession, Music Teaching Tips, My Experinces | 6 Comments

What makes a great music teacher? Someone with years of expert training and dedication? Someone who knows all the answers to music students’ questions?  Someone with a track record of incredible students?

It would be easy to say yes. Music teachers like that are very impressive. And certainly training and dedication are essential. But over the years I’ve realized that there are other qualities even more important than these.

I had a friend who majored in Music and French at University who ended up teaching German, her second foreign language, in a high school. One day, in the midst of a German lesson, she taught her students a German word that she later discovered did not exist. Mortified, she was hoping that her students would forget it along with all the other vocabulary they frequently forgot, but no such luck. The students remembered and continue to use this invented German word, and she did not have the heart or the courage to tell them the truth.

This story made a great impression on me when I heard it, and I determined at that moment that I would never pretend to know all the answers. As a child, I had thought my teachers had all the answers. Now as an adult, I know they did not. And so if a student asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, I tell them truthfully that I will find out for them and let them know. They don’t seem to have a problem with that.

What about having impressive students? Isn’t that an important yardstick by which to measure a teacher? My take on this is that it’s more important to have students who love what they do, and to have a good relationship with them. Worrying about whether they are excelling can get in the way of these other more important aspects.

On that note, are you aware of what your beliefs are about your students and about your teaching? If your students don’t excel, are you taking it personally, blaming your own teaching, or, conversely, blaming your students for being lazy or unmotivated? If you are driven by the need for recognition, it is easy to fall into this trap. Notice what drives you, and whether it is working for you. I decided a long time ago, when I was teaching some students with some personal challenges, that it was more important to give them love and attention, than for them to succeed at the piano. I’ve noticed that this works much better for me as a general rule.   If they are talented, it certainly can be more stimulating to teach them, and I love to hear the results, but I have developed some really close relationships with more typical students that were far more satisfying.

Another important issue is boundaries. Be clear about what you are able to offer.  What has worked best for me is to be friendly and warm, but not to try to be a best friend. To be clear about starting and ending times, fees, cancellations, and about the structure of the lesson. To be focused and not overly chatty. To give the students space to make discoveries, and to be objective as far as possible.

The bottom line here is about awareness. When you are teaching, are you aware of your breathing? Is your body relaxed? What thoughts do you have in your mind? How are you feeling? Are you present with the student? Do you feel in balance? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you still learning and growing as a musician and a person every day? Are you open to having fun? Are you genuinely enthusiastic? Are you even willing to look silly if it will help the student understand a certain principle or connect to a certain piece of music?

One of my advanced students, a teenage boy of 17, was learning a contemporary piano piece written for dancers. He was finding it difficult to connect to the piece, and I suddenly had the idea that maybe it would help him if I moved around the room and danced to it myself. I remember blushing as I had the idea. Although I often danced to music, I was in no way a professional, and I was afraid of embarrassing myself. But here we were in a large empty studio, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I suggested it to my student, and he was very receptive. So I got up and started moving and dancing to the music. And an amazing thing happened. As he accompanied my movements, and I expressed physically and emotionally what I was hearing, the piece transformed. And neither he nor I have ever forgotten the experience.

Know more tips and ideas on how to become a great music teacher; visit these music teaching resources. – Earl Marsden

Music Education Articles

Piano Teaching Resources: Teaching Music Improvisation and Composition from a Familiar Starting Point

January 18, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Music Teachers Resources, My Experinces | 1 Comment
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When first starting to improvise or compose, the silence surrounding the instrument or the piece of blank manuscript paper in front of students can be rather daunting. Therefore I always begin creative activities within a genre that is familiar to music students. Sometimes, the best piano teaching resources come from our own experience, and I would like to share some of my observations here.

Outside your music studio, what engagement do your students have with music? Do they practice what you have just taught? Do they apply what they have learned and understood from their music lessons? These are some of the questions that music teachers may to ask new students. And that includes me.

Being a music teacher for several years, I observed that majority of my students hear pop music on the radio, ‘muzak’ in shopping centres, soundtracks in movies, ring tones and advertising jingles from different media while only a small minority of them are interested in hearing live music regularly, and a much smaller minority are exposed to new classical repertoire outside of their lessons.

With this in mind, the first improvisational or compositional activities in a music studio usually stem from a response to a visual stimulus and more often than not, they are a response to a short film. This has many advantages. Firstly, students are already familiar with the genre and do not need to spend much time studying the style. Secondly, students are creating works that are appropriate to their everyday environment. And lastly, a film gives the students a starting point in terms of mood and structure.

I find that one of the greatest struggles for young composers is structure. How long should this section be? How do I link all my ideas into one coherent piece? When should the piece end? Where should the climax be? How long is the build up to the climax? Is it too early or late to change mood? When composing or improvising a short film, the structure is largely determined for the student and the film also provides answers to other variables that can often be a stumbling block for starting the piece (for example, mood).

I am always fascinated by the different approaches my music students take to creative tasks. Some students study the film intently, watching it three or four times before starting to tinker around on the piano for ideas. Other students jump straight in and improvise in real time as the picture changes on the screen, always a second or two behind the action. And then there are the students who watch, furiously scribble notes and leave the lesson, turning up the following week with a completely notated, fully scored composition.

My younger students use film as an improvisatory starting point. I use it to encourage them to explore the piano – the range as well as both the timbral and textural possibilities. I also use these piano teaching resources to introduce the concepts of mood, expression and the communicative nature of music. For my older or more advanced students, writing a film score is a way for them to consolidate their theoretical knowledge and to express themselves creatively. Some questions that I ask my older students to consider are:

1. What is the mood of each scene? When does this change?

2. Should this scene be scored with silence or music?

3. Are you driving the action or commentating? (For example, is the composer creating suspense that might not yet be present on the screen, or are they scoring the moment as it happens, or even after it happens?)

4. Is there a climax?

5. Which character’s mood/opinion are you scoring?

6. Is the genre of the music being composed relevant to the people, the time and the place where the film is set?

I would love to hear how other music and piano teachers like you begin to teach improvisation and composition, how you use innovative piano teaching resources, and how you incorporate other arts disciplines into your studio. If you do not currently include improvisation or composition in your lessons or if it is a skill that is unfamiliar to you as a piano teacher, I strongly encourage you to head to YouTube, find a short film and begin creating! Good luck!

Visit these piano teaching resources and learn how you can benefit from this piano teacher software. – Earl Marsden

Articles for Music Teachers

Teach Music, Motivate Your Students and Feel Rewarded

November 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Music Teacher Profession | 1 Comment

Most music teachers would agree that every time they teach music, they experience both the challenges and the rewards of their profession. It is also true that in this field of specialization, teaching, no one shall ever be contented with what he or she knows; therefore, continuous learning is advised. The use of innovations like those of music teaching software, music teacher websites as well as those online music teaching resources, and the integration of technology into the learning process are both encouraged among those educators who all want to effectively and efficiently teach music at all times.

Whenever you teach music, it seems that you have all the pressures unto your shoulders and everything tends to be your primary responsibility. When you teach music, it also follows that you have to motivate the students to make them learn more and keep them interested in learning the wonders of the subject itself. More so, you should instill in your learners’ minds that whatever they learn inside the classroom and the music studio must be religiously adopted, applied and practiced.

Both music and music teaching are dynamic, fun and exciting. They both have their challenges and privileges. With a very huge opportunity on making learning and teaching music more fun and interesting, music teachers can play around with wonders of music and spend more quality time with their students. With this, you go beyond or out of the box – you don’t just teach music, you enjoy music and inspire the learners in many different ways.

Some of its exciting and interesting scenarios are: Imagine chanting and playing instrument with the popular Thai Music using the vot, ponglang and the pin. Discover the diverse variety of musical styles, beats and traditions from the sparkling islands of the Caribbean Sea. Sing to the tune of Puerto Rican Aguinaldo, salsa and reggae. Reanimate the bagpipe music of the Netherlands, or be entangled with the famous epic songs of France which tackles courtly love, war and nature.

Or, travel back in time and reminisce the sentimental melody of Elizabethan music reflected in secular songs and consort; or jive to the modern tunes and fast beats of contemporary music such as pop, rap and rock. Whatever geographic identity and cultural context of these genres of music, music lovers and enthusiasts will certainly arrive at common belief and understanding – music gives life and meaning to the human identity and diversity as it can again do wonders in anyone’s life.

Despite indifferences, you and your students can meet along as both parties make the necessary actions to achieve their common goal – learn and teach music as they both enjoy what they do. With all the time, resources, efforts and hard work of the concerned parties or individuals, learning music can always be fun and rewarding – making every learner feel motivated and inspired.

So, if you are still thinking of what particular professional endeavors you are to face or what career exactly you wish to partake, it is suggested that you teach music and enjoy your love and passion for music – well, as you also establish a safer, more secured, and more stable financial freedom. Again, teach music with all your hearts as great rewards on self-fulfillment await such an innovative, a motivated and an inspired music teacher. Enjoy!

Teach music with this software in music teaching and see how it can help you manage your private studio. – Earl Marsden

Articles in Music Education

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