Category - Music Technology

Our next webinar will save you time and give you NEW resources!

Why make a point of joining us Monday morning (September 25th)  for our next 88 Creative Keys Webinar Workshop? How can this be worth your time when there’s a million other things to do?

I’ll save you time by getting right to the point. You’ll gain:

Insight into the journey of a classically trained pianist crossing over to the world of playing by ear and how you can do the same.

Tools for integrating contemporary styles into classical and traditional tunes. Ex: how can inspiration from John Mayer spruce up an old hymn?

A brand NEW resource to develop sight-reading chords and chord symbols made for group or private lessons.

An innovative method for employing the most popular chord progressions tabulated by the developers of Hooktheory.

A small but powerful gift for your students packed with essentials for learning theory and composition.

Hot apps that tantalize AND teach.

A top-notch, in-depth  review of triads, 7th chords and their symbols.

Permission to teach by rote before reading, the tricks to teaching by rote and suggestions for rote pieces.

Steps to building ear skills when the eyes want to take over.

A frame of mind to help you play and teach with a well-balanced approach.

It takes time and energy to gear up for creative-based teaching and playing. It takes more than just pushing a POWER button to get those gears turning efficiently.

The good news? Bradley Sowash and I believe your time can be cut in half by the productive study of chords and putting them to work! 

We promise to charge up your teaching and your playing for the year to come.

Register NOW so you can plug in and join us Monday, September 25, 2017.

-Leila

Do Simple Better

As teachers, it’s our job to make things clear. This often requires introducing new concepts by breaking them up into bite-sized nuggets that can be quickly understood. We must make the seemingly difficult appear simple.

I recently stumbled upon this quote by Joe Maddon, the manager who led the Cubs to their first World Series title in over 100 years:

“Do simple better.”

It got me asking: what would Maddon’s challenge look like on the piano bench?

I came up with four examples of doing SIMPLE better and labelled them:

  • Expand then extract
  • Play then say
  • Explore then explain
  • Lead then let go

The video below (click here if you can’t see it) expands on these four items. Read the article found here and then watch the video.

Make sure to READ MORE so you can learn about a fantastic idea for your next piano party or studio event…

Read More

Keeping Safe with Password Safety and Online Security

Do you panic when prompted to enter a password?

I feel your pain to remember them all and therefore took the advice of a high-tech guru. Believe it or not, she advised me to keep things simple and write down all my passwords in a small notebook and keep it in a safe place. The comfort of this precious notebook soothes the soul when it’s time for a password. It’s pretty old school but, it’s been working for me. I’d suggest the same system for you UNTIL you are ready to jump into a more up-to-date solution.

There, I’ve made a confession, my life is not as “techy” as one might think. I tend to wait for trends to be set before I dive in. From what I’ve gathered from friends and colleagues, it’s evident that a tool called LastPass is THE way to go when you are ready to shed the notebook and save passwords in 21st-century style. You’ll read more about it in this guest post written by Nathan Hughes at SecureThoughts.com.

Nathan supplies excellent information that we all NEED to know in this digital age. You’ll learn about the need for password security, what makes a good password, what’s the best way to manage passwords and how to avoid scams.  

-Leila


Technology makes today’s world go round—it is the oil that greases all modern trade and social interactions. It helps businesses promote their interests and it keeps us in contact with the people we care about.

Yet technology is evolving at an incredible pace. Whereas at the turn of the century few of us had mobile devices (and those that did were limited almost exclusively to basic calling), nearly everyone today carries a phone, tablet or other device.

Even our children are armed with the latest tech, with some studies suggesting over half of kids in elementary and middle school own a cell phone. For all the benefits we derive from technology, there’s one little issue most of us still struggle with: security. Read More

What’s a Senior Showcase and How Do You Plan One?

What do you do when you have have four marvelous, faithful, dynamic and long-time pianists who are graduating from high school and leaving your studio?

You throw a Senior Showcase.

What’s a Senior Showcase? I held one other such event about 7 years ago when I had three dedicated seniors graduate in one year. I did the same for four seniors last year. This show included considerable “upgrades” thanks to the latest tech tools and my ongoing desire to provide creative-based teaching.

Perhaps you have dedicated seniors that deserve recognition for their time spent with you on the bench? If so and if you care to follow through with holding your own showcase, here are the steps I took to make it a reality.

Meet for coffee

During the spring, all the seniors met me at Starbucks and we brainstormed ideas of what the showcase could be. They didn’t hold back and imaginations ran wild. In the end, we made a list of what they wanted. Of course, I guided them in their thoughts and we trimmed it down to these tasks and decisions:

  • Nail down a date that all could attend–this was tricky working around 4 img_4393-2families, different schools and their spring plays and proms and programs…
  • Secure a date at my church where all the past recitals have been.
  • Feature favorite repertoire and original compositions and songs of the seniors.
  • Invite friends and/or family members to sing or play along with them.
  • Hold a reception that could double as a grad party if they prefer.
  • Choose one piece that they would play together as a quartet.

Prep before the show

  • Collect digital life time pics of each senior
  • Collect digital senior pics–they usually have tons of poses!
  • Ask them to write a 50-word bio including plans for the years to come.
  • Take pictures of them together wearing their college t-shirts.
  • Design a program cover.

Plan program detailssenior-showcase

Ask each senior to place their pieces in order of how they’d like to perform them

Order gifts and or flowers for each senior. As a studio tradition, I gave each one a piano music box purchased here.

Set agenda for the evening

  1. Offer a knockout printed program featuring dazzling photos and important info about the seniors. TIP: Canva.com is amazing! Make sure to check out this free graphic design program.
  2. Prepare pianists to perform around 5 of their favorite current or past pieces that best represent their playing AND their creativity.
  3. Present a projected slide show featuring snap shots of “lifetime” pics of each senior to loop prior to the showcase.
  4. Include a projected slide reflecting the mood or style of the piece as each pianist performed.
  5. Meet a special-request for one of the seniors by displaying slides with variousimg_4534 movie posters as he played a tribute medley honoring all his favorite film composers.
  6. Set up cool lighting to provide sophisticated staging.
  7. Ensure outstanding and confident performances from each pianist showing their unique personalities and skills sets.
  8. Create an opportunity for each pianist to read a score on an iPad and turn pages with a blue-tooth pedal.
  9. Design a pop medley collaboration featuring all the pianists using the piano and the impressive voice selection of the Clavinova.

Shift from teacher to tech support

I’m pleased (and relieved!) to say that the above agenda pretty much happened as img_4512planned even though I unexpectedly took charge of all tech support. I was given a crash course and learned how to run the projector, lights, and mics.

The state of the art tech center at my church runs EVERYTHING through apps. I could even mute and change the volume of the mics on the iPad! I called my designated workspace in the back of the sanctuary Mission Control. Below is a pic of where I sat for a good part of the evening changing slides and running sound.

Revisit mission statement

What does all this agenda and tech stuff have to do with a mission statement and a senior showcase? With such a profound occasion at hand, I felt it necessary to write something “important” to my students and families so I included my statement in the printed program at the beginning of my short essay.

As a prompt for where to begin with this task, I revisited my mission statement posted on my website. I haven’t read it in quite some time (it really should be memorized!) and I was curious if these four seniors being sent off into the “real world” matched up with my intentions as a piano teacher.

Here’s what I placed in the program:

Students of any age will develop the necessary skills to become independent pianists allowing them to enjoy making music on the bench for a lifetime.

– Mission statement of Ms Leila

Abi, Kenna, Sarah and Addison were drawn to the piano for different reasons and followed a path as unique as each of their individual personalities.

The dedication each pianist demonstrated from week to week, year to year—img_6551showing up for lessons on time (even early in the morning) practicing with diligence, reading and following my long lesson notes—shows their remarkably loyal dedication to 88 piano keys. They spoiled me!

Music is something to be made. These four seniors are what I’d call high-functioning music makers. Each pianist has worked to learn favorite repertoire of the masters as well as compose and improvise away from the page. They are comfortable playing from chord charts and collaborating with other musicians.

Tonight is a celebration of Sarah, Kenna, Abi, and Addison putting into action all their music-making skills. In addition, it is a testament to their drive to develop dynamic and creative voices at the keys.

I’m thankful for the parents of these four seniors and their support of lessons with “Ms Leila” and this somewhat eclectic approach to learning the piano.

Although I’ll miss seeing these students, I’m extremely grateful for the time I had with them and know they will cherish making music for a lifetime.

Mission accomplished.

-Ms Leila

Realign mission statement

There was no mention of technology or creativity in the statement–the two things I integrate into just about every lesson! But then it dawned on me that these two essentials could be thought as “necessary tools” so it still covers my intentions as a piano teacher. However, I will be making of a point of revising the statement to something like this:

Students of any age will develop the necessary skills to become creative, tech-savvy, comprehensive and independent pianists allowing them to enjoy making music on the bench for a lifetime.

Put mission statement into actionimg_4509

One way this updated mission statement is portrayed in the senior showcase was the “Pop Medley” that concluded the show.

The seniors took turns playing solos from all styles like Debussy, Chopin, Gershwin, Line, Mier and also played original compositions and songs. They wanted to play something with all four of them at the keys.

Since they enjoy playing pop music and because I wanted to provide a chance for them to collaborate like a band, we created a medley of four pop pieces.

img_4545-e1463404805154

Each pianist took the lead for their choice piece and made decisions regarding who would play what. They worked from iTunes, the Yamaha Chord Tracker app, YouTube videos and hand-written lead sheets.

In the video of their showcase performance, you’ll hear and see how they

  • Listened to each other.
  • Transitioned between new tunes.
  • Had incredible fun playing “drummer” and “back-up synth” on the Clavinova.
  • Wore some crazy glasses and their t-shirts sporting their college choice for the next year.

How about you?

Do you have a mission statement?

Does your mission statement need some updating?

If so, will students leave with music skills that are in line with it?


Do you want more super ideas and an organized planner for your Senior recital? Stay tuned for a detailed resource packed full and carefully packaged by Heather Nanney and coming SOON to the Piano Teacher Planning Center!

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Use a Green Screen for Virtual Performances

The recital venue that I’ve enjoyed for years is no longer available for me to use. It’s a long story so I’ll save it for another post. This turned my world upside down and has had me looking for other possible venues and performance opportunities for my students. When I saw Amber post videos of her students playing piano “virtually” anywhere with the help of a green screen, I had to learn how she did it! Amber has generously written down the steps she took to make this a reality. 

Take it away, Amber…


I love sparking imagination in my students! One of the ways I do this, is to let them perform virtually anywhere! It’s surprisingly easy to create these virtual performance videos.

Here is what you need:

  1. Green screen background: You need a green background of some sort. The best background I have found is the large green canvas sheets that come with the green screen studio kits. You can find the kits, or canvas backgrounds on Amazon. In a bind, I have also used a green plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Store! It worked! Check out the green screen kit here.
  2. Good lighting: I cannot emphasize this enough. Lighting will make or break your videos. Shadows will produce a pixelated effect. The best lighting I have found are the lights that come with the green screen studio 41tntsirx1l-_sx355_kits. I have used table lamps before but, they just cannot produce the same effect.
  3. A green screen app: My favorite green screen app is Green Screen by Do Ink. Once you get the hang of it, it is very easy to use.
  4. Garageband: I use Garageband to record the audio portion of the video.
  5. iMovie: I import my green screen video and the audio into iMovie to edit and create the finished product!
  6. Intro app: I like creating a fun movie intro with Intro Designer Lite.
  7. A keyboard that can be hooked up to an iPad.
  8. A tripod, or other support to hold your iPad for recording. [Leila likes the Manos Mount.}

Now on to the fun part! Read More

Waay: A hip music app for teens and songwriters

What app is a good fit for those who grow out of Piano Maestro, Flashnote Derby, Rhythm Swing…? If you have groomed pianists beyond the first couple of years of piano or any other instrument (hooray and congrats!), you are probably asking that question. I’ve got an answer.

Take a look at Ten Kettles’ app called Waay.

In fact, you can literally take a look by watching the video interview I held with Alex Andrews, the developer of Waay.  In the video you’ll learn that Alex is a bio engineer-turned-full-time-musician and app developer. He explains how he saw a need for an app that explains the fundamentals of melody and chords in a user-friendly, relatable format for those interested in songwriting. I’ve found that the app crosses over well to anyone –songwriter, pianist, guitarist….anyone wanting to know more about scales and chords and how they combine to create songs. I particularly like how the ultimate focus of Waay is to generate creativity!

Read More

Register NOW for the 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop

Take a moment to check out the video below –you’ll learn what we’re cooking up this summer at 88 Creative Keys and get a chuckle, too.

Here we go!

The 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop Registration is open. If you’ve been thinking about attending, this is the year to commit. 

The first ten registrants get an extra discount–they are going fast (I mean SUPER fast) so press that blue button below.

register-now-button-dark-blue-hi

Need more info before you commit? Here are some answers to the questions you may have. Read More

Three MUST-HAVE Apps for Your Studio

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Flashcards are a thing of the past thanks to Flashnote Derby. Rhythm Swing keeps students occupied for a full 30 minutes during Off Bench Time teaching rhythmic concepts with engaging tutorials and drills. Dragon Scales challenges students to spell scales before the dragon conquers the knight. They all offer SO much more than edutainment!

FYI

Off Bench Time is the perfect time to reinforce what you teach on the bench. You don’t need a lot of space to add this component to your lessons. You don’t even need a keyboard, you can use your acoustic piano! If you do want a MIDI keyboard so students can play games with headphones but, don’t’ have the space, this gal is using a small the XKey Portable Keyboard. Learn more about it by clicking on the picture.

I could not teach without these three apps. I thought long and hard before I wrote that sentence but, I know this statement is true so I want YOU to learn all about them. For these reasons, I made a point of contacting Luke Bartolomeo, the developer of the three apps.

In the “Here to Help” video below, you’ll hear how fellow piano teacher Luke, developed these apps because he saw the need for appealing apps that reinforce music concepts and has always liked video games. He steps through the process of how each app works. It’s definitely worth your time if you are not sure how apps can benefit your teaching and keep students happy and learning at the same time. I’m particularly excited about the new features just added to Flashnote Derby.

Here are the show notes which I quickly jotted down during the interview…

Show Notes

Learn about the new features of a favorite pitch recognition app called Flashnote Derby. See how the app Rhythm Swing teaches rhythm reading and learn how Dragon Scales builds scale playing skills and connects with students of all ages.

Rhythm Swing

For iOS only.
App that teaches basic note values, rests and rhythm reading.
Released a year ago.
The app is divided into Basic Notes, Rest, and Eighth notes.
Additional levels are planned for the future.

Three modes
Learn: Interactive videos giving instruction on note values and how to play the app.
Practice: Provides sample exercises which are perfect for using in a lesson.
Play: Exercises are given and students try to keep the monkey from the alligator by playing correct rhythms–perfect during Off Bench Time.
All exercises add melody to the rhythm and a backing track as the students play so it’s engaging and musically pleasing.

Tip: Ear icon on the right hand upper corner will play the rhythm if the student wants to hear it.

Tips on Settings:
You can turn off the pointer and it will reappear if student is off the beat.
Measure highlighting is an option if you the student needs help with tracking.
Required Accuracy can be changed so it’s not too difficult for first time players.

The Boss Stage: Like many other video games, this stage “makes it real” with much longer exercises.

Both Rhythm Swing and Flashnote Derby are iPhone friendly–great for students when they are on the road.

FYIRhythm Make it Count Facebook-2

Rhythm Swing is a major part of my Rhythm Make it Count resource. If you are interested in learning more about how to integrate apps, reinforce concepts and add more quality time to lessons, take a closer look at Rhythm Make it Count. It’s on sale for one week only so grab it now right here.

Flashnote Derby

Multi-platform friendly.

Happy 5th anniversary! Version three just came out at the beginning of 2017.

Treble, Bass, Alto and Tenor Clef drills are available.

Mistakes are reviewed after the race is completed letting students know what notes they missed.

Tips for Settings Gear
You can determine how many questions or tap “All selected” so that all notes that you select for the exercise are answered.
The time can be changed for how long students have to answer: Trot, Gallop…
Answer methods vary: onscreen piano, letter button, piano letters, listen mode.

NEW! The listen mode will hear the student play the pitches on an acoustic piano.
Sensitivity setting is important—make sure to adjust if needed.

NEW! There’s a MIDI option—this is perfect for those who want students to complete drills in the music studio with head phones. That would be me!

You can change the arrangement of alphabet letters to begin with C rather than A.

There’s an option for Solfege.

Two themes are available right now but, stay tuned for more.

Instructional videos give ideas on how to teach pitch reading. I GREATLY appreciate these!

Grand staff flash cards are available on the iPad so students get used to recognizing a note on the grand staff and not just on a single staff.

In the presets, you can create your own drills and send them to students.

NEW: you can set up Multiple User accounts and the app will track progress for each student.

Internet is required to download the exercises emailed from the teacher. Once they are downloaded, internet is not required.

Dragon Scales

This is a niche app that will have future versions. Students are asked to play scales correctly on an on-screen keyboard. This will help the knight slay the dragon and find the treasure.

There are presets for different tests.

Students of all ages like this “quirky” yet much-needed app.

FYI

Luke is happy to hear from you and can be reached at support@flashnote.com. Thanks again to Luke for making three apps I couldn’t teach without!

This video is stored along with other “Here to Help Videos” found here.

Those who signed up for my newsletter learned about the giveaway Luke offered. Don’t miss another exclusive offer by signing up here.

-Leila

If you can’t see the video, click here.

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A Look Back at Trendsetting Piano Teaching Resources in 2016

Grab a cup of coffee–here’s 40 resources worth your time!

My friend and colleague Marie Lee and I compiled a list of winning resources that worked for us in 2016, and we can’t wait to share them with you. They are organized according to topic.

What did we forget? We didn’t include everything we intended–we had to stop some where.

What would you add to the list?

Professional and Creative Development

1.

Piano Teacher Planning Center is a brand new component of  88pianokeys.me. I’m so excited to piano teacherplanning centerhave a store–no, a center–where teachers will find a growing collection of free and for-purchase teaching aids, some created by me but others created by fellow teachers who have great ideas.

In celebration of the new year, there’s a store-wide sale until January 15, 2017. By the way, if you have a cool game or product that you want to sell, contact me at lviss@me.com and let’s plan to make it part of the PTPC in 2017. -Leila

2.

I attended my first 88 Creative Keys Workshop in Denver this past summer. I waited almost an entire year and 88 CK was well worth it! It was one of the best things I could do for my continuing education as a teacher.  You can read reviews from 2016 attendees here and learn more about 2017’s workshop here. -Marie
Here’s a video of Leila leading a body beat activity with teachers.

3.

Tim Topham’s podcasts keep me happily occupied on my Sunday afternoon walks. I look forward to them each week. Tim finds the best guests who discuss–you guessed it–trendsetting topics! Here are seven of my favorite podcasts because they deal with creativity at the keys. -Leila

4.

I look forward to Amy Chaplin’s Piano Pantry Friday Finds. Amy is one of my new, favorite bloggers. -Marie

5.

Even though I didn’t practice like I should have, I learned so much from Bradley’s online lesson session that I can use with my students. Bradley Sowash is encouraging and informative. It has opened up a whole new world of piano playing for me. -Marie

6.

ForScore, Turbo Scan, the Air Turn Pedal and the iPad Pro is a combo I’ve used every Sunday since writing my December 2015 blog post. I’m not sure how I survived without this set up. In the post you’ll learn how I move hard copy sheet music to ForScore so I can enjoy hands-free page turns. This is the wave of the future for reading scores. -Leila Read More

Rhythm Lab: Here to Help Video and Giveaway

A huge thank you goes out to Jon Ensminger, developer of one of my all-time favorite apps calledRhythm Make it Count Facebook-2 Rhythm Lab. He generously carved out time to share a Google Hangout with me. He walked through and explained virtually every part of the app. You don’t want to miss this video recording! Keep reading where you can sign up to win a free code for Rhythm Lab. Get the app here if you can’t wait.

There are numerous Rhythm Lab assignments featured in my off-bench resource Rhythm Make it Count. In fact, Jon was kind enough to add Rhythm Make it Count (RMIC) patterns in the latest Rhythm Lab update!  If you purchased RMIC you will definitely want to tune in and learn all you can from Jon. If you haven’t yet, good news! Rhythm Make it Count is on sale until November 14th. Purchase Rhythm Make It Count here.

What you’ll learn in the videorhythm_lab_icon_135x135

  • How to set up user accounts within the app.
  • An explanation of all the icons and how they work within the app.
  • How to create, edit and share worksheets.
  • How to create, edit and share customized patterns.
  • How to use Rhythm Lab with a MIDI keyboard.
  • How to create backing tracks for rhythms in Rhythm Lab with Audio Bus and iReal Pro.
  • Tips for smaller MIDI keyboards:

Where to find more Here to Help Videos

So far, all the Here to Help videos highlight apps are featured in Rhythm Make it Count–my resource that correlates off-bench activities and apps assignments to rhythm concepts. The videos cover these apps:  Notability, SproutBeat and Rhythm Lab.

New off-bench resources will be coming in the future and so will more Here to Help videos.

The growing library of Here to Help Videos can be found here.

Sign up here for your chance to win

Jon has generously offered to give FIVE FREE codes for Rhythm Lab! Sign up below. Winners will be announced on Friday, November 11, 2016.

ENTER to WIN: RHYTHM LAB

Make sure to enter your FIRST NAME and EMAIL address.


Heads Up…

Upbeat Piano Teachers Courses are available again. I’ve included information about this unique series before. The courses feature in-depth coverage of technology, group lessons and how to get more students. They also come with notebooks for each topic to help you organize your thoughts.

If you have not made a point of watching the bundle of courses and need a boost in your teaching, get it now, HERE. You are then welcome to become a part of a unique, beneficial and supportive Facebook group, too. Click on the picture to access Upbeat Piano Teachers Courses.online-courses-for-busy-teachers

-Leila

PS: I’ve been doing a good deal of promoting lately, I know. But, I like sharing what works. Thanks for your continued to support and following. 🙂