The iPad is much more than a gaming or reading device. With more than 200,000 apps available now and more added daily the iPad is a delightful recreation. I readily admit my attachment to the slim, sleek powerhouse. (I love catching up with my favorite blogs on Flipboard and I love to play Lego Harry Potter!) But what about productivity? Can the iPad also be a useful tool for the private studio? Search the broad category of music and you’ll find more than 12,000 apps. How to choose? I started with a couple of objectives--modernize my studio while putting technology to its most efficient use; and, adapt in order to streamline and simplify my process. By filtering the enormous field of choices my iPad functions as a music library, a recording studio, a home office and the perfect tool to share information with parents.
My favorite apps for the private studio are selected for:
Usefulness--do they make teaching and/or managing a studio easier and more effective? Do they enhance the parent/teacher/student dynamic?
Value--all of my picks come in under $5. Even though they’re a bargain it’s important to spend wisely. Look for apps that can serve more than one purpose. Keep in mind that the “lite” version is not always free. From the app store check the left sidebar of the app’s description for these words--“top in app purchases.” You may have to pay more for the features you really need.
And, Simplicity--are the apps quick and easy to use? Do they simplify a process or create extra work? Remember, there’s no time to learn how to use an app while you’re teaching a student.
I like to use a floor stand for my iPad in the studio to keep my resource close at hand. A floor stand also functions as a tripod for making video recordings. Shar Music has folding floor stands for iPad and iPad2 (and the new iPad) that come with a shoulder bag for travel. The only drawback is the Peak iPad stand’s desk covers the rear camera. I can work around this bug by switching to the forward facing camera. Unfortunately my attempted modification with a Dremel wasn’t successful.
Not included in this article are metronomes and tuners. If you’d like to add them to your iPad start your search with free versions and be sure to read reviews.
Before you get started with apps save time by setting up a couple of accounts on your computer. First, Dropbox. Dropbox is a free cloud storage service that lets you store documents, photos and video. This is especially handy because video files are very large files. Anything you upload to Dropbox can be accessed anywhere and shared between your computers, smartphone and iPad. In addition you can designate public folders to share your documents with students. Once you have uploaded a folder you’ll get access to a link you can share via email. Second, YouTube. If you’re interested in using the following video apps in your studio start out by setting up a YouTube channel for your studio. I recommend setting it up as a private channel for your website and studio performance videos. Once your channel is set you have the option to subscribe to other channels that you think would be good student resources for performances and examples. Third, SoundCloud. SoundCloud is a free sound-sharing app that allows easy sharing of sounds. Sounds are displayed in waveforms that allow users to post comments and memos. SoundCloud can be inserted into websites as a widget and then easily shared through social media. Just like YouTube, set this up so tracks of student’s performances stay private. You can also use SoundCloud to share your own performances with students.
Apps for Running Your Business.
Square Card Reader. Free. This credit card slider connects to the headphone jack of your mobile device. Funds are deposited into your account the next day. Sign up online and they’ll send the device free of charge. Each swipe costs 2.75%. Some information on credit cards from the merchantcouncil.org site:
However,...... In the very same documents VISA continues to state that, "You may, however, offer a discount for cash transactions, provided that the offer is clearly disclosed to customers and the cash price is presented as a discount from the standard price charged for all other forms of payment.
" MasterCard goes on to say that, "A merchant may provide a discount to its customers for cash payments. A merchant is permitted to charge a fee (such as a bona fide commission, postage, expedited service or convenience fees, and the like) if the fee is imposed on all like transactions regardless of the form of payment used.
Use iMovie or Videolicious to make promotional videos for business listings and promotional materials.
iMovie. $4.99. iMovie can be used for a few different purposes in your studio. Sophisticated editing tools allow you to create videos with camera roll pictures and video, music and titles. Make a movie to advertise your studio. Export to YouTube via camera roll. Share your video with your business listing on Bing and Google. This is a handy way to maintain a web presence without the expense of a website. Also, create a QR code from the YouTube url and print on business cards, flyers and brochures. Read more about QR codes here.
Videolicious. Free. There are no editing capabilities so it’s very simple to use. Choose a template where you will receive step-by-step instructions. Select photos from your camera roll and add music from your iTunes library. Next, you will be prompted to make a short video with the in-app video camera. The app creates a short photo/video montage with no editing required. And your video clip is automatically saved to your camera roll where you can easily export it to YouTube.
Genius Scan. Free. This is an iPhone app but I find it works fine for my purposes on the iPad. I use it for receipts for my studio--more specifically for taking photos of tuition checks and for copying music for unrealBook. Although this app is more than just another camera. Documents can be enhanced and sent as PDFs or JPEGs and shared to apps that are already installed on your iPad such as Dropbox or an email account. Genius Scan +. $2.99. I find I have all I need with the free version. Go ahead and upgrade if you’d like to send documents to Evernote, Google Docs or Expensify.
Apps for Teaching
PaperDesk. $3.99. This is one of my favorite apps; I recommend buying it. It’s a feature-rich notebook for the iPad. Type, write and draw with a slew of fonts and colors and correct with a full set of editing option. You can even rest your wrists on the pad without interfering with drawing. Insert photos and PDFs. Record audio that can be synced with your notes in text mode. Everything can be shared with Dropbox in fact, notebooks can be set up to automatically sync to Dropbox. I keep a notebook for each student where I jot down reminders, take a photo of their assignment chart, take photos of anything from correct hand positions to the right way to put on a shoulder rest. During a lesson we can make a short recording of a specific practice technique and email it to their home for reference. If you’re not ready to buy try PaperDesk Lite for free.
iMovie. $4.99. I use iMovie to record short video tutorials for my website/blog on subjects such as how to tune the violin. Videos are uploaded to my private YouTube channel and then embedded in my blog.
Anytune. Free. This app has a selection of upgrades ranging from $1.99 to turn off the ads to $14.99 to upgrade to pro HQ. Select a track from your iTunes library. Anytune works like the Amazing Slow Downer to adjust the playback tempo without altering the pitch, for a fraction of the price. I use this for my young Suzuki students to play along with a slower version of the piano accompaniment. You can also create loops to help practice a passage many times. The ads are not appropriate for the studio (online dating sites) so I have paid for that upgrade.
GarageBand. $4.99. Great app for many uses and it is so much fun. One helpful use is to record myself playing my students’ newest pieces. It makes a great listening example for home study. Use the audio recorder and your iPad’s built-in microphone although you can also use an external USB mic with the iPad’s camera kit. Your track can be shared via iTunes or mail or even shared (privately) to YouTube or Soundcloud.
unrealBook. $4.99. Designed for gigging musicians by a gigging musician this app is a PDF reader with a lot of music editing features. Alphabetize and index your music so you can easily find the file you need. Make notes, add text and highlight. Use a stylus to add slurs and fingerings. The app also includes a metronome, pitch pipe and recorder. It’s an ideal app for a teacher who works at a remote studio or travels to students’ homes. Add music via file sharing in your desktop iTunes menu. An even easier work-around? Scan the music you need with Genius Scan and add it from your iPad. From the “documents” tab in Genius Scan tap the “share” icon, then the “other apps” icon, select a document size. You should see a list of exporting options. (Since I have installed Dropbox, unrealBook and PaperDesk on my iPad I can choose any of these applications.) Select unrealBook and you can take all your music with you. I originally selected this app because of its ability to play music from my iTunes library. A similar music reading app is forScore. $4.99.
Coach’s Eye. $4.99. I just heard about this app last week and bought it without blinking an eye. Designed for athletes, Coach’s Eye allows you to analyze a student’s video performance with a complete set of drawing tools and recorded comments. Take a video of your student, open the clip in this app and slow or stop the clip to analyze for ideal positions. Share your annotated clip via email, Dropbox and Evernote for review by students and/or parents.
Educreations. Free. Another new app to me. Start by signing up with educreations.com which hosts the video lessons created with this app. Teach whiteboard lessons with photos, markers and audio. Share the video lesson either publicly or privately on their site and share the link with students. The Educreations site is filled with shared lessons so see what others are teaching. It’s too new for me to have worked with it a lot but I imagine it would be perfect for very young or new students. Start with a photo of a fingerboard, add tapes and note names. Play the song while you point out the notes. This app could be a great between-lessons resource.
Here are a couple more that you might want to investigate on your own:
Skype. Free. Offer virtual lessons via Skype. I do offer Skype lessons. In addition to being convenient they are a good option for doing make-up lessons. An iPad on a stand that can move around the room is a distinct advantage over the camera on a fixed desktop or a laptop.
Dragon Dictation. Free. This is a popular voice-to-text app. It works a little better with an iPhone because you can speak directly into the microphone. Even though it’s used more for social media I can see it being useful for a parent taking notes during lessons. The more you use the app the better the system adapts to your voice. There is a 60-second limit to each press of the record button but you may record longer messages in sections.
Apps for Students In-Lesson Resources
GarageBand. $4.99. Create a percussion accompaniment as an alternative to scale practice with a metronome. The Smart Drums option is slick for making rhythms with a drum machine or drum kit. Employ a jazz trio of instruments to make a 12-bar blues loop for introducing improvisation. With the last update Smart Strings, a whole orchestra of instruments, was added to the list of instrument choices. Demonstrate scales, chords, etc with an orchestra. Before you incorporate this into your lessons make sure you have a set plan and time limit--this app is addictive.
Tenuto. $3.99. A series of musicianship exercises including note, interval, chord, key signature identification. The exercises are fully customizable by clef (even alto clef), note range, and more. There is a companion app for music theory from the same developer, Theory Lessons. $1.99. Included are 39 music theory lessons beginning with the basics-the staff and clefs-and ending with an analysis of The Moonlight Sonata. Both are adapted from lessons at Ricci Adams’ free site musictheory.net. Even though the website is a free resource I prefer spending a little lesson time supervising my students use the app.
iMovie. $4.99. This is also a great app for making movies of student performances. Video your performance class and edit with iMovie. Share with studio families via a private YouTube channel. If you don’t need to edit make a free movie with the camera and send directly to YouTube.
In addition, your iPad has access to the entire internet. Sometimes, you’ll need to search for resources--especially if you teach in a remote location. For example there’s not a good music dictionary app available now; use the internet instead. Try these two terrific sites: www.naxos.com/education/glossary.asp which also contains a comprehensive introduction to classical music and a guide for how to enjoy a concert, and www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/, a multi-media music dictionary complete with audio pronunciation and musical examples.
Apps for Parents Resources for Parent Reference and Feedback
PaperDesk. $3.99. The perfect tool for teacher note-taking is just as handy for parents. Parents who are still assisting young students can use this app for taking notes, recording parts of the lesson and taking photos of positions. As I mentioned earlier, every part of a notebook--recording, photos, notes--can be shared. An excellent option if parents of older students need additional teacher feedback.
Skitch. Free. Skitch is a great photo annotator. Add arrows and text to a photo. It’s ideal for capturing a perfect left hand position, adding a caption and sending it to parents for visual reinforcement. Send photos via email or share to Evernote. Skitch is available on iPad, iPhone, Mac and Android. In addition to music studio purposes, this Skitch works beautifully to capture computer screen shots. Really make your point by emailing an entire annotated screen shot; not just a link.
Fingering Strings. $2.99. This app is better suited to string classrooms but I think parents can learn a lot from it. This app is a fingering chart for all stringed instruments and treble, alto, bass and tenor clefs. Select an instrument and a note from the staff. In addition to sounding the note this app shows every place the note can be played on the fingerboard. Select a variety of viewing options such as a keyboard display, color-coded strings and a chart of each position on the fingerboard.
MSO Learn. Free. A virtual orchestra. See each instrument. Hear each instrument. Listen to the entire symphony or just one section. This interactive app from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra introduces instruments and the people who play them (even learn their favorite place to eat after a concert). It’s so much fun to learn about the orchestra in this engaging, personal way. They did a great job with this app!
Audio Recording. Sometimes, parents may want to make an audio recording of a lesson or a home practice session. Useful audio apps are hard to come by. Aside from PaperDesk it’s a challenge to find an app that is inexpensive and able to send a file longer than 3 minutes. GarageBand is my top choice for this use. Even though it’s not free this app has many different private studio applications with no restriction on file size.
Video Recording. If you or parents just need to observe a taped lesson or practice session the pre-installed camera is your best choice. If you need editing features use iMovie.
This list is a good starting place for private studio teachers. But there are more improvements and more apps on the way. Dig into the app store and find the products that suit your needs, your lifestyle, your studio. Read reviews. Test free versions until you’re ready to upgrade. Experiment during your practice sessions and share my picks with your studio parents. Most of all, try something new and have fun exploring.
Active listening. Josep Caballe’-Domenech delivered his dress rehearsal message Saturday afternoon insisting that actively listening to every single part of the music is our most important charge. No players buried in their music stands--he wanted awareness. And it’s not just the individual musicians who must actively listen, the conductor also listens and responds to feedback. Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic on conducting, “One of the ways to make your sound better is to make it really obvious that you’re really listening and that it really matters to you what it sounds like.” He goes on to say, “As soon as it’s apparent that your ears are open and that you’re interested and you’re following the contour of the sound, then that very contour is affected by that.” Caballe’-Domenech is a fiery conductor who demands our best. In spite of the hard work, playing for him is a most rewarding orchestral experience. To be tuned in to each note and every nuance is beyond compare. It’s electrifying. When playing in the zone your senses are heightened. Constantly receiving feedback, musicians react with split-second precision. And just like he said, the orchestra is not a stage full of individuals playing their part; it is one instrument responding as a single organism.
In this scenario, musicians get feedback from their stand partners, section leaders, concertmaster, and conductor. Rehearsals are full of verbal feedback; in performance feedback is exclusively non-verbal. Musicians use their specific training to listen and respond to a huge number of variables--pitch, dynamics, articulation, style. They take the notes of the page and along with the interpreter, the conductor, and the information practiced and retained from rehearsals they work together to create a spontaneous musical experience. At the end the audience delivers even more feedback by way of applause, cheering and maybe even standing to show appreciation. By the time the performance is done, I know where I stand.
What happens to a musician when they can’t rely on feedback? Or their traditional notion of feedback is turned upside down? I’m also a member of a new kind of orchestra-the Twtr Symphony. Made up of musicians across the world recording remotely, it’s a whole new concept. “...While we approach performance in a very different way than other symphony orchestras, it is our extensive use of social media as a tool for connection which sets us apart." ~ Composer Chip Michael. We met first through social media by tweeting our personal plans, projects and experiences. Our feedback began as a supportive forum, then one by one we auditioned and became an orchestra.
When I started I had more questions than confidence. Alone in my studio with a piece of music and a click track, where was the feedback I wanted? What I got instead was harsh. The click track was a stern taskmaster. The playback was cruel. Neither were willing to bend--or lie. I found myself delivering my finished recording with tentative words, “if you need me to re-record just let me know.” With no stand partner to smile and no audience to clap I was looking for some kind of positive feedback, reassurance or a little pat on the back, hoping that my playing was good enough. After I sent my recording I had even more questions. How do I fit in the group? What does the orchestra sound like?
Maybe I was getting the feedback I needed all along. What happens when conventions are altered? We adapt. True I wasn’t getting “normal” feedback. Instead of concentrating on what I wasn’t hearing I had to look and listen a little bit harder. What was I really hearing? Enthusiasm. Excitement. And lots and lots of support. The Twtr Symphony is an orchestra that supports the group and supports each other. Just like the conventional orchestra I mentioned above we are more than individuals recording separate parts--we are united through support, sharing and investment in the outcome. That’s the amazing thing about social media--it really does connect us. My questions were replaced with confidence and trust. And I’m glad to be part of the adventure.
A new year. It’s a symbolic clean slate. The chance to start fresh. My husband gave me the most perfect
new year’s gift-- an empty desk just for me—in a clean, well lit, warm art space. And with it, a chance to get back to back to being genuine. I’m a goal-setter so new year’s resolutions come naturally to me. I started thinking about resolutions at the Winter Solstice
and realized I had left some of the most important parts of me behind. My resolution this year is to be true to myself.
How did I stray so far off course? It just so happens I’m also an adapter. I have a mutable personality and that’s why, when my new husband and his sons moved into my house three years ago, I decided to make a big
change. So grateful that they were joining me in house I loved, I was eager to show my willingness to adapt. Bear in mind my home was already overflowing. My space was brimming. It was stuffed with stuff. I was hanging on tight to my childhood memories, my half of the detritus from a 20-year-marriage, and assorted boxes full of my children’s memories. Did I mention that I’m a collector?
Optimistically we shoehorned our new family into this space the best we could. I spent weeks prior to our wedding day weeding through my art supplies. The plan was to turn half of my basement art area into a bedroom. It seemed logical to sacrifice some paper and paints to make three guys feel welcome. I attacked my mission with zeal. Meanwhile, my husband had the loathsome task of cramming all of his belongings into the remaining cracks and crevices.
Enter the desk. While I was occupied with giving up my cache of art supplies a crippling scenario was taking place in the sunroom. After three moves and zero time or energy to organize papers, my husband had no choice but stack every important and seemingly important paper on a desk in the sunroom. He had too much to handle. Filing was risky. Sorting was agonizing. The fear of losing essential papers was paralyzing. What's worse is the torture was apparent. While the basement door could be shut, the desk in the sunroom was always in plain sight, groaning with the weight. We were trapped. I gave up part of my identity and his was lost somewhere in piles of papers.
The first year was really tough for all kinds of reasons. After a year my stepsons moved on but me and my husband remained in "desk limbo." What used to be a basement art haven became invisible. My dusty drafting table was stacked with forgotten materials. And the piles grew in the sunroom. Turning opposite of true north, I gave my drafting table to my younger stepson. Oddly enough, that might have been just the wake up call I needed. Soon after, I dug out my art journal and went back to play.
This past summer I asked to have the sunroom desk in exchange for a space in the basement. Thus began a series of lessons that probably will be discussed in more detail on other days in other articles. I had to confront my communications demons; it was not a pretty picture. One day I figured out how to use my words and a lightbulb switched on above both our heads. Suffice it to say it’s been a 3-year-long learning experience that was an effective teaching tool on so many levels.
The happy news is the gift. We came to a mutual agreement that has left us both happy, true to ourselves and most important, with usable space each of us to fill however we choose. To my utter surprise and delight I looked into the sunroom yesterday and saw a completely empty desk. And now, at the start of a new year I have a gleaming new art table just waiting for me to play. I wonder if he knows his gift wasn't just a clean desk for me; it was a clean slate for us. Thanks to you, my darling!
The words finally came to me on a run. I've been struggling for days, even weeks anticipating the day. The one year anniversary. How could I write about it? Yet, how could I not? I very much wanted to put my feelings into words. I wanted to continue what I had begun. I've started this article half a dozen times. Words weren't coming; my thoughts were conflicted. After all, this was the most significant loss of my life to date.
I wondered what the day would bring. Since my heart remembered the date each month even when my conscious brain did not, I braced for the worst. Armoring myself was a way of life for the past 365 days. What was one more day of emotional hiding? All I could remember was last year's staggering pain. What else could I possibly expect?
Would the day be a beginning or an end? I'm not sure why I placed so much importance on the day. Maybe my ordered mind wanted to hop across the line between last year and this year and land safely on the other side. Mom's death was like a bolt out of the blue. A shock. A strike. And the blow sent me reeling. Months full of memories and tears. How do you consolidate fragmented memories mixed with grief, anger and acceptance into a single day? Then it occurred to me. My fear wasn't about the day; it was about the whole year. I didn't want to do it all over again.
And that's when I decided to change. I didn't hide. I didn't pretend. The day before the anniversary of Mom's death I asked for support. I reached out to my friends, shared my loss and my fears, and asked for a hug. What do you think happened? Hugs! Lots and lots of hugs. Instead of lonely fear I had support. The support I needed was always there--all I had to do was ask.
I woke up this morning qestioning my coping strategies. I know that they work beautifully for me when I'm functioning as an individual. There's another dimension to stress when you add a partner. How can I develop effective strategies to handle relationship stress? In challenging times I want to put more focus on asking for help.
We've been working hard these past few weeks. There have been rehearsals nearly every night. We've worked on the weekends. And more rehearsals for me during the day. My husband is up before the crack of dawn every day to teach school. It's been tough to talk and to connect. And even tougher to reach out.
I'm managing my stress during the day yet when evening comes around it feels familiar to retreat into my separate self. Hiding in my tortoise shell I feel lonely and alone. Despite my list of coping strategies and my best intentions somehow fear clouds my thinking.
This is exactly the time I could ask for help and receive much needed support. And I can do that if I plan ahead. I'll set an intention to make a request and trust that my needs will be met. Some gently whispered words of encouragement are what I need most. After a long day and an even longer night, when he's trudging up the stairs to fall into bed, I'll ask for help.
Is your child learning an instrument? Is she a music student? The early study of a new instrument can be quite a challenge. Throw together fine motor skills and a new language. The physical limitations can feel shocking. If your child was really excited about playing chances are the sounds she hears in her mind are miles away from the sounds you hear from inside the practice room. She needs your help to travel that road. You can help her become much more than a struggling student. You can help her become a musician.
This is a work in progress. Even Michelangelo said, "I am still learning." We all wake up every morning and try. And along the way we look for inspiration. A musician is taking a long, creative journey. You can't really distinguish between the practice and the art. So how do we support the study while encouraging a creative identity?
For parents and teachers, it's understood that a specific level of commitment is required for progress. There's a fine line between sharing our youngster's enthusiasm and setting expectations. If your child has extended himself by choosing an art then we need to honor that. This creative expression will become part of his identity and will flourish when nurtured. If this is a work in progress how can we offer structure while nudging him toward creative flight?
I was prone to dwell on my parent's negative comments. "When are you going to learn vibrato? All your friends know how," and "your scales sound good on the way up but they're always out of tune on the way down." Artists can be fragile souls. I'm ashamed to admit, I was such a practice ogre that my own son had a heavyhearted request for his 8th birthday present. "Can I please quit guitar?" Ouch.
How can we offer welcome support? Set a dedicated time and place for practice. If you are involved in the practice sessions try to make at least one positive comment first. Get your student involved by offering choices like, "Do you think it would be better if we tried it this way?" Keep it positive. This is about nurturing. Lots of supportive parents can't carry a tune and don't have a musical bone in their body. That's ok. Share music together. All kinds of music. And most of all, remember that true support begins with making sure you believe he's a musician.