Teaching methods differ from teacher to teacher, and mine differ from lesson to lesson and from student to student. Different students have different learning styles, and it’s our job to understand this and plan lessons accordingly. In addition to method books and etude books, I use a dry erase board to isolate and introduce concepts, and one-on-one interplay without the use of a book or reading any music. Basically I will do whatever it takes to get my students to learn what I’m trying to teach them!
And now we’ve entered a new age, where thanks to the Internet and smart technology, we have a myriad of new teaching tools available to us at the touch of a button. I speak of course of Apps. These apps can be used with your teacher in your music lessons, and at home for your practicing. At Knauer Music School, we have two dedicated iPads available for teachers to use in their lessons, and I’ve had great success with a few of these apps.
If your student is having trouble with note recognition, the Music Reading Essentials App by Notagram, LLC is fantastic. And it can help with not only notes, but also rhythms and symbols. I like using this app because it isolates each note, rhythm, or symbol without the student having to stumble across it in a piece of music or an exercise with too many things going on at the same time. I had tremendous success recently with this app with a student who could just not remember what note was which. We used the app with notes alone first for a while, then we incorporated the instrument. This lasted maybe two months, and at our lesson this week she read through and learned two pieces. I was so proud!
Here’s a good one for all you Star Wars fans out there: Staff Wars. I’m not talking about the battles between your coworkers – basically, it’s a game for note recognition speed. The notes move along the staff and when you identify enough of them correctly, the speed and the excitement of the music increases as you “level up”!
Every once in a while, I’ll get a young student who has trouble with the concept of “rhythm”. Rhythm is like music’s “time management” – and we know this doesn’t come to everyone naturally. Rhythm Swing is a great (and really cute!) app for learning to feel rhythm. Your monkey gets three lives, and it’s your job to accurately tap the rhythm on the screen so that the monkey doesn’t fall off his vine and get eaten by the alligator. You’ll be challenged by quarter notes, eighth notes, and rests, but nothing more complicated than that. So this is a good app for the younger students, and they can work their way up to examples like the one above.
Apps are by no means on their own, a way to learn music and become a competent musician – they are no substitute for a one-on-one music teacher. Our Knauer Music School teachers have found these apps to be a great teaching aid and a helpful practice partner for our students. I hope you will get as much out of these as we do!
By Halley Feaster