The Roadie 2 Guitar/Ukulele Tuner

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A few days ago, my friend Paul Marchese (a music educator in Illinois) made a short video and post about the Roadie 2 tuner. He demonstrated how he could tune instruments in his classroom while students were playing by momentarily swapping a tuned instrument with the student and tuning the student’s instrument using the new Roadie 2. The original Roadie was a string winder that connected to your phone, using the phone’s microphone to tell whether a note was sharp or flat. Like all sound-based tuners, the device worked, but once you are in a situation where there is ambient noise (such as a ukulele jam or a classroom with 40 ukuleles) these tuners are no longer effective.  How is the Roadie 2 different? The Roadie 2 no longer needs the phone. It relies on vibration, like a clip on tuner, and then tunes your instrument for you.

And it works, and it works QUICKLY. Sure, I can take a clip on tuner between instruments and tune that way—but it takes longer. Now, if you have one ukulele, a $129 tuner is overkill. But if you have fifteen ukuleles at home, that might make the purchase worthwhile. And if you have over 100 instruments at school…saving a minute on each tuning (or even 30 seconds) will be significant.

A word about the app that comes with the device—it works. It connects via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and syncs your device “tunings” with custom tunings you created on your phone. You can custom name instruments—as I did with “Reeentrant Ukulele” (to differentiate between that and Linear tuning).

 

I’m looking forward to tuning ukuleles on Tuesday morning (we have no school on Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday). I think this is going to save me hours (and over time, days) of effort. Yes, the ability to learn how to tune is still important—but instructional time (and my prep time) is more important.

If you choose to buy a Roadie 2, will you consider using my referral link to Amazon (the Amazon seller is Band Industries, which makes the Roadie 2)?

Video follows below!


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Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#1: Hardware Tools)

This is the final post in a series about ten iOS tech tools that can be used to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  This series is based off a series by Amy Burns at mustech.net, who just wrapped up a series on ten tech tools that can be used by an elementary music educator prepare for a concert.  I teach secondary music education in a 1:1 iPad setting, so I have been working through the tools that I use to help me prepare for a concert.  Many of these tools are useful even if you do not work in a 1:1 setting.

For this last post, I think it is worthwhile to mention some hardware tools that I use in a concert.  I will list them as bullet points.  I will not discuss our risers or shell that we use in our gym (we are building a new building, and next year, our concerts will be in an auditorium).

I forgot to take a photo of the layout from our concert on December 14th.  Sorry…this worked REALLY well.  Nobody realizes (you probably do) the time it takes to figure out how to set up for a concert in such a way that it results in a flawless performance.

So, to the hardware:

  • Personal iPad: 12.9” iPad Pro
  • Apple Pencil
  • AirTurn GoStand
  • AirTurn Manos Universal Tablet Holder
  • PageFlip Dragonfly Wireless Page Turner
  • Sony MV1 Video Recorder
  • Photographer’’s Lighting Tripod for MV1
  • Attachment on Tripod to allow for the MV1 camera mount
  • A second iPad on a stand as well, which connects to control the MV1 remotely
  • Two powered speakers (PA system)
  • Extension cords (4) and a power strip.
  • Small Mackie Mixing Board (check out PreSonus’s packages to do a similar thing)
  • Bluetooth Receiver (wall powered). Amazon sells their own branded unit for $20.
  • 1/8” stereo to 1/4 plugs (to plug into mixer)
  • We do not print programs, so I put the program as a PDF in Google Drive, and then make a shortened URL using TinyURL, sending that link to parents a few days before the concert.  Google now allows for revisions, meaning that you update the Google file, and the file retains its same Google URL, meaning that you could theoretically save the most recent concert program to google and make a TinyURL for that file (file name: concertprogram.pdf, TinyURL: http://www.tinyurl.com/yourschoolchoir), and just update it for every concert.  This saves a lot of wasted paper, and gives parents a reason to be on their phones for the right reason during a concert.  If parents want a paper copy, I print them after the concert and mail them…still saving at least $100 and a lot of wasted paper.

I play accompaniments using my ukulele (and in our second concert, with student players, too) and backup tracks that I have created (on Notion, iReal Pro, or GarageBand) directly from forScore, pushing the audio from my iPad to the PA system via Bluetooth.  It works wonderfully.  I also plan on adding an Xvive 2 guitar controller to my ukulele to project it through the system in the spring.  I also leave the iPad controlling the MV1 behind the shell, starting the video before the concert and ending it afterwards.

I also stop at one point in the concert to take a photo of the choirs for our yearbook (using my iPhone 8).  Otherwise, we never get all of the students in one place wearing the right apparel at the same time ever again!

I set up the sound system behind our shell, and control volume right off the iPad.  We have a mic system in the gym for speaking, so I just use that system to address the audience.  In the future, I would like to have students introduce pieces—but in the midst of getting everything else ready, that is something that usually slips by.

If you need any help creating such a system for your school, please, send me an e-mail.  While the initial investment isn’t insignificant…the equipment will last for years.

I hope you have found this series helpful and that there have been a few apps or approaches that will enable you to more successful prepare for your next concert!  Happy New Year!  I hope 2018 is a great year for you, your families, and your programs!


Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#2: Keynote)

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This is the penultimate post in a series about ten iOS tech tools that can be used to help secondary music educators prepare for a concert.  The idea comes from Amy Burns, who is wrapping up a series on ten tech tools that can be used to help elementary music educators prepare for a concert.  Amy’s series should wrap up today, and will be followed with a webinar.  You can find Amy’s work at mustech.net.

Without a doubt, Keynote is one of my most used teaching tools.  Keynote comes free with every iOS device and every MacBook.  I find it to be an easy to use program that creates attractive presentations, with a few power tools for power users.

A typical day in my class when we are in “singing mode” currently looks like this:

  • Introductory video to catch their attention and get them in the room on time (credit: Katie Wardrobe and Midnight Music…see her list of videos as a starting point).  Videos are started at the bell.  I take attendance and deal with other issues while the video plays.  I used to do the written work for Dale Duncan’s S-Cubed method, but students were not completing the work and taking their automatic 50% instead (it’s a attitude about respect for learning that we are trying to change in the whole school).  I am always open to trying new things…and this is working.
  • The S-Cubed “Forbidden Pattern” game (credit: Dale Duncan S-Cubed Method)
  • Vocal Warm-Ups
  • Rehearsal
    • Song (working on the song as needed as the concert approaches)
    • Sight-Singing Exercise based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory
    • Song
    • Sight Rhythm Exercises based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory
    • Song
    • Sight-Singing Exercise based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory—this time with solfége added
    • Song
    • Sight Rhythm Exercise based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory
  • Announcements
    • At concert time, don’t forget to make slides about concert dates and times, as well as slides to discuss behavior and safety expectations.  Make special efforts to discuss what to do if a student is ill before the concert or starts feeling ill during a concert.
  • Ukulele Time
    • Get ukuleles
    • Warm-up time
    • Introduce existing/new chords
    • Play through play-along videos as created by Dr. Jill Reese, Dr. A, Kevin Way, Kris Gilbert, Ukulaliens, and others (including myself)
    • Put ukuleles away

Any item bonded in this list uses Keynote as a tool.  I used to run Keynote off my iPad, but I like to use my iPad for other things, such as iDoceo for attendance, or just to be able to work off my own screen without reflecting it.  I used to reflect music on a regular basis, but I found that students stopped using their own music and became dependent on the screen (not learning their music in time for a concert).  Now I only reflect my own iPad on occasion.

A few suggestions about the use of Keynote:

  • While it is against copyright in the purest sense, download videos to use before class and embed them in the Keynote presentation.  There are a few solutions to this, but the one that is well known is keepvid.com.  If you have to switch between your presentation and a web browser (YouTube), only bad things can happen.
  • I have a running collection of warm-up slides that I switch up every day (We are on an A/B schedule) for warm-ups.  I have a specific order of warm-ups that I follow every day, although the warm-ups themselves change.  It is a very easy to select slides from my warm-up collection and to insert them in my daily Keynote.  Someday I will publish this collection, most likely as a Patreon reward.  Projecting warm-ups is very helpful…students are trained to look at a screen, so it will help with some behavior issues, and it can also reinforce music literacy.  Sure, you can call out warm-ups, but try projecting yours.  And if you have warm-ups you would like to share with me, please, send me an e-mail.  I have several hundred, but an always add more.
  • Some people may wonder why I use Keynote instead of other services like PowerPoint or Google Slides.  Simply put, Keynote is easier to use and it looks better.  Keynote acts very much like a merger of the best parts of PowerPoint and SMART Notebook.  Can you do these things with other programs?  Sure.

While Keynote isn’t solely used for concert preparation, it is definitely used as a key tool in my instruction, which leads to two performances per year—and thus it deserves to be mentioned in this series.


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Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#3: Assessment tools: Schoology or Showbie)

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This is a continuing series on ten iOS Tech Tools that can be used to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  The idea comes from Amy Burns, who created the idea for this series with a focus on elementary music educators.  You can find Amy’s series at mustech.net.

I have had to try to find ways to assess students that reflects what they know and what they can do.  When it comes to a performance, I cannot grade them individually, as I cannot hear what they are individually doing in the concert.  I have to assess them before or after the concert on an individual basis.  I don’t have lesson time, and we don’t have funding for red/green note programs.  We are a 1:1 school, however, so what I can do is have every student record themselves singing a part of a song during a rehearsal.

I used to assess student performance with Showbie (see post #4 in this series), where I would post a rubric in PDF format, and then have students use the embedded audio recording tool to record themselves in class on that document (make sure they know where the microphone is on an iPad or Chromebook—it has moved locations on the iPad in recent years).  Then I later used Showbie’s quick grading feature to toggle through each of the sung assessments and to quickly mark the rubric with a finger, stylus, or Apple Pencil.  I have about 340 students—and if you choose the right area of a song to assess, you don’t need much more than 15 to 30 seconds of music to ascertain a students’ current level of ability on a song.  I stole the idea of using rubrics for this process from a colleague at another 1:1 iPad school in the area (Sue Bujold), and middle schools in our district cannot give a grade lower than 50% on any assignment, even if a student has not attempted the assignment (please do not take this statement as my approval of this approach).  If a student missed the opportunity to record in class, they could attempt to record at home (a cappella), or record another day in class, if we were still working on the music.

This past concert season, I assessed two songs, along with sight singing and rhythm reading, all in a group setting—it is incredibly efficient, even with a large number of students.  You do have to use your prep time efficiently if you want to keep your home life your home life (otherwise you will be grading non-stop at home, something I try to avoid).

Last year, my school decided that all teachers would use Schoology, and this year our district provided funds for the enterprise version.  The full version of Schoology has an embedded audio recorder, and has rubrics built in.  This year, instead of using Showbie for assessments, I have used Schoology…and this works incredibly well.  Students record themselves in an assignment, and the assignment is already linked to a rubric (pretty much the same rubric as the past).  Grading is just as fast as Showbie, particularly if I grade using a MacBook (and not my iPad).  As in the past, students can resubmit recordings, and the minimum grade of 50% still applies.  Again, please note that the free version of Schoology does not allow for in-app audio recording.

In both programs, I can add specific comments (something I do not always have time to do), and with the 50% minimum, scores may not be what a student desires—but they do not completely destroy the grade, either.  As you can see on the rubrics, the categories are “meets expectations,” “partially meets expectations,” and “does not meet expectations.”  One of the great joys of this approach is that students have to sing for you, but they do not have to sing alone or in a small group in front of you, which can be absolutely nerve-wracking for some students.  In this method, they can sing with their peers, but their microphone (I find about 6-8 inches away from their mouth while singing) allows you to hear how they are doing individually in the safety of the herd.

I will be using similar rubrics with video assessments (pointing at the students hands on the instrument) as we move to ukuleles as a primary focus for the next 10-12 weeks.

If you are a teacher that has been looking for a way to individually assess student performance in music classes, these technology tools are an incredible way to help you in that process.

I have attached some images of the rubrics that I have used in the recent past with both Showbie and Schoology.

 

 

 


Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#4: Showbie, or forScore for High School)

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This is a continuing series of ten iOS tech tools to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  Today I’d like to talk about what students see in our 1:1 iPad School.

Contrary to what Google’s marketing and Anti-Apple evangelists would like you to believe, there are still schools that are 1:1 iPad, and there are still schools moving to 1:1 iPad.  Yes, there are many schools that look at costs and decide to go with Chromebooks.  And as I have written about in the past, Chromebook has won (ultimately) and as a result, the application solutions for music education have improved due to necessity.  That said, Apple’s new 9.7” iPad that sells for under $300 is a direct response to the Chromebook.  I still believe that the iPad is a better solution for any classroom without a desk—both in terms of form and function.

One of the easiest ways to implement the iPad in music education is to use it for sheet music.  This is where people get very angry about the issue of copyright.  As I have said in the past, if you are converting school owned paper resources under copyright to digital resources and using them in a school, in the purest sense, you are breaking copyright.  My advice for you, if you choose to use digital music, is to make sure that you own a legal paper copy for every digital copy that you are using, and distribute the digital version via a method where you can easily “collect” the digital copy after a performance.  Do not simply buy one piece and share it with 150 students!

 

I have tried a few solutions over the years at the high school and middle school level when it comes to reading music on an iPad (or Android device).  We’re seven years into the iPad, and I have to report that the experience is still the best on the iPad.  If you are an Android user, I believe that MobileSheets is still your best solution.  And if you are a high school student or older, look at any of the apps that I mentioned in my previous post about forScore, unrealBook, or Newzik.

A few days ago, a reader e-mailed asking why I didn’t recommend piaScore.  piaScore is a freemium app (download for free, pay to unlock features) that has advanced over the years.  I had issues with piaScore at school as YouTube is embedded in the app (can you think of a reason why you wouldn’t want YouTube available to your students in rehearsal?) and by the time you unlock all of piaScore’s freemium features, you will have spent more than forScore or unrealBook or Newzik.  I also think the other programs are laid out in a more logical way, but that bit is a bit of opinion.

However, when it comes to middle school students, particularly those who are required to be in a music class, and therefore a huge percentage end up in choir (60%-70% of the total number of students in music), having a music reader with 8,000,000 buttons is NOT a good thing.  The Keep It Simple approach applies.

Therefore, I use Showbie as a music reader for my students.  Showbie is a “light” learning management system, and they have recently changed its pricing and features.  Simply put, there is a free version and a paid version (either individually or by district), and it is another tool that uses GAFE login protocols (can I hear an “Amen?”).

I used to use Showbie for many of its other features, but our school moved to the enterprise (paid) version of Schoology, so I am using Schoology for most of that prior work—but I continue to use and pay for Showbie for music distribution.  I can create a “folder” of our music that students can see and annotate, changing pages by swiping left and right (no hot spot feature).  Yes, some students just draw on the pages (they would be doing so on paper, too).  But with Apple Classroom, I can make sure they are in the correct app (I try not to look at individual screens—if they are in the right app they are close enough), and at the end of a concert season, I can delete the folder, removing access to that music.  Showbie just turned on the ability to reorder music in the folder—so you could theoretically change the order FOR your students every day (during rehearsals) or put the music into concert order (as the concert day approaches).  You can also add individual files to individual student folders (and this is how they can also turn things into you).

I could easily operate as Showbie as our only LMS…but Schoology is pretty cool, too.  I’d love to see Showbie and Schoology merge into a single solution.

The free version does limit the total number of assignments that you can have, and to be honest, I haven’t worked under the free version for four years.  Still, if you are a 1:1 school, Showbie may be an answer for digital music distribution.  Showbie also has a web based version which is improving (they also see the allure of the Chromebook), so theoretically you could put parts in Showbie and students could access those parts at home without dragging a music folder with them (they can access Showbie on any device).  You can pin a recording to a PDF file (you can upload many file formats to Showbie), but you still cannot upload an existing audio file (such as a recording exported from Notion) to Showbie.  I keep hoping…as then students could practice with the track at home.

With the free version and the web version, perhaps Showbie might be a solution for you in terms of providing music for students to use in class or to practice with at home!