One of the (excellent/strong/trustworthy) voices in the world of Technology in Music Education is Katie Wardrobe, an Australian who is an expert in the field. Katie can teach just about any aspect of technology for music education at any level. Katie’s website is http://midnightmusic.com.au and one of the recent things Katie has done is to open her blog up to other educators to submit articles.
I was recently contacted by the developer of a new app in the App Store (released in June) called Note Rush. The app “gameifies” music reading by detecting the sound of an instrument versus the pitch showed on the screen. It is a universal app on both iPhone and iPad.
Note Rush features three skins (ladybug, space, and soccer) and fifteen levels (five for treble clef, five for treble and bass clef, and five for bass clef). The app first asks you to play middle c, which establishes middle c for the instrument. In other words, if you have clarinet, it will SEE c, but play B-flat. This allows the program to painlessly take care of transposing instruments. Then notes come across the screen, and you play those notes. Depending on your speed (the goal is displayed), you earn stars for your effort.
(The three skins of Note Rush)
The app will eventually allow you to set your own parameters for your own levels, and may possibly allow users to share self-created levels with other users.
I pulled out my ukulele, and was able to work successfully through levels 1-3 on the Treble Clef area. I couldn’t go any further, as the 4th level required G below middle C. The program worked perfectly with my ukulele.
The levels are geared towards pianists first, with the intent to move along rather quickly. This may not work with your instrument or how you would want to teach instruments, so the coming ability to create your own levels or to customize the game will be much appreciated. For example, I would want to make levels for ukulele using String 3 (C & D), then String 2 (E, F, an G), then Strings 2 & 3. If you are teaching beginner band, you might want to make different tests for different instruments.
In summary, Note Rush is attractive and innovative in its approach to transposing instruments (you don’t have to choose an instrument). It will truly show its value for music educators in the near future when you are able to design your own challenges. There are other apps that share the ability to assess played pitch versus printed pitch for various instruments with customized settings, such as Staff Wars Live, another app I recommend. However, Staff Wars Live only has one theme, whereas Note Rush has three skins, and Note Rush has the famous “three star” gameification which our students have been trained to crave through popular games such as Angry Birds. The app is currently (September 2016) priced at $3.99, and when customized exercises are available, will be very much worth that price. Just remember that the ability to customize levels is not yet available (again, as of September 2016).
Thank you to Note Rush for a promo code, and as a reminder, when you purchase an app from a referral link, a percentage of the purchase comes back to the author out of Apple’s 30% of the sale price–the developer continues to receive their full portion of the app purchase price.
As my ukulele launch in my middle school choir program draws near (either February 5th or 8th), I have been preparing for that launch. I am choosing to create my own method of teaching ukulele rather than to follow existing methods (e.g. Hal Leonard and Alfred). That said, I do have an eye on those methods as I plan.
While I am preparing, I am finding a ton of digital resources for the ukulele. Here are just a few:
Tuner: Kala Brand Tuner (FREE-created for one of the major manufacturers of all levels of ukulele)
Creating Ukulele Music: Notion (The most developed music notation app for iOS. For ukulele, creates notes and tablature–does not offer the ability to include chord diagrams for ukulele)
Self-Made Chord Charts: Chord Tunes (Creates lyrics and chords, plus ukulele chord diagrams)
Chords/Fingerings/Tuner: Guitar Toolkit (Guitar Toolkit covers many string instruments)
Ukeoke: Basically the Four Chords app for ukulele (monthly fee)
Futulele: An iPad ukulele app, ideally to be used by students that need accessibility features–thanks to Beth Jahn for the suggestion)
iBooks: There is a lot of ukulele literature on the iBooks Store–for less than what you can buy it in print. Here are just a few titles that are available:
Assessment: I will test most skills in class, but realize that some students will be afraid to test in person. Therefore, we have a few ukuleles to check out overnight. Students can take them home and make a video of themselves (using the stock Camera app) playing the required testing material, and submit the video to me via Showbie. I also use Showbie to create rubrics–allowing me to assess each student–and Showbie's new grading feature allows me to quickly transfer grades from Showbie to our school's student information system.
Web Resources: While there are a TON of ukulele websites out there, I recommend the following sites:
And finally, Amazon. I love music stores–but there are times that the added overhead of a music store cannot be tolerated in the cost of a program. In our case, our entire set of 58 ukuleles (55 to be used in class, 3 to be sent home for practice/performance tests) were purchased from Amazon for under $2000–including setting up a ukulele hanging system with 2x4s and tool hooks. Unfortunately, if we had purchased these through a local vendor, the cost would have been well over $2000. Our ukuleles, Mahalo MK1s are throw-away models if anything serious happens (other than replacing strings). It would be a different situation if we had more expensive ukuleles that would warrant the need for repairs. As a side note, the MK1s do eventually settle into their tuning–and I go through and tune each of the instruments once each day. The instruments I purchased in Novemeber are nearly always in tune. That is a relief–58 continually out-of-tune ukuleles would be a nightmare.
We actually bought 68 ukuleles, as we gave parents the ability to send some extra money to buy their students a ukulele to keep. 10 families bought a ukulele for home. In total, the booster program purchased 28 of the instruments, and parents donated money for 30 of them. Not a cent of this program is on the common tax payer.
I have found out that Amazon's prices fluctuate wildly–the majority of our ukuleles were purchased around $25 each when they were backordered, but the instruments are now $37 each.
This morning, I purchased 2 additional instruments from Amazon: A Caramel (a Chinese brand) Concert and a Caramel Tenor for $75, shipped. I want to give these inexpensive larger instruments a try. It will be nice to have a concert and tenor on hand at school–and also for students that might struggle with the small soprano (thinking about some of the giant 8th grade boys) to try. If the Caramel instruments are any good–I'll certainly blog about them.
I also recently learned that D'Adarrio Ukuele strings are made by Aquilla (considered to be one of the best kinds of ukulele string), so it might be worth buying D'Addario for the savings over Aquilla.
The shift to ukulele is shocking to me–I grew up in the era of Tiny Tim, where the ukulele was a joke to our culture. My training in music education didn't spend one second talking about ukuleles–at any level of my education (K-12, college, or grad school). It appears that the ukulele is as common in many other countries as recorder and guitar are in the United States (although guitar programs are relatively few in number compared to Band, Choir, and Orchestra at the secondary level).
All I can say is this–I have fallen in love with the instrument, and I spend more than an hour each day playing and singing. It has resparked my love of music, and for that I am thankful. I now own two ukuleles (a Makala Concert, and a Kala Banjo Ukulele). There is a good chance that I will be adding a tenor ukulele (or two) to the stable in the near future. We also bought our boys a MK1 Mahalo, with the idea that they will leave my ukuleles alone (they are). When I tune my ukulele, my three year old runs up to me and asks me to tune his, too.
As I mentioned at the top of this post, our integration with the ukulele is right around the corner. I am excited to bring this experience to our students, and to get them singing and reading music in a sneaky way. The possibilities are endless–we'll see what happens!
This past weekend I had the pleasure to present three sessions at the 2015 Ohio Music Educators Association and Central TI:ME conference. The conference has a unique focus on technology in music education, as the state conference turns several rooms over to the Ohio TI:ME organization, which then schedules technology sessions for those rooms.
**In the Chromebook session, someone asked if the Adobe Creative Suite could be used to edit video on Chromebooks; I replied that some parts of the Adobe suite worked, and others didn’t. From my research this morning, it appears that (as of 2/2015), only PhotoShop is working as a web app on Chromebooks via the Adobe Creative Suite.
Thank you again to the Ohio TI:ME committee for approving my sessions, and to everyone that attended those sessions this past weekend!
In late January, Dr. Joanna Sisk-Purvis self-published a recorder book on the iBookstore, entitled “Recorder Interactive: A Magical Method.” The book currently sells for $7.99, and includes over 30 songs. Most songs have two accompaniment tracks (recorder melody and accompaniment), and most pages have interactive material. The book is intended to teach over an octave of notes plus basic playing techniques.
I love this approach, because it makes iBooks into an “app” without needing to know how to program in Objective C and Cocoa Touch computer languages (how iOS apps are created).
Dr. Sisk-Purvis has done a great job in creating this book, and remember, just like the App Store, 70% of a book purchase goes back to the author (of course, as an author, you do have to report this income on your taxes at the end of the year, so a good portion of that goes to your state and local government as well). When you buy Dr. Sisk-Purvis' book, you are buying her a cup of coffee and part of a muffin. Support your independent iBook Authors! Elementary teachers who teach recorder, this is a book for you (which can be mirrored to a screnn for class use) written by a colleague!
I will be listing this as a recorder resource in the (short) chapter about recorder on my book about iPads and Music Education on the iBookstore (in the next update which I have not yet started–I am waiting for a bit more new material before starting the update).
If you are new to techinmusiced.com, welcome! This blog is a free resource for music educators of all kinds as they attempt to bring technology into their teaching. The blog does generate some revenue–when you buy an app from a referral link on techinmusiced.com, a percentage of the app’s (normal) purchase price comes back to the me; and if you buy any of my iBooks from the iBookstore, income is also generated that way. My goal is to remove WordPress’s advertising so that the blog is advertisement-free–something I hope to be able to do through app referral commissions. I want to keep true advertisements off this blog.
On the right hand side of the blog, you will see a number of blog links to other music educators who blog. If you know of a blog that should be listed, but isn’t, please send me an e-mail!
I am presenting two sessions at the Music Education Symposium today. The first is a session on using iPads in General Music. The second (presented twice) is a session all about apps.
The PDF from the session in General Music appears below in PDF format. As a disclaimer, I am not an elementary teacher–and as a result, I have made sure to examine the work of other prominent music educators who use technology at the elementary level. My favorite part of this presentation occurs towards the end where I refer to some of the strategies currently being employed by six elementary music teachers across the country.
I had the opportunity to present three sessions on the iPad at the PCAE Music Education Technology Workshop today. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to send me an e-mail (address is on the right hand side of the blog).
The third presentation was a how-to, based around three apps (forScore, Noteshelf, and Keynote). forScore is representative of all the PDF music readers and has the most features (followed closely by unrealBook). Noteshelf is the best handwriting app for musicians (built-in staff paper templates). Keynote is a wonderful presentation application with only two areas of weakness: there is no way to write on slides as you present, and you cannot embed audio).