Thursday, March 10, 2016

Technology for the Piano Studio

As our world is daily effected by modern technology, our piano studios are also changing. Students of all ages come to us more tech-savvy than ever before. They expect our teaching to include the use of apps and other forms of technology that will be beneficial to their learning. Here's a quick look at some of the websites, applications and equipment I am currently using in my collegiate studio on an almost daily basis.

  • ForScore Music Reader. After spending the early years of my career as a collaborative pianist hauling enormous binders filled with photocopies of scores from rehearsal to rehearsal, ForScore changed my life. The iPad app holds lots of music that is clearly displayed on the tablet. With the ability to mark the score easily as well as the imbedded metronome and recording equipment, ForScore is one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal at the moment.
  • AirTurn Blue Tooth Page Turner. Paired with my iPad and ForScore, my AirTurn system allows for hands-free page turning. Set up is easy and the dual pedal configuration is highly mobile, reliable, and affordable. Rarely do I play a performance or important rehearsal without using my AirTurn.
  • Recording Capabilities. Recording lessons, rehearsals and performances is a valuable tool for every musician and most of our students have the capability to record -- both audio and video recordings -- from one of their devices. Additionally, sites such as YouTube and SoundCloud enable performers to reach a large audience without spending a cent on travel. 
  • Metronome. Students have no excuse for not practicing with a metronome! There are many free apps that are quite good. I encourage my students to use the simple metronomes so they aren't distracted by all of the "bells and whistles" that come with many for-purchase apps. Why pay for more when we just need a clear sound that keeps a steady beat?
  • Online Music Sources. It is now possible to obtain music very quickly with the advent of digital scores. Additionally, many free scores are available. I find myself accessing IMSLP regularly as I research new music that is now in the public domain and finding scores for students who are struggling financially.  Students enrolled in my class piano course are no longer carrying an enormous textbook; instead, they purchase a semester's license to EnovativePiano.com. Enovative offers everything from repertoire to score reading excerpts, transposition exercises, and harmonization projects in a single location at a reasonable price. Perhaps most importantly, each of Enovative's repertoire selections is accompanied by a video performance that displays solid technique and musicality. (In case you can't tell, I'm a big fan of the online text and would love to chat with you about it further if you are interested.)
  • Listening Sources. Whether you prefer YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud, or Naxos, there are plenty of places to direct your students to hear performances -- both good and bad -- of repertoire they should know as well as pieces they are studying. When you don't find what you're looking for, the option to upload your own recording is also an option. When you can't listen to a live performance, these websites offer the next best thing.
  • Survey Monkey. Yes, I'm using Survey Monkey in my studio instruction. It's an easy way to collect comments on peer performances in a piano lab setting or studio performance lab without forcing introverted students to stress over speaking in front of a group of their peers. In my personal experience, I've found that a few confidential surveys help everyone's confidence to grow and realize that they have insightful comments to make on musical performances that can be helpful to their friends.
Now I'd like to hear from you. How are you using technology in your studio? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments below.