Music

As a music teacher, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit that my singing voice is most definitely not up to scratch.

In fact ‘scratch’ is probably a fair assessment of the tonal range and pitch qualities!

I’ve tried a few iPad apps in the hope they might – at the very least – provide me with a little more accuracy when singing. Of the several I’ve tested, one stands out from the pack; ‘Erol’s Singers Studio.

Data. data and more data

To improve my singing accuracy I need feedback on how I’m going, and Singers Studio provides that in spades.

Match your pitch to the blue notes.

Match your pitch to the blue notes.

Vocal exercises feature standard music notation plus a ‘piano roll’ style display with a graphed line of your vocal (in realtime) and notes that turn gradually greener according to your accuracy.

Each exercise  ends with a percentage score for each note. Top scores are recorded as a point value: overall percent for an exercise multiplied by the number of octaves covered.

A ‘range’ graph gradually solidifies as you progress with the exercises.

The green 'blob' shows your (hopefully) widening vocal range.

Exercises

A solid range of exercises are included in the app. I started on the ‘Beginner Program 1′ and there was enough material to keep me going for three weeks, until I changed to ‘Beginner Program 2′, an in-app purchase.

By this time I was so enjoying the app I bought all the in-app purchases, which still totalled less than one decent lesson!

It’s worth a hunt through the users manual in the help section, as you’ll probably discover a few things you didn’t realise the app could do, such as being able to slow down exercises, or set a key.

It’s also worth while reading the comments on the different sections from users, which range from ideas for improvements through to questions of technique and progress.

Best of all is reading Erol’s replies; thoughtful, helpful and professional. Just what you need in an app that is a teaching tool.

Singers Studio is brilliant, Erol is brilliant and although my voice isn’t brilliant, it’s not as scratchy as it used to be.

 

Cost

App: $14.99

  1. Ear Training for Singers – $3.99
  2. Beginner 2 – $0.99
  3. Intermediate 2 – $1.99
  4. Advanced 2 – $2.99
  5. Advanced 3 – $2.99

Links

At its most basic, a drumkit rock rhythm can have just just four components: a snare drum hit on beats 2 and 4, a bass drum hit on beats 1 and 3.

The pdf  poster features eight variations on this idea, each adding a slightly more complex hi-hat pattern or bass-drum variation.

The bass drum is coloured red, the snare green and the hi-hat blue.

Small groups of students can play these patterns together. Allocate one student to the bass / snare pattern and a second to the hi-hat pattern. The hi-hat pattern can also be duplicated on the ride cymbal and (lightly) on the bell of the crash cymbal.

Before playing the patterns on the kit, have students practice using their hands and feet while sitting on chairs. Rehearse the counting patterns, particularly for the two last rhythms with the more complex bass pattern.

Download Button

Download Basic Rock Patterns Poster

My students love Advent calendars, especially the ones that include chocolates behind each door.

This year, for our End-of-Year Christmas Assembly, we’re performing an advent calendar song called ‘Christmas Countdown‘. No chocolates, but lots of fun anyway.

Christmas Countdown has six verses and six choruses. Each chorus proclaims the date and the number of days to go until Christmas. Each verse describes what is ‘hidden’ behind each door of the calendar. There are four ‘doors’ in each verse, making for a total of 24 items. (There’s lots of Maths at work here; ordinal numbers, counting up, counting down, summing to make 25 and more. What patterns can your students find?)

We’re performing the song as the interludes between other Christmas items (six verses does go on a bit…) but it’s the perfect song for involving lots of kids on stage. We’re making giant paintings to hold up showing each day but you could just as easily create a PowerPoint or act each ‘door’ out live. Puppets would be a good alternative too. Let your imaginative students ideas run wild on this!

There are four resources below. The PowerPoint is useful for IWBs but you can print out the lyrics  from the Word document. The piano score can be used for performing live or just to check how the words fit. (Some verse are a bit tricky matching the syllables to the notes.) The mp3 has all six verses with a small pause between each one.

Have fun and let us know how it all goes!

Resource list:

 

 

ACARA (The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) has released a consultation draft of The Arts curriculum.

The paper is organised into eight sections:

  • Rationale and Aims
  • Organisation
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Media Arts
  • Music
  • Visual Arts
  • Glossary

Each of the five Arts subjects has its individual rational, aims and learning detailed. Learning outcomes are then expanded for the Foundation to Year 2, Years 3 and 4, Years 5 and 6, Years 7 and 8 and Years 9 and 10.

Unlike other curricula (yes SACSA, I’m looking at you) the draft celebrates the diversity of the Arts’ subjects whilst acknowledging the connections; I love the description of them as being ‘distinct but related’.

The draft sees students in Foundation through Year 6 having ‘opportunities to experience and enjoy learning in, learning through and learning about all five Arts subjects’. From Years 8 up they have a more modest aim; ‘students will continue to learn in one or more of the Arts subjects, with the opportunity to specialise in one or more subjects in Years 9 and 10.’ Sounds like at least one of the authors has their feet grounded in the real world.

It’s interesting to see how the draft refines the presentation the Arts in each subject down to just two interrelated strands:

  • Making – using processes, techniques, knowledge and skills to make art works
  • Responding – exploring, responding to, analysing and interpreting art works.

There’s a nice turn of phrase for this; ‘The strands … involve learning as artists and audience’. Yay for simplicity!

Initial impressions are favourable, the draft is clear, concise and quite readable. Our school has an Australian Curriculum day this week and some our Arts teachers will be reading, analysing, dissecting and discussing the draft in detail.

I encourage all Arts teachers to do the same and make a submission while you can.

Links

My musical ‘Cabbage Patch Dragon‘ (about a dragon, found in a cabbage patch…) is going international.

The fine folks at Lower Moutere school in New Zealand have their first performance on September 20th at the Memorial Hall in Motueka.

All the very best for the NZ premiere!

You can visit the school website here.

The school is here:

 


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Drum Poster Collage

Here’s a set of free posters depicting the main parts of a drumkit.

The posters feature large views of essential hardware including the snare,bass drum, floor tom, bass drum pedal, hi-hat and ride cymbal.

Each poster is labelled and includes a QR code linking to the relevant Wikipedia page.

Download Drumkit Parts Posters Download

Finale Songbook icon

Woo hoo! There’s now an official Finale music notation app – Finale Songbook - and for a (free) first go, it’s not bad – not bad at all.

Now I’ve used the Finale notation program ever since it was available on Windows, and I have all the disks to prove it! Back in the day, Finale had no ‘undo’, scant MIDI support and a frankly horrendous learning curve. The learning curve is still there, but everything else has improved exponentially, and despite newer and flashier programs such as Sibelius (much loved by our Education Department’s Instrumental Service) I’ll probably remain a Finale fan to my dyin’ day – and certainly Finale Songbook does nothing to change my mind.

Finale Songbook screenshot

First up though: it doesn’t do that much. Songbook will:

  • Display Finale ‘mus’ files
  • Auto scroll through them
  • Display the score’s parts separately
  • Create ‘playlists’
  • Sort your Library by title, composer and file name.

A bit like my much used Musicnotes app.

But the kicker, and I was most surprised by this, it plays your score. And pretty darn well too (especially if ‘human playback’ is available.

Oh, and along with the playback, it  has a metronome to set the tempo, a resume feature and a scroll bar to quickly move to a desired page.

All in all it’s pretty useful and I can certainly see myself using it at school for:

  • Playing new arrangements on the interactive whiteboard
  • An accompaniment machine for my instrumental groups
  • Playing songs from my musicals when learning them – follow the moving bar
  • Analysing songs for melody, harmony, rhythms etc

Wish list? At this point I’d see huge benefits in:

  • Selecting a part to display while the score plays.
  • Rudimentary editing
  • Ability to add annotations

In the meantime, download, install and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Making a radio program?

An ideal project for my mixed-ability Year 9 Music class; creating and producing a radio program is an open-ended task that combines ICT skills, creativity, media and music.

You beauty!

What they had to do…

The brief was to create a radio program with the following features:

  • A station ident
  • Top ‘n’ tailed songs
  • Song introductions
  • An advertisement
  • A phone in
  • A competition

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Tango app iconTango? Yes, as in ‘to takes two to’.

Two Tangos then? Yes, one sits on your iPad, one sits on the iPhone (or iPod).

And when you have two Tangos? One acts as a remote control for the other.

Once installed you have complete access to you iTunes library: playlists, songs, albums, videos, podcasts. The obvious use is remotely controlling your iPad (loaded with music and plugged into a dock or sound system) with your iPhone, though Tango does allow you to set them up with the remote working the opposite way.

At school? I have my iPad plugged into the classroom projector. But this isn’t convenient for stopping starting music and videos. Here’s where Tango comes in. Same setup, but now I have a remote that works wherever there’s a wireless network. (There’s a bluetooth option but this doesn’t work with my 3GS phone.

In practice it’s easy as. The two apps find each other quickly (5-10 seconds) and there’s no apparent lag in operation. You can add a password, disable auto-lock and sync changes to the library.

The remote for the videos is certainly useful, especially when viewing music clips, as pausing from a remote is much more convenient.

Tango costs $5.49, but it’s a solid, well thought out and practical app that should be on your shopping list.

iPhone Tango screenshot

 

iPad Tango Screenshot

 

AV Wireless transmitterWe’re in the process of establishing a radio station at school. I’ve established some links with the wonderful people at our local FM station GulfFM and we’re hoping to have a low-powered community FM station set up in the next 12 months.

In the meantime I’ve put together some equipment in one of our practice rooms for the older students to experiment and practice on.

At the heart of the setup is our old Yamaha mixing desk. With 16 inputs, we can easily control several microphones, a CD player and an iPad. There’s obviously no automation or board-control of the music, but it does mean that up to four students can each have a discrete job to do on the board:

  1. Announcer 1
  2. Announcer 2
  3. CD / phone / iPod music / iPad soundboard
  4. Engineer / Mixer

The single headphone out signal goes to a small 4-socket Behringer headphone amp, so all four students can monitor the show they’re creating.

I’ve plugged an AV transmitter in the REC OUT socket and we’re ‘beaming’ the transmission through several walls and windows to the main music room where the transmitter’s receiver is plugged into a sound system.

Voila! Instant radio station!

We’ll have to be careful of broadcasting though as the AV transmitter blankets the wireless spectrum and will severely disrupt the music room’s Internet Wireless.

Next on the list: a real audience. We’ll feed the AV signal to a mobile amp and some groups of students are getting quite excited by the prospect of broadcasting to lunch time audiences.