Monthly Archives: January 2014

One App at a Time: Piano Mania

For years, sight reading triggered personal fear and insecurity. I feared I would fail and felt insecure whenmzl.hhqqeabm.175x175-75 I compared myself to peers who seemed undaunted by the task of reading new scores.

As I teach out of reaction to my own experiences and feelings, it is essential that my students become strong grand staff readers and overcome their fears of sight reading as I eventually did. Early readers develop solid skills with continual reinforcement; in fact, a great deal of reinforcement that I find dreadfully boring to include during lessons. Oops…probably shouldn’t have said that but it’s true.

Thankfully things have changed significantly since I was a child on the bench. Now methods to build AND teach grand staff reading skills are available on my favorite iDevice thanks to various developers. Yigal and Yuval Kaminka, the master mind developers behind Joytunes‘ latest app called Piano Mania have struck gold.  The innovative, musical brothers recognized that humans enjoy winning and took advantage of the addictive tendencies of top-selling video games and paired them with essential reading skills for musicians to master.  This combination coupled with appealing music and an elite technical team has created an unbeatable, magnetic AND educational app.

The app offers an elaborate system for building reading skills that benefit both students and teachers.  Let me explain.

screen480x480-1For the Budding Music Reader and Electronically Inclined Student: Musical Incentives

To begin using the app, players are asked to create a profile and the app then keeps track of personal progress. Pianists begin with the first chapter of songs and must watch notes on one or both staves stream across the screen.  They must play the correct keys on the iPad screen OR a keyboard of choice within correct timing. The catchy back-up tracks and engaging graphics make the journey through each chapter quite addictive. As students receive evaluation feedback from the app and improve their scores, they move up in rank and are even invited to skip to a higher rank if they feel ready for more challenging pieces.

The immediate appeal of Piano Mania is that students can look ahead to upcoming tunes which can be unlocked once current songs are “passed”. Joytunes has collected and continues to add current hits to the library. The lure of these student favorites and the carefully sequenced selection of exercises provides the perfect “carrot” to keep gamers playing and improving their skills.

Instead of me going into more detail, I’d recommend checking out the Piano Mania info page (click here). Next, click  here to download your free version.You and your students will be hooked immediately.

For the Caring and Curious Teacher: Convenient Record Keepingscreen480x480-3

Perhaps the most important feature of this app is the ability for players to use it with an iPad alone or with an acoustic or digital piano with NO additional fancy wires. Reading and practicing new songs on a real piano closely simulates the experience most pianists (and teachers) would prefer.

With the latest version, a new roaming profile feature allows students to access their profile and play on any iPad. This means that you can assign Piano Mania homework to students and have access to organized student records relaying progress. Ahhh…no more “dreadfully boring” sight-reading activities during lessons. :-)

Want advice from the developers on how to use the app? Click here.

Looking for sheet music for many of the library tunes? Click here.

Want to stay up-to-date with all things Piano Mania? Make sure to register as a teacher.  You’ll be invited to do so once you become a Piano Mania subscriber.

For the Addicted Piano Mania Fans: Fresh Formatscreen480x480

If you are already using Piano Mania there are some terrific upgrades in the latest version. The shiny new graphics have been adjusted to suit the retina display for the latest iPad models. In the past, notes travelled across the screen on a slanted staff. The developers have listened to those bothered with this angled format and the notes now appear on a straight staff.

The new roaming profiles mentioned above just make this app even more appealing.

One more bonus, the support behind the award-winning app continues to become stronger and more personal. Click here to join the Joytunes Teachers Facebook Group.


Honestly, there’s little reason for me to carry on about Piano ManiaJoytunes is the recipient of numerous international awards which speaks volumes for the app. The most recent award: Piano Mania has been voted THE #1 education app in the United States and 20 other countries.


Need something for young pre-readers? Check out Joytunes Piano DustBusters. There’s no room to share more about this clever app featuring a grandma dusting germs from a keyboard. However, your gamers–oops, I mean students–will love this one! Watch the video below.


Leila’s Opinion of  Piano Mania: Free, with in-app purchases up to $49.99

Application Potential: 5/5

When learning is hidden behind the magic of game playing the result is progress. Considering the past projects of this award-winning app development team, the potential for Piano Mania and future apps is unprecedented.

What you may miss:

  • Customizable avatars for player profiles
  • Harmonic intervals and chords included within the tunes

Ability to Use with Ease: 5/5

As the Kaminko brothers take gaming strategies seriously and realize the need for an intuitive platform, even rookie players will find this app incredibly easy to use.

Assessment of Investment: 5/5

With new exercises and music including current pop hits added to the library on a monthly basis, this app is worth the investment towards enhanced, studio-wide reading and practice skills. Although some may prefer to avoid a prescription based app, this is the way of the future. Your subscription also keeps the app developers accountable to continual upgrades and excellent customer support.

Total Score: 15/15


Interested in a three-month Piano Mania subscription?

To be eligible,

1) be an owner of or order a copy of my book The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps  before January 31st, 11:59pm.  Order your copy by clicking here.

2) Leave a comment to this post giving one reason why you are interested in Piano Mania for your studio.

PS: Make sure to like The iPad Piano Studio and Joytunes Facebook Pages!

iPad Revolution-Book-Comp-4 2Interested in my other blogs and projects? Please visit Leila


A Wild Studio Project Using GarageBand

artworkUrl512GarageBand. For years, I’ve had a healthy respect for this app coupled with intimidation. Most iPad apps are simple units or bite-sized pieces of software. GarageBand is SO much more and I knew that to unlock the secrets of this app–beyond its impressive recording studio–I needed some guidance and inspiration. I’ll be the first to tell you that most of my ideas are spawned by those much more creative than myself. Katie Wardrobe is one of those peeps. In late September 2013, I was preparing for an October group lesson and wanted to include a “scary” creative activity.

My search took me to Katie’s frighteningly wonderful idea. Watch the video below.

I decided I would attempt a similar project during October’s group lesson week. Although I IMG_1060adore writing, I prefer penning what I know and not fictional stories. As a short and slightly scary story was essential, a trip to my boys’ favorite story book library led me to Where the Wild Things Are. With my newly acquired Blue Snowball Mic, I recorded myself reading the story. There’s no need for the mic but it does make for an extra high-quality recording. As I’m no “audio-book” narrator, my interpretation was less than scary (where is James Earl Jones when I need him?) but thanks to GarageBand’s capability of tweaking sounds, my voice seemed a little less matronly. Here’s a check list of what I did next:

2-snowball-usb-mic1) Changed the tone of my voice to “Dreamy” with one of the presets offered when using the mic recording option.

2) Reread the book and determined where sound effects would be most appropriate.

3) Explained the project to students at each group lesson and chose one section for them to design and and record for the soundtrack. I demonstrated some of the ideas from Katie Wardrobe’s video above but encouraged students to produce most of the effects on the piano as I wanted them to experiment with sounds on the piano–their instrument. One sound I just couldn’t resist was the violin string glissando for the vines growing up Max’s wall. Those were obviously not created at the keyboard.

4)  Recorded soundtracks for the following “scenes” created by each group lesson throughout IMG_0485the week.

  • Opening and Closing Theme
  • Max stomping to his room
  • Trees and vines growing
  • Ocean waves
  • Monsters screaming, etc.

5) Edited, trimmed and moved soundtrack excerpts to match the storyline.

6) Students were invited to listen to the finished soundtrack while following along with the book the following week . Many did so more than once.

88 Piano Keys Studio Garage Band Project 2013


PS: Good news! With your purchase of an iPad Air, GarageBand comes free.