Monthly Archives: May 2014

One App at a Time: NoteStar

Let’s face it, which one of YOUR students is headed to Carnegie Hall? Let’s go toolkit-small-png1further and ask the question: how many parents who contact you about lessons are hoping their budding musician masters a Bach fugue–especially those who begin a little later? One more: how many of your students around the age of 12 or so decide to stop lessons because they have lost interest?

Digging even deeper, although you would love to have students willingly practice everything you assign, teaching piano is not always that easy. In addition, if you hope to develop a thriving studio, it’s not always about your desires and tastes but more about pleasing the local customer base. This may require an adjustment from your past lesson experience and pedigree. A typical, traditional approach may not match those who warm your bench. I dare say that if you want to be profitable and run a successful business, it may be necessary to make some changes, take time to understand the motivation behind teens (and really any age) at the keys and carry additional strategies up your sleeve.

Tim Topham has recognized this deficit between the training of most piano teachers and the expectations of today’s potential students–especially those in the teen years. His practical e-book called Teen Teaching Toolkit provides tips that promise to help you deal with the delicate teen psyche.

“Teenagers don’t quit piano because they don’t like music, it’s much more likely to be due to ineffective teaching and/or a lack of connection with their teacher.”

– Tim Topham


Make sure to order your free copy by clicking here! Topham recognizes that to provide relevant instruction to teens, it must be enhanced with, among other things, the latest technology–someone after my own heart!

He shares his thoughts about this in his e-book and his savvy blog. When asked to choose just one app he uses with his students, Tim immediately chose NoteStar. Here’s why:

p16khr7kpb194d1vi44n5g1or7j3“The free NoteStar app by Yamaha is probably the app I use more than any other when it comes to teaching teens. NoteStar provides backing tracks with full vocals for all the latest pop songs. It is updated regularly with new material and also has lots of the famous music from the 60s-90s. You’ll even find Baroque and Classical music (try playing along to a string section for Canon in D!). While the app is free, songs are about $4 to download, however you can download the first 30 seconds of every song in the catalogue for free to check out whether you’d like it and to see how easy/hard the music is to play.

NoteStar is perfect for kids who want to play pop music as it makes otherwise repetitive pop-song chord progressions much more interesting. The on-screen music has printed notation and chord charts so students who can’t read music can still play by chords. There is also a feature to change the music to any key and also play at 3/4 and 1/2 speed while practising.”

A review is helpful but an example of how an app can transform a teaching experience is much more interesting. Therefore, I’ve asked Tim to explain a positive experience using NoteStar. He writes:

“I took on a 12-year-old girl as a transfer student about a year ago. She’d been learning for 5 years with another teacher who only taught 3 pieces a year! She was totally bored and ready to quit. Mum was keen to have her continue and not waste all the time (and money!) they’d invested, so brought her to me. decided she needed to take a different tack, so I asked her what pop music she liked. We discovered that she really wanted to play “Skyfall” by Adele and really like Rihanna’s music.

So we got on YouTube and started exploring tutorials and music videos to get a feel for her tastes. This is when NoteStar saved the day. It just so happened that one of the Rihanna songs she really liked had a backing track and vocals on NoteStar. I introduced her to the app and we worked out how to play the piece using the chords and some of the melody notes.

She was thrilled! Now she could play piano along to her favourite singer and full band. She was hooked!”

Tim’s Opinion of NoteStar:

Application Potential: 5imgres

“Note: There’s two things that you can’t do with the app: print out the music notation and export the audio (they want to keep you in the app!)”

Ability to Use with Ease: 5

“You get to sample all the music for free before you buy! How can you go wrong?”

Total Score: 15/15

Don’t forget to attain your free copy of Tim’s book here! This will automatically sign you up for Topham’s regular series of videos about teaching coming soon. Thank you, Tim for sharing your favorite app, avid research and practical advice to help us all make music with our teenaged students!

iPad Piano Teacher: David Love


David Love is the co-director a large, successful piano studio in Rexburg, Idaho. As a young, experienced teacher, he offers contemporary but a proven approach to teaching with music technology that keeps the phone ringing. In July of 2013, after three years of part-time piano teaching, both he and his wife made the decision to open the doors to full-time piano teaching. In less than one month, they doubled the studio to 65 students. Now with 71 students and a rapidly growing wait list, they’ve hired seriously fun teachers to grow their studio eve more. David credits much of this success to an open mind toward innovative technology and adherence to proven teaching principles. With 2014 devoted to a study in piano pedagogy and specifically the use of the iPad, he offers a new fresh approach to teaching that keeps students captivated and parents delighted.

Note: make sure to like the Love Family Piano Page on Facebook. It will give you a sneak peak at all the innovative opportunities David and Denae offer their students AND it also showcases some marvelous performances by both of them as well.

Here are David’s answers to my questions:

photo 1Thanks for the pics of your studio! Please share more details about it.

We currently teach out of our home where we’ve dedicated the front living room and front bedroom as separate studios where we can teach simultaneously. In each studio, there are stations with midi keyboards that either hook up to an iPad or MacBook Pro. Students come 15 minutes early or stay after their lesson to explore music apps that help with note identification, creativity, or music theory in general. We call this Music Tech Time (MTT). Continue reading