Monthly Archives: August 2014

One App at a Time: Practice+

Frankly, sophisticated apps like Practice+ can intimidate me. I prefer those that only have a few features that also seem extremely screen568x568-1intuitive. Although this enhanced metronome app was quite easy to explore, the multiple features had me wondering if this would be worth my consideration for most of my students.

However…after I experimented with the recording option, it dawned on me that this could be the PERFECT app for an adult student of mine who continues to struggle with finding and sticking with a steady beat.

As I played through a piece using the “Clave” metronome set to 8th note subdivisions–there are SO many options from which to choose–I recorded my practice with the metronome and saved it with an appropriate title and then listened to the recording, all within the same app. I was close to being right on with a tendency to be slightly in front of the pulse–typical of yours truly.

Since my student struggles to know if she is on the beat, this practice metronome with a recording feature could be a dynamite tool to help her finally secure a steady, strict pulse. By listening to herself practice with the metronome she could possibly (hopefully!) self correct her wobbly adherence to the beat.

There’s an option to email recordings which could offer my student a chance to send me a sample of her practice for feedback and encouragement from me between lessons.

screen568x568Now that you’ve heard my initial reactions of Practice+, I’ll finish the post by listing ALL the options of this performance toolkit.

  • You can personalize the app by choosing one of 5 themes or colors.
  • Practice+ contains five separate modes including Tuner, Metronome, Recorder, Setlist and Loop Modes. Each mode can work simultaneously with the metronome which is easily controlled via the compact metronome bar that is always on-screen.
  • The developers claim the Tuner to be powerfully accurate.
  • The Metronome can be customized to various meters, accents, subdivisions, sounds and more.
  • Pitch Player mode is offered to check intonation–obviously not as useful for a pianist–but definitely for a string or wind player.
  • The Recorder is incredibly easy to use and finished sessions are easily shared right from your device.
  • If you are working on multiple pieces, the SetList feature allows you to create setlists and save all settings with a single tap.
  • The Practice Mode allows you to loop difficult passages as it increases tempo automatically with each repetition.


Leila’s Opinion of Practice+ $3.99

Compatibility: Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch and is optimized for iPhone 5.

Application Potential: 4/5

This app equips the slightly techie and truly devoted practicer/performer not only with a souped-up metronome but also offers screen568x568-2instant feedback on progress thanks to the recording option and opportunities to organize tempos of your current repertoire. The ability to email recordings of performances is a huge bonus!

Ability to Use with Ease: 4/5

The navigation may be intimidating for younger students–this is definitely for the seasoned app user.

Assessment of Investment: 4/5

There are plenty of metronomes, many of which I am unfamiliar, so it is hard to know if this is THE right metronome for you. However, for $3.99 you will find an array of features that make this more than a mere metronome. It is a well-stocked performance toolkit that could definitely help with building your musical skills and ultimately worth your investment.

Total Score: 12/15

How to Track App Assignments: Part Two

How to Track Apps Assignments: Part Two

Part one of this series provided general idea on WHEN and HOW to design appphoto (52)assignments during lessons. To give you a clearer picture on WHAT to assign and how to track assignments, here’s a snap shot of how I recently integrated apps into my summer lessons.

1) Missing gap waiting for attention was determined. As I want to build stronger ear players as well as good readers, I decided that each student would choose one tune to learn and harmonize by ear.

2) Theme was chosen to create a common studio thread. To narrow down the choice of play-by-ear tunes, I thought it’d be fun to hold a patriotic theme and offer the following tunes from which to choose: America, My Country ’Tis of Thee, Star Spangled Banner or Yankee Doodlefor the early beginners.

3) Apps to reinforce the play-by-ear patriotic theme. Among other things, developing  ear skills demands aural recognition of intervals.

photo (44)1Therefore, I visited my app folder entitled “Intervals”and chose some specific apps to assign for Music Tech Time. After exploring them I designed assignments for various levels of students.

Apps in my Interval folder include: Right Note, Good Ears: Interval, Tenuto and more.

4) Macro plan devised to shape individual assignments. All students are required to take 5 lessons during the summer so I designed 5 weeks of lesson plans allowing for tweaks and additional assignments. There’s plenty of wiggle room for adding more or reducing tasks depending upon what the student may need to build confidence.

5) Assignment details are personalized. The younger the student, the fewer variables assigned. For ex: early students were assigned to compare Major seconds and thirds, when training to aurally identify intervals. As the listener earned a passing score, more intervals were added to the mix. More advanced students were assigned more intervals ascending and descending.

Also, I always plan at least two to three app assignments per lesson to keep things interesting. Piano Maestro is ALWAYS the default favorite.

6) Finally, here’s how assignments are tracked. Once this macro plan has been designed, I keep track of what is accomplished at each lesson on the students assignment sheet which is stored in a Dropbox folder shared by me and the student family.

The first page features three columns: Assignments, Strategies and Goals. I provide tips on how to practice in the Strategy column so that the desired goals can be met by the next lesson. Both the strategies and goals are determined and agreed upon by student and teacher. The gray boxes include extra tips from Ms Leila, a lesson schedule (since the summer schedule is so random for my students) goals for the summer and a progress score. To learn more about progress scores, click here.

Included on the second page is a chart for Music Tech Time assignments.Remember, these follow my macro schedule but customized for each student when arriving at the lesson. Any tasks completed and scores are recorded after the student’s lesson.

In addition, this page includes space to record progress scores. If scores are low, this is a good sign that something is NOT right and a change in practice habits, an attitude shift or perhaps lesson termination should be considered.

Some may argue that this is just too much work! If you want your investment in an iPad, and new apps to pay off, expect to put forth some extra effort. Because of this, make sure to be compensated for your time and money by designing Music Tech Time in tandem with your lessons and add the fees to your tuition.  This will provide additional income, extra time with students and ultimately more progress thanks to the power of apps. If you care to learn more about Music Tech time (or Lab time—my former title), make sure to check out chapter two in The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps.

How to Track App Assignments: Part One

How to Track App Assignments: Part One

Unfortunately, just accumulating cool music apps will NOT set your studio apart.

Utilizing apps to their full capacity and tracking how they enhance your students’ progress 2 (13)

Most would agree that this integration process is THE most tricky part of using today’s technology. Each of your students is on an individual musical path, advancing at various speeds.
This requires customized assignments and with a studio of 20+ students, this can be a tedious task.

There are various solutions to this dilemma. Power tool apps that provide individual accounts, feedback and progress like Piano Maestro are extremely helpful—hooray!

However, sometimes other apps must be employed and it’s helpful to keep a record of their use. Before I dive into how I keep track of assignments, it may be helpful to review WHEN I use apps and HOW I design app assignments for each student.

In general, there are three ways to incorporate apps into your savvy instruction:

1) Lesson Time—during the lesson at the piano with your student.

2) Music Tech Time (thanks to David Love for this title!)—time reserved for each student before or after the lesson for various assignments to reinforce ear training, sight reading, etc.

3) Home Practice—tasks assigned at the lesson for students to complete at home. (FYI: currently, I do not assign home practice on any apps except for Piano Maestro.)

Here are some suggestions on how to create assignments using apps:

1) Get to know your apps. Once you purchase them, play with them and discover how to customize each app (if possible) to suit the needs of various levels and your agenda.

2) As you make friends with each app, file similar ones into folders on your iPad screen leilablogappfolderwith specific names for easy access. Learn more here.

3) Create studio themes to help you determine what concepts to reinforce. General themes like chords, scales, history, rhythm are effective as are more specific ones like playing by ear, composition, etc. All students take part in activities designed around a theme in some way. Ex: “Know Your Chords, Kid” (I like catchy titles!): younger students are assigned to hear, play, spell, and notate white key triads while more advanced students may do the same with 7th chords.

4) Fill in the gaps. During a lesson you may realize that a pianist is struggling with a concept like dotted quarter notes. Even if an assignment was planned prior to the lesson, postpone the task. Instead, dig into your app treasure chest and choose one that reinforces rhythm using dote quarter notes to boost confidence.

With an arsenal of recommended apps, it’s not too difficult to determine WHAT apps to use and strategies for WHEN to use them. The question then remains: HOW to keep track of app scores and assignments?

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this system is by giving you a sneak peek into my current summer studio theme and lesson notes. Your sneak peek can be found on THIS post.

iPad Piano Teacher: Wendi O’Reilly Stunzi

Wendi O’Reilly Stunzi , BM, BS, MMEd, EdS, MT-BC

An ongoing feature of The iPad Piano Studio book is to locate and interview IMG_1911teachers who are integrating the iPad into their instruction. Wendi agreed to share some of her iPad experiences with me. I know you will be interested in hearing about her tech-savvy studio. She is extremely devoted to her profession with expertise in a number of areas –  just take a look at all the letters behind her name!

Tell us a little about yourself, Wendi.

I have undergraduate degrees in music education, music therapy, piano performance and chemistry. My Masters is in Music Education and piano performance, and my Specialists is in Music Education.  I also have a T-7 in education and a certification in special education. Moral of this story–I enjoy learning and my husband traveled 2-3 weeks out of month for the first 13 years of our marriage!

I graduated from the University of Georgia and began working as a music therapist at the Coastal Center in Ladsen, South Carolina near Charleston.  This is a residential facility (cottage style and hospital) for severely handicapped with multi-handicapped children that are not able to live at home.  I was there for several years and then began working as a music therapist at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, also a wonderful experience.  All teachers used sign language even if you worked in the multi-handicap center which was the elementary age children.  Imagine a football game with deaf students- what we called a major drumming circle!


From high school until now, whatever position I had, I have always taught piano.  The studio size just varied.  I had our son in my 30’s so I did a lot of this a bit backwards.  After Joe, my Continue reading