Tag Archives: apps for music

App Review “ScaleBlitzer” by BlitzBooks – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

I was a kid who, when it came time to study for school exams, would always pick maths first. Not because I was particularly good at maths or that it was my favourite subject (it certainly wasn’t). But to me it was about right or wrong. I had the answer right, or I had the answer wrong, so I knew how I was going. Maths had structure, order and logic and working my way through a list of problems was easy discipline.

Playing scales is, to me, a very similar discipline. You have a list of them and work your way through the list. If you play with the correct fingering you should end up finishing in the right place. OK, that’s probably a bit of a simplistic way of looking at it, but you get the point. Structure, order and logic. The things that suit my brain so well.

Piano Teacher Wallsend NSWI have posted before about how important scales are and why we play both them and arpeggios, but I am very aware that not everybody finds them quite as mesmerising as I do. Sometimes you need to kick things up a level. Add a bit of variety. That’s where the app “ScaleBlitzer” comes into the routine. I use this occasionally during lessons, but also encourage my students to use it regularly at home.

Enter all of the scales you have been given into your homework list and the app will generate a vast range of activities based on those scales. Basically, it throws them back at you in a random order, with added instructions. Mixing it up a bit. ScaleBlitzer remembers your homework and keeps track of your progress.

Piano Teacher Wallsend NSW

Once you enter the Practice Studio, there are five different modes from which to choose:

  1. Warm-up: Easy practice methods like ‘ascending only’, ‘play twice’, or ‘no blowing, fingering only’.
  2. Basic: No practice method given, just straight out no-frills instructions (e.g. like you would get in an exam).
  3. Muscle Builder: Practice methods using such things as rhythms and accents.
  4. Brain Strain: Harder practice methods, or a combination of two methods (e.g. in a certain rhythm AND staccato).
  5. Thrill Seeker: This mode will give you either really tough methods, or sometimes three different methods to incorporate into one scale.

The following is just a sample of the type of direction you may read:

  • Play twice, second time faster
  • Double staccato
  • Descending then ascending
  • Rhythm: “Seventy sixty fifty”
  • Play three times without stopping
  • Play twice, mezzo forte first time, piano second time
  • Accent: “Galloping galloping”

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

One of the features that makes using this app interesting is the self-rating feature. After each scale, you need to select how you think you went – Perfect 1st go, Got it eventually or Having trouble – before moving on to the next one. As we know, effective practise requires listening to the way you’ve played something and deciding whether it needs more work or not. This self-rating system encourages listening and critical thinking, rather than just playing through.

The app remembers what you do well and where you have trouble and future sessions are based on where the work is needed. You will be tested more often on the ones you’re having trouble with, until they start to improve.

Along the way, points are accumulated and characters and outfits are chosen and changed. Once you have made it through a Practice Studio session (5 scales/activities), it will offer you the opportunity to go on a World Tour, where you can choose your character, outfit and the countries in which you will play. The kids love getting to this part and it’s lovely to see their inner rock-child or pop princess come to the fore in their outfit choices! You can even record your playing to show your teacher what you have been doing.

Piano Teacher Wallsend

Overall, the aim is to make technical work more interesting to play while having a bit of fun along the way. I like using it as a teaching tool because it makes my students stop and think about what they are playing. For students, your technique will be improving without you being bored. For parents, it’s a bonus to have any resource that makes the kids want to play instead of having to nag them. You will also know they are practising the scales that need the most attention, because ScaleBlitzer is keeping track of it. At the end of the day, improved technical work means improved technique, which results in improved playing. If we can add in a bit of fun and variety along the way, then we have a bonus!

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

There’s an App for That! – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

School holidays are upon us again and I’m being realistic. I know it’s unlikely most of my students will do any piano practise during the holidays. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be still keeping their other skills up-to-date.

Most of them have iPads and/or iPods and there are a wealth of apps they can use to help reinforce note recognition, rhythms and theory, as well as co-ordination. Best of all, they will think they are just playing but we adults know they are still learning while having fun.

Many of the good quality apps have a small cost attached, but usually have a sample/lite version for free so you can check it out first.

Following is a small selection of apps I use regularly:

Rhythm Cat
Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSWPiano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSWRhythm Cat teaches and reinforces the most commonly-used musical rhythm notation. The free ‘Lite’ version has 15 levels while the ‘Pro’ version works up to following three different colours in each rhythm, encouraging co-ordination of both hands.

 

 

 

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSWThe ‘Cat’ family also includes ‘Treble Cat’ and ‘Bass Cat’. I don’t tend to use Bass Cat with my beginners because it starts in a different octave, but Treble Cat is better suited. These games involve recognising the notes from amongst a group of notes, not just on their own. The notes also move slowly, giving you plenty of time to recognise the correct notes.

 

 

 

NoteWorks
Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSWA basic note recognition app, NoteWorks is customisable for difficulty, including clef/s and range of notes. The interface and sound effects are fun for younger students, but the app still moves quickly enough to be challenging for older students and adults.

Part of the customisation is being able to choose whether you simply name the note, or name it plus locate it on the keyboard.

Piano Teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSW

 

Magic Piano
Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSW

While this may seem a strange selection because it involves neither note recognition or a keyboard, I love it because it not only encourages eye-hand co-ordination and developing fine motor skills, but also exposes the students to a range of music they might not otherwise hear. Music education apps don’t always need to be obviously teaching 🙂

This addictive app also helps to develop a good sense of rhythm.

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSW

 

 

My Note Games

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSW

This app has a suite of different games within it and caters to a range of abilities. Also, some games use the microphone to hear what you are playing on your own piano (which the kids love), while others use just the device.

 

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSWTap that Note uses the device to identify notes, while Play that Note requires you to play to specified note on the piano (or whatever instrument you tell the app you are using). Play-a-day is a great sight reading exercise for intermediate students. As the name suggests, Hear It, Note It – also available as a standalone game – involves listening to what is played and notating it and has three difficulty levels within. Activities include tasks such as adding accidentals to correct a scale or completing rhythms with notes, rests and bar lines.

 

 

Tenuto

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSW

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSWWhile it does contain basic note recognition, Tenuto is really suited to more advanced students, as the majority of activities are more complex.

 

 

 

 

 

 Beat the Melody

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSW

The concept of this is quite simple… if the notes are going up, tap the screen more to the right; if the notes are descending, tap the screen to the left. It is designed to test your aural ability.

However, these are not simple melodies. If it’s not a tune you already know, the songs can be difficult as some can have up to 50 or 60 notes (or more!). Consequently, this is not for beginners. It’s a great aural tester for experienced musicians, though.

Piano teacher Wallsend Newcastle NSW

Enjoy your holidays!

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW or mobile lessons are available in the eastern suburbs of Lake Macquarie.