Music technology has definitely come a long way since the first days of MIDI and keyboards in the 1980s. Below are some useful tips, tricks, programs, and apps that are a must-have for today’s modern music teacher!
1. Tuning apps-You can get these for free on your smart phone or tablet, and a good recommendation is DaTunerLite. It accurately shows the concert pitch you’re playing chromatically, to within a tenth of a cent! The app will change from orange to green if it detects a perfectly tuned pitch. It also shows decibel levels (loudness) and Hertz levels (frequency). You can also manually adjust the settings, including the lowest frequency of detection and if you want to change the standard tuning of A4. If more advanced musicians/students want to tune with the pitch pipe function, you have to upgrade and buy the “pro” version.
2. Metronome apps-You can also get these for free on your device. Another great recommendation: Mobile Metronome. You can set the tempo one of three ways. First, you can use the + or – buttons to increase or decrease the tempo, you can scroll left or right on the scrollbar, or you can tap a steady beat to approximate the tempo. You can of course choose the time signature (2-20 beats per measure), control the volume level, select subdivisions (up to 6 subdivisions), decide if the first beat is emphasized with an accent, and can even choose different sounds (electric, wooden clave, cowbell, and classic metronome). A really neat feature about this app is that you can save a preset for all the variable adjustments, then load it at a later time. The “pro” version, which has to be bought, adds a few more features, like being able to choose beats from a laid-out selection, flashing and vibrating on every beat, and no ads.
3. Shazam-this app helps the casual listener identify what is being played on the radio, TV, or online that has piqued their interest. For teachers, we can use this to become more ready for our students’ requests to learn the newest song. Or you can use it find a song or artist and instantly listen to a preview if your student’s request doesn’t ring a bell. A great feature is that it connects to social media and Spotify, a music streaming service.
4. CamScanner-great app if you’re under time constraints and need to quickly scan some music and send it to your students’ parents and don’t own a scanning machine/all-in-one printer. It basically takes pictures with your phone’s camera, lets you crop, resize, and rotate the picture, readjusts and finishes to a nice quality, then lets you share via email or other apps.
5. This computer program has been mentioned before, and it definitely deserves another mention: MuseScore. In the world of music composition programs, this is a definite win over others, not only for the price (free vs. $300-$600 competitors), but also because it’s relatively user-friendly and has many versatile functions. However, if you also compose music for a living, it probably would be better to use something with a full scope of capabilities like Sibelius or Finale.
6. Digital pianos: if you do happen to own one of these, most support a function to record a track of yourself playing an accompaniment and save it as a mp3 file. Many also include a transposition function and feature different sounds so that you can play a harpsichord for a Baroque piece, or string orchestra for an orchestral transcription. But most importantly, a good-quality digital piano is one that is weighted, and feels and sounds like a real acoustic piano.
Hopefully this all helps. If you find any new and different music-related technology, freely pass it on to the music world so we can all teach, perform, create, and listen in better ways!
Teacher Liaison, Columbus, OH
Piano Lessons In Your Home, Inc.