Friday, April 29, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week - April 29th

Sight Reading on the Classical Guitar - Part 3 | Classical Guitar Review
Simon continues his discussion about why sight reading is important for guitar players.  This article focuses on the benefits of good sight reading.

Which one is "Write"? | Leila Viss | Music Teachers Blog

Leila reviews two free programs for notating compositions.  Read her post for more information.
Have you tried either of these?  I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments.

Let's talk! Have any finds that you would like to pass on? Post a comment below or send me an email.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chordmaster LE iPhone App - Review

I was recently looking for an easy-to-use (and free!) app for guitar chords. I like to have a guitar chord chart for teaching my students new chords. Plus, it's also nice to have an app that I can point them to that is free.

I came across Chordmaster LE and have been pleased with it. While this is the lite edition and there is a full edition that you can buy, the lite edition has been adequate for my needs.

It's easy to select what chord you are looking for. It shows fingering in a clear manner. Plus, you can even "strum" across the virtual guitar and hear what the chord sounds like.

Click here for the app!

Disclaimer: This recommendation is purely my own based upon what I personally have found helpful.

Question for you: What music-related apps do you use? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your feedback!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Moments of Truth

One summer during my college years I worked in the accounting department of a company - as a file clerk.  I'm sure my job title was something more illustrious than that, but there was nothing illustrious about filing papers for eight hours a day.  While the job was not spectacular - but I was glad for a job - I did gain a great insight from one of the training sessions the department had.

The point was made is that each interaction a customer has with a company is a moment of truth - either a positive one or a negative one - and the key is to make every interaction a positive moment of truth.

Think about your own experience as a customer.  What companies do you like?  What companies to you dislike?  Why do you feel that way about them?  My guess is it probably has to do with your interaction with one or more people from that company.  The barista at the coffee shop did an outstanding job of making your latte just right.  The teller at the bank really messed up your transaction.  The cashier at the grocery store greeted you with a sincerely friendly smile.

So, as a music teacher, how does this translate into your job?
Here are my ideas:

- Be professional.  

This means having a professional website or blog (if you have one).  This means answering your phone professionally.  This means responding to emails and phone calls promptly.  You get the idea.  Teaching music is your job.  Treat it with the professionalism it deserves.

- Be upbeat.
You probably teach music because you like it.  Be enthusiastic about what you do.  Let your enthusiasm spill over to your students and parents.

- Communicate. 
I can't stress this one enough.  As I stated earlier, be on top of responding to emails and phone calls.  Keep parents in the loop on how their child is doing in his lessons - this could be through a brief chat at the end of the lesson, through an email, or through a phone call.  Talk with your students.  Find out what they want to get from their lessons.  Find out what music they like.  Find out why they are taking lessons.  Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Let's talk: How do you try to make every interaction with students and parents a positive moment of truth?

Friday, April 15, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week - April 15th

Have fun reading!

Sight Reading on the Classical Review - Part 2 | Classical Guitar Review

Here's a great argument for why guitarists should learn to sight read.

The Guitar Noize Regular Maintenance Guide | Guitar Noize

You've probably spent a decent amount of money on your guitar.  Here's a good guide for how to take care of it.

7 Simple Ways to Painlessly Increase Your Freelancing Rates | Freelance Folder

As a music teacher, part of your job is to figure out how to set your fees.  This article discusses both why your fees are important and strategies for increasing your fees.

Let's talk: What have you found this week?  Share your findings below.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Studio Management - Managing Your Contacts

Today I want to share a simple tip for helping you with your studio management.  If you've been running a studio for even a short amount of time, you have probably accumulated a list of contacts for students that you currently teach, potential students, and maybe even students who are on a waiting list.  I use a Gmail account for my studio email address, and I have found the contacts section to be extremely helpful in managing my contact information.  Here is how I use it and why I find it useful. 

- It is easy to enter information.
It's simply a matter of typing in the information.  These are the things I include: name of parent, phone number, email address, and home address.  I specially like the notes section.  There I type in the name of the student, his age, and if he has had any previous music lessons.  I also make note here when the inquiry was made, what price I have quoted to the parent, how the lessons will be paid for, and when the student will have his lesson.  I also make note here if the student will be taking piano or guitar lessons. 

- It is easy to organize and access information.
I have set up a group in my contacts labeled "Music Lessons" (since I teach both piano and guitar lessons).  Every contact related to lessons - whether it is a prospective student, a current student, or a previous student - goes into this group.  Then when I want to send out any group emails or a mailing, all I have to do is pull up this group and take a look at the contacts there.   
The nice thing about having this information in my Gmail account is that I can access it from anywhere as long as I have an internet connection.  I used to have all this information consolidated in an Excel spreadsheet, but struggled to keep it updated between my laptop and my desktop.  Plus, with having these contacts in Gmail, I can also access them from my iPod touch. 

- It is easy to search for information.
Gmail has a search function built into its contacts section.  So, if I can't remember exact details, or if I want to search say for just my guitar students, I can just enter my search term.  And voila!  There's a list of the contacts that fit my search term. 

Let's talk!  What system do you use to organize your contact information?  I'd love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment below! 

Friday, April 8, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week - April 8th

This week's articles are all about teaching ideas. Have fun seeing some great ideas that other piano teachers have shared.

Teaching High and Low | The Teaching Studio
Jenny shares a great – and easy! - idea on helping your beginner students to understand the difference between high and low on the piano.

Anne shares a great tip on how to use reusable worksheets without shelling out a ton of money for laminating them all.

Teaching Aids: Activities | Piano Discoveries
Here is a treasure trove of activities that will add some great fun – and some great learning experiences – to your studio.

Let's talk! Have any finds that you would like to pass on? Post a comment below or send me an email.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the questions I am asked most frequently. 

- What is your teaching style?
My teaching style is to approach each student as unique with unique abilities, interests, and points of struggle.  I try to tailor my lessons to the needs, interests, and goals of each student.  A typical lesson that I conduct spends time going over what I've assigned the student to practice the previous week, and then I spend time going over new music, working on sight-reading skills, and points of technique, artistry, and theory.

- Do you hold any recitals?
I usually hold two recitals each school year.  Attendance and participation in them is optional, but I strongly encourage students to participate.  The recitals are usually held in May and November.

- What piano books do you use?
I prefer using the Piano Adventures series, but if a student already has books, I am open to using those.

- What guitar books do you use?
I prefer using Alfred's Basic Guitar Method.  However, if a student already has books, I am open to using those.

- What is your cancellation policy?
In the event of accidents, family emergencies, or illness, I ask that you give me as much notice as possible. In other circumstances if you do not contact me 24 hours prior to your lesson to cancel, you will be charged the full lesson rate.
If a student wishes to discontinue lessons, I ask to be given two weeks notice, so that I may plan for the adjustment in my schedule.

- How long have you been teaching piano and guitar?
I have been teaching piano and guitar lessons since February 2007. 

note: I will be adding the contents of this post to a separate page of its own. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Creative Use for Writing Prompts

I've posted before about trying to find creative ideas for helping students with improvisations.  Here is another idea that's a bit outside of the box. 

Lakeshore Learning
has some great free printables available on their website. One of my favorite categories to use are the writing prompts. They issue a calendar for each month with a writing prompt for each day of the month. 

Here are the links for the April calendar and the May calendar

While these prompts are of course designed to be used for writing exercises, I think they make great ideas for improvisation.  You could either have your student pick one idea from the month, or the week, or simply have him use the topic for the day on which his lesson falls. 

As with any improvisation exercise, have the student describe his answer.  Then help him to think of ways to express his idea (or ideas) musically.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week - April 1st

Happy April Fools' Day!  Here are some things I've been reading this week.  I hope you find them helpful.  

5 Music Tips for Building a Core Repertoire | Marion Harrington | Freelance Switch
Marion has some great insight for how to work towards building up your repertoire. Really helpful for both musicians themselves, as well as music teachers.

You might need to look up what proprioception is (actually, the article contains the definition), but otherwise this article has some beneficial tips on learning music.

Sight Reading on the Classical Guitar – Part 1 | Simon Powis | Classical Guitar Review
Simon does a great job of summarizing both what sight reading entails and also why it is an important skill to develop. 

Hope you have a great weekend!
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