Written by & under Facilities, teacher resourses.

By Wayne Estesheadphones

I must admit I like technology and I love using it to support each student’s learning & growth. It can give teachers an edge in lessons and it can keep things current and savvy while keeping an eye on the perfection of each student’s craft. Here at our studios/CSM we leverage all sorts of technologies to bring new and exciting ideas to each lesson!

I use my Iphone (or please substitute in any smart phone) to record audio/video snippets in lessons to show a student what their hands and technique and tone are like. We can view it and study it immediately, right in their lesson. It is neat to watch them view their technique and be able to critique it and improve upon it with this instant feedback. I can also quickly and easily send these audio and video snippets out from the phone via email, as I’ve programmed my phone with all my students’ names and email addresses on board. This gives the parents/students little mini-lessons to utilize at home.

I have downloaded both tuner and metronome apps on my smartphone, that I love to use in lessons or in my own practice. In particular the metronome (Silver Dial Apple app) is great because it gives terrific examples of subdivisions of the beat and I can set it up to have a wooden sound emulating the old style tones of metronomes past. Many times I make a quick note on my phone, to write down a book that a student needs to purchase or to write a brief email/note to email a parent about a study habit I want to reinforce with their child at home this week. (Sometimes parents don’t read our lesson notebooks too diligently).

I am sure that most other “tablet computers” and Ipads can do many of the same things I just mentioned above. I don’t want to appear as if I’m an “Apple snob,” as truthfully I’m really a PC guy who embraces all technologies. I just think it’s important to leverage whatever technologies you may have access to in order to help your students (and families) learn more efficiently and effectively.

Most of our 12 teaching studios have a digital Kawai piano in them, which has an awesome sound system aboard that we use to play back music through (either CDs or mp3 or mp4s).  Each studio room has a 1/8 stereo mini jack cable that is plugged into a studio room’s laptop computer, which can be easily re-patched and plugged into a student’s phone, or tablet or other playback devices to listen to examples in lessons. We also play back files from our extensive school server library and from Naxos and YouTube and Spotify in our lessons.

Our digital Kawai teaching pianos are also plugged into our studio laptops, so that we have midi “ins and outs” and each teacher can use Finale notation software to write music and compose on the laptops with their students. The Finale song file can then “playback” through the piano with midi using the piano’s terrific onboard midi sounds. Each piano is also equipped with a CD burner, which is terrific fun at Christmas time for creating “musical Christmas presents” for each of our families. This super project also motivates our students to perform at their best and to strive to get the “perfect take” just like in a recital or in the recording studio. This is a rewarding creative process.

We use a software program called “SmartMusic” in many of our studios here, to aid students at home with terrific practice programs. “SmartMusic” can also be used with a mic and be an assessment tool for instrumentalists, letting technology push the student with the ability to change performance speeds and practice playing along with accompaniment tracks.

Our instructors purchase, download and print older and newer popular songs and/or accompaniments through one of the numerous online sites in lessons.  This is quite handy as we can research and find a cool new current or old song for a student at his/her level.  Some of these websites will let you look at the first page of the song and often we can even manipulate the key to better fit a student’s range or ability. We can then print the song for our student during their lesson and we can use it and assign it, and  do all of this in a minutes time and effort.  We save “shopping time” at a local store or buying a full book of songs on the internet, only to find the arrangement is written in the wrong key, or it is a bad arrangement, or the ability level is way too easy or hard for the student.  Our preferred website for this is: http://www.musicnotes.com .

We use YouTube videos/music in lessons (when and where it is appropriate of course). The videos we pick can instruct and inspire students (and families). Also, we have written and produced many of our own online guitar teaching videos, that we share with our students/parents in our lessons via email. We often encourage the students to use them at home for extra practice and help. We videograph our staff recitals and post them online for our students (and families) to watch and be inspired. Sometimes we even “share” some of our fantastic student recitals on our YouTube channel, after we get permission from the student and their parents.

We have a recording suite inside one of our auxiliary rooms, where we record and capture student’s performances for auditions and we use the equipment to teach students how to use the mics, DAW software, recording processing and VST technologies to enhance their knowledge of performance techniques and musicianship along with recording techniques. This is an extremely creative tool and digital recording is a direction the music industry is moving ahead in, so we feel a huge responsibility to try to have all of our students see this in our private lessons. It’s important they know what’s really going on out there in the real day-to-day working world of music. We hope we all can challenge our students to go beyond the pages of their etudes and look beyond the daily needed instrument practice, in order to realize that there are new options and job opportunities in music. It is not just about teaching them to become a music teacher or a performer anymore. Before they head off to college, we can actually show them in our lessons equipment that is comparable to college and real world recording studios.

Music and technology have collided and are continually moving, evolving and merging into new cool methods, devices and ways that we can take our teaching further. We can excite our students with a real future of being a teacher, recording engineer, songwriter, composer, film scorer, music software developer, musical instrument salesman or manufacturer, music attorney, etc. We also hope to create students who are savvier listeners and concert audience members and we also want them to be smarter music consumers. Leveraging technologies within the lesson is the gateway to music in the 21st century!

Wayne is the co-owner and co-founder of The Catoctin School of Music. He has several “over achieving students” from his past: one is finishing his doctoral work in music theory, while others are getting performance, teaching and composition degrees. Some have slipped into the darkness and are recording engineers and artist/performers.  One hard working and awesomely talented young man just got signed to a national Nashville recording contract in Sept ’13.