Using Technology in Your Studio

iphoneI have long wanted to purchase recording equipment for my studio, but it has always been cost prohibitive. I have recently realized that I don’t need fancy recording equipment for some of the things that I’ve been hoping to do with my students.

I may be the last person in this country to purchase a smart phone, but a few months ago I took the plunge and bought an iPhone. The built-in video camera in the phone makes it easy for me to use a bit of recording as a teaching tool for my students.

When we are preparing a piece for a performance, there are times when my students have difficulties really hearing their mistakes. They have been practicing a piece for months, feel as though they know it really well, and can’t hear something such as an unevenness in tempo or the way they aren’t playing expressively. When it seems as though I’m not getting through to them, I’ll whip out my phone, record their performance, and play it back for them. I see the recognition in their eyes when they finally hear the mistakes and realize what they need to do to fix it. They make the necessary adjustments, and we record the performance again so that they can hear the difference when they have made the correction.

Having the ability to text recordings to students’ parents via the cell phone also makes for many excellent teaching opportunities. Often, my students struggle with rhythm in particular passages of music and may . They will be able to fix the timing during their lesson, but forget how it sounds after a day goes by and they are left to their own devices when practicing at home. I will use the recording abilities of my phone to record me playing and text it to a student’s parent, so that the student is able to play the recording at home and be reminded of how the correct timing sounds — effectively learning the rhythm by rote. This is helpful when teaching jazz music, which is filled with rhythm irregularities.

It also serves as a way for me to communicate practicing strategies with parents. I often assign SLOW practice to my students who are getting sloppy with rhythm and chords before a performance. Students don’t particularly enjoy practicing a piece slowly, and I can tell when they return to their lesson the following week that this didn’t happen. I’ll videotape a segment of me playing the first line of the piece PAINFULLY slowly, text it to a parent with the note “________ is not to play this piece any faster than this during the week”, and be assured that the parent is going to be a part of the child’s practices during the week and has an audio tool to use to remind the student just how slowly they are supposed to be practicing.

Do you use technology at all to teach your students at the studio? What strategies have worked well for you?

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