Be Our Guest: Can my iPad REALLY be used for piano practice? SERIOUSLY-REALLY?

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You are in for a fun treat with our guest blogger today. Becki Laurent is full of positive energy and is a big proponent of staying relevant with our students. She offers some great tips on what she has used successfully with her students including her own kids. Enjoy today’s post…


I’m a piano teacher.  I’ve been a tech girl since I was 3.  I had a Merlin. Do you remember that? It was red and looked like an old cell phone? My mom tells the story that on my 6th Christmas as I was opening my presents I said to my dad “if it doesn’t have batteries or plug in, I don’t want it”.  I am unapologetic about using technology.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 9.54.13 AM Naturally when I started teaching a thousand years ago (that’s computer years but would be 20 or so REAL years) I wholeheartedly embraced bringing computers, computer games and midi into my classes.  Those early years were hard.  I often think that I would have had an easier time if I’d added a few electrical engineering classes to my schedule as an undergrad.

How times have changed!  It’s not hard anymore.

As a teacher I can now access my entire sheet music library from my Ipad.  Using apps like ForScore and the apps for Sheetmusic Plus and Music Notes there is no longer the need to haul around a couple binders full of heavy plastic covered sheet music that flips when you least desire it in an outdoor wedding.  There are no glares on the pages when the lights move and hit you SMACK in the eye, startling you into a fumbled note.  My iPad is my sheet music librarian. If a student comes in and requests a song I have no problem finding it. Sometimes I just browse my library to remember old favorites. Wait, is that practice? Or fun? You decide.

I have 2 perfectly angelic children who routinely cause me whiplash having to switch from 6-year-old mode to 13-year-old mode and they both play piano. In a normal family, piano practice times can be easily scheduled. In a studio setting, attached to your home, even though there are 3 pianos, my kids can’t seem to get to them, wouldn’tcha know! Because other people’s kids are always here we have had to find digi solutions to our practice dilemma.

So OUR favorite apps for home practice when they can’t get to a piano are: The Most Addicting Sheep Game, FlashNote Derby, and Piano Maestro.

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The Most Addicting Sheep Game is awesome despite it’s non-musical title. It is a fabulously fun listening game that teaches rhythm and interval recognition. I love that, as a teacher, for students who have that weird eye thing where they don’t seem to be able to tell a repeated note from a 2nd. This game brings it home and makes them look. My kids love it because the sheep is cute and it’s kind of challenging and makes them laugh. See me not tell them that they are building aural skills in timing!

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FlashNote Derby is fantastic because their teacher (not me- but we pray and request blessings upon her every day) can assign specific note assignments when she sees a deficiency in recognition of said notes. Sometimes she does it for a new scale, sometimes she does it for anchor notes and sometimes she does it for torture. I’m good with any and all of those choices. She sets up the game, sends me an email with a link and when they open the game- BAM! Set up for what SHE wants them to learn. They must take screen shots of their scores for her.

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And then, sigh, there is Piano Maestro!   I sigh because I don’t want to sound like a commercial BUT I LOVE THIS GAME! And everyone is tired of hearing me talk about it! But I’m going to talk about it and you should stick around because this will change the way you teach.   Its won lots of awards. That’s cool. But do my kids, the children of a professional musician, with ears like elephants, oodles of talent and access to apps and software laying all over the house, like it?

That’d be a great big YUP! (I’m from Texas!)

Piano Maestro allows their Sainted Teacher to assign Home Challenges (aka WORK, but shhhhh don’t tell) that are specific to their developmental stage. It allows you to assign scales (full, penta, contrary motion, parallel motion) in multiple keys. They are assigned, I mean, allowed to play, pop contemporary tunes at their level with a full band track. They can do this easily because The Most Addicting Sheep Game but also because there are practice tools like Learn Mode (which teaches them the song step by step), Hold On (which waits for them much more patiently than I do) to find the right key and a Metronome that slows them down so they can think. They love the Share The Moment feature which is like Instagram but for a piano performance and can be sent to an email for forwarding to everyone else who needs to hear the AMAZING AWESOMENESS that are my kid’s performances. Best of all when a piano is available, they can play with no wires, cables or extra set up. Just pop the iPad on the music stand and play. If the pianos are unavailable they can play on the iPad piano keyboard. Although this is only good to a certain level, they find it hilarious to TRY to get their grubby little fingers on those tiny keys to see how many notes they CAN get right! (Insert head shake)

That’s my kids view.

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When the Pro Musician/Teacher comes out to play, well, the game is viewed a little differently. The kids are gamers. I use this as a teaching PLATFORM to mold and create my musicians. With all the method books and supplemental music and scales and targeted exercises, this app becomes my reach for app during every lesson.

I use lots of method books. LOTS of METHOD BOOKS! They all do the job I need them to do for my students. Sometimes I find that they need more “seasoning” on a particular concept. Do I reach for my library, break all kinds of copyright laws and make copies of more songs for them to work on? NOPE!   I just assign work, I mean HOME CHALLENGES, from the other method books included. HAH!   Sending those assignments is a simple as pushing an icon and off it goes to our home iPads.

I can go on and on and on- but Jennifer said I should be brief. Like a teacher can be brief, huh? Those are some of the highlights of the apps I find most useful. So, the answer to the title is YES- your iPad can be used for something more than MineCraft, FaceBook and Candy Crush…. Dare I say it? It can be used for effective, efficient PRACTICE! GO! (I said that in my teacher voice!)

Ms. Becki

Becki Laurent

Becki Laurent is a private music teacher and frequent guest lecturer.  A student of John Moore, Kathy Spies and Emmett Vokes  she is currently located in Texas where she is the owner of a large music school with over 400 students.  Becki began adding technology to her private lessons in 1993 and continues to stay on the leading edge using tech to make music. (Yes, those are the angels!)

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