Using technology in music teaching – my workflows

Simon DringBlog

unrealbook-589103

Using technology in music teaching – my workflows

** updated October 2016 **

I’ve always been a fan of gadgets and technology, from the early personal organisers to the palmtop Psion devices, through to the modern laptops and tablets.
https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Psion_Series_3a.jpg?resize=211%2C145 https://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31lwtTf6EcL.jpg?resize=212%2C159

I remember even just over 10 years ago I was recording my students play on a cassette recorder. And playing CDs with a personal CD player. And of course carrying multiple tuition books, folders with registers etc, handouts, headphones, sticks, CDs, plus CD and tape player and their associated batteries/power supplies.

I have been on a quest to minimise how much equipment I lug around. This applies to my actual drum kit as well as my teaching equipment.

My current teaching bag holds:

  • my iPad
  • 2 pairs of drum sticks
  • some manuscript paper
  • a couple of pens
  • 2 pairs of over the ear headphones
  • audio splitter
  • iPad and iPhone chargers.
  • 1 drum key

Much easier!

PREPARATION BEFORE THE LESSON

This is done mostly at home. At the start of it all is a MacBook Pro. I create all my handouts on Sibelius, the king of all notation software.

Evernote Screenshot

When planning my lessons and collating tuition material, I use Evernote I keep notes of all student’s progress here, and to write down teaching ideas and concepts for my own reference.

The typical Evernote note will simply have a list of each students’ lesson, with a brief run down of what I plan to do/have done in each lesson.

To save bringing books and sheets with me, I have PDF versions of these stored at box.com. This stays synced between my mac and portable devices, so wherever I am, I have access to these. An important part of my planning involves making sure that the relevant PDFs and mp3s are ready on box.com

I also have mp3s of play-along tracks stored on here. These again can be accessed through my iPhone or iPad. The Box.com iOS apps are excellent.

I store my lesson timetables in a Numbers file on iCloud. Automatic syncing means this file is always up to date.

DURING THE LESSON:

Written music is presented to the student using the iPad. Page turns are easier and no need for a huge music stand. I view the PDFs stored on box.com as it has a very good PDF viewer complete with page turns. Occasionally I will use unrealBook but I mainly use this on stage for setlists and charts.

headphone splitterTo play music for the student to play along with, I use the iPhone plus a headphone splitter (left) An easy and cheap way for both of us to hear the music. I use over the ear headphone (as opposed to in-ear headphones) for hygiene reasons and also because they give a decent amount of isolation from the drum sound in the room.

If I need to write anything out for my pupil, I will often handwrite it on manuscript paper and then the student goes away with the piece of paper. Before they take it away I will scan it using the Scanner Pro app on iPhone or iPad, or even with the document scanner in Evernote.

Another option for hand-writing notes or diagrams is Penultimate – a hand writing note-taker for the iPad. Any files created here I can upload straight to Box.

In my experience some pupils seem unable to bring the required books or music to a lessons, so having digital copies of everything accessible to me at any time is a big asset.

Other apps I use in the lesson include Tempo, an excellent metronome for iPad and iPhone, and GarageBand which I can use to record students. Not ultra high quality, but a useful reference copy for myself and them!

I am also a big fan of Drafts. Drafts is basically a simple notebook app you open and start typing whatever you need to type, whether it’s a text message, email, reminder, lesson note, teaching idea, shopping list. THEN you decide what to do with it. You can then send it as a text, an email, save to Evernote (one of my favourites) or even just save it in Drafts and do something with it later. Plus Drafts syncs automatically between iPad and iPhone. AND it has TextExpander support.

At the end of the lesson, if there is new music for them to try, I will email them a link to the appropriate PDF or mp3 stored in Box WHILST THEY ARE STILL IN THE ROOM. I may also email them any important notes or things to remember, although I tend to encourage each pupil to have their own notebook that we write in each week with what we’ve done and what we have to do for next lesson.

DOWNSIDES:

  • scanning music tuition books is tedious. Please note I do not give pupils access to these PDFs – I myself have already purchased and still own a hard copy of the book, I’ve just digitised it so I can travel light. I hope I’m not breaking any copyright laws. If I could purchase digital copies of these books, I would, but there’s a definite lack of these available.
  • An internet connection is desirable in teaching room. Without it, I am limited to which files I can access. Having said that, if necessary I tether my iPad to my iPhone, so although it isn’t the fastest connection in the world, it’s good enough to download and view a few PDFs on Box and the odd YouTube video

Advantages:

  • I travel light
  • I have access to my whole library of files at anytime
  • If the student forgets his or her books or music, I can still access it on my iPad.

Hardware:
MacBook Pro (at home)
iPad 4
iPhone 6
2x headphones and audio splitter

Apps/web services:
Numbers
Evernote
Box
Dropbox
UnrealBook
Drafts
Penultimate
Tempo