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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Fun ONLINE learning activity - Learning to use a LOOPER

This is a fun activity - all online - and no instruments needed!  You just use the keyboard or click on the screen to change sounds.

Students can create their own looped tracks at this website:

Then they can save their creation and send you the link.  Here's one I did while I was messing around with the website:

I think this is a GREAT activity for students because they immediately learn how important it is to keep a steady beat and maintain accurate rhythm.  It look me a few tries...and I'm not perfect at looping, but it was fun!

To teach my students how to use the website, I made a Loom video with me experimenting and teaching them what to do.  Very fast and easy!   Here's a sample of how you can do it with loom: 
(this was my mess-up video - not perfect. Sorry).

Thursday, March 19, 2020

RECORDING online practice videos

If you're looking for an easy video recording tool....check this out!

I've been experimenting with options for recording practice videos for my students. I started by trying to record videos directly into canvas and it wasn't working - my videos would not save.  I have a nice digital camera, but was looking for something fast and easy.  Then I heard about  I made a few videos for my beginners and it was so fast and easy!  It's all online - I don't have to worry about uploading stuff.  I just send students the links to the practice videos.  It's free right now for educators. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Online Teaching - the new frontier


Like many other orchestra teachers across the state, I will be teaching my orchestra classes online for the next few weeks.  There has been no shortage of information.  Companies have been sending free subscription options, facebook has blown up with ideas, emails are flooding my inbox with suggestions and resources.  The big challenge is sifting through everything and deciding what to use.  I have been trying to keep things very simple.  Here's what I'm doing...

1.  I decided to use Canvas, because that is what my district supports and uses.  I know that all of my students can already access Canvas, so I wouldn't have to worry about sending out special codes to join some other LMS.   I have never used Canvas before, but I've got enough basics down to make it work.

2.  Routine is good. My students are used to having a 'Video of the Week.'  I have posted a video in the  'discussion' tab of canvas for students to watch and comment.   I decided to post a video every couple of days.  There are some cool stories and videos coming out about music amid the current world health crises.  I just sent out this one for students to discuss...What good can I do?

3.  I got some great practice assignments from a genius orchestra colleague - Meagan Thorup.  I made a couple changes, but I think these practice assignments are a great way to start an at-home learning experience because students need to create a new routine.  Here's a link to my first assignment - day 1:

4.  Day 2 assignment - listen to new concert music.  I sent links to our new music where students can listen to the recordings, mark difficult measures in their music, and write how they feel about the new music.

5.  Day 3 assignment - Developing a practice routine:

 6.  My next assignments will be short videos of me teaching small chunks of the new music and will include specific practice assignments.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Video tie-ins - Using YouTube to engage students and teach concepts

I've been using lots of videos to help my students grasp the concepts I'm teaching in class.   Videos are such a great way to begin a rehearsal.  It settles everyone down, everyone is intrigued, and it gives me 1 or 2 minutes to re-set my brain and gear myself for another class.

A few tips for using videos in class:

*Always preview the entire video.  I make sure every video is appropriate for school and I never show a video I have not pre-screened.  If there is one or two swear words. I edit those out by hitting the mute button.

*Make sure there is a point.  I always relate my videos to my rehearsals and I refer back to the video during the rehearsals to reinforce/remind students about the skills we are working on.  Videos help my students quickly grasp concepts.

*Use the same video for every level.  It would be way too hard for me to find different videos for every level I teach.  I use the same videos and focus on the same basic concepts in each class.

*Show only the best parts of the videos.  Time is precious.

Here are the videos I have used recently and an explanation of how I related each video to my class:

We discussed the need to develop muscle memory and to feel the spacing between notes and fingerpatterns.  Also 'feeling' correct position, correct bow holds, and maintaining 'feel' of the instrument while playing.  For a fun Friday activity, I brought my game 'What's in the Box' and we played the game for a few minutes.  Students LOVED it.

I LOVE this video!  We were able to discuss artistry and what makes good music.  I let students watch the video once, then we re-watched the performance and paused to discuss things the singer did to create such emotion in the music.  


We watched only the first 3 minutes of this one.  GREAT video to discuss bow distribution.  We talked about how some players use the same amount of bow no matter what they are playing.  It is way more interested to use LONG bows and SHORT bows depending on what the music calls for.  We then went through our music to decide where we should be suing more or less bow.  This really transformed some of our concert music!


Showed from 1:55 to 4:48.  We talked about how smart students are able to do things on their own!  They don't need a teacher to tell them what to do all the time.  Students can figure out what to fix on their own.  As we rehearsed I had students complete a worksheet where they had to write the measures we were practicing and what they needed to do to make those measures better.  Frankly, I was tired of telling them the same things all the time in every rehearsal.  This worked wonders in my rehearsal.  Students thought about each section of music and took ownership for their playing.  They improved a TON...and I didn't have to say a thing.


I only showed the very beginning of this one...with the baby.  I told students that I hope they feel about orchestra and performing and their instruments the same way this baby feels about ice cream.  It's hilarious.


This video shows that every part, every note is important in the entire piece.


This video teaches about tone color.  We talked about how we can use our bow to change the tone color of our instruments...and in older classes - how adding vibrato changes tone color.