FileMaker13 DataBase in the Music Classroom

FileMaker Large IconFileMaker13 is the latest version of FileMaker and it comes with some excellent improvements over the past! I will be adding a few more posts this next week about some of those improvements. In this blog post I want to highlight one improvement and point out a few reasons why using a database is so much better than using a spreadsheet. Then…. I’m going to bed. So every year I have to recruit and keep track of upcoming beginning band students. The first step in that process is our local music store comes in and gives a quick test to give us some indicators as to each students general musical aptitude – rhythms, pitch, chords and melody. Then they also have the kids try out instruments to see if they are a good fit for whatever they are interested in. These two “tests” give us a real basic building block for the next steps to be taken in class. I get those results in a spreadsheet form that looks much like this…. (I have already imported this into FileMaker though and have added a few more fields to the spreadsheet which is why you see some check boxes) 5th Database Spreadsheet Style   If I was to have left this info in spreadsheet form then I would not be able to foo some very useful things with that information like put is on my iPad in a different view along with a bunch of ways to mark things the first week of school… I can see at a very quick glance a lot of information about the student now. I can also make very quick changes to each students information – things like mark them present on four different days, indicate if they have changed their mind and actually need to be dropped, I can see if their parents attended the rental meeting or if they need a school instrument, if they have an instrument or a book and at the bottom I can see their test scores. (TAKE NOTE OF THE REPORTS BUTTON AT THE TOP!) 5th Database iPad Form   If I wanted to see more than just one kid at a time then I also have a list view setup which is even quicker when I am in the middle of 50 plus 5th graders anxiously ready to play those instruments! 5th Database List view As I mentioned above – did you take note of the Reports button on the Form View above? If not scroll back up and take a look… When I click on that button one of the new features of FileMaker13 kicks into action. PopOvers – something we are very used to having on iOS devices but now they are available in FileMaker Databases too! Here’s what pops up… Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 1.38.36 AM This is where the real fun happens…. I can now, at the touch of the button, print some very useful information. For instance, I can quickly get a list of all the kids signed up sorted by their last name OR sorted by the instrument they want to play. When I sort by the instrument they want to play I even have it set up to have section headers like this…. 5th Database Report Try to do THAT in a spreadsheet! It’s really easy when it comes time for me to send a list to the scheduling secretaries and principals of who is signed up because I can hit that button that pulls up all 57 kids, out of 91, that signed up for band and then it will automatically be sorted by last name and have a heading and footer and will even have a count of how man kids are on the list! NOW… I will say that I do use spreadsheets frequently. Our school grade book system will export reports as excel files of students names, phone numbers, parents info and their address/phone info. It is so easy to take those spreadsheets and import them into FileMaker though that I don’t use those spreadsheets for very long! TO WRAP UP The current iOS version of FileMakerGo 13 Small IconFileMakerGo is free and works on iPad as well as on iPhone! – it used to cost but the fact that is free is one of the new features of FileMaker13! It is a very nice addition! The desktop version of FileMaker is for Mac or Windows even though FileMaker is actually owned by Apple. It is not the cheapest program but it is also one of my most used programs year after year! The app comes in two version the Pro version which is all most people would need and then the advanced version which is more for database designers who want to develop and sell their databases. Then there is even FileMaker Server software but that’s a whole different story there!

Taking a trip with your Band? You need an iPad/iPhone app for that!

Use Pack The Bag App to Make Sure You Don’t Forget Anything!

PackTheBag LogoThis blog post is being written because I like to keep lists of things that need to be packed for our band trips. Every year when I go to Band Camp I know I  will need specific items, when we go on a marching band performance trip or go to band festival there is a different list for each trip. If myself and my students have a packing list to check things go much smoother! No longer do I have to call my wife from the band bus and ask her to bring me my scores that are sitting on my desk at the school!

The one app that I have used is called PackTheBag. This is not the perfect app but it is for some reason I decided I would use. I have one HUGE frustration with it – which is why I wrote this Blog Tip! I constantly forget how to edit items that are in my categories when I don’t use the list for about 6 months! Then it is crazy stupid hard to figure it out every year! So ….. let’s step through the process (it isn’t hard and it sure is quick and it has saved us several times!)

First step

First step

1)Create List
2)Name the list – set dates for the trip – set a reminder
3)Select baggage categories (TIP – Important:If you want to set up a new baggage category or get rid of the pre created ones, this is where you do it! Tap + button in bottom right corner to add a new category. Tap the Gear icon in the bottom left if you want to delete some of the existing categories.

TIP – Important: If you want to edit the items in a category you must FIRST add that category to a packing list! This is the screen where you do so! (the first screen after creating a packing list)

Tap continue

Step 2

Step 2

4)After tapping the continue button then you select items from each category to add to you list.
5)After adding items to your list you will see a button with a 123 on it – this allows you to set a predetermined number that you want to pack for an item. Tap the 123 button, type in a number of items and then DO NOT TAP THE DONE or OK BUTTONS! tap anywhere else! Stupid I know – this has to be a bug.

TIP – Important: If you want to edit the items in these categories this is the screen you do it on. Tap the gear icon in the bottom left of the screen and all items will be editable! Change the names, delete and sort them. Tap the + button in the bottom right to add an item – CAUTION: When adding items I would suggest using the add in alphabetical order option – It becomes a jumbled mess real quick when creating a brand new category!

Tap continue

Editing items

Editing items

Last step - Pack and Share

Last step – Pack and Share

Then you start packing and marking items off your list! Use the down arrows to expand and collapse a category. Tap the empty boxes on the right to mark an item as packed. If you have set a predetermined number of items that you need then each tie you tap the empty box it will add one more but no check will appear until all have been packed. So if you decided you wanted 3 of something you would have to tap that box 3 x’s. At the bottom there are options to see “All”, “Packed”, “Missing”

Also on this screen is where you see the Share button in the bottom left – this allows you to send and export your list. One option I appreciate here is being able to export to DropBox – This allows me to create lists on my iPad but use my iPhone to mark things packed. It is much easier to carry my phone around while packing then it is to carry my iPad!

THAT’S IT YOU’RE DONE – Ready to go to Band Camp or to Choir Festival or on Tour!

I have my student leaders download this app as well because I share the list that I have created and let them do the packing!

NOW – Share with me….. if you have a packing list app that you like please leave a comment below and let me know what it is!

iPads and Teaching Private Music Lessons – Can your life be better?

That question is what I approach every app that I use with – How is this app going to improve on my life? Is this app going to make my life easier? Can I do something because I have this app that I could not do before OR does this app allow me to do what I have been doing in a more efficient manner?

Moosic Studio AppCarlos, over at http://www.moosicstudio.com, had these questions in mind when he developed Moosic Studio. He developed this app to make Private Music Teachers, who have a music studio, more efficient. I love this paragraph from the App Store – “A music studio can be a chaotic and cluttered place. If your music studio was anything like ours, you probably have a laptop with Excel running, notebook, camera, maybe a video camera, a calendar, a stack of invoices, receipt book… all piled up and cluttering your piano workspace. On top of all this, you have students coming & going with their assignment binders.”

Moosic Studio is one of those apps that falls into the category of “not for everyone”. It also falls into the category of “expensive” compared to all other apps. I believe thought that this app is one of those apps that is indispensable and worth it if you are in the situation of needing to keep track of who you are teaching, what they are learning, who needs to pay you and needing a quick and fast way to do it!

You really need to sit down and work through all that Moosic Studio offers you. It is not an app that you will be able to “figure out” at one glance. You WILL be able to understand the basics of what it has to offer immediately though and get started quickly. Every time I sit down to enter more information into the app though I continue to find new capabilities and ways of tracking information.

Opening Screen

Opening Screen

Let’s Dig in – When you start the app this you will see the “opening screen” shot that i to the right.

This is your Dashboard – Here you can see projected income for the month (you do have to pay for this app some how right!) You will see a quick number of lessons remaining for the week, how many active students and how many items you have in your Music Library. On the left you find a list of basically the same items with a few additions. Tapping on the Projected Income for this Month does nothing currently – I believe Carlos is possibly going to be connecting future features here – right now it is informational only.

SCHEDULE
Tapping on the calendar icon is the same as tapping on the schedule – it pulls up a list of upcoming lessons on your callendar for the rest of the week. You see what time the lessons are scheduled for, who the lesson is with and what type of lesson it is. By type of lesson I mean – Piano, Guitar, Violin, Voice, Recital, Group Lesson, Camp, Workshop. Performance, Field Trip, Competition or Other Lesson. While looking at the schedule you have a nice feature available to you that allows you to print your schedule or email it – I really like how it looks when you do this.

Calendar View

Calendar View

STUDENT LIST
Tapping on the Active Students icon is the same as tapping on the student list – this brings you to what you would expect, a list of your current students. You can sort them by Instrument, Skill Level, Age, Grade or School Type. The useage of School Type here is an interesting choice to me. Not really sure how many teachers will find this useful.

Student List

Student List

LIBRARY
This is where you input all the materials you will be using for teaching your students. Things like Theory Books, Technique Books, Sheet Music, Sight-Reading you will use, Writing and Activity sheets and other types of things you would use to teach your students. you also get to list what level these materials are at. Later when you enter information for a students lesson you will be using items from this Library to fill in what the student has worked on and has been assigned to learn.

BILLING
This is currently a work in progress – Very useful in it’s current state though as this is where you will put in info about student’s parents and link them to a student.

LESSON INFORMATION
This is the fun part – Create a lesson for your student and schedule it.

Lesson Creation

Lesson Creation

Then you go in and start keeping track of what you are teaching those little buggers. You keep track of things like if they attended, if they brought stuff, how well they did, some comment that you make (These are not shared with the student), some notes (These ARE shared with the student), Circle of Fifths – materials used or to be used (This is from your Music Library) and then you can attach recordings – audio and video! I mean come on! How better to use that iPad with a video camera built in than to record specific items from a students lesson – like their finger position that they need to be reminded of – or a recording of you playing a demo of a piece or a recording of them playing ti to listen back to later. This would show improvement and allow you both to track how they are doing and what has been learned. You could even record their performance during the recital and stick it in here! How much fun is this going to be! Proof of what happens in the lessons when talking to Mom later.

Lesson Info

Lesson Info

Lesson Info Page

Lesson Info Page

 

CONCLUSION
If you are teaching private lessons – MoosicStudio is going to be a huge asset to you.

This is not one of those apps that you buy on a whim though. You have to know that you will use this app and make money back by saving time on your end and becoming more efficient.

Carlos is planning updates already – think invoicing. He is also going to continue to develop the app. Contact him if you have ways to make this app better! I do notice that the app school levels and terms are a bit more oriented with Europe than the US.

By the way this app is currnetly on sale because of the Music Education Expo going on in London so get it now at a much cheaper price! (3-20-2013) I am not sure how long the price will be lowered so….

 

Lesson Info Page

Opening Screen

Creating Music with iOS – Meeting National Music Standards

MusicStudio

iPads in music education can open the minds of our students to wonders that they have never imagined could be theirs! I get reminded of these moments of amazement when a students walks in while I am using technology. So many times they are wide eyed and captivated by the possibilities. Everything from playing my keyboard and having the notation instantly show up on the computer to a student asking what the name of the song is that I am playing for them to listen to and hearing their reaction when I tell them that the song was one I created on my iPad the night before. I can see the wheels spinning in their heads – “What if I could do that?”, they are asking it…. All they need are the tools! Now don’t get me wrong, I know our kids have been creating music for years with the traditional band instruments, singers, drums and electric guitars but I am not talking about the traditional here. I am talking about being able to have one iPad, a set of headphones, and a desire to create!

What if you were able to put a recording studio in the hands of your students, show them a few apps, and then give them the freedom to create? How would your students change?

iPads can open up a whole new world to our students – a world that once was cornered by only those with lots and lots of money! Now an iPad opens up the possibility of an entire recording studio filled with amazing synths, guitar amps, and recorders. Those come in the form of apps, apps that cost any where from being free to $5, $10, $15 and up to $20 and $50! Of course if you take into account the ability to record themselves with the built in mic or if they want even better quality they can hook up and external mic through the camera connection kit.

Tonight was an exploration of several apps for me…. I used MusicStudio as the multitrack recorder. For sounds I used AddictiveSynth, Sunrizer and ThumbJam. I of course used Audiobus to get them hooked together. This recording has 9 tracks.

I would be crazy excited if my students were creating music at home like this! (Not that I think this is anything spectacular – but instead just because they would be exploring and composing and enjoying themselves!)

AddictiveSynth + sunrizer-icon +  thumbjam_bannerAudioBus + MusicStudio = one evening of great fun!

iPad Music Theory Apps to use in the Classroom

Since Chromatik was so kind as to run a promotion to donate an iPad to our Band Room I have been looking for apps to use on this new iPad.

As I go through the huge sea of apps I will post about apps I think have promise or apps that the students benefit from.

Scales TutorScales Tutor is one app that I found promising.  This app is free today too by the way! (Feb 19, 2013). This is their website

SUMMARY
There is one feature built into this app that is a huge benefit to music teachers handing an iPad to a student and needing to look at how much that student learned later. Scales Tutor presents the user with information on key signatures and scales. There are three options – study, practice and test. The main areas available are Major Keys, Minor Keys, Flats Keys and Sharp Keys and then there are also Flash Cards.

THE BAD
I do have to say right up front that I almost took this app and deleted it from my iPad because I found two critical areas that are very annoying! Every thing on the screen is very tiny! As I present from my iPad onto a projector in my band room I can not imagine my students being able to read many pieces of information presented to them from a distance. The most critical annoyance was the user interface – when in the practice mode you are asked to place notes, flats or shapes on a staff. This process is difficult. They tried to make it easier by placing little arrows below the staff to move the note up or down but even those arrows are a bit non-responsive. I found myself constantly having to tap two or three times to get the response I wanted. Now this might be because I have large fingers – I have not tried this app with students.

THE GOOD
The good news is that I did find a feature in this app that I do not find usually – In the testing section you need to type in your name. After taking the test your name and score is then stored for later reference! The other good news is that everything covered in this app is accurate and to the point. It is presented in a fairly clear manner. In fact I found a few ways in which they present information that I might use myself!

Also good… You can pick which clef you want Treble or Bass or the Grand Staff. The app also allows you to pick exactly what you want to focus on – for example… just the first 4 sharps keys or just just the key signature or Scales with Keys.

AGE LEVEL/GRADE LEVEL
More Middle to High School

Here is a screen shot…. This app is free today too by the way! (Feb 19, 2013)

Scales Tutor Screen

New iPad for the Band Room!

Today our new iPad arrived! Thanks to Chromatik our Band Program now has our first iPad for student use!New iPad

Not only am I excited to use Chromatik because we get a free iPad out of the deal but I think Chromatik is a good substitute for SmartMusic. Especially nice right now because it is a free service!

Back to the iPad though… because this is my first iPad I will be putting into the hands of students I am open to suggestions of apps that you think I should have on this iPad for students to use in classes – keeping in mind that I teach Band!

Here is a screen shot of the apps I installed on the iPad on the first day and then what good would a student iPad be without excitement from the students so I’ve included a picture here of that too!

The new apps installed on the Band Room iPad

The new apps installed on the Band Room iPad

 

SmartMusic for free! (If you are a new customer)

If you are not a SmartMusic customer yet y really need to take advantage of this deal! MakeMusic is offering new customers a chance for a year of free SmartMusic! All you need to do is attend three online clinics. See the link below for information….

SmartMusc free for a year

If you didn't know already, SmartMusic will be arriving for iPads this spring!

If you would like to visit the MakeMusic website and simply read up on what SmartMusic is all about here is the link to do that. Of course if you are a music educator and don't know what SmartMusic is then you need to go do this! It's free…. What better way to explore the possibilities!

 

 

Rhythm apps for teaching music

There have been several apps that help practice and learn rhythm concepts the past few months.

MyRhythmMyRhythm, from Gregory Burk, is an app that helps you practice your rhythmic skills, co-ordination, listening skills and memory. MyRhythm is full of features that anyone from a non-musically trained person to someone who is is music classes will appreciate. The app does not use traditional musical notation to show rhythms. It simply uses a grid of dots that are filled in, or not, to indicate whether you should be tapping the large pads in time with the groove that is being played.

When you start up the app there three main modes you can go into… 1)Challenge Mode 2)Study Mode and 3)Creative Mode. The screen shot you see to the right is about the same in any of the three modes. In challenge mode you listen to and watch a pattern being played then the little violet and blue dots are all taken away and you have to play back what you just heard. It’s an answer and call mode in other words. In the Study mode the idea is the same except that the violet and blue dots do not go away and you can still see them and you do not get to listen to the rhythm being played first. Then in the creative mode you are able to create your own rhythms. It is in this mode that you can do another time signature besides 4/4. In the other modes all I found were 2 measures of 4/4. Of course no where is there ever any mention of time signatures in this app. There are four levels of difficulty to play around with. No matter which level you are in the timing algorithms being used to decide whether or not you are playing the correct rhythms are very strict! It is not good enough to simply hit that pad “close” to the rhythm! You have to really get into the groove and sub-divide so you are accurate! Mentioning grooves…. there are options to play along with simply a metronome or a very long list of different grooves at different tempos. Gregory did a great job of making sure there was enough variety here to keep you interested and challenged for a long time!

option settings for MyRhythm

option settings for MyRhythm

I like the fact that there are many options in this app…. the different grooves, the call and answer, the creativity section, the ability to change several levels, the choice of what sound you hear when you tap the pads and how easy it is to quickly tap the new rhythm button to try the next rhythm. Even as a band director I like the co-ordination skills this builds even though my kids don’t always need to use two hands to play rhythms in class. I think students will find plenty in this app to keep them interested. There is an iPod/iPhone version of the app as well.

I don’t like that this app only deals with 8th notes. As a music educator I don’t like that music notation is not used and yet at them same time I think there is a place for this type of graphic notation in a music class. Another slight issue I have is that I am pretty skilled at rhythm and I have to work really hard to get all the notes green! Now, maybe this is because I’m not as good as I think I am at rhythm BUT I KNOW what I am going to hear from the kids! No, seriously though, I do believe the app has a little bit of issue “hearing” correctly played rhythms sometimes.

Wish list – I do wish there was a way for my students to keep score of their progress as they work with this app.

green and red dots on MyRhythm

green and red dots on MyRhythm

Creating music with iPads

There have been some outstanding new developments in the world of music for iOS users this past few months!

First has been the actual release of AudioBus for iOS. As they say on the iTunes Store… This is a revolutionary new inter-app audio routing system allowing you to connect your AudioBus compatible apps together with virtual cables. In other words…. I can be playing a synth on my iPad, like Magellan, and record it into my MultiTrack DAW on the same iPad! This opens up very different possibilities of being able to record from a long list of currently compatable apps into other apps on one iPad instead of having to have two devices or using audio copy/paste. Check out their website for currently compatible apps as the list is changing almost daily!

In the late 80‘s I remember spending many hours programming keyboards for the ministry team at college that I was involved in. It was great fun to get inside of a synth patch and make all sorts of tweaks to it to come up with a new patch that was my own. Little did I imagine then, that I would be able to do this on an iPad with a color, touch screen! Check out the list of apps othe AudioBus page. I think there are some outstanding apps there that will make some outstanding music! Imagine if we could get these apps into the hands of our students in a non-traditional music class!

Audulus App

Audulus

Another major development is the development of apps that allow your creativity to fly to new heights! One of those apps that blew me away today is Audiolus. Audulud is a modular synthesis app that is available for the iPad as well as the Mac. This app allows you to create synth sounds from scratch, one step at a time! I can not begin to imagine the possibilities of this app in a music class combined with science concepts being integrated all in one mega fun unit! Your science teacher and you, the music teacher, could have a hay day with this app! You have got to watch the tutorials on their tutorial page! This tutorial in particular floored me when I started to get a grasp on what this app is capable of…. I love how it starts with a demonstration of the outcome and then it takes you back step by step to build the patch starting from absolutely nothing! (Wait…. isn't that the model for a great lesson plan?)

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a couple of great examples of amazing performances from people who are truly creating amazing music using iOS and iPads/iPhones. Both of these groups have active YouTube channels that I would suggest you subscribing to

The first person is Rheyne – Rheyne uses live looping with analog keyboards, USB controllers and iOS devices. The videos on his channel are all performed live! The integration he has between all the apps and devices is stunning! His music is digital and does not attempt to re-create an acoustic instrument performance!

The second group is the DigiEnsemble Berlin – This is a group of professional musicians trying to turn mobile devices into instruments. This group has music of both the electronic nature as well as classical and everything in between. You can see them recreating a classical string ensmeble using iphones and ipads for instance or performing Starlight (from the alternative rock band Muse) and then performing a magical, musical interpretation of Silent Night.

This sort of musical creativity needs to be taught in our schools alongside the traditional Band, Choir and General Music classes. Of course that means new classes need to be created and staffed! The biggest reason we need these sort of classes is that our students would be forced to become the innovators, the ones creating and designing the final product. There are not many programs like these in place yet so the development of this type of course is going to muddy water and the learning process will be messy. Let's wade in and get dirty!

 

iPad Apps for Music Teachers To Use

I am currently using these apps frequently in classes (well I WILL be – we haven’t really started school but we had Band Camp already)

FileMakerPro, ForScore, UnRealBook, AnyTuneHQ, Avid Scorch, Cleartune or Tonal Energy, Tempo, Fingerings, NoteShelf, Evernote, Reminders and of course Safari and the Music app. I also use ShowYou for videos. I use AirSketch to display PDF worksheets to write on during class. Of course Dark Sky and the Weather Channel are very handy during marching season as well!

I am currently working on figuring out;

Smart Seat, TeacherKit and Teacher Assistant. For taking an in depth look at our marching I am starting to use Ubersense or Coach’s Eye or Coach My video.

Those are the apps that I am using DURING a rehearsal on any given day.

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