Tips To Help “Fit In” Practicing Into A Busy Schedule

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By Ian Green

I am the first to admit: we are all very busy! We all have challenges (some more than others) with managing time. In our busy lives, we have to make time for a lot of the various activities that we enjoy. Some of us find the sense of being organized an easy task, some of us find this a challenging task to overcome. Based on personal experience, I would like to share some tips and tricks that will result in successful practice time at home.

Set up a regular schedule

To help make things easy to everyone, set up practicing into the schedule just like setting up an appointment. This tactic will help you to find time in your schedule instead of putting practicing at the bottom of the list.

Play fun pieces at the beginning and end of a practice session

By starting and/or finishing a practice with something fun, students will stay engaged throughout the practice session. Keep the mind sharp by learning and working on new material, however, let your brain rest after processing a healthy dose of new materials.

Quality vs. quantity

Many of us consider a successful practice session to be a lengthy marathon in which the student works hard at various tasks for hours and hours at a time. Success does not come in large packages. Rather, quality comes in smaller bundles. Instead of looking for quantity of time, look for quality of time as students focus on materials that are challenging to them. This will create a successful experience as well as a successful practice session.

Try to practice every day of the week

Even though this is a lofty goal, it is a similar theme to that of point #1: consistent practicing (daily is always preferred) will create the best long-tern results. Consider it from this perspective: if a student works hard at the lesson and makes great progress in a particular area and then does not look at their musical material for 2-3 days, when the student revisits the materials later in the week, 80% or more of the new material that had experienced progress will be lost. If a student looks at new materials the same day as the lesson or the following day, the progress will stay with them 100% due to the “fresh” feeling that the new information has over the student’s mind.

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Elementary music teacher says the ‘key’ to teaching is rapport

Piano student 1

Author Sarah Guinn recently wrote an inspirational article on the importance of creating a rapport between the teacher and the student.

“More than 600 students come through Alison Smart’s classroom at Nelsonville-York Elementary School, and she can tell you a vast majority, if not all, of their names,” Principal Becky Dalton said.

From kindergarten through sixth grade, kids file into Smart’s classroom, which boasts 18 full-sized electric pianos, each with its own set of headphones.

Smart established her classroom in 2005 when she started her first — and only — teaching job at Nelsonville-York Elementary, and since then has coordinated school plays and Christmas programs, all of which have been well received by parents and community members, Dalton said.

So, how does a teacher bring out music in kids as young as kindergartners, and as old as adolescents? It’s rapport, Smart said.

To read the complete article, click here.

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About Ian Green


Thank you for continuing to visit the blog My Musical Community! More blog posts will be coming soon!

In the meantime, to learn more about author Ian Green, click here!

Keep having fun, stay tuned for new updates coming soon!

Ian Green using iPad on Piano


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Guest Blog Opportunities


Do you have an interesting idea that you would like to share?

At MyMuCo, we are always reading new and interesting articles from across the globe. Currently, we are looking to post new content. If you have an interesting idea, please share it with us by visiting

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How to Avoid the “End of the Honeymoon”

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How to Avoid the “End of the Honeymoon”

by Ian Green

The first few weeks of the music school year are new and exciting. A sense of euphoria overcomes us all as we enjoy the fresh new experiences that are waiting for us. For young music students, this usually means we as teachers and parents can rely on the excitement the children feel to keep them motivated to practice outside of their lessons. But as October and November creep in, many students come to “The End of the Honeymoon.”

What, you may ask, is “The End of the Honeymoon”? In my personal experience as a music educator, “The End of the Honeymoon” is the time in the school year when students, teachers, and parents all experience the regular routine of schedules and the predictability of such activities that occur within the weekly schedule. Things become busy for all of us, and for some students, being self-motivated to practice at home can become a real challenge. Without routine practice, progress falters –  motivation drops even lower, and so on. These kids are at risk – risk of not achieving their full potential on their musical journey in life, or worse, at risk for quitting music lessons altogether!

MyMuCo, a music learning system for iPad, is a great motivational tool that is effectively helping students and teachers to move through “The End of the Honeymoon”. It includes features such as the guided practice plans that help students collect and redeem points for their work and track their daily practice schedules within the MyMuCo KIDS app,  to the time-saving, one-stop planning center of the MyMuCo Teacher lesson planner. My students call it “fun and engaging!”

In my particular case, I am using MyMuCo within my entire studio. For students that use the MyMuCo KIDS app, tracking their practice sessions, collecting points for their practicing, and engaging in their practicing in regular increments that they can manage offers the natural motivation to want to continue from one week to the next. The app is helping them through “The End of the Honeymoon”! For the students that do not have an iPad, I send a lesson report to their email address (or to the email address of the parent); this has helped to organize students to want to work at home due to the regular sense of connection that comes with the weekly email update. As for me, their teacher, I have found that the organization of materials related to lesson planning by keeping everything in one place has saved countless hours of prep time that I use on other activities.

The coined phrase “The End of the Honeymoon” need not occur; in my particular case, the feeling throughout my studio has been “The Next Step on the Journey”.

To learn more about the benefits of MyMuCo, please visit

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Sending An Email Using MyMuCo App

In the music lesson, communication between the teacher and the student is simple: the teacher and student work together during the lesson time, decide on the aspects of the materials that need work, enjoy the successes of good practicing, and then the lesson finishes. Traditionally, the lesson assignment is written down in a dictation book by the teacher; this dictation book is then given back to the student for their reference. In all honesty, how many students actually read their dictation books?

At MyMuCo, we have designed an interesting feature in the MyMuCo Teacher app that offers a simple way for teachers to email the lesson plan to their students, parents, or other people that might be interested in learning of the progress of their student.

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The Importance of Music Education

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In the article “The Importance of Music Education”, author Alexis Kalivretenos states:

“What if there was one activity that could benefit every student in every school across the nation? An activity that could improve grades and scores on standardized testing? An activity that would allow students to form lasting friendships? An activity that would help students become more disciplined and confident?

Fortunately, there is such an activity. Unfortunately, many schools will not make it a part of their curriculum, due to issues of funding and scheduling. This activity is something that everyone is aware of, but not everyone has a chance to participate in. This activity is music.”

Music classes (both private OR group instruction) should be an important part of the list of educational opportunities for every child. What would happen if music were to disappear?

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Shaped Notes: Interesting Facts on Music Notation

Shape-note singing, a musical practice and tradition of social singing from music books printed in shape notes. Shape notes are a variant system of Western musical notation whereby the note heads are printed in distinct shapes to indicate their scale degree and solmization syllable (fa, sol, la, etc.). Since 1801 shape notes have been associated with American sacred music, specifically with singing schools, with musical conventions, and with all-day gatherings known as “singings.” Denounced by critics as uncouth, the simplified notation has persisted in the rural South, where it continues to form the basis of strong traditions of church and community singing.

The solmization system used in shape-note singing can be traced to Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th-century Italian monk who assigned the syllables ut, re, mi, fa, sol, and la to the six-note series—or hexachord—that corresponds to what are now recognized as the first six degrees of the major scale. Use of these syllables helped singers keep track of their place within a melody, especially when sight-reading. In 16th-century England, singers discovered they could operate effectively with only four syllables (mi, fa, sol, and la). English colonists carried the four-syllable system to North America. Meanwhile, on the European continent, the hexachord was expanded to seven syllables, one for each note in the major scale (in Italy, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and si). The seven-syllable system ultimately prevailed during the 19th century in England and America. Shape notation has been adapted to both the four-note fasola and the seven-note doremi system.

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Shape notes, also called character notes or patent notes, are one of many notational innovations that, like solmization syllables, attempted to make sight reading easier. (Others included the tonic sol-fa system of Sarah Anna Glover and John Curwen, popular primarily in Britain.) The four shaped notes—a right triangle for fa, an oval for sol, a rectangle for la, and a diamond for mi—were invented by Philadelphia shopkeeper John Connelly about 1790 and made their first appearance in The Easy Instructor (1801), by William Little and William Smith. Over 200 different shape-note tunebooks were printed in the United States between 1801 and 1861, most of them eclectic collections including strophic hymn tunes, odes, and anthems from a variety of American and European sources. Pennsylvania and the Ohio River valley were early centres of shape-note publication. Many shape-note books included “folk hymns” (tunes drawn from oral tradition, harmonized by the compilers or other local singing teachers, and underlaid with sacred texts).

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Beginning with Jesse B. Aikin’s Christian Minstrel (1846), many tunebooks were printed in seven shapes, representing the seven syllables of the doremi system. Aikin’s seven-shape notation achieved wide use in the southern United States, where it was adopted in some denominational hymnals. After the American Civil War, singing schools and shape notes became increasingly identified with the South, while declining in popularity in other regions. Many teachers switched from the four-shape system to a seven-shape system to keep pace with new teaching methods. Leading teachers and publishers established “music normal schools” for the training of teachers. Southern firms such as Ruebush-Kieffer and A.J. Showalter began to publish small collections of music every year or two. These upright songbooks gradually began to supplant the large oblong tunebooks and their fixed repertoire. After 1900, mass-market publishers such as James D. Vaughan, V.O. Stamps, and J.R. (“Pap”) Baxter printed one or more books a year of music that was largely used at singing conventions and, consequently, is known today as convention gospel music. (See below Current practice.) These songs, almost always in major keys and intended to be accompanied by the piano, imitated the popular songs and dance tunes of the Victorian era.

While shape-note gospel music cultivated a constant supply of new songs, the standard 19th-century tunebooks changed much more slowly, retaining their oblong format and repertoire, while enshrining themselves in the rural culture of the South. The Sacred Harp (1844) in particular, supported by county and regional conventions in a number of Southern states, kept its four-shape fasola notation and a large corpus of New England psalmody, fuging tunes, spiritual songs, and revival choruses in several 20th-century editions. Other early tunebook survivals include The Southern Harmony (1835) in western Kentucky, Harmonia Sacra (1832/1851) in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, The New Harp of Columbia (1848/1867) in East Tennessee, and The Christian Harmony (1867) in several states of the South. All of these books became the focus of all-day church homecomings and community singings and of a ritualized practice whose distinctive features include: seating by parts, facing inward in a “hollow square”; rotation of leaders, whereby each leader stands in turn in the centre of the square, selects one or more songs, and leads the singers by keeping time with a simple motion of the hand, unaccompanied by instruments; and “singing the notes” (singing each selection using the fasola or doremi syllables prior to singing the lyrics). Prayers, observances in memory of deceased singers, and a shared “dinner on the grounds” add spiritual dimension to a day devoted to music, family, and community.

Current practice

These traditions attracted the attention of scholars and folklorists, such as George Pullen Jackson and Charles Seeger, as well as of American composers such as William Schuman, Virgil Thomson, Alice Parker, and William Duckworth, who incorporated melodies from shape-note sources into their works. They also attracted folk music enthusiasts outside the South. Spurred by appearances of Southern singers at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival (in Newport, R.I.) and other events, singers from the North and elsewhere began in the 1970s to organize Sacred Harp singings, based on the Southern model and often aided by visiting Southern singing teachers. Since the formation of a National Convention in 1980, Sacred Harp singing has continued to spread to cities and college campuses in almost every U.S. state, as well as to Canada and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the tradition has suffered a slow decline in the rural South. Shape-note gospel singing, which once threatened to overwhelm the tune book singings, similarly has declined since the late 20th century. While some conventions emphasize performances by amateur and professional quartets, traditional community singings persist in many areas.

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Technology and the Music Student

Our current generation of music students and parents are involved with technology in a variety of ways. Guest blogger Kathy Schmidt, a music teacher, musician, and member-in-good-standing of Ontario Registered Music Teacher offers some great insights into the various examples of technology she has embraced in her music studio. Her insights are inspiring for everyone!

“Technology and the Music Student”

Kathy Schmidt Pic

I can vividly recall the day in the mid-80’s, when I explicitly said, “I’ll never use a debit
card”, and I also remember when the computer at University of Waterloo ,where I did my
undergraduate in Science, took up an entire building! When we relay these experiences to our tech savvy students, they can hardly believe it.

In my case the next question to follow is, “How old are you Kathy?”. Ugghhh!!! The reality is that our music students are living in an ever increasing technological world. As a piano teacher I firmly believe that in order to engage our students, we must keep up with them and even be one step ahead…if not, we will lose students.

My modern piano studio is well equipped with Apple TV to mirror from my Macbook and
iPad. My studio iPad is loaded with APPs that include quick sight reading exercises, flash cards, rhythm games, note naming, melody and harmony Apps, Apps for composing and jamming, one App for loading my music so that I no longer have to carry paper scores, hand-eye coordination Apps, finger numbers, technique and theory. This list goes on….. I also have a desktop computer for students to complete theory assignments while they are waiting. As well as regular keyboards, I have an Axiom 39 key keyboard which plugs into my iPad or Macbook so I can accompany a student with 250 voice combinations and drum tracks etc…. Wow!

I must admit that I use practically all of it each and every lesson! And….I no longer have to make my own flash cards and board games (although sometimes I still do…kids love board games!). Some people could argue that all of this technology is just gimmick and that this could all be distracting from what really matters in the music education of a student. Really? Did you catch what Apps I use? At a quick tap I am able to incorporate so much into the lesson…far more than years ago, when it was just me, my acoustic instruments and a huge library of scores. Don’t get me wrong, I still use these as well, but the great thing about technology is that it is available to everyone and I can encourage students and their parents to download free Apps or very inexpensive ones so that all of these concepts can be assigned each and every practice day. That way the student is reinforcing lots of musical concepts every day rather than just once per week at lessons.

With the use of technology students who live in remote areas or who would normally
have to miss a lesson due to a cold can now be taught over the computer using Skype or other programs such as Internet Midi. Piano examinations through Conservatory Canada can also be done using computer technology. This has been great for students who want to play an exam outside of the the set February, June and August time slots.
Communication has improved immensely between myself and my students’ parents.
They and I are just a text away. Parents can video the student using their phone and send it to me outside of their lesson time to make sure they are practicing correctly. I can reply briefly and quickly and give instant feedback. Lesson plans and notes are emailed with links to websites, performances and other activities. My website has the calendar for the month, featured students and performances, a blog centred around practicing and other “at home” musical activities. I can send out announcements and give a heads up regarding changes to the schedule. Now no one misses out on any studio information!!

I rarely hear the complaint, “It’s so difficult to get my child to practice”. I can structure
each practice day so that the student has a lot of variety besides working on their pieces. An App such as MyMuCo assists the student in keeping their week organized and is a wonderful motivator. With all the demands placed upon kids who are active, one cannot rely solely upon an organized mind and memory. What better way to ensure musical growth and productivity than by using technology in the studio and home to keep all the “ducks”, I should say, “notes” in order! Then we can celebrate with our students and hear comments such as, “piano is so fun, it’s not work mom and dad”! Of course we know it is work, but technology can disguise this fact and help the student to integrate it all into their daily lives and routine….just like “brushing your teeth”.

So if in the next decade I am asked discard my debit card for a microchip in my arm…I
think I’ll be ready to embrace it!!!

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Interview with The Modern Musician Show

Modern Musician Show

Colin Thomson is a great friend of MyMuCo! Colin is a talented music educator, is a music educator with a busy music studio, and is also operator and host of the podcast “The Modern Musician Show”.

This podcast features musicians and the various music activities they are involved in. Colin is a great host and asks some excellent questions to help not only feature the various activities of his guests but also to help his audience to learn and grow in the process.

Ian Green sat down with Colin for a feature interview, “Making Music Practice Fun and Effective”.

Thank you for the great opportunity for the feature interview Colin!

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