Am I Getting Better?: Setting Musical Goals

I’ve always thought that athletics and music have more in common than you might think. Both require a passion for the subject and a dedication to developing your technique. And whether it’s training for an upcoming track meet or preparing for a local audition, you’ll need to show true commitment. In this blog post, I’ll provide an overview of how I set goals in music lessons and share some examples.

Understand your student’s intentions and establish a baseline

Playing walking bass lines from chord charts is a skill I worked on for years before I felt confident enough to do so in a performance!

My original baseline for improvising walking bass lines (pun intended) was nonexistent, so I could only go up from there!

Before you get started on setting specific musical goals for your students, it’s important to know where they’re starting and what they hope to achieve. Though they may not be able to pinpoint specific goals quite yet, getting to know your students’ intentions and dreams for their music-making can improve the connection between you and your student and the quality of your teaching.

Take the time, too, to observe your student’s playing. Where are they strong? Where is there room for growth? Just like a beginning runner who’s never run more than 30 seconds before or an experienced musician who’s auditioning for a new ensemble, everyone has room for improvement.

Keep track of where they started, select appropriate goals for your student, and use your baseline observations (i.e., their starting point) later to help you and your student better understand their progress.

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Getting the Best Video Chat Performance for Online Music Lessons

Online lessons can be just as effective as in-person lessons for teaching you the basics of your instrument, developing technique, and achieving your musical goals! Learn about how to make sure that your computer’s hardware and internet connection will give you the best video chat possible for your lessons.

High-speed internet connection

A fast internet connection will help you see and hear me during your online music lessons. We’ll probably be using either Skype or Google Hangouts, so let’s take a look at the minimum requirements for each video chatting service.

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MuseScore in Online Music Lessons

Screenshot of MuseScore notation software showing an introduction to rhythmI’m always looking for new ways to connect with students during online music lessons! After putting it through its paces, I’ve come to find that MuseScore, a free music notation software, is a great tool to have in your arsenal!

I’ve written before about FiftyThree’s Paper.app for iPad and how it’s proven to be a great way to notate pitches, rhythms, and more during in-person music lessons. MuseScore allows me to do these same things — and more! — during online lessons.

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My First Experiences with Online Music Lessons

I took 3 weeks off from my normal private teaching regimen to move from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to San Diego, California. While I miss the land of 10,000 lakes (though Michigan has more 😉 sorry, native Minnesotans), I’ve been grateful for the fact that through TakeLessons, I can offer online music lessons with Skype! The technology has allowed me to continue working with two students from the Minneapolis area as well as take on new students in Illinois, Virginia, and North Carolina.

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Why I Like App.net

Described as “a real-time social network without the ads,” App.net (ADN) sucked me in despite its entry fee. All users either pay a monthly ($5) or yearly ($36) fee, depending on their choosing, and I spent some time wondering who would do such a thing to have access to something that, via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc., was provided freely.

After thinking about it, though, and setting it in the context of my own experiences working for a startup, it starts to make a little more sense. The networks above can provide a product or service for free, but they’re also at full liberty to change the way items show up in followers’ feeds, how developers can utilize their API, whether they can utilize an API at all -this article mentions ADN founder, by the way -, or advertise at will (… I couldn’t just pick one link because you see this in a lot of places). I completely get it that it’s their right and really, in their best interests to provide a product or service and expect to recoup some gains as a result. Servers cost money, after all.

So why pay to access a social network?

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Learning from Jazz Standards

When I was in graduate school at TC, my jazz teacher, Paul Beaudry, compiled a list of 50 jazz standards (see the list on Spotify here!) that were, in his opinion, essential to learn.

After joining the San Diego Jazz Collective, a great Meet Up that has a variety of jam sessions, I’ve started working my way back through them alphabetically. ”Alone Together” (wiki link) is the first tune that’s brand new to me, so I’m going to spend a few days working on that one.

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FiftyThree’s Paper.app in Private Music Lessons

I primarily use my iPad as a teaching tool for private music lessons. I actually rarely use paper (I do make an exception for two students who prefer paper for chords/tab); many of my students prefer being emailed links to tabs and chord sites, and a lot of them also have iOS devices of their own and have invested in the same apps that I primarily use.

Today, I was working with a student who stated that she learns better when she can visually see rhythm patterns. I looked through my selection of apps for something I could use to draw and modify patterns easily, and found Paper!

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Chamber Music; or “What on earth do you do after the last concert?”

This year, I experimented with chamber music for my 7/8 Orchestra. We also did a bunch of other stuff during the last month and a half of school, but this was something I wanted to do in order to give the students an opportunity to work independently.

In the last issue of Leading Notes, Joe Guarr wrote in his piece:

If we can find some time during the year for chamber music, our students can take control and make their own musical decisions. This will help them grow into independent musicians, which will in turn improve the ensemble as a whole.

In his book Drive, author Daniel Pink lays out evidence showing that autonomy is directly correlated to job satisfaction. Having the ability to perform even menial tasks in whatever manner one sees fit gives the worker or student some sense of control. The authors of Love and Logic, Jim Fay and David Funk, argue that giving up some control in the classroom leads to a better classroom environment. Chamber music is one way in which you can give your students a chance to explore independent musicmaking.

I had the honor of editing Joe’s article earlier this year, and after I read the first draft I knew I wanted to experiment with chamber music in my ensemble.

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