FiftyThree’s 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!

I’ve used this app before, but mainly just to create “art” that should probably never actually see the light of day (like my rushed quarter rests in the pictures above). However, today I was able to use it successfully for music teaching. Not only was my student, a beginner to guitar and overall concepts of music notation and reading, able to play new rhythms when presented with them, she was able to describe what elements of notation (half/quarter/eighth notes and rests) needed to be used in order to notate the rhythm we were playing.

I used a series of 3 rows today:

  1. We were working with 4 beat patterns, so I wrote “1 2 3 4” at the top of all of these.
  2. Using X’s and O’s, I wrote the pattern down below. The X’s went underneath the downbeats and the O’s were used to represent upbeats. After this row was added, we sounded out the rhythm verbally (e.g., “1, 2, & 4 &”) before playing it on the guitar.
  3. For the first few rhythmic patterns, I would write down the corresponding notes and rests for the bottom row, talking about why I made those choices and reviewing how long each note or rest’s duration was. I then started to ask my student to help me to fill in the notes and rests (e.g., “what kind of note would we need here?” “do we need a rest or a note here?”).

I’m really excited about this and plan to use in teaching in the future as a component of my almost-paperless studio. I would love to hear your feedback about ways in which this could be improved, different lesson plans involving this app, and more.