Why I Relaunched Leading Notes

Four years ago, while I sat in my hotel room in the Union Theological Seminary in New York — things happen when you’re forced to break a lease due to bedbugs, okay? — and worked on an early childhood music education paper, I got an IM from fellow graduate student, Nick Jaworski*.

*I know, the title says ‘I’ even though there’s really a ‘we’ behind Leading Notes. I can only speak for myself here!

Our conversation moved quickly to a Google Doc, where we outlined our thoughts and vision for Leading Notes, a new music education site that would serve as a central hub for longform content and offer teachers an opportunity to share their visions, ideas, and successes.

We contacted teachers we knew and asked them to write about the state of music education, our fingers crossed the whole while that we could actually pull this off.

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Rethinking Music Performance Anxiety

Music performance anxiety can creep up on us before an important performance or even a weekly music lesson. Most musicians have experienced music performance anxiety at some point during their careers.

How can teachers help students cope with performance anxiety? Should we focus on helping students to get rid of stress symptoms, or is there another way to look at the issue?

Put yourself in your student’s place and remember what it’s like to be anxious.

It can sometimes be all too easy to forget what it’s like to be a music student. As music teachers, we are privileged to share our experiences and knowledge. However, this can often make it hard for us to directly relate to our students.

Remembering what it’s like to be brand new to your instrument and the musical concepts that you take for granted can impact how you approach your students’ anxiety and concerns.

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5 Ways to Use FiftyThree’s Paper In Music Lessons

It’s been two years since I started using FiftyThree‘s Paper iPad app in private teaching and I am still going strong! Paper makes it easy for my students to visualize musical concepts and sketch and draw staffs, clefs, notes, rhythms, and more in their music lessons.

Here’s five different ways that I use it to compose, notate, and innovate with my guitar and bass guitar students.

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Google Drive and Private Music Lessons

I’ve gone paperless in my private music studio!

I use screen sharing with my online students and teach with my iPad for in-person students. And all of my students, no matter whether they’re online or in-person, work from digital chord charts and progressions.

Even though I’ve been using cloud-based storage and collaboration tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box for as long as I’ve been teaching private lessons, I only just made the switch from emailing resources to saving them in Google Drive folders a month ago.

Here’s a brief overview of why I chose Google Drive and how I use it with my private music students.

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Teaching Pop Music: Music Theory with the Rolling Stones

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of teaching pop music in private music lessons. Incorporating songs that your student knows (with some discretion, of course) can improve their interest, engagement, and excitement about lessons — especially if it’s one of their favorites!

Here’s an example of how I used pop music to teach one of my bass students about chord progression analysis, bass line creation, and musical cadences. We even worked on some ear training, too!
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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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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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