2014 Best Tools for Schools

Mike Lawson • Best Tools for Schools • January 27, 2014

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Educators Highlight the Best Teaching Tools from the 2014 Winter NAMM Show

The annual Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim California is the place where hundreds of thousands of musical instruments, accessories, and related products are debuted to industry insiders. For the fourth consecutive year, educators at the music products convention combed the exhibit halls looking for the best products for classroom use in an array of different categories. Using an online voting process at sbomagazine.com and hard-copy ballots from attendees, music teachers made their selections, which culminated in a presentation of the 2014 Best Tools for Schools from the Winter NAMM Show.

Special thanks to panelists Dr. Karen Childress-Evans of the San Diego Unified School District, Jamie Knight of Huntington Beach High School’s Academy of the Performing Arts, and SBO columnist Dr. John Kuzmich.


Best Teaching Tool for Young/Elementary Students

Piano Mania from JoyTunes

Piano Mania by JoyTunes

With fun cartoon-based graphics, Piano Mania is an app designed for teaching the fundamentals of piano to young learners.




Best Teaching Tool for Secondary Students

Breezin’ Thru Theory, Breezin’ Thru Composing

These dynamic web-based curricula for grades five-12 use a five-step learning process to teach music theory and composition.






Best Teaching Tool for Beginner Students

Hal Leonard’s Essential Elements Interactive Band & String Method

This online tool for teaching, learning, assessment, and communication facilitates instruction for beginning band and string students, both in the classroom and at home.




Best Intermediate Teaching Tool

Moog’s Theremini

Moog’s Theremini

The new Theremini by Moog is both a flexible, affordable music-making tool as well as an entryway into great cross-curricular activities about music, science, inventors and more.





Best Advanced Teaching Tool

PreSonus Active Integration StudioLive Mixer

PreSonus Active Integration Series StudioLive Digital Mixer

Available in 16, 24, and 32-track models, the new StudioLive Digital Mixer series from PreSonus give schools a flexible and powerful tool for recording and mixing at a school-friendly price-point.




Best Practice Tool (Traditional ensembles)

Silent Brass from Yamaha

Yamaha’s Silent Brass

The redesigned Silent Brass line from Yamaha offers lightweight, compact brass mutes that sits in the bell of the horn, almost completely silencing the instrument, while translating the audio to a ultra high quality digital signal that the student can listen to with headphones.




Best Practice Tool (Pop ensembles)

FretLight Guitars

FretLight Guitars are high quality musical instruments that have embedded into the fret board LED lights that light up, indicating where the student’s fingers should go. The accompanying software comes with 130 lessons, 150 playing-along tracks, and over 1,300 chord inversions.




Honorable Mention: JamHub Tour Bus

JamHub Tour Bus

Previous Best Tools for Schools recipient JamHub’s innovative Tour Bus adds a great new recording feature to its silent rehearsal capabilities.






Best Percussion Teaching Tool

HingeStix by Vic Firth

Vic Firth’s Hingestix

Vic Firth’s Hingestix are drumsticks that have an adjustable plastic swivel pad that teaches young learners where the fulcrum of the stick is, making proper grip and finger technique a veritable certainty.




Best Jazz Teaching Tool 

Band in a Box by PG Music

PG Music’s Band in a Box 2014

Band in a Box is accompaniment software that automatically generates a complete professional-quality arrangement of piano, bass, drums, guitar, and strings or horns.






Best Concert Band/Orchestra Teaching Tool

SmartMusic is available for the iPad

MakeMusic’s SmartMusic iPad App

SmartMusic’s new iPad app brings the program’s full-featured, cloud-based rehearsal and assessment tools to the new portable iPad medium.





Best Alternative Co-Curricular Teaching Tool

Fresh Beats by Alfred Music Publishing

Alfred Music’s Fresh Beats

The Fresh Beats standards-based hip-hop curriculum from Alfred Music Publishing is a great tool for students (and teachers!) to learn about hip-hop culture, beat-making, lyrical composition and more.



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