• Playing In Tune: More Than Following a Display

    Mike Lawson | November 16, 2011

    "A lawyer's relationship to justice and wisdom is on a par with a piano tuner's relationship to a concert. He neither composes the music, nor interprets it – he merely keeps the machinery running," says Lucille Kallen, a noted scriptwriter, lyricist, and novelist.  After all is said and done, success hinges on attention to the basics; and there's nothing more essential to music than good intonation.

    Intonation is a daily challenge, guiding students to play consistently in tune with each other and as an ensemble. This requires more than matching a single concert A-440 pitch. Playing different pitches relatively in tune is more demanding and more important than perfect (absolute) pitch. We've relied heavily on electronic tuners for more than 50 years without realizing, sometimes, that not all tuners are equal and there are factors affecting the best use of a good electronic tuner.

  • Music Tech Tutorials: Third-Party Solutions

    Mike Lawson | October 11, 2011

    Why does the latest and greatest software also seem to be so challenging to figure out, with a hundred new keystrokes and pull-down menus? Do these companies really think that three-inch-thick manuals of well-hidden information will help get people up and running? No wonder great technology goes under-utilized, especially in this era of budget crunching. But wait! The business world brings new software online all the time. What's missing in this picture for the music education world?Why does the latest and greatest software also seem to be so challenging to figure out, with a hundred new keystrokes and pull-down menus? Do these companies really think that three-inch-thick manuals of well-hidden information will help get people up and running? No wonder great technology goes under-utilized, especially in this era of budget crunching. But wait! The business world brings new software online all the time. What's missing in this picture for the music education world?

    The more I teach music technology, the more I realize the value of third-party tutorial resources. To answer my wife's question on this subject: the first party is the vendor manufacturer; the second party is you, the user; and the third party includes all of the incredible training materials and tutorials available in the form of books, eBooks, YouTube videos, blogs, CDs and DVDs. For this article, I have reviewed 14 new third-party music technology/tutorial resources that can speed up the software learning curve.

    Ace Martin, the instrumental music chairman at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, understands that sometimes you have to pick your battles when it comes to learning new software. He also notes that there is a wide array of resources designed to help bring educators up to speed. He says, "Over the years of teaching technology, I have learned you can't expect to be up to speed on every new upgrade or software used in my music technology classes. I rely heavily on clinics at music conferences, especially at TI:ME conferences, to get updates on new approaches. I have gone to YouTube to find a tutorial or lesson on Logic Pro. For example, sfSonicNinja does great tutorials on using Logic. Third party DVDs from ASK Video and tutorials on MIDI are a sample of the wealth of information available. Tom Rudolph has done a wonderful job with his books on Sibelius and Finale to dovetail with the variety of online videos available to the users of these notation programs. With time and budget concerns, third-party tutorials are a must for all users and teachers teaching music technology. Most universities now have a component of music technology as a requirement before graduation; so it makes sense to use these tools to keep up with the every changing world of music technology. I certainly will continue to make use of every tutorial I access to help myself and my students keep up with those every streaming changes in software."

  • Technology: Building a Cutting-Edge Music Workstation

    Mike Lawson | September 20, 2011Whether building one's first student workstation or thinking of updating or adding to existing modules, it's a good idea to enlist the help of a solid music technology specialist. I recently talked with a few music tech experts who have offered great advice and suggestions for designing and building music workstations: Mike Klinger of The Synthesis Midi Workshop (; Kelly Demoline of Kelly's Music and Computers (; Jim Frankel of SoundTree (; Chris Rutkowski of Sweetwater Sound, Inc. (; and Peggy Morales of Romeo Music (

    Before making any concrete plans, Peggy Morales suggests first answering several questions to determine specific needs. Consider what the music workstation will be used for. Will it be used:

    • Reality TV: Using Portable Digital Video Recorders

      Mike Lawson | August 2, 2011

      Ever walked by a mirror or big store window and not looked at yourself? There's more than just good looks in that reflection. Stimulation, motivation, analysis, curiosity, truth… all this and more comes to life when teachers bring camera recording technology into their classroom instruction. Talk about exciting reality television!

      Camcorders have come a long way from previous bulky, analog units. Nowadays, digital cameras easily fit into the palm of your hand, and their digital capabilities provide superior audio and video quality. Analog camcorder models have all but disappeared now that digital camcorders offer so many more options than simply playing videos back on a TV. Users can edit and embellish videos on a computer, then play productions on a DVD, Blu-ray player, PC, or handheld device. You can also e-mail recordings or upload video clips to sites like YouTube. Many video editing software suites also let you combine your video with digital stills, graphics and text, expanding the creative possibilities.

      Most digital camcorders are quite compact, weighing about one pound, with the smallest to a half a pound. In the past, camcorders stored video on mini tape cassettes and DVDs. Today, we have choices: internal hard drives, on-board flash-memory similar to what you find on MP3 players, or removable flash-memory cards like those used in a digital camera are the most common formats.

    • Technology: Interactive Blogging & Social Networking

      Mike Lawson | May 19, 2011Not long ago, new advancements like computers and software began enhancing how educational institutions provide instruction. Technology has also now embraced communication and social networking at a dizzying pace. This rapid innovation has created two categories of teachers: digital natives, who intuitively use technology; and digital immigrants, who have a longer learning curve with new hi-tech tools. Oftentimes, students are the natives while teachers are the immigrants. We can take advantage of this by letting students teach us as we engage in innovative technology and techniques, especially as it relates to blogs and social networking, which are two powerful tools that can assist music educators.

      The Social Networking Phenomenon

      There is no denying the impact of social networking in today's world. These are some of the most popular social networks summarized from a panel discussion presented by Marina Terteryan of Alfred Publishing at the 2011 Jazz Education Network (JEN) National Conference.

    • Survey: Game Changing Technology

      Mike Lawson | April 8, 2011As tools like e-mails and cell phones serve to facilitate communication and accessibility in ways that would have been unfathomable a generation or two ago, the music world is filled with comparable advances. Devices like digital tuners and hand-held recorders, access to videos and playlists on YouTube, and the unceasing innovation of amps, tuners, mixers, synthesizers, notation software, and more have changed the way people, learn, practice, and perform music. In many ways, technology has changed how music is taught, as well: 96 percent of the band and orchestra directors responding to this recent SBO survey indicate that that have implemented significant tech tools into their classroom over the past ten years.

      How different are the tools in your classroom today from the tools in the classroom ten years ago?

    • Enhanced AP Music Theory Instruction

      Mike Lawson | April 8, 2011

      It's a lucky music student who can take an advance placement (AP) music theory class, especially while budget axes are swinging.  But it takes more than luck to score a 4 or 5 on the College Board sponsored AP exam.  And about 33 percent of the approximately 4,000 students who take the exam each year are reaching that goal.

      Thousands of strong college-bound high school musicians know it's worth the effort. A high score can earn college credit, savings, and is a great boost on a transcript. So I asked several teachers who incorporate technology in their AP Music Theory classes to tell us how they help their students get ready for the exam.

      Each of these educators incorporates technology differently and their individual situations may provide insight on how you can enhance your own music instruction, even if you don't teach an AP Music Theory class.

      The teachers I spoke with are Matt Haynes of Danvers High School in Danvers, Mass., Scott Watson of Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa., Brian Timmons at Bergenfield High School in Bergenfield, N.J., Diana Gable at Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, N.J., and Martha Reed at Tucson Magnet High School in Tucson, Ariz.

    • Videoconferencing, The ALIVE Project and You

      Mike Lawson | March 6, 2011

      For the past 15 years, I have been intrigued with the capabilities of video conferencing and its instructional benefits with guest lecturers – without the complications of travel, housing, meals and timelines.

      By John Kuzmich, Jr.

      While giving a presentation in Stockholm for the Swedish chapter of the Percussive Arts Society's Day of Percussion in 2004, Allan Molnar stated, "Back in the 1980s, musicians began taking computers to gigs so they could replace live musicians with MIDI instruments. Now musicians can take computers to gigs and replace MIDI instruments with live musicians!"

    • Technology: Starting the New Year with YouTube

      Mike Lawson | January 7, 2011The race to space in the middle of the last century hardly compares to the stampede of new opportunities on the Internet. I'm especially proud to see so many music educators leading the charge, bringing exciting new learning experiences to the classroom.

      Free tools like YouTube give music teachers a plethora of authentic modeling examples to share with their students. As most people know, YouTube is a video-sharing Web site on which users can upload, share, and view videos. It uses Adobe Flash Video technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur video blogs and short original videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, although media corporations like CBS, BBC, and VEVO post their material on the site as part of the YouTube partnership program. Unregistered viewers can watch the videos, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos. Videos can be posted in high definition, up to 2 GB in size and up to 15 minutes long.

    • And the Beat Goes On!

      Mike Lawson | November 5, 2010

      This time we're going deep into the core of music: the beat. Going all the way back to the days of Beethoven, the metronome is perhaps the oldest music technology device, and it continues to lay a strong foundation for the beat all over the world. But the metronome has come a long way over time, as there are some innovative and downright exciting options for keeping the beat in today's music. Percussionists, in particular, have great new tools to help build their chops in record time.

      Next Generation Practice Pads

      Since 1936, wind, string and brass instrumentalists have benefited from electric (strobe) tuners to nail their accuracy. Now there's a piece of equipment that can objectively nail the drummer's accuracy. The Beatnik is an interactive practice pad with an advanced built-in metronome. This super analyzer can help increase accuracy in ways never before possible. Learning drum rudiments coordinated with note-reading skills and real-time analysis of rhythmic accuracy makes it far more than your grandpa's drum pad. While Beatnik's multiple analyzers evaluate timing and rhythmic skills, its multiple views can give instant timing data of a student's technical strengths and weaknesses. This visual feedback is a powerful motivator that can speed up progress toward total rhythmic fluency and accuracy.

    • A Brief Look at Music Theory & Ear Training Software

      Mike Lawson | November 6, 2009

      "Accountability" is the buzzword for survival in music education today. With the help of state-of-the-art music technology, we can now validate our instruction and show growth via assessments and performances as never before. Some excellent music theory and ear training software applications have arrived with attractive new features that can facilitate growth and learning for students of all ages.

      Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory 3 (EMT3) and Datasonics' Mastering Music are now available in Web-based versions, and several companies have created software designed to prepare students for the music portion of the Advanced Placement exams. Keeping records of music theory and ear training progress is easier than ever with detailed analysis and reports readily available for parents, students, and faculty. Teachers can create customized instruction to meet their individual curriculum needs. New product updates offer more modules, cleaner interfaces with more graphic presentations and generally make music theory and ear training a lot more fun to learn.

      Take a look at this buffet of instruction:

    • A Conversation With Tom Rudolph, Music Teacher Technologist

      Mike Lawson | June 1, 2009

      The world of music technology in education is so young that most of the pioneers in this field are still alive and kicking. Dr. Tom Rudolph, president of TI:ME, is one of those people. An outstanding model for music educators, Tom is continually evolving and developing himself as a teacher while staying at the forefront of technological innovations and their applications to education, as he has done since 1984. I recently caught up with Tom to discuss the applications of technology in music education.

      John Kuzmich: Tom, can you tell me about your early days in music technology?
      Tom Rudolph: I was interested in electronic music as a double major at the University of the Arts, where I studied Trumpet and Music Education. I took several courses on electronic music in the 1970s using a Moog synthesizer. After graduating, I purchased an Arp Odyssey. The first book on technology that I purchased was Learning Music with Synthesizers, a 1974 Hal Leonard publication, by Friend, Pearlman, and Piggoit. I still have that book and refer to it frequently. The concepts introduced there have not changed.

      In 1982-83, the high school in my district canceled the Level 1 and Level 2 Theory classes due to lack of enrollment. So I became interested in finding out what was up with technology and learned that we could use the Apple II computers in our high school for music. We then decided to offer both theory levels in the same class and, in doing so, were able to re-instate one music course. After this success, I ventured into state and federal funding for computers at Haverford High School.

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