• Technology: Plug Into Student-Centered Success!

    Mike Lawson | December 11, 2015

    Picture this: five focused students with headphones rehearsing on instruments plugged into JamHub, collaborating, critiquing, recording; taking charge of their own learning and success. This picture is real and hundreds like it are entering music rooms across the country. Students are organically using technology to build a framework for cooperative learning, which is the heart of the modern classroom.

  • MusicFirst and MatchmySound Release PracticeFirst Online Practice and Assessment Tool

    Mike Lawson | April 24, 2015

    PraciceFirst Screenshot - Valley SongPracticeFirst, the new online practice and assessment tool from MusicFirst and MatchmySound is now available.

  • Prime Project-Based Resources

    Mike Lawson | April 7, 2015

    Using and Mastering V.I.P. Software Publications

  • Technology Tools to Help Orchestra Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills

    Mike Lawson | January 26, 2015

    When I was a student, my teachers always stressed the importance of listening to myself in order to improve. I will admit that the thought of it wasn’t always pleasant, but once I got over the initial shock of listening to myself, I realized that recording oneself (or one’s group) is one of the best tools available for learning. Now, how do we do the same with our students? How do we teach them the critical thinking skills that go along with listening to themselves and making adjustments?

  • Sound Equipment For Studios and Concerts

    Mike Lawson | January 26, 2015

    Sound Equipment for Studios and ConcertsThis exciting lesson plan in understanding and using sound equipment for your concerts and studio projects is excerpted from Music Tech 101 - A Group Study Course in Modern Music Production using Audio Technology, by Brian Laakso, a new curriculum for teaching music technology programs in high school, available January 2015 from Alfred Publishing, published in cooperation with TI:ME - The Technology Institute for Music Educators.

  • Technology: Percussion Practice Software

    Mike Lawson | November 23, 2014

    ​​Did you know that there are over one million apps each on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Google Play store? And it’s not just that there’s a boat-load of apps to chose from, it’s that there seems to always be something being released that does the “it” better (or differently) than the others. Take drumming, for example. There are many apps that you can use to learn how to play rudiments, drum set, world percussion, and even mallet keyboards. Their goals may be similar, but different app developers harness unique features of the device and provide creative interaction that can make it seem engaging and useful for specific needs and learning styles. This month we’ll look at some apps that are geared toward learning rudimental and drum set performance.

  • Technology: Rehearsal Software II

    Mike Lawson | September 17, 2014

    Practice software roundup #2: The Jazz Edition


    In my last article, we looked at three software packages used for performance training. These practice aids have advanced assessment options that “listen” to the performer and evaluate for correct pitch and rhythm. While each has its strengths and weaknesses, they all could find a place in the student’s toolkit of practice aids.

    SmartMusic, the most full-featured of the three, provides an ever-growing library of titles of both solo and ensemble music as well as a cloud-based grade book solution for the teacher. The cost, while not outrageous, is a subscription model that the student would need to pay every year in order to gain access to the SmartMusic library.

  • Technology: Rehearsal Software

    Mike Lawson | July 21, 2014

    Practice Software Roundup #1


    "Practice makes perfect!" That’s what my fourth-grade band director said as I struggled to play a BH major scale on my trombone. Practicing was boring – and quite frankly, the only thing I wanted to do was play the glissando at the end of the song. Now that was fun! But practice I did. In between weekly lessons, I diligently went through the scales, exercises, and songs from the Rubank Method book each day, never really sure if I was doing anything correctly because I was too wrapped up in the process of playing; holding the horn, moving the slide, breathing, embouchure, and so on. This was way too much for a fourth grader to be thinking about, let alone evaluating what was coming out at the end of the bell.

    Wouldn’t it have been great if there were somebody or something that could listen to me practice and at least tell me if what I was playing was correct? Well, today, with the ever-increasing power of computers, the patient “listener” can sit beside your students and let them know if they’ve played correctly – to a point. Let’s look at three software applications that purport to do just that.

  • Technology: Drill Prep Apps

    Mike Lawson | June 18, 2014

    The secrets to OSU’s paperless marching band rehearsals, increased efficiency, and much more

    Have you ever dreamt of a paperless marching band rehearsal, perhaps during a windy day that had printouts flying across the field? Or thought about a way to decrease the time and expense of printing and coordinating sheets for every step and set of a drill design for each student? Fortunately, technology can now make these dreams a reality. New apps for iPads and Androids make paperless instruction easy, so you can funnel all of your creative energy directly into the marching band show.

    The marching band at The Ohio State University took the world by storm when their extraordinary marching routines of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk and T-Rex walking across the field were featured on national TV news spotlights. Their innovative introduction of iPads on the rehearsal field paid off. The band’s Oct. 26 performance of “Hollywood Blockbusters,” including Jurassic Park, has received more than 15 million views on YouTube:


  • Technology: Digital Audio Workstations

    Mike Lawson | January 21, 2014

    Web-based apps for the music classroom

    In a previous edition of SBO, Dr. Jay Dorfman wrote about the growth of cloud-based computing and its impact on education. This model of computing leverages access to networks (both local and internet) for most, if not all, activities that a user may do on his or her computer. Very little is actually stored on the user’s computer. Instead, applications and documents are accessed from remote servers. The netbooks (i.e. Google Chrome) are a good example of this new trend. It’s almost as if we’ve come full circle from the early 1970s when mainframe computers handled tasks sent from “terminals,” primitive keyboard and printer devices. Of course, today we have media-rich experiences with images, audio, and video at our beck and call, which can be invaluable resources for the music classroom. 


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    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.

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