September 24

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Four Uses for Technology

Software that used to cost $500 is now practically free on the App Store.

Crazy, right?

But technology is a double-edged sword.

Technology has the ability to enhance the learning process. But go too far overboard, and you'll forget how to exist in reality. Musically and otherwise.

I believe there are three uses for technology in music studies.

1. Reinforcing concepts - Apps like Note Rush and Rhythm Swing can help with pitch and rhythm reading.

This is where technology excels, in my opinion.

Because it can hear and sense what you're doing and give you real-time feedback.

Otherwise, practicing pitch and rhythm reading at home would require another human to confirm whether the pitches and rhythms were correct. Flashcards have been the historic go-to, but that still requires a child to be able to assess whether they were correct or not when they flip the card.

Technology takes that issue off the table.

2. Creating music - If you have an iPhone, you already have a recording studio in your pocket. GarageBand. But there are countless other apps out there you can use to practically create entire albums on the go.

3. Stoking enthusiasm - These apps I believe are the least useful from a practical perspective. But, they get students excited about music, and that makes them valuable.

These are the apps like Simply Piano and Piano Maestro. They're modeled after the old-school Guitar Hero games where you play along with the floating notes on the screen.

The more notes and rhythms you play correctly, the better your score is.

While this gets kids excited about music, there are two problems. 

First, the skills don't apply directly to their normal music on paper. Because those notes aren't floating across the screen, and students are not getting that same game-like feedback.

Second, many of these apps claim to teach piano. Which is incorrect. Because all an app can tell you is whether you played the right notes and rhythms.

It can't tell whether you're understanding the literacy skills, sitting correctly, playing with musicality, using your nose to press the keys, or giving yourself carpal tunnel.

In summary, technology can serve us or hinder us. 

But like learning to operate heavy machinery properly, with the right training and expectations, you can use technology to take you places we only dreamed of decades ago.

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For parents, students, and anyone else who believes that music can and should be a meaningful part of everyone's life.

About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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