Thursday, June 26, 2014

Singing Games for Children

Quick post here:

I just wanted to share an awesome resource that a friend from Hungary shared on facebook. (Thanks Sophie!) It is an awesome website of singing games for children! It has a large collection of songs in English, French, Catalan, Spanish and Polish (all songs not in English have English translations). Along with the song, there is a full description of how to play the game and many songs are accompanied by a link to a youtube video or to a score of the music.

Within the categories of languages and collections by the site author, the songs are sorted by MANY themes (Holidays, Seasons, Animals, Day and Night, Farm etc.) There is also a grid that shows what type of game each song has so you can vary your teaching by type of game.  It does not sort by melodic elements or rhythmic elements, but I can tell it will be awesome when looking for a certain theme for a program, etc.

Note: You do have to scroll down a bit to get to where you can actually click on the song titles- but there is lots of great information before that that would be great to share with parents, administrators, etc.  (Why singing games, how to teach them, etc.)

Be sure to check it out- Love it already!

Friday, June 13, 2014

REMIND 101- Free Text Service

So I was in potential AP interviews today and one of the candidates mentioned REMIND 101- a free text service for teachers to send quick reminders out.  I immediately wrote down the website because I have been looking for just this.   Last year, I had a lot of problems with my email list-serv and people being accidentally kicked off lists and therefore not getting needed information.  I also have parents who rarely touch a computer because they think it is not needed.  I think a text service will definitely help my communication with parents in the coming school year.   

I know I just got out for the summer, but didn't want to forget about this great service.When I got home from the interviews I went to the website and found it super easy to sign up.  I made a "class" for General Music reminders (potentially ALL Chorus members next year), 5th grade chorus, and 6th grade chorus.   Parents join by going to the website and typing in the code and their number.  It makes it really easy to email the information to parents, print out handouts or even project instructions on your white board.  I plan on using this next year for quick concert reminders, breakfast reminders, audition reminders, or even just a quick note saying I sent out an email with more info-  this way, parents can email me if they didn't get the information and will also have all important info in multiple places.  This helps me cover all my bases- paper, email and text!

One great thing about the service is that parents and students CANNOT reply to it.  It uses a secured number rather than my own personal number so I will not be inundated with texts back from parents with questions, etc.   It is just an easy reminder service . 

Check it out!

*note- they did not ask me to write this blogpost nor am I being compensated in any way for this post.  I just thought it was a super cool service. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

FORTE Music Notation Software Review

One reason I love blogging about Music Education Ideas, (aside from sharing those ideas with people all over and getting good feedback and ideas from other amazing teachers) is every once in a while a company contacts me to review their product.  Sometimes I accept, and sometimes I don't- but I was really excited when I was contacted by FORTE premium music notation software to review the newest version of their product.  

I use music notation software ALL THE TIME!  I do not have an accompanist to work with at my school every day for 5th and 6th grade chorus so I always put their accompaniments into the computer for rehearsals (don't worry- I hire an accompanist for the concerts!).  I am not the greatest at piano, so I can either play- or listen to the kids (not both at once), so being able to put the piano part into the computer helps out tremendously.  I also made my Retrieval (Master Copy) pictures using notation software as well as little melodies for my students to read or to put into a SMARTboard file.  I got pretty fast with Sibelius, and still use it sometimes, but that computer is on it's way out so I figured why not try out FORTE on my work computer!

I have to admit- it has taken me a while to have a chance to review it, but now that school is out and I have had the time, I am really liking what I see.  I put in a song and a half of accompaniments using both input options (click and fast input). 

The set up was super easy- less fancy choices than Sibelius which I like.  You enter the title, composer, copyright, etc. on the first screen, go to another screen to pick your instruments and then choose the Time Signature, Key Signature, Tempo, if there is a pick-up etc. all on the next screen and you are all set. 

Automatically when you start a song there are two boxes that pop up- an input palate with every type of musical symbol you might need to input sorted into taps like: Notes, Accents, Dynamics, Tempo, Text, etc. and the Document Properties which gives you all the info you may need on your composition- as well as cool tools to play around with.  Some of my favorites for my Kodaly Classroom are Retrograde (just highlight the notes you want reversed and click!), Add Note Names (highlight the notes you want named, click apply, and they appear- Great for worksheets!) and Copy Staff.  They also make it easy to compress or split staves, add chord symbols, text, etc.  and I know there are probably many features that I haven't even found yet!  You can also export as an MP3 or Wave File, Import songs (scan a score, import a midi file, etc.)

I first put in We Gather Here Together (just the piano reduction) using the standard click input.  It went fairly quickly, even with figuring things out as I went.  One little feature I LOVE that became immediately apparent was the little tick marks that appear at the top of each measure as you are entering notes so you can see exactly what part of the beat you are placing the note on.  This means that you do not have to first make rests to input an eighth note on the 2nd half of a beat as you do in Sibelius. You just line your note up with the tick marks and click!  Just like a normal ruler, the beats are the longest ticks, and they get shorter as the beat is divided further.  Another great overall thing is you do not have to worry about different parts or notes of different values being placed on the same beat- FORTE gets it. No need to click on a second voice if the Sopranos have a dotted quarter-eighth pattern, while altos are singing two quarter notes in the same measure.  

I also discovered if you input a note wrong, you can either delete it and try again OR select it using the SELECT tool at the top, and move it using the CTRL key and the arrows.  This is the ONE THING I wish was a little quicker or took less clicks to fix. 

The 2nd song I entered into the program, I used the quick input feature.  This took a while to get used to, but I can tell once I use it a lot it will definitely make the whole processes MUCH quicker.  Your right hand changes the note value, adds sharps or flats, etc. while the left hand takes care of the absolute note names. To input the pitches, you do NOT use the actual letter of the note, but rather they made a section of the keys so that your hand doesn't have to search the keyboard for each pitch (W-R and A-F).  X is the rests, Z is triplets.   If you want a chord you can hold down the C key and it will tell the computer you want a chord and not move onto the next beat until you have let go. 

Quick Entry Guide

Neither of the songs I have entered so far had Key changes or Time Signature changes but the menu at the top makes it super easy to do so. 

Overall I really love this product.  Everything was pretty straight forward and easy to figure out and I know as I use it more this summer I will keep finding new ways to make putting accompaniments in my computer, or making worksheets much faster and easier.  If I had any questions the people at FORTE were quick to answer and they also have a lot of videos and tutorials on their website.  Thank you FORTE for allowing me to try out your product!