Integrate the iPad AND Creativity into Group Lessons

As the Christmas recital approaches, this means lesson time is spent delving into details like phrasing, clear articulations, solid technique, proper hand position (when does that lock in for good?) all to create musically appealing and successful performances.isleoftune It seems that so much lesson time is spent on these small details at the expense of other assignments. This is the perfect time to relieve students from the tyranny of the printed page and charge up those creative juices. Now I just need to figure out what creative activities I will offer my piano bench innovators.

Thanks to Karen Gibson's brand new magazine The Piano Bench Mag found at the Apple Newsstand, I've gathered some terrific ideas that should suffice for ALL ages. In her October issue, Karen graciously compiled a "Treasury of Holiday Ideas" so I eagerly skipped over to the Christmas section as I'm looking for lead sheets of holiday tunes. There were plenty of links to favorite sites which will serve me well for next week's group lesson plans. (NOTE: I highly recommend ordering a subscription to the magazine, but because it is November, the October issue is not included in your subscription. It will have to be purchased separately--sorry, bad timing!)

The lessons will begin with performances. Afterwards, the pianists will move through a rotation of centers which will IMG_0482include these stops:

1) Bella: My Yamaha C6 is affectionately called Bella and lives upstairs  in my living room.  Each student will spend time with me here to sketch out a practice plan to stay on track for the upcoming recital.

2) Clavinova/Headphones: Nothing keeps future performers more focused than recording a performance on the Clavinova. Here each pianist will be challenged to create a "perfect" recording of the upcoming recital piece. They will learn that securing a "keeper" is quite difficult which requires numerous attempts and focus--exactly how I'd prefer home practice to be every day!

imgres3) iPad/Piano: Karen Gibson demonstrates such an easy way to jazz up any tune in her YouTube video showcasing 7th chords in the October issue. Each student will watch the video several times and practice the chords on the piano. If time permits, the improviser will begin learning a favorite holiday tune in the RH and will experiment with adding the chords Karen offers in the video.

4) iPad/Headphones: An app that has fascinated me and my students (I've asked some to "beta test" it for me) is Isle of Tunes. Creators will be invited to explore the app and be notified of an upcoming in-studio contest for the best original crafted "tune".

Once students have rotated through all 4 stations we will gather back around the table (my FAVORITE addition to the studio) and discuss the creative assignment due for next week. Each student will experiment with chords and attempt to write in chord symbols for their selected IMG_0480holiday tune by matching melody pitches and chord tones and using good ears.

If all goes as planned, next week at the private lesson I'll work with students individually to lock-in LH chords and help them generate a lead sheet in another all-time favorite app: iReal b. This app makes it incredibly easy to enter chords, choose a style and develop an instant backing track for a lead sheet. This app rightfully earns its moniker of "power iRealPro-Icon-iOS-1024-roundedtool". If you don't own it, head to the App Store now!

Confession: this is the first time I've released lesson plans before they have been "activated" so there's no guarantee of success. Things may be tweaked before next week but I hope that my plans encourage you to integrate apps into private lessons, lab time AND group lessons.


Looking for more creative holiday ideas? Here's some past blogs that may inspire...

A string of studio variations on Jingle Bells. This unique project is credited to the brilliant Wendy Stevens.

Click here to learn about a unique gift for student parents inspired by Richard Rejino's What Music Means to Me.IMG_2483


I just gave you a sneak peek into my group plans using apps. Challenging myself to integrate apps into my lessons fills my idea bank to capacity and then some. If you are interested in learning about more apps and how I integrate them into my teaching you will want to purchase my book The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps. The book itself offers numerous ideas; however, a growing library of videos and blogs accessed through QR codes in the book will provide continued, updated information about apps, other teachers and how they use the iPad in their studios and more. This hybrid experience will keep you in touch with the hippest apps and your studio in sync with today's technology.

To order please visit

Also, look for my column "Teaching with Apps" in Clavier Companion

FYI: you WON'T find the same info here at the blog, in the book or in the magazine--thanks to the incredible variety of apps!