A Day of Discovery

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Published on: January 20, 2013

There are some days where lightbulbs turn on in your head at an alarming rate. I love those days, don’t you? I also love music education and technology. So when I had three huge lightbulbs turn on in my head today, ALL related to music education and technology, I’m pretty sure it can be classified as an amazing day in Andy-land! Here were my three major lightbulbs, in order of appearance:

iPads for Choir

I have been tasked with teaching choir this year, and it would be an understatement to say that this puts me outside my comfort zone. While I can hold my own on piano, I fully admit that I am not at the level where I can accompany a choir, especially while at the same time listening and assessing the ensemble. So when I saw a post by Dr. Christopher Russell this morning titled “Using iPads for Choir Sectionals,” my interest was immediately piqued!

In the post, Russell discusses the methods through which he creates practice tracks for each voice part in his chorus using Finale and Notion for iPad, and allows them to practice (along with the score, using ForScore) in sections while he works with other groups. While I intend to use this in my classes, my biggest take-away from the article was actually the “Guided Access Mode” on the iPad, which allows me to lock the iPad into a certain app (and even disable certain parts of the screen in that app!) to prevent students from playing Angry Birds when they should be practicing their part. What an incredible feature! I didn’t even know it existed. If you’re curious, you can find it by tapping Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Guided Access.

Between “Guided Access” mode and the musical potential that using Finale, Notion, and ForScore (in conjunction with Dropbox) create, I can’t wait to get back to choir this week!

Tonal Energy Tuning App

I have been hearing about the “Tonal Energy” app for iPad and iPhone for a long time, but thought I couldn’t find anything better than my (very expensive) iStrobosoft strobe tuner app. Little did I know… Tonal Energy is really as amazing as everyone says it is! In addition to a very easy to read interface, Tonal Energy is worth every penny of its $3.99 price tag (and then some!) just because of the “Tone Generator” feature. For anyone who has used a Harmony Director before to demonstrate Equal/Just Temperaments and help ensembles develop a sense of intonation on chords, this app can do the exact same thing. It allows for pitches to be played using any instrument sound, and you can sustain as many pitches as you want at once. This is PERFECT for sustaining an open 5th as reference while students tune their instruments at the beginning of class. This will be especially useful now that I know how to….

Wirelessly Mirror Video/Audio from iPad to Projector

I have been looking for a way to wirelessly mirror my iPad to my Promethean projector since I started teaching. I have an extra long VGA cable that works fine as a way to plug my iPad into the projector, but this creates a few problems:

  1. I can’t move around much, because the cable keeps coming loose from the bottom of the iPad
  2. I can’t play audio from my iPad through my classroom sound system without actually placing the iPad near the sound system and connecting it through an 1/8″ Aux cable

Enter Chris Burns (@clb1015 on Twitter) who suggested I look into AirServer as an option. Sure enough, this is exactly what I was looking for! For a nominal $11.99 educational license, AirServer lets me wirelessly mirror my iPad (video AND audio) to the iMac sitting near my Promethean board. From there, I can connect the iMac to my projector and sound system using the appropriate VGA/Aux cables, and with a tap of a screen, I can easily walk around the room with my iPad screen displayed on the projector and iPad audio running out of my classroom speakers. I can think of a few applications for this already:

  • Display TonalEnergy on the projector while I pump that open 5th through the speakers to help with tuning in band classes
  • Play audio accompaniments through the speakers while I use ForScore to follow along in Chorus (AKA never need a choral score again!)
  • Display Tenuto or other Music Theory/Ear Training app on the screen while playing ear training exercises in Music Theory classes
  • Quickly play listening examples in all classes without having to walk away from the class to plug in the iPad, causing the class to go nuts (happens EVERY time…)

The only downside to all these discoveries? I have to wait a whole day before I can start to implement them because we have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off tomorrow! Not that I’m complaining about the long weekend, of course…

What other applications am I not thinking of for all these great new ideas I came across today? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Serge Puchinsky

    Andy – you should check out Noteflight too. It’s online and free for kids – I use it with my theory classes and our choir director uses it in a similar fashion as you described. Noteflight also just came out with an iPad app today. Kids can hear their parts, but they can also do theory assignments and composition. You can also embed entire melodies with playback in your class blog.

    For the wireless iPad trick I use an app called Reflector (formerly called Reflection). It’s much easier to set up than Airserver and it perfectly mirrors anything on your iPad through your laptop and projector. I pop up my iStrobosoft tuner through there during band rehearsals and also throw up a huge metronome sometimes for marching band – works great and it sends both audio and video signals. It’s amazing how much more you’ll use your iPad and projector in class once your disconnected from the front of the room. Single license is $12.

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