These challenging times have forced music educators to showcase our flexibility and ingenuity. As our lessons have shifted online for over a year, we have had to adapt to a new education landscape. It hasn’t been easy. Thankfully, in addition to Forte, there are other incredible, free resources that have helped me along the way.
Rhythm and intonation are two topics with which I’ve had to get particularly creative. The abstract nature of rhythm and intonation make them tricky to teach online, but here I introduce four resources that make it possible to explore these essential topics online with even the youngest students and two online libraries that are indispensable free tools in every music educator’s toolbox.
I hope that these resources help you on your online teaching journey with Forte. Have other resources you’d like to share with fellow teachers? Email us at [email protected]lessons.com.
Created at NYU by the Steinhart Music Experience Design Lab, Groove Pizza offers a fresh and creative approach to teaching rhythm using geometric visualization and different styles of music. It can be used by musicians at any skill level to help reinforce subdivisions and internalize the pulse.
Groove Pizza is also a decent drum machine, and I like to use it to create custom metronomes for my students and myself. You can program up to four unique bars. I like to give myself and my students the exercise of alternating playing with the beats and with the off-beats. Or, I’ll program Groove Pizza to mute every other bar (or longer) to improve my students’ inner pulse. It’s also a lot of fun to practice your excerpts, etudes, and exercises with Groove Pizza set to different styles of percussion. While not every combination is successful, my well-loved (i.e., overplayed) excerpts and exercises get a rhythmic refresh with Groove Pizza.
Tuner Ninja is a simple and effective browser-based tuner that works on any device and in any browser. The responsiveness is appropriate for basic tuning needs, and the result stays on the screen for clear and accurate reading. There is a tone wheel display as well as a staff notation display. It is completely free and there are no advertisements. This is a tool that I use with my students of all ages.
Tuner Ninja is particularly effective when trying to help younger students tune their instruments in an online lesson. I recommend having your student pull up Tuner Ninja in a separate Chrome tab and then using Forte’s screen-sharing function (be sure not to click the “share audio” button as it will create unwanted feedback). This way, you can view the tuner together with your student and help them understand how their adjustments (even subtle ones) affect intonation so that tuning becomes a careful and focused warm-up to your lessons.
MuseScore is a music notation application that supports a wide variety of file formats and input methods. Most importantly MuseScore is an open-sourced tool that is free to use! MuseScore is also accompanied by a freemium mobile score viewer and playback app, and an online score sharing platform. In my experience, MuseScore is as robust and comprehensive a tool as I have ever needed as a professional and you cannot beat the price!
Chrome Music Lab
There are several tools in Chrome’s Music Lab but Shared Piano, Song Maker, and Rhythm are the ones I use most often with my beginning students who are learning not only the basics of their instrument, but also the basics of music theory.
Chrome Lab’s Song Maker is the fresh way to explore relative pitch and harmony. Using colors and a grid, students can visualize tonic and dominant or see the difference between a chord and an arpeggio. Though it only works in C Major, it’s a great way to visually reinforce the basics of pitch and harmony.
Shared Piano is what I use to reference pitch, help visualize and clarify harmony, and offer practice with drone notes. In the virtual teaching space, and with the absence of a real piano, this is a good substitute.
The simple interface of the Rhythm tool in the Chrome Music Lab breaks down the components of rhythm in simple and fun ways for kids. One special touch that I love about this tool is that it uses animated animals that move with the beat! This is the kind of subtle movement that can make a world of difference, and one that I miss when teaching online. It’s not quite like being able to move for your students but it is a step in the right direction and that attention to detail is much appreciated.
For older and more serious students, I recommend Neue Mozart-Ausgabe Online for a complete collection of all of Mozart’s work. This site includes the Urtext Barenreiter editions (no Kalmus!) as well as digitized copies of Mozart’s original handwritten manuscripts. Let your inner music geek run wild as you dive deeply into the world of Mozart with these beautifully-curated, authoritative editions.
IMSLP is a must-visit site for online teaching! It’s quite well known as one of the internet’s most incredible examples of collective knowledge through the lens of music publication. Think of it as the Wikipedia of sheet music.
It is so well known that I almost didn’t include it but for those of you out there that haven’t heard of IMSLP, you must check it out.
Personally, I use it most often when helping my students prepare orchestra repertoire. Full scores and complete parts are available for almost all of the orchestral repertoire in the public domain. If you need the full score and complete parts for Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, IMSLP will have several options for you. If you need an arrangement of Jingle Bells for flute, clarinet, trombone, two violins and piano, or a recording of Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1 for recorder ensemble, you can find it all on IMSLP, for free.