Category Archives: technology

Final Week – How to Play Jazz Piano

Here is a short video recapping my learning project journey:

To watch the video progress from week one, you can check out my YouTube playlist, or read the posts below.

To keep with the theme of my weekly posts, here are some reflections.

What I worked on:

  • I began my journey into the world of jazz piano by exploring:
    • jazz chord progressions (2-5-1)
    • the Blues
    • reading lead sheets
    • chord voicings and comping
    • two pieces – Misty and Autumn Leaves
    • early improvisation efforts

Wins:

  • Vlogging my entire experience and being vulnerable while learning a new skill
  • Making connections to my previous knowledge and adding to my music repertoire
  • Playing the piano without sheet music and experimenting. This is a new experience for me and I am really starting to enjoy the freedom.

Fails:

  • I had grand plans to become a gigging jazz musician by the end of this project, so I had to adjust my goals. I realized I need to practice a lot more.

What’s next?

  • I hope to continue improving my chord voicings, comping and reading lead sheet skills
  • Lots of jazzy Christmas music fun 🙂

Week 8 – How to Play Jazz Piano (Improv Attempts)

One of my biggest challenges in learning how to play jazz music has been figuring out how to practice.  With classical music, my practice has always been very “prescribed” – technical warm ups and practice, followed by working on specific pieces. This might include hands separate practice, slow metronome work and focusing on small sections.  In fact, it was very rare that I would do a full run through of a piece because it was not an efficient use of my practice time.  With my jazz learning project, I feel like I am always jumping to the “full run through” phase without taking the time to build a solid foundation.  Looks like I need to take my own advice! This week I tried slowing down and focusing on some of the fundamental aspects of crafting a solo.  My recap this week highlights that I have a long way to go!

What I worked on:

  • Started practicing how to solo (improvise) over “Autumn Leaves”.
  • Scales, scales and more scales!
soloing over autumn leaves A section
Example of different scale patterns

Wins:

  • I found a few great resources that help me understand why you choose particular scales to create your solos. It was a nice connection to my previous scale practice from studying classical music.

Fails:

  • I underestimated the amount of practice needed to incorporate these news scales in my soloing – I need more time.
  • I felt very “stiff” – afraid of playing the “wrong note”. I need to loosen up!

Resources used:

Next week will be my final learning project post. I plan to reflect on my progress over the last two months and make a plan for future practice.  This is only the beginning of my jazz journey!

Week 7: How to Play Jazz Piano (Autumn Leaves, Part I)

As we near the end of our learning projects, I started working on my final goal piece, the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves“. This has always been one of my favourites and my earliest introduction to jazz music.  After a little bit of analysis, I found that it follows the simple 2-5-1 chord progression I started working on at the beginning of my learning project.

I love that I can start transferring my new skills to different pieces! Here is my progress this week:

What I worked on:

Wins:

Fails:

  • This week was heavy on sheet music use, but I tried to use it as a tool (by analyzing the score) rather than a crutch.

Resources used:

Next week I will continue with Autumn Leaves, but I plan to go back to only using a lead sheet and begin practicing scales for improvising.

Week 6: How to Play Jazz Piano (without chord roots!)

This week was all about rootless voicings on the piano.  I carried on with my work on ‘Misty’ from last week and tried a different style of comping.  I originally planned on introducing another song this week, but I found the rootless voicings to be challenging and require more time.  I tried figuring out the voicings in my head at the piano, but it was too much to think about. So I decided to break it down by going back to the theory basics and writing out each chord, determining the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 13th.  Then, I wrote out the chords transitions so that there would be nice voice leading and common tones between the chords.

A side note about voice leading: I studied a lot of Bach chorales in my first and second year of music school, with the goal of understanding proper voice leading. There are lots of “rules” with voice leading, but they help with problems like:

“smoothness, independence and integrity or melodic lines, tonal fusion (the preference for simultaneous notes to form a consonant unity), variety, motion (towards a goal)” – Open Music Theory

Open Music Theory is an open source textbook (open educational resource). Cool!

In short, good voice leading makes music sound pleasing to the human ear! I really like the end result of my progress this week:

What I worked on:

  • continued with “Misty” – added a separate recording of the bass line in the left hand so I could comp using rootless voicings
  • rootless chord voicings – figuring out which notes to play and using good voice leading

Wins:

  • Starting to incorporate good voice leading
  • Overlaying multiple videos in my vlog

Fails:

  • I had to write out the chords this week (instead of figuring out the chords in my head). Although not my original plan, it allowed me to really understand the theoretical sides of rootless chords and good voice leading.

Resources Used:

Next week I am going to begin my final piece as part of my learning project. I am looking forward to learning my favourite jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves”.

Week 5: How to Play Jazz Piano (It’s “Comp” time!)

I think we have reached the halfway point in our learning projects! I feel like I am developing more independence in my jazz playing skills (for example, I can just sit down at the piano and experiment – get this – WITHOUT SHEET MUSIC!). Last week was all about reading a lead sheet and this week I focused on the art of comping. In a jazz group rhythm section, there is usually a bass player (responsible for the root of the chords), drums (rhythmic accompaniment) and piano/guitar to fill in the chord harmonies. Comping is essentially accompanying a soloist in an interesting way. Here is my progress with comping so far:

What I worked on:

  • Practicing the chords for “Misty” (focus on playing the root, 3rd and 7th notes)
  • Experimenting with different comping patterns for “Misty”. I learned about 3 different styles: walking bass, open voicings, rootless voicings. I chose open voicings this week.
Spread Voicings
Source: The Jazz Piano Site

Wins:

  • I felt like I was able to use my creative side and experiment with different comping rhythms and voicings. It was fun!

Fails:

  • Feeling hesitant with my chord voicing choices and concerned with playing the “wrong” notes. As soon as I relaxed, it felt a lot easier.

Resources used:

Next week I plan to continue experimenting with different comping styles (different rhythm patterns and rootless voicings) and try out a different jazz standard.  I think am ready to start jamming with other musicians – any takers?? 🙂

A review of Anchor – “The best way to make a podcast”

This week in EC&1 831, we were tasked to find a tool or app that we haven’t used before that could be used to make learning visible.  After a few discussions in class and Twitter about podcasts, I am eager to look at the podcasting tool Anchor. I really liked how my classmate Jessica set up her review, so I will be borrowing her format. Thanks Jessica!

Why I chose Anchor:

First, a(n unnecessary) preamble:

I have been a lover of podcasts since 2012. I was obsessed with Season 1 of  “Serial”  and loved this new distraction tool during long drives, while doing laundry or going for a run.  I dabbled in serious and educational podcasts, thinking it was important to use the time to learn something new. Then on an all-inclusive vacation in 2013, my best friend introduced me to The Pretty Good Podcast – a daily nonsense podcast that was mostly fluff.  This mindless listening was so relaxing that now my preferred podcasts are comedy and pop culture.  I enjoyed connecting with the podcasters through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  I then moved into the world of Adam Carolla and eventually Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend.  This information is probably not important, but I think that a podcast listening list says a lot about a person.  (So I should probably say I like to listen to This American Life or Revisionist History to sound more interesting.)

I always wondered how I could use podcasts in the classroom.  As a personal project, my sister, niece and I decided to start a podcast two years ago. We created an opening theme song, branded logo for Twitter and Instagram, bought a domain and even recorded a few episodes using Audacity.  But we ran into trouble when we couldn’t figure out how to easily host and distribute our podcast, especially for free.  So we gave up.

SO, why Anchor? Because:

Anchor is an all-in-one platform where you can createdistribute, and monetize your podcast from any device, for free.

  • easy to use (and nice to look at!)
  • free
  • mobile and web options

Overview of the app:

After downloading from the App store on my iPhone, I created an account with my personal e-mail and was given a quick tour about podcasting with Anchor:

Untitled presentation (1)

Untitled presentation (2)

 

 

**Login options require an email, Google, Facebook or Twitter login. In my division we would use our Google (G Suite) logins, but I’m not sure how this would work with other divisions.

 

 

The app is very intuitive and user friendly and does not require a lot of explanation – it has a “start and go” layout.  After playing around with it for about 20 minutes, I was able to record a few sections, add some musical interludes, “drops” or sound effects and transitions.  There is an option to add music if you link an Apple Music or Spotify account, but the music is only available if you listen to the podcast within the Anchor app.

The audio editing function is very straightforward and allows you to split tracks and trim the beginning and ending of each clip.  There are not a lot of audio editing options (compared to a program like Audacity – no fading, adjusting speed, pitch, etc), but the simplicity would be perfect for students.  You can also import existing audio (like from a Voice Memo, or a pre-recorded theme song) easily through the mobile app or web page.

Review:

Pros:

  • simple, easy-to-use interface
  • basic editing functions that would suit the needs of students
  • Mobile and web platforms are similar (ex. mobile app has all the same functions as web)
  • Record many clips over a long period of time before putting together an episode
  • Easy podcast distribution (and options to monetize) – step-by-step prompts that are quick to follow

Cons:

  • The ‘Discover’ option on the app allows you to explore different podcasts. This might be hard to monitor with students to make sure the use is appropriate
  • basic (limited) audio editing functions
  • everyone involved in the recording need to be in the same location (unless you use Skype or another type of audio conference, which would compromise quality). There is a ‘Record with Friends’ option, but it is only available on the mobile app.

RWF_session.png

Overall, Anchor is appealing because of it’s clean and simple interface.  There are easy functions (but limited options) with editing that would make it ideal for use in a classroom setting.  Also, once you set up an account, you can access your work from the mobile app or on a computer via the web page. The hosting, distribution and monetization options are great, but probably not necessary for working with students.

Using the tool personally:

Since creating a podcast with my sister and niece as a little “passion-project” a couple years ago, we might revisit our work and try uploading the existing audio files to Anchor and distribute our podcast. One of the requirements for distribution is that you have a podcast name and cover art, which we already have…so maybe we will try it out!

Using the tool in instruction situations:

I think there are lots of cross-curricular options with podcasting.  As an arts education teacher, maybe my focus would be more on the overall design of the podcast (cover art, theme song, use of sound effects and musical interludes). You could use podcasts in every subject, maybe with inquiry projects, interviews, book reviews… the list goes on.  The simplicity of Anchor means the focus stays on content rather than trying to figure out how to use the app.

Using the tool to document learning and growth:

Podcasts can be used as e-portfolios for students and allow for opportunities to document personal reflections.  Since you can record many clips over an extended period before putting together an ‘episode’, it allows students to keep a running documentation of their learning or projects.

Overall, I am very impressed with Anchor. It is easy to use with a simple interface, basic set up and functions.  I am excited to use it personally so I have a very strong understanding of the functions before rolling it out with students.

Does anyone have experience using Anchor with students? Did you require any division approval before using the app?

MSN, Facebook, Vine, OH MY!

Have you ever thought back to your very first email address?

Were you one of those people who were all business and just had “firstname.lastname”? Or were you one of those people, like me, who are still embarrassed to bring it up to this day? I still shudder when I think back to how cool I felt when I created the email “mandi_muffin1”.

via MEME

Since I’d rather not sit in that embarrassment alone, I decided to ask some other people what their first email address was. Here are some good ones:

  • “spiderman85”
  • “pet_luver10”
  • “regis_philbin”(not to be confused with the real Regis Philbin, just a big fan)
  • and my personal favourite… “cutiepatootie94”

For me, my first email address was like a key to the digital world. I used it to get my very first social networking platform- MSN Messenger. I remember when MSN first became popular. There was such excitement of meeting your friends in a vastly different way- on the computer instead of face to face. The new platform grew like wild-fire and soon all my friends were a part of this new community. This was often the case with online trends. First a few people would get hooked, and then soon it would be the only thing people talked about or took part in. Some social network trends only lasted for a little while, but some are still thriving to this day.

This got me thinking- what social networks actually impacted me? How was I affected by them? I decided to give a brief timeline called:

“Social Media & Me- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

1. Facebook:

I was in grade 7 when I first signed up for Facebook. It was a different world than it is now. “Food fights”, writing on “walls”, “Amanda is…” status updates. It was a fun way for me to connect with friends, show pictures, and update the world on what was new with my life. It was also a way for me to gain “friends” online. I felt a strange sense of accomplishment when I had a friend request or if I had another post on my “wall”. With this new territory came this new idea that I needed my life to look a certain way. This is still often the case with social media. A subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) competition on who has the most likes, and in turn, who has the most exciting life. The need for online validation through likes and comments, which started soon after the Facebook world made an appearance, is still something that many people battle with today, including myself.

2. Twitter:

Sometimes I wish I didn’t sign up for Twitter until I had more mature things to say, but we all have regrets in life. In order to give you context, I searched back to my old tweets from 2013 to show you some of the brilliant things I had to say about life.

For example: “I love fireworks” and “Jake Owen marry me”. Clearly I didn’t have any troubles fitting my riveting content into 140 characters.

After soon realizing there was more of a purpose for Twitter, I started using it for educational reasons and connected with other educators online. I soon grew my PLN (Personal Learning Network) through twitter chats, blogging, and “Tweet Ups”. I felt like I had a teaching community outside of my school, and it helped me feel less alone in my teaching woes and endeavours. However, with every good social networking platform, there comes concerns. With me, I had (and still have) a hard time not comparing myself to other teachers. When I see all of the creative, thought provoking, and engaging things that other teachers are doing in their classroom, it’s hard not to compare myself to them. I’m sure that there are several of you out there who struggle with the same thing. How do we get past comparing and move to confidence? That’s still the journey I find myself on and work towards to this day.

3. Instagram:

Exhibit B
Exhibit A

Instagram is still one of my favourite social media platforms to this day. I am a visual learner, so I love seeing quick snap shots of other people’s lives. When I first got Instagram, I would post any picture, write a short caption, and think it was Instagram gold.

There came a point though, when Instagram became about gaining followers and likes, which was difficult to keep up with. I’m embarrassed to say, but there used to be times when I would take down a photo if I didn’t get at least 100 likes. I know. Don’t judge me. It’s a crazy standard to set for oneself. A couple of years ago I had a change of heart. I turned my account to private, stopped following people who were not “giving me joy”, and set a new standard for myself. My continued desire is that it would be less about likes and followers for me, and more about connecting with my community through photos. And not to mention, tagging my friends in endless memes.

4. Vine & Tik Tok:

Oh how I loved Vine. A creative outlet to make people laugh through short 7 second videos. As Rebecca Jennings says in the article “Tiktok, Explained”, Vine was “brutally murdered before its time”. The app truly died too soon. If I ever wanted a “pick-me-up”, I would search through the feed of Vine and find the latest, laughable video by the newest Vine sensation. The app didn’t last nearly long enough, but there is something that is seen as, according to Rebecca Jennings, the “joyful, spiritual successor to Vine”. Tiktok- the latest fad in the online world. An app that, similarly to Vine, allows users to upload short clips of themselves dancing, singing, or following the latest viral trends. Seems like all fun and games, right? Unfortunately, every social media platform has its downfalls. Even though I’m not on Tiktok enough to know every latest trend, I do know that the youth who use this app encounter similar issues as I did as a teen, and still do today.

Comparison. The need for validation. Fear of rejection.

Are there enough benefits to outweigh the negative impacts of social media though? In my opinion, yes.

Social media has brought me a lot of positivity in my years of using it. Laughter, connectivity, knowledge, community, encouragement, and support. The list goes on. Yes, there have been many regrets and disappointments through the years of using these social networking platforms, but the same goes with my life outside of social media. So will I continue to interact with others online through social media? Absolutely.

Besides, everyone is in need of a good laugh every now and then by looking back at posts from the early days, browsing the latest memes, and of course, reminiscing on our first cringe-worthy email addresses.

My love-hate relationship with social media

I would consider myself an ‘early-adopter’ of technology, especially with the Internet and social media.  As a millennial (born between 1981 and 1996), I grew up in a time when using the Internet was a new way of life as I learned alongside new developments.  E-mailing, peer-to-peer music sharing websites (like Napster and Limewire) and instant messaging (MSN Messenger) were all part of my elementary school years.  I remember coming home from school, connecting to the dial-up internet (who can forget that connection sound?) and beginning a series of online chats with my friends over MSN. This was the beginning of my social media ritual that would continue and evolve over the next 20 years.

1 Millennials
Source: Forbes.com

Since I was figuring out these sites at the same time (or before) my parents, they didn’t have a lot of control or understanding of what I was doing on the Internet. An example: Yahoo Chat Rooms. One of my best friends growing up has a brother (who now makes his living creating video games like this one) who was very computer savvy. He helped us create Yahoo accounts so we could join large Yahoo chat rooms with strangers from all over the world. We even figured out how to participate in audio chat, usually with adults. Keep in mind we were young – in grades 4 and 5. All of this took place with our parents oblivious to what we were doing and before conversations about cyber safety existed. Did we tell them where we lived? Did we give out other identifying info? I don’t remember and I shudder to think of the potential dangers we could have encountered. Long story short, if there was something new on the Internet, we tried it.

Fast forward through high school (Hi5, MySpace and eventually Facebook) and I began to see the negative or bullying effects of social media. Does anyone remember the “Top Friends” feature on MySpace?

1 Todays kids
Source

Then you add in the “relationship status” feature on Facebook…sigh.  It wasn’t all terrible though, as it was a really cool way to connect with people from around the world.  In grade 12 I went on a school trip to Europe, and our group joined with another group from a small school in southern California. A decade later, I am still connected with some people from this trip and we keep in touch sharing photos of our growing families and professional endeavours.  Heading to university, I was able to join ‘Class of 2011’ groups on Facebook and ‘meet’ other students before starting classes.  This was extremely helpful to discuss everything from textbooks to the first social gatherings of the semester.

I have spent the last decade exploring successful and failed social media including Google +, YouTube, Skype, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vine, Weebly/Blogger/Wordpress, Tumblr and Snapchat.  Some have held my interest longer than others as I feel they add value to my life.  Other apps are cool ideas, and should be really successful, but they don’t seem to have the same staying power as more popular apps (like TikTok or Vine [in it’s prime]).  For example, I used the app “Mazu” with my younger nieces, and I thought it was a really positive experience.  It was created to help teach digital citizenship and the positive power of social media.  But then they just stopped using it one day. (Possibly a reflection on the short attention spans of this new generation?)

I am now at the point with social media that I feel “too old” to learn about some new networks, like TikTok.  All I know about TikTok is my nieces and nephews had it for about 5 minutes and became WAY too obsessed that my sister (their mother) made them delete the app.  As an arts education teacher, I feel like TikTok could be useful for ‘research’ and to reach my students, because we could learn some of the dance crazes like “The Git Up” or “Hey Julie”, but that’s why I use YouTube.

Even dating apps like Tinder and Bumble came after I met my husband, so although I understand the ‘swipe right/left’, it is something I will never experience in my social media journey.

When I consider how social media has affected my personal and professional life, I have a lot of positives but a growing list of negatives. Here is an example:

Snapchat: The only way that I communicate with my 16-year old niece. We have a great relationship and tell each other everything, but if it’s not face-to-face, it’s through Snapchat.  According to my niece, it is the only way she communicates with her friends (not through texting or other messaging). Why? Because the chats are not saved unless you want to save them and also through snapstreaks. The stress of snapstreaks is something I know all too well, as I send and receive a picture of the wall every day to my niece to maintain our streak. We have been doing this for 910 days. NINE-HUNDRED AND TEN DAYS. I even have a reminder in my phone – “Snap!!!!! Streak!!!!”. What is the point of this?! It actually causes stress in my life because I am afraid of losing the streak and how it would affect our relationship. Before I gave birth to my baby, I gave my niece my Snapchat login info so she could maintain the streak when I went into labour (turns out my baby came quick and we didn’t have to worry about losing the streak).  Is this the world we live in now? I was about to give birth, but one of my concerns was maintaining the streak as I felt like it is part of my relationship with my niece.  That being said, I still do it every single day with no end in sight. (Insert shoulder shrug emoji here).

Image-1

On a positive note, social media allows me to share milestones, travel and important events with friends and family.  I can stay connected with people wherever they are in the world and maintain important relationships.  In my professional life, I used Twitter, a personal website and LinkedIn to create a following that led to a full teaching studio of piano students within a few weeks.  These positive networking experiences helped me grow and maintain my business.  I also enjoy using Twitter to connect with other educators and sharing what we are doing in the classroom.  LinkedIn has allowed me to interact with people in other industries that share common activities (like same universities and volunteer commitments).

But with these positives, there are also negatives like #fomo and feeling left out when not included in social activities.  I think this is something that is an even bigger issue with our students and something I look forward to exploring further in this course.  Also, as a new mom, I have spent A LOT of time on my phone perusing Facebook and Instagram while holding a sleeping baby. It is hard not to compare your baby to other babies and get wrapped up in the “Instagram vs. Reality” world. And then there are sponsored posts/ads (are they listening to our conversations??) that make me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Finally, as a teacher, I find that I get a lot of student follow/friend requests that I must decline.  This is not necessarily a negative, but it does require having a conversation about privacy with my students.

In a recent conversation with my sister (mother of 4 of my nieces and nephews), I said “I hate the internet! I hate social media!”.  I could see how it was affecting my sister and her kids and the daily struggles she is having with them and access to social media.  She wondered if she should unplug the wi-fi? Move to a deserted island? How can we turn this around? What has to change to make it a positive part of our daily lives?  What can teachers do to help our students navigate the constantly changing world of social media?

On that note, I have to go take a blurry picture of my face or the wall and write the letter ‘S’ to maintain a daily ritual.

1 streak

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready