Week 2 – How to Play Jazz Piano

Last week I made my vlogging debut with the beginning of my jazz piano journey.  After two weeks of tracking my progress through video, I have learned a few things.  First, I need to adjust how and what I record to make the vlog more interesting.  In particular, I want to make sure I include some of the “work-in-progress” videos instead of focusing on getting a perfect “take”. I really love what my classmate Amanda is doing to make her vlogs enjoyable to watch. Second, I purchased a phone tripod to make the filming a little more professional and maybe eliminate bad angles.  Luckily a few of my classmates had a similar idea, so I found some good tripod recommendations on Twitter.

Here is my week 2 recap:

What I worked on:

  • Practiced the 2-5-1 (ii-V-I) progression in all 12 major keys (and added in a drum backing track to make it interesting).
  • Reviewed the C Blues scale (in the RH) and tried playing it with a Blues shuffle pattern in the LH.

Wins:

  • Still no sheet music! Focused on playing by ear.
  • Being able to play the C Blues scale easily from muscle memory.  I must have learned the scale at some point over the years and I remembered exactly what to do.
  • Squeezed in lots of short practice sessions (5 minutes or so), which is about all I can manage with an almost one-year-old roaming around.

Fails:

  • I had a lot of difficulty with the Blues shuffle pattern in the LH. I need to spend some slow practice time on this skill.
  • Difficulty choosing which resource to use next.  There are so many on YouTube, so it’s a challenge sorting through the videos. My classmate Daina is exploring Udemy.com, so I might look into that as an option.

Resources used:

Basic Music Theory: C Blues Scale

Week 2 is complete! This week I plan to continue working on the 2-5-1 progression (and see if there are any other useful videos for practice), playing the C Blues scale in the RH and Blues shuffle pattern in the LH and maybe start looking at jazz lead (fake) sheets.

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Week 1 – How to Play Jazz Piano

Week 1 of my learning project journey is in the books! My biggest takeaway from the week is that this is going to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated.  Playing jazz compared to classical music requires a shift in how you think and process music.  Instead of relying on sheet music, I am focusing on using my ears to listen to the chords and my brain to figure out what I am playing.  From a theoretical standpoint, I find jazz music fascinating as you experiment with different chords and voicings.  But I also find it frustrating because I am so used to playing exactly what is written on a sheet of music.  In some ways, I compare it to learning a new language, where you are translating the words in your head before speaking.  This week I am “translating” the chords and creating a visual image in my mind before I play the notes on the piano.  Sometimes I rely on the feel of the keys and my hand position, but then my technical brain takes over as I want to know exactly what I am playing.  I anticipate this will be a continued struggle as I progress through my journey.

After my initial blog post about the learning project, I received some great feedback about where to look for resources online.  Similar to my classmate Brooke, I put a call-out on social media asking for advice of where to start. I received lots of useful information and of course some funny but unhelpful advice.

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(The first video suggestion falls into the “unhelpful” category”)

To document my learning journey, I pondered with the idea of vlogging like my classmate Amanda. Like Amanda, I am completely new to vlogging, but we had a great discussion in class on Tuesday night about ways to document our journey in interesting ways. Here is my first attempt!

What I worked on:

  • Demonstrated what I already know (basic form of the 12 bar blues)
  • Practiced play 2-5-1 (ii-V-I) chord progressions using 3rds and 7ths voicings

Wins

  • I figured out the progression fairly quickly and immediately fell in love with the “jazzy” sound
  • I didn’t resort to using sheet music! This is a big one for me. I practiced strictly by ear.

Fails

  • A realization that playing jazz is a lot more difficult and mentally involved than I thought

Resources used:

Aimee Nolte’s YouTube channel is supposed to be great according to recommendations from my jazz friends. My only complaint is there is a lot of talking before you get to the main practice.

That’s a wrap on week 1! For the next week I will continue my 2-5-1 practice in all keys and maybe starting working on a more sophisticated 12 Bar Blues.

“we participate, therefore we are”

In my relatively short teaching career (six years and counting), I have noticed significant changes in access to technology in the classroom.  For the most part, the access has improved with more devices allocated to each school as well as better programs and apps to use with students.  For example, during my internship, I still used an overhead projector and the occasional YouTube video (if I was able to book the data projector to use in class), to my current set up with Epson Interactive Projectors and integrated audio and visual technology in each classroom.

An even better example of improved technology for music teachers is a program called “MusicPlay”.  It is a Kindergarten to Grade 6 music program with hard copy binders and CDs, available in almost every Regina Public school.  Recently, the company released “MusicPlayOnline“, which allows access to the entire library of music and activities, as well as interactive games and exercises.  This program is an awesome example of innovation in the music classroom and has changed how I teach students.  It is also extremely helpful to deliver engaging lessons when overcrowding means no separate music classrooms and teaching from a cart or teaching in multiple schools.

In the Pavan Arora TEDx video, “Knowledge is obsolete, so now what?”, he explains that,

  1. Knowledge is changing faster than ever before
  2. Knowledge is growing (currently doubling every 1-2 years)
  3. Access is improving (smartphones and Internet- anywhere, anytime)

So the question we must ask ourselves as educators is, what do we teach? If the information we have to offer now will become obsolete in a few years, why even bother?  Instead, Arora gave a great suggestion of what to teach:

“We teach creativity”

He explains that teaching creativity will helps students understand how to access, assess and apply knowledge.  If we give students the information, they will figure out how to use it.  With these ideas in mind, we can begin to understand the importance of student centered, differentiated and inquiry-based learning.

I think it is also fair to highlight the need for arts education is schools.  We need to figure out ways to foster and build creativity which can be achieved through thoughtful arts integration in schools.  I also think collaborative projects and cross-curricular learning give students different ways to apply knowledge rather than only focusing on learning specific facts.  One of my dream teaching jobs would be to teach in a school that uses arts integration among all subjects.  Not only has this been studied to improve behaviour issues in school, but I think it teaches students to learn in ways that will be useful in the next generation.  The video below gives an example of how arts integration allows for deeper learning in schools. I was exposed to this video in my first year of education studies at the University of Regina, and I thought it was revolutionary at the time.  Seven years later, I think more and more teachers are using the arts to change the way students access information.

Returning the focus to social media and our course content, I think there are a few different steps educators can take to bring social networks into the classroom.

  1. Seek out approved networks by school division
  2. Review privacy guidelines and policies of these networks
  3. Educate students on safety and privacy online
  4. Use the networks as a new approach to learning

Using approved network by your school division is a good first step to help balance the need to educate children with the latest technology and stay safe online.  In my school division, you should technically only be using programs, networks and apps that have been approved by the division.  So in short, use tools that are on the approved list!  For example, SeeSaw – a network and e-portfolio to share student work with families.  Regina Public worked with this company to make sure the privacy policy suited the requirements of our division.  If there is an app or tool that you would like to use that is not on the list, send a request and the department will look into it.  In some ways, this is taking the pressure of the teacher to know what is safe online – instead get the people in a focused department to look after it! An excerpt from the Regina Public educational technology site:

Regina Public Schools strives to provide student and teacher access to quality teaching and learning tools that meet privacy and licensing requirements. Baseline apps, services, and software listed below are provided or supported by the division.
Staff interested in accessing apps, services, and software not listed as baseline, can send their request to support@rbe.sk.ca

As a good practice, I think it is still important to review privacy guidelines, terms of agreement and policies of any network you are using with students.  You may also be interested in learning about apps or networks you use at home, maybe with your own children.  StaySafeOnline has many resources, including a guide to student data privacy online.  I liked how the article gave examples of different questions to ask regarding privacy:

Examples of questions you can use to get both the conversations going include:
Does the app or software require account registration? If yes, is any personal information required? What permissions does the app need to function?
Does it need access to one’s email, contacts or location details?
Do the app developers share personal details with other parties? If so, to what extent?

I think it is probably a good idea to always be a little skeptical before you scroll quickly through service terms and click “I agree”.  This needs to be part of our teaching to students so we can be aware of how our data is shared online.

One of the NCTE literacies states that as active and successful participants in the 21st century, you must be able to “develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology”.  This goes along with my third idea that we should teach our students to understand privacy and safety online as part of using these tools.  Common Sense Education is an excellent resource with lesson plans, videos and infographics about how to protect students’ data and privacy online.  I think that privacy and safety should always been intertwined and constantly revisited in any conversation involving technology.  Safe access will continue to evolve as new networks and apps are created, so it is imperative to not become complacent with our understanding of privacy online.

Finally social networking is changing how we approach teaching and learning knowledge.  In the Brown and Adler article, “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail; and Learning 2.0”, they explain that with the development of “Web 2.0”, our attention has shifted from access to information to access to other people.  This new “participatory medium” is ideal for many different kinds of learning.  With Web 2.0 comes Learning 2.0 – “passion-based learning, motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something”.  Instead of the traditional “supply-push” mode of learning to build up an inventory of knowledge, Brown and Adler explain that there is a “demand-pull” approach to learning.  This “demand-pull” is based on students having access to rich learning communities that emphasizes participation.

The article explains the old Cartesian idea of “I think, therefore I am” with the new social view of learning as “we participate, therefore we are”.  This social view is a reflection of shifting teaching practices in a rapidly changing world.  As educators, it is our responsibility to be aware of these changes and find ways to balance how we share knowledge while being mindful of student safety and privacy.

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“ilearn2”by Annitix1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

I think it is important that we continue to teach creative ways of learning and how to apply knowledge.  What are some ways you can include this in your classroom today?  For me, it’s through arts integration and using social learning apps (from my approved division list, of course).  I am also very intrigued about incorporating Learning 2.0 ideas, like passion-based learning with my students.  Finally, I want to make a personal commitment to review the privacy policies of all the social networking apps that I use so I have a better understanding of sharing data online and what it actually means. What changes will you make to how you share student data online?

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

Learning Project…and all that jazz

I am very excited at the prospect of learning something new, just for me.  I have always had lots of interests that I wish could become hobbies, but it seems like it is never the right “time”.  Things like knitting, baking (fancy French macarons), cake decorating, photography, musical instruments, languages, calligraphy…they are all on my wish list of things to learn at a higher level. I have dabbled in these interests, but never committed my ten thousand hours to master these “hobbies”.

Enter Option B- The Learning Project: The targeted learning outcome should be something that is complex to learn, worth learning, and of great interest to you.

I want to really learn how to play jazz piano.

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Photo Credit: dave.fergy Flickr via Compfight cc

As I reflect on my nearly 25 years of classical music training, something I have always appreciated is the genre of jazz.  I love listening to jazz (especially live) and the delicate balance between the musicians as they weave in and out of intricate chord changes, rhythms and improvisation.  In high school, I played piano in the jazz band and then I sang in the vocal jazz choir in university.  Both experiences gave me the opportunity to learn some of the basics of jazz (form, like the 12-bar blues) and improvisation (although mostly for the voice – called “scatting“). BUT, the biggest problem I ran into as a classically trained musician was my inability to go “off-book”.  I could fake jazz playing if I had sheet music and spent hours practicing exactly what was on the page.  Something I have always wanted to do was to be one of those people that could sit down at the piano and “jam” – play freely and effortlessly if given a few chords or even a key of music.

You might be thinking that this is cheating, since I am already a very capable piano player. And I have a music degree, so lots of theoretical background and knowledge that will make learning jazz easy. But it is hard. This video sums it up perfectly:

In case you don’t want to watch the 9 minute video, here are the reasons given:

  1. Different approach – classical is written out vs jazz is a lot improvising
  2. Classical musicians aren’t taught how to improvise
  3. Different technique – classical (scales, arpeggios) vs jazz (walking bass lines, chords)
  4. Different scales
  5. Different chord progressions
  6. Different chords (jazz has a lot more clusters compared to classical)
  7. “Colour” chords – in jazz you add notes to chords to make it sound different
  8. Confusing chord symbols in jazz
  9. Jazz requires more listening – to play unique styles (classical music is written out – play exactly what is written down to notes and rhythms)
  10. Emotion vs precision – classical musical is all about interpreting what is on the page (based on an understanding of the time period, composer, etc). Jazz involves a lot of emotion and “feel”.

While this is not an exhaustive list, I feel like it is a pretty good start to show why it is SO. HARD. to play jazz music for strictly classically trained musicians. I sort of equate it to learning a language. When young children start learning a language and are immersed in it, they pick up the nuances and details of the language more easily.  I wonder if I had been exposed to jazz from the beginning and learned how to play it, I would be in a different place today. Or if I had ever taken lessons specifically for jazz.  I find it so difficult to “get off the page” and always prefer to have sheet music.

With that long preamble, I am excited to use my understanding and interest in analyzing music and theory to develop my skills as a jazz musician. I started brainstorming a list of things I would like to be able to do at the end of this exploration. This includes (but will continue to evolve):

  1. Play from a “Lead Sheet” (a standard requirement for all jazz musicians)
  2. Learn how to play the blues (12 bar blues) and other common progressions (ii V I)
  3. Improvise using different scales, modes and techniques
  4. Play more by ear than reading sheet music
  5. Play a few jazz standards and maybe learn how to “jazz” up a piece like Happy Birthday or Christmas songs

I have a few ideas about how to document the process (video and audio clips) and where to look for “how-to” videos (YouTube: “How to play jazz piano” brings up a lot of options). Does anyone have suggestions of other online resources to use to work on this project?  I am considering doing a call-out on Facebook for all my jazz musicians friends and their recommendations.  Maybe a Skype lesson could take place?

Looking forward to reading about other project ideas from my classmates!

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

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?

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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).

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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.

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Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready