Top 10 SmartMusic Blog Posts of 2016

top 10 SmartMusic blog posts

2016 changed some of us for the better, others not so much. It’s been a big year for SmartMusic with the launch of our new web-based platform, bringing SmartMusic to Chromebooks, and giving clinics across the country. Through all the ups and downs of 2016, our goal on the blog has been to pass on the best music education tips we possibly can. To celebrate that goal (and reflect on the end of 2016), we’ve compiled the top SmartMusic Blog posts of the year. The hardest part was choosing just ten.

10. Help Music Students Discover Critical Thinking

When music educators teach critical thinking, they provide guidance, rather than merely answers. Helping students find the answer on their own means that they are more likely to make a decision, try something new, or re-evaluate their playing. In this blog post, Chris Bernotas describes the ways that the ensemble classroom help students learn skill beyond the instrument.

9. Brass Tone Quality: No Instruments Required

How do you improve your brass section’s tone quality? The Cavaliers have proven that it doesn’t require time on the instrument. Brad Hughes, the assistant brass caption head for the Cavvies, has breathing exercises and buzzing exercises that will improve your brass players’ tone and blend. Looking for a quick way to get started in the new year? Focus on developing a “concept of sound” and attack the mental aspect of tone production first. Read more in Brad’s post.

8. More Jazz Improvisation Tips from Gordon Goodwin

When a GRAMMY winner says it’s ok to practice improvisation using only quarter notes, it must be ok. Gordon Goodwin shares a story about the “Quarter Note Challenge” – a teaching technique so effective he continues to use it with students today.

7. The Neuroscience of Deliberate Practice

We’re all about deliberate practice here at the SmartMusic Blog. Simply practicing isn’t enough, it needs to be good practice. You need to reflect on your practice, get feedback, and plan for the next performance accordingly. We’ve built SmartMusic on these concepts so that students can get immediate feedback and plan for their next take. But what happens in your brain when you use this approach? Gregg Goodhart explains in this deep dive into what practicing does to your brain and why deliberate practice is the best practice.

6. Free Ebook with Tips for Your Holiday Concert

Hopefully your holiday concert went off flawlessly. If not, we have some ideas for planning next year’s event. Bookmark this blog post, you’ll want it in 2017!

5. Using Formative Assessment in the Music Classroom

Music educators hear over and over again about the benefits of using formative assessment over summative assessment. Unfortunately, implementing formative assessment techniques in the ensemble classroom is easier said than done. In this blog post, SmartMusic’s social media manager, Ryan Sargent, applies what he learned as a middle school band director and offers some ways to modify your rehearsal techniques. Small adjustments can bring formative approaches to life, even in a busy rehearsal.

4. Instrument-Specific Beginning Band Tips

Be honest, you don’t remember everything from bassoon methods class, even if you teach beginning bassoon. This ebook includes tips for making sure each student gets a great start to the school year and ways you can help older students shake off the rust (because we all know they didn’t practice enough over the summer). With this reference guide, you won’t have to remember methods class to great french horn hand position from your students.

3. Teaching Rhythm, the Most Important Thing in Music

The title says it all. Based on his Midwest Clinic session from 2015, Seth Gamba offers specific techniques for teaching rhythm in every music classroom. The best part of the article are the quotes Seth includes. Our favorite? “If you’re not counting, you’re guessing, and if you’re guessing, you’re wrong,” from Andy Reiner. Read why Seth thinks rhythm is the most important thing in music here.

2. What Adjudicators WISH They Could Tell You

One of the most stressful moments in a music educator’s year is opening the packet of feedback from festival or contest adjudicators. Not only are your strengths and weaknesses right there on paper for everyone to see, but you get the feeling that the form doesn’t even tell the whole story. In this blog post, we went behind the scenes with a long-time adjudicator to find out what judges WISH they could tell you. From repertoire selection to your outfit, you’ll be surprised at what matters to judges.

1. Six Music Classroom Management Strategies

Sometimes the best blog posts are the simplest. Here, Rachel Maxwell and Jessica Corry share six simple tips for handling classroom management. Controlling an ensemble classroom is difficult at best, and Rachel and Jessica use these six techniques every day with nearly 400 middle school students. They’ve got classroom management figured out as well as anyone, and you can too. Read more tips in this post.

That’s it for the SmartMusic blog in 2016! As always, a big thank you to our readers and contributors this year. Have a safe and happy rest of your winter break, and we’ll see you in 2017!

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