Friday, August 5, 2016

#003 - So THAT's How You Tune the Timpani

For the last 11 years I have watched in amazement as one of the band directors I team teach with (and an amazing percussionist) tunes the timpani.  He steps over and taps the drum a few times, adjusts the foot pedal and he's done - no pitch pipe, no tuner, no tuba player.  For years I have wondered how Kevin did this - surely he has perfect pitch or very job relative pitch for the timpani.  

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve just figured out how he does this (after 27 years of teaching as a band director - I probably embarrass tuba players to admit this).  I hope there’s at least one other person on the planet that has wondered about this timpani player trick.  Surely I was told this in my percussion methods class in 1985 but if I was it didn’t stick in my brain.

I have known the pitches for the 32”, 29”, 26” and 23” drums should be D, F, Bb, and D - Die Fat Batman Die. While not everyone uses this tuning, it does seem to be fairly standard amongst bands.    Kevin is great at keeping the timpani tuned so when the timpani is heel down/toe up, you have 4 very useful pitches you can tune the timpani from - the timpani..  Ding, Ding, Ding - Lightbulb!

How do you keep the timpani in tune to the fundamental pitch? Here's a good source of information. How to keep the timpani in tune - adjusting the pedals.

This past week, I was able to use my newly discovered knowledge to tune two timpani to Bb and F without the use of a pitch pipe, tuner, or tuba player.  I needed a 2nd line Bb and a 4th line F so I tuned the 26” timpani to the F an octave lower from the 29” and then tuned the 29” up a perfect 4th and wahla I’d tuned the timpani.

Now that I’ve learned to tune four timpani - I’m going to spend my next 28 years learning to tune oboe unisons.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

002 - Creating a Rhythm Quiz with Google Forms

To be able to give my students more individual feedback on reading rhythms, I need to find a way to grade quicker, read student illegible scratches on a page better, and return it to the students quickly.
I think I've found a way to do this now with Google forms.

Here goes - if you need an introductory course on Google forms here is a good one:
Creating A Google Form

1.  Create questions for your student's name (short answer text).  I use two boxes so I have a better chance to receive the form with a first and a last name.  If you want to be able to e-mail the results of the quiz/practice back to the students include a box for the email address (this is a great  - hold on).  Make each of these fields a required field so they can't submit the form if they leave one of the boxes empty.

2.  Click on the Add Section tool.  It's the bottom symbol of the tool bar on the right hand side.  It looks like the equals sign.  =

3.  In the new section, title the section with the rhythm you're going to use.  It would be possible to download a picture file into this space.  I've titled mine  with the measure number on the page I'm using from the method book.  (Essential Elements 2000 - Rhythm Studies Page 42).  

4.  For the "questions" - each answer needs to set-up for "Short Answer Text".  Use a method to labels and notes for your questions.  The first time I tried, I set everything as note 1, note 2, note 3.  When I received the answers in the spreadsheet form I didn't know which Note 1 was associated with which measures.  My template is Measure # - Note #.  M1-N1 is the first note of the first measure.  With this method, you will need 1 "question" for every note and rest in a measure.  4 eighth notes and 2 quarter notes = 6 questions.

5.  Create a new section and repeat step #4 for each measure you want students to write in the rhythms for as many rhythms as you desire.

6.  When you are finished, you are ready to send the quiz to students.  You may copy the link to the form and post it in Google Classroom, send to the students in Remind, or post it to a website.  Click on SEND to the left of the 3 dots in the upper right hand corner, 

then click the link button between the Send Message icon and the embed HTML buttons.  I recommend clicking on the "Shorten URL" bottom so your life is more concise.  There are also buttons to post to Google+, Facebook, or Twitter should you want to post this assignment to a social media site.  (I don't know why but there might be a good reason.)

7.  When the students open the link for the Google form - they will see something like this:

8.  Page (Section) 2, is where the students begin writing in the rhythms.  My school district uses the Eastman Counting system.  Use whatever system you prefer, just be clear to the students how they need to notate the rhythms.  If the sysmbols are not exactly a like, it will be counted incorrect

9.  My rhythm writing rules are:
     a.  Use the following symbols:  1, t, 2, t, 3, t, 4, t
     b.  When writing in rhythms leave NO space between characters.
     c.  If the note is a rest, place an "r" before the note.
     d.  Note values will appear similar to this (all beginning on count 1)
          1.  Whole Note:     1t2t3t4t
          2.  Half Note:         1t2t
          3.  Dotted Quarter: 1t2

10.  At the end of the last section - students press the blue submit button.

11.  Return to your Google Form - next to the Questions Tab, you will have the number of responses displayed.

12.  Click on the Responses Tab - on the next page you will want to click on the green box to the left of the 3 vertical buttons to create a new spreadsheet in your Google Drive.  

Grading the responses from Students.
1.  Install an Add-On titled Flubaroo.
2.  Click on Grade Assignment. 
3.  Flubaroo - Grading Step 1.  A new window will appear -  here you can set the number of points per each question.  The Students Names and E-mail address are not awarded points (be default).
4.  Flubaroo - Grading Step 2.  Setting the grading key.
         Take the test once yourself before grading.  Select the box to the left of the submission to use as the grading key.

5.  Flubaroo will grade all assignments for you in a matter of seconds (large classes still less than a minute).  

6.  Flubaroo - Share Grades:
To send the grades back to students.  Click Add-ons:Flubaroo:Share Grades

7.  Student Report - from the email the report looks like this:

I hope this is helpful.  I just opened this blog site today and I'm having trouble with the graphics going exactly where I want them.  If I can answer questions (or if you notice errors or something that just doesn't make sense) you can contact me at or on Twitter @maestrolinville


001 - Returning the Saturday Morning band director chat to the 21st century OR How to be a connected educator.

This blog began as an assignment for a professional development summer class offered through the USD #385 (Andover Schools) Tech Department with the awesome Dyane Smokorowski @mrs_Smoke and Micah Brown @MBrownEdTech based on Matt Miller's book "Ditch that Textbook."

The assignment was "Why Be A Connected Educator" and one of the options for answering the question was to create a blog and submitting a post to answer the question.  

To summarize some of Matt Miller's ideas from "Ditch that Textbook" with a few of my own ideas - 1) all teachers should share what they are doing in their classroom with other teachers -  share ideas, resources, strategies, challenges, and results.  2) It helps teachers reflect upon their teaching.  What went well? What didn't work that you thought would work?  When you teach the lesson again, what will you change?  Will you use the same resources again?  Will you edit the resource or start all over from scratch.  3)  Matt states "Blogging shows how you've changed as an educator".  How do you teach differently now from last year, 3 years ago, 8 years ago, or 20 years ago?  Share it for those starting the path that you have just journeyed on.  Can you find resources for other teachers to use and can YOU be a resource for another teacher. 

Learn more about Matt Miller and "Ditch That Textbook"

Mr. Robert E. Foster
University of Kansas
Director of Bands
In a Lawrence Journal-World article dated June 19, 1983 Mr. Foster comments on starting the Band Directors Institute (BDI) at the University of Kansas.  "As a young band director in Texas I enjoyed big, good music stores with coffee pots that worked a lot on Saturdays"..."That particular interchange of ideas was just a really important part of a young teacher's education."  Foster continued, "The principal motivation behind the Institute {Band Director's Institute}, was that we can all can do more together than we can do all by ourselves."  

I was in attendance the first three years after I completed my Bachelor's Degree at the University of Kansas soaking in as much information as possible from the clinicians and experienced teachers in attendance.  They may have tired of my questions, but there was so much to learn.

Teaching in the year 2016 has changed greatly from the 1980s and 1990s (and you will never see pictures of me from those decades on this blog).   For younger teachers, this was a time when there was no internet, no e-mail, no cell phones, no text messaging, and  long-distance phone rates were very expensive for a young teacher.  It was a day of tape recorders, taking roll by writing the names of absent students on a piece of paper and hanging it outside the room on a nail or clothespin and writing grades  on a set-of carbon copied cards and then passing the set to the next teacher down the hallway at the end of the grading period.  When you started teaching you were a teacher on an island and you learned by trial-and-error.  While trial-and-error is an effective way to learn it is not the most efficient way to learn as you repeat errors that you could learn from experienced teachers. The solution was to travel to where the experts were.  Developing your Professional Learning Network (PLN) and becoming your own professional development director meant traveling in your car to the music store on a Saturday morning.

I am reflecting this summer on how I learned to "be a band director" almost 30 years ago.   I remember sitting down and listening to directors like Brad Bone, Don Farthing, Dale Casteel, and Bill Johnson to name only a few and trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible. I attended BDI at KU, I took classes in Chicago at the VanderCook College of Music in their summer MECA program, and summer classes from Wichita State University and Friends University.  I attended the Kansas Bandmaster's Summer Convention every July and the Kansas Music Educator's Association every February.  I also remember driving to Senseney Music on Harry Street and to Wingert-Jones in downtown Kansas City to learn what music I could and should play with the grade 2 level high school band I was learning to teach.   I remember being in awe as I would see the great band directors of our state come into the store and sometimes be introduced to one of these legends and have the opportunity to shake their hand.  (Hint: I'm an introvert). 

While I look back nostalgically at the start of my teaching career in the 1980s, I admit that I love my iPhone, iPad, Wifi, YouTube recordings of the Holst 1st Suite and Mahler symphonies at my fingertips, drill charts printed with Pyware displayed on my iPad, the ability to record students on a phone with amazing quality, Skype, Email and copy machines that can print more than six copies per minute and make a cup of coffee at the same time.

For those that taught in the 80s and 90s and enjoy the 20teens, it is time for us to move forward onto a new platform,  to pass down what was passed down to us, to share our experience while at the same time continuing to learn from directors young enough to be our former students and our sons or daughters.   At the 2016 Kansas Bandmaster's Convention summer workshop/convention, I presented on the topic "Managing a Large Band Program" which I plan to share in a future blog post.  Following my presentation, a teacher 20 years my junior presented one of the best clinics of the convention (I will be inviting him to write some guest posts on the outstanding materials he has created to teach his band) - I'm also hoping to have an in-service day when I can travel to his school and watch his amazing teaching in action with his students.

My goal for the Saturday Morning at the Music Store blog is to "do more together as band directors and music educators for students".  I hope this can be a relaxed and informal place to share ideas as we used to sit around a table drinking coffee and "talking shop" on a Saturday morning in the back room of the music store.  I invite others to guest blog - please share this platform with me.  I'm not the sage on the stage - I'm another person sitting around the table hoping to learn something from someone else working in the trenches.  What do you do in your classroom that  might be very useful to the band director down the road, in the next state, across the country?  I look forward to the journey - join me!

Did I get this cultural reference right Bethany?