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What's New At Maple Leaf

Technology in Piano Lessons

Have you ever wondered how much fun it would be to play the piano with a band or orchestra?  There are many books now that come with accompaniment CD’s, which make playing and practicing so much more enjoyable than before these recordings were available.  However, most only come with two speeds-fast and faster.  Many students would  have a difficult time mastering their pieces at these speeds, much less keeping up  without hesitating.


About 6 years ago, Greg discovered a computer software program called Home Concert Xtreme.  This program offered the capability of adjusting the tempo while playing along with orchestrated accompaniments.  Not only could a student finally play at a speed that was comfortable, but it also had the flexibility of slowing down and speeding up.  However, there was something important missing-- the capability of assessing

progress. After searching, he found Synthesia.

Synthesia had many of the same capabilities as Home Concert Xtreme.  What made it better was its assessment capabilities.  Students could now see a measurement of their progress!

Here are some benefits in using Synthesia:

  • Aids in keeping a steady beat.   Students relate better to a drum beat vs. the click of a metronome.

  • More fun, especially in the beginning when the music is simpler.  The orchestra makes music sound fuller and bigger.  It’s like playing with a band.

  • Students are exposed to different musical styles such as jazz combos and symphonies.

  • It’s an Assessment tool. Students are motivated to improve their score.  It taps into the “game” mentality.  Before Synthesia students would complain when asked to repeat.  Now, they ask to do it again and again.  They don’t want to leave.

  • Prizes are given based on scores.

  • Students are more focused and work really hard to earn a high score and to get a prize.

  • Students must earn at least an overall grade of “B” in order to pass and move on.

Sounds pretty good!  However, there were still areas Greg wanted to improve.

Many of you know that Greg has a master’s degree in computer engineering.  He has used his knowledge in teaching piano in more ways than we will ever realize!

He has used it in solving computer glitches that occur almost daily and has also used it in creating approximately 500 midi files.  

But this is not all!  About a year ago, Greg started revisions to Synthesia from an old source code to make improvements.  This version was so early that he had to recreate a lot of the basic features from scratch.

Why would he do this?  Several reasons:

  • To make it more user friendly for students

  • Grading dynamics and note duration;

  • Automatic generating of scores to print and email to parents;

  • More accurate grading of staccatos, pedaling and phrasing;

  • Teacher can adjust the weight of scores according to what is most important.

He has added many of these revisions to Synthesia already and is seeing huge improvements in the students’ attention to dynamics and note durations.

Scoring is now based on note accuracy, fluency, dynamics, and note  duration.   The overall grade is based on the different assigned weights he has placed on each category.

What next?  Greg has even more ideas for improvements.  We are both excited about the possibility of a sight reading feature in the future.

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