New Playlist & Notes Book Reviews
Swenja Z., California
Well, not only are the new Playlist and Notes books very useful, but Jy and Sheri’s TTM is fantastic. I love your wisdom and playfulness in presenting the material and we teachers get much more out of the tutorial than just learning how to use the new tools. Great tips on how to help students commit the variations and arrangements to memory. Also, you will want to learn and know all the new names as they are carefully (and playfully) chosen to give memory clues for the Arr./ Var.
Having said that, I have not started using the materials with my students quite yet as I still have some “old ” SHM Foundation 1 and don’t just want to throw out the note books and playlists. Starting with new students and all my students moving into higher levels, I will definitely buy the wonderful new books.
Rochelle G., California
If you are still reading then let me say that as a new simply music teacher (I began teaching in February) I have only posted once, but have read all of the posts and tucked away many helpful tidbits! Thank-you! Even though I don’t have a long history with Simply Music, I thought my perspective on the playlist and notes book might be helpful. Since my families had just purchased Foundation Level 1, paid tuition (and at a new higher rate for my transitioning students) and then purchased Play-a-Story, (and then the next month’s tuition was due) I told them that the new book would be optional. Then I saw it. I immediately decided it would be mandatory. Because I couldn’t bring myself to ask my families to pay for one more thing right now, I made the decision to include this as part of the “start-up costs” for my rejuvenated piano studio. I felt like this would benefit the relationship with my students, especially since I was making it mandatory. Another teacher may have done this differently, however this is the choice I made. Since my families and I are still on a learning curve with managing the Simply Music method, it made since to switch to the new book which makes managing the playlist so easy and visual! I am now switching into “less is more” mode and will attempt to succinctly list the reasons why I like the new playlist and notes book and made it mandatory in my studio:
• the numbered columns that correspond with the dates of the month make it easy to keep your place when marking your play time
• your lesson weeks are highlighted (by each student) so that makes it even easier to keep your place
• the above reasons also help me as the teacher to quickly and accurately review the playlist at the beginning of each class
• the legend at the top tells you how to mark your playlist
• the names of the songs AND variations/arrangements are pre-printed, making starting a new month easy and adding new songs quick and easy…no more waiting for everyone to correctly spell and write down the name
• the variations and arrangements have names that give hints as to how to play them
• the book begins with helpful practice tips
• the book lists those wonderful abbreviations we use in our notes
• one book replaces two, which is a practical version of “less is more”
• it just makes sense!
My families like it, too!
And I haven’t even mentioned the extremely helpful training that comes with….more than just info on using the book, it’s a mini teacher’s workshop! I am loving Simply Music, and the new Playlist and Notes book is a wonderful tool to track this marvelous journey for each student!
I know I already said why I like the new playlist and notes book, but I forgot 2 important reasons that are connected to the teacher training portion.
The training includes a suggested order of teaching the variations and arrangements alongside the Foundation Level. This is especially helpful for the new teacher (like myself!) Not having to spend time on figuring out when to introduce each one allows me to spend my time learning them, and following the advice of those who have gone before makes a more complete “teacher’s manual.” I hope this continues!
If we are truly going to change the world of music education, then tools such as this that help drive the new teacher along will be crucial in fulfilling our mission. And helpful in recruiting new teachers!
Shanta H., Minnesota
I’ve been waiting to get most of the way through a week with the new playlist and notes books before I wrote about them. I do like them a LOT, and here’s a short list of why:
1. Students don’t have to rewrite all their songs every month. I’ve had some trouble with this happening a week or two late sometimes, and this solves it.
2. Having both the playlist and notes together reduces the likelihood of either getting lost.
3. They love knowing the names of the songs that are coming in the next level.
4. They have an official place to list and check off their compositions, that they have improvised, their personal accompaniments, that they have drilled chords, transposed, and practiced Reading Rhythm and other supplemental programs.
5. Having a place to check off all the supplemental things seems to help with the overload some students feel as they develop a large playlist plus a growing list of supplemental things to do.
6. There is a glossary of abbreviations, so they can understand my shorthand
7. The dates are already written in
8. They love seeing their Foundation book pictures on the cover
9. They have a designated place for their classmates’ info if they need help or need to let me know they’re not coming.
1. There is a glossary of abbreviations – which makes me more effective at using them!
2. They have to write down and re-evaluate their practice time every 6 months
3. They have a designated place to assess their own playlist each month, with a standardized key for rating the ease of playing. It’s easier to identify songs that are in trouble and watch the progress as they get better.
4. I am becoming more and more convinced of the importance of playing songs on the keypad – i.e. divorcing one’s ear from the process to allow the rest of the senses to learn more deeply. This puts it front and center.
5. Especially for students who have trouble with their internal beat or playing through mistakes, it reminds them and reminds me that they need to play with the CD.
6. I can see at a glance whether students are practicing the supplemental streams at home
7. I can see whether they’re reading their notes each day – amazing how many forget to do this unless reminded
8. All the Arrangements and variations are already listed – which helps me remember what my options are for teaching them, and also reminds me to teach them.
There are a couple things that I don’t love/would change if I could about them:
1. I wish the date numbers were also at the bottom of the grid
2. I would add STP (Single Thought Process) to the glossary
3. A student who plays all the dreams Arrangements might only need to play Dreams (original) once a week, but might need to play “Flowing Dreams (Arr.#3)” every day. There isn’t a good way indicated for keeping track of which songs have been played when there are 5 songs on one line. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a solution for this one either – Ideas would be appreciated.
4. It would be nice to have the option for an Enhanced Foundation 2 package, with the Playlist/Notes 1-4 book included.
Could you do all these things on your own with the original playlists? Probably. But why would you want to, when someone has already done the work for you? (Sorry folks, both extremely meticulous and extremely lazy at heart) The one-time cost of the training is pretty nominal in my mind. And for students, I am finding that they are happily paying $1.33/month plus tax ($8 every 6 months) to have all these things pre-filled out for them – especially as they get past the middle of Foundation 2
Dale M., Alabama
I’m finding the new Playlist/Notes resource highly useful…helps in focusing our work.
Had a student yesterday say “this is fun” while learning to use the playlist, highlight, etc.
It is my hope that the “working the playlist” will continue to be fun.
I really like the playlist and recommend it as a valued tool in the SM teacher/student “box”.
Nancy B., Kansas
I just wanted to echo the enthusiasm about the new Playlist/Notes book. I have been teaching since Sept 2010, and I have a studio of 15 students. I have a degree in music therapy, so I “learned” lots of traditional music in college, but until Simply Music, have felt intimated by a number of aspects of piano playing. I love getting skills into people’s hands and the love for music (more fully blossoming) in their hearts, but (even though I taught traditionally for several years prior to SM) I did not feel well equipped to either tackle very complex (or a wide variety of) music or teach others how to do it. I am so thankful for Simply Music and all that I have learned and gained both personally and professionally, not to mention the amazing things my own kids can now play already!! Anyway, that’s just a little background about me.
The new Playlist and training, maybe even especially the training, have been incredibly helpful to me. First of all, I love the beautiful front and back covers with their fantastic reminders both for me and my students, of the LTR. I think the first inside page, with the place to write in the daily practice time is great, and it’s wonderful to have the list of typical abbreviations for Notes and the brief summary of how and why to keep the playlist alive. The emphasis on the Keypad, External Speaker, and Controlling the Events as pivotal tools for learning a way of learning more effectively is simple but brilliant. I have grown a lot myself in knowing and better using these three components, just in the past couple of weeks since getting these TTM in my hands (I love that they’re digital too!). The simple visual of the three legged stool is helpful as well. And I am SO grateful for the extensive explanation of each of the components of student home materials on the second page of the book, with lots of ideas/reminders to help families use them “to the max”.
I love all the little bits right on each monthly playlist itself–reminding our students that each piece on their playlist tells a story & needs to be thoughtfully expressed. Encouraging the habit of using their CD, keypad and diagrams to the fullest is super, and I love the simple visual prompt to assess their tunes each month. I am going to have them circle the date they watch a DVD as well.
It has been a big challenge for me to get a handle on the arrangements in general, prior to receiving these materials (no one’s fault but my own, just merely a struggle to juggle my time as wisely as I’d like). But now since going through the training, I feel like I am finally getting over the hump of defining them more clearly, in my own mind, and in my students/parents minds, AND communicating more clearly overall, the things I expect them to do each week at home. I love that the arrangements are cleverly named, and the ease & flexibility of highlighting what has been learned is awesome.
I also think it’s great to not have to write down the song titles or the numbered days of the month, and so do my students. Emphasizing the huge potential benefit of communicating regularly with one’s classmates (space for contact info in the back of the book) is wonderful too.
Sheri and Jy are obviously delightful people, and in some ways it feels like they are just sitting in your living room with you, sharing the information… with the marvelous insight and just a dash of silliness & good humor, that I have delighted to find in so many Simply Music colleagues. The training did take some time to listen to, but that investment definitely paid off HUGELY–I came away with oodles of inspiration and practical tips that have got my wheels really turning, and I’m so very grateful for it.
I love every stream of SM–I started my students on the beautiful Play-a-Story last fall (and in the new book we use the Comp/Imp section to check off the PAS motif we are on, and the “My compositions” section for checking off Play-My-Story) –but have continually found it challenging to keep a clear “big-picture” of each class’s playlist in my head, and what I have taught to whom, etc. For me, the new Playlist & training has become a springboard, launching me into bigger and better overall management of my students and classes.
Jill L., Australia
I have been teaching SM very happily for about 3 and a half years, and recently I decided to revisit all the initial training materials (while pounding away on the treadmill at the gym) and have found it very interesting to see what I actually remember and how well (or not) I am following the program. Having realized that there is actually quite a lot I could be doing much better, I would really recommend that no-one thinks, “Well, thank goodness that’s done,” when they finally get their licence. My plan now is to keep cycling through all the various conversations till I am feeling really confident that I am on top of it all, which leads me to the main reason I am writing this email. I have just listened to the teacher training for the new playlist and notes book, and apart from its main purpose of teaching how to use the materials, it is a fantastic reminder of so many of the basic principles of SM, and it supports and (for me) puts into context and extends many things I have been listening to in the coaching conversations.
So I would highly recommend to every teacher to buy and listen to these teacher training materials for ideas, insights, wonderful clarification of many goals and strategies of SM and for general motivational purposes. I don’t have any students ready to use the new books right now, but I am about to listen to the training again and take notes!
Kristin I., Illinois
Just writing to put my two cents in regarding the new Playlist and Notes Book. I am really happy with the way the book allows me to keep everything in one place, and has helped me identify all the variations and arrangements. I’m a brand new teacher – I’ve taught two lessons so far – and I have really appreciated the way the new book consolidates all of the Foundation 1 materials in one place, and I love the creative naming that Jy and Sheri came up with. The audio materials were fun to listen to, as they presented it all not only very clearly, but with a good deal of humor thrown in as well. There are also many wonderful ideas on how to practically put in place so many of the things that Neil presents in the initial training materials regarding the use of the keypad, DVD and CD, etc. As I have followed the ECL the last few weeks, I notice that there is a lot of conversation about how to manage the Playlist, and it seems to me, from my very limited experience, that this effectively addresses many of those issues.
My only critique might be that the book is in landscape format (and I understand that there are good reasons for that) but when I want to put it up on my music stand for reference, then it’s sideways! It also seems hard for my students to keep it on their smaller laps without it sliding off, etc. Perhaps this is something I still need to learn to manage, and some of you out there might have some good tips for me!
Mark M., New York
So many things have been put together here that it’s easily understandable why it would be appealing to many teachers and students. At the same time, many of its elements don’t go together in any exclusive/necessary sense, and some teachers/students might really appreciate certain of them but not others. Here are some observations of some of elements of the new Playlist/Notes materials from this angle:
An integrated Playlist/Notes book — On one hand, a nice idea, something I and my students might like, but nobody is offering us integrated versions of the older standard books. Unless we like everything about the new package, we don’t get this benefit that, in itself, has nothing at all to do with a new method of playlist management. As long as SM will continue to offer the older standard books, nothing is stopping them from choosing to integrate those as well. On the other hand, separate books means being able to keep the current week’s page from each book visible simultaneously, whereas in an integrated book, students must flip back and forth every time they need to see whatever they aren’t currently opened to. In the end, then, I’m not sure I’d want integrated Playlist/Notes books.
Variation/Arrangement learning strategies — Another really nice idea, something we might like, but, again we don’t get this benefit without the whole package. This is, to me, the most mysterious element of this package, because it’s the one that has least to do with management issues. It’s pedagogy. It’s curriculum. I’d have preferred to see this taken out of the Playlist package and offered separately as a TWS title.
Pre-printed date numbers and song titles — Other nice ideas we don’t get unless we take the whole package. But, again, as long as SM continues to offer the standard Playlist, nothing is stopping them from adding, well, at least the date numbers.
Highlighting the lesson day — Another nice idea, but one that is not actually built into the new materials at all because it, in fact, can’t be. It’s a suggestion that anyone can apply to any blank physical Playlist. In fact, one of my students’ parents showed me just yesterday that he did this with their Playlist without anyone having suggested it to him. So nobody needs to adopt the any particular materials in order to adopt this practice.
Other learning strategies like when to practice with practice pad, etc. — Again, something that can quite easily enough be applied to any physical Playlist.
1-5 scoring system — This has been around for years, and the new physical materials aren’t inherently structured to demand their use, so this, too, is like the last couple of items I just mentioned, something that may or may not be applied to any physical list. I’ve personally never found the 1-5 scoring system very useful. It tells you where each song is, but that information is only minimally actionable. If a song has a problem (score 1), it needs to stay a current project and receive attention, ideally, each practice day. All other scores indicate that the song is “known” and just somewhere in the natural process of moving toward thoughtless performance. In this phase, I don’t think the distinctions among the other scores really tell what you need to know. What you need to know is how soon to practice the song again so that it at best gets stronger and at worst doesn’t slip. Some songs scoring 2-5 may still need to be practiced daily to stay on track, while others may be able to stay on track with somewhat less frequent practice, so it’s not really helpful to know that score. Similarly, one song scoring 5 may afford to wait several days before needing to be played again, while others may afford weeks or even months in between, so again the score doesn’t really tell you what you need to know. (On the other hand, the “Play It Forward” system that I created — http://potluckcreativearts.com/2010/05/play-it-forward-to-manage-your-playlist/ — handles all these distinctions in a very simple way, and it can be used on any physical Playlist, including the newly revised ones. So whatever tracking system one uses, none of it is really inherent to any Playlist filled with blank spaces, even if one tracking system happens to be included in the instructions that go with the new Playlists.)
I’m not trying to convince anyone to not use the new materials. Like I said, there are lots of good qualities about them that I’m sure would work well for many people, including some I’d like to use myself. When you separate out the things that can be applied to any blank Playlist, though, all that’s left that’s truly integrated here are Playlist/Notes in one book (which has ambiguous value as I noted before), Var/Arr learning strategies, and some items pre-printed. The rest can be applied independently from the new materials and/or may have alternatives (such as Play It Forward) that could obviate certain aspects of the new materials.
Nice as some of the benefits of the new materials would be, for me personally, they don’t weigh heavily on one side of the scale to lead me to want to incur, for either myself or my students, the expense and training time required. Each teacher has to weigh each side of the scale for themselves, looking clearly at the various elements of this new package, understanding what is and what isn’t truly inherent to the new package and whether the net benefit is enough to justify the investment of time and money.
Mark M., New York
I’m concerned that what I wrote below may have come across as if I had more familiarity with the new materials than I really do. If what I wrote gave that impression, it was completely unintentional. I’d like to clarify myself.
I haven’t purchased any of these new materials. I’ve only seen glimpses of them and learned whatever everyone else has learned through the ECL and the Online Ordering list, where all marketing and discussion about them centers around a Playlist Management program and Combined Playlist and Notes Books. The initial impressions this limited knowledge has left me with have led me to believe that, on the whole, I wouldn’t be interested in using these materials, but some of my impressions/recollections may be incorrect, and in any case they’re incomplete.
For all I know, if I went through the full set of materials, I might really want to use them. Right now, based on my limited and admittedly potentially faulty knowledge, I’m not willing to buy the materials and spend time going through them in order to see if they’re something I’d end up happy having bought, and that’s truly just my own personal preference.
To Jy, Sheri and everyone, I apologize about any misrepresentations I may have seemed to make about the materials themselves or my own knowledge about them. I was truly hesitant to share my thoughts in the first place and only decided to do so in the service of the usual kind of pros-and-cons ECL discussions that are so valuable in helping us make decisions about what we’ll incorporate into running our studios.
It would have been more appropriate for me to make all of this clear, reframing all my thoughts as impressions whose validity I couldn’t confirm due to lack of knowledge, hoping that my thoughts could spur a conversation that could provide a clearer picture of the materials for all of us who haven’t yet reviewed them. I hope what I wrote before can be reinterpreted in this new context.
Kerry V., Australia
Because of the discussion I had a quick look at the materials yesterday. They look complex at first sight so obviously would need the training materials to know what it is all about. Anything new can seem daunting, that is what we do with our students often! The cost for the training materials is only $25, a small amount to do extra training. If you don’t like it after that or feel it will not enhance your playlist/notes sector in your classes, then you have the information needed to make that decision and haven’t spent too much. If, on the other hand, after seeing the materials and training, you feel it will help you with your playlist/notes sector then, you now know which way to go. Or, if you want to ‘give it a go’, again, it isn’t a large cost to do this and great experience for all concerned, be it that it works or not.
Whilst looking at the materials, one thought came to me is that I’d still like to use the number system I’ve been using for many years. For my students, and for me as a teacher and student, it has been extremely helpful to ‘know’ exactly where my students are. Having said that, my mind may be changed after viewing the training.
Here goes to a cheap training to the possibility of enhancing ones studio.
Sheri and Jy, California
In response to some recent posts, we just want to mention that any system your students may currently be using for helping them keep track of their playlist can easily be integrated into the new playlist and notesbook. We think it is probably pretty clear, once you have done the training, that the combined playlist and notes book offers the flexibility of varying systems, whether it’s simply ticking off the list, writing in numbers, or anything else.
In order to circumvent any confusion about the Playlist and Notesbook program, we’d like to respectfully suggest that teachers participate in this valuable ECL forum only once they have actually done the training, If you have questions that weren’t clear from the initial SM communication announcement, feel free to direct them to the ECL or directly to us.
We spent years using various forms of this playlist with hundreds of students in our studios, fine-tuning it along the way as we saw what did and didn’t work. Some ideas were discarded because of impracticalities that unfolded. As more teachers and students gain experience with the new book, there will be an opportunity for said teachers to evaluate the program. All ideas/suggestions will be taken into consideration for future editions.
Before we made the book available to the larger teacher body, we used it with great success in our studios; the earliest/first families were especially appreciative, since they were able to compare it to the original two books. We hope your families get equal or greater benefit!
Karina S., California
What’s my opinion/experience with this new addition to our bounty of materials? AMAZING!!!!! For new piano players like me and one that has been hungry – yet somewhat unsure about how/where to unfold all of the material plus manage/build a studio, this is REALLY great!
I love the playfulness of Sheri and Jy (I could just picture them during their recording sessions…wish those famous cookies came with the deal!)
Here’s how I introduced to my studio members (yup, when students come into my studio, they become members of dream2play studio). I told them from the moment I returned from the Symposium all about this fabulous new book – I just kept them all excited so when the books arrived they couldn’t wait! For us newer teachers, having the clues and names plus having it all right there in the book – well – I just think it’s fabulous!
I am unfolding various components of the book a bit at a time though. I made main points last week when introduced:
1. Claiming their play/practice time
2. Forging a new pathway in brain (I have a small brian that’s squishy – kids LOVE it!) LOL , I mean I have a small model – not MY brain!!! (It’s late at night)
3. Posting their playtime
I told the story of what happens when we take a plane somewhere for a trip (on a journey – LTR graph) and some flights are great, ie, nice flight attendants, first class, etc. and then some flights are horrible ie, rude flight attendants, stinky people, turbulence (you get the picture)
regardless of that temporary time (even long flights come to an end) once you finally arrive and go to baggage CLAIM – when that buzzer starts and that light starts to flash, EVERYONE gets excited and you CLAIM your bag(s) because without your bags you can’t fully enjoy your trip/journey 🙂 Everyone got this both kids and adults and they all totally get that even at the times that they really didn’t feel like practicing, just sitting at the piano/keypad, etc, would yield a better experience while continuing their journey.
I so wanted this to be short – sorry – but I’ve been meaning to post how much I really am grateful for this new playlist book. For me it’s kind of like “one stop shopping” and when the kids/adults saw all the stuff that lies ahead – well – they are super excited like me. I think it’s just one more way to keep them engaged and for good retention. I also have a quote in my studio including one from Abe Lincoln and to NEVER quit. I drill them on this – ha ha ha…don’t want students leaving (unless I let them go – but that’s another e-mail!)
Original discussion started June 20, 2012