Celebrate the Arts in you!

Action Research Complete

Over the past 7 months, I have been involved with an Action Research project for part of my requirements for a Master’s Programme.

Action Research Posting June 2014 at 12.55.40 pm

Here is the abstract if you are interested.  Please contact me if you would like to know about my findings.


Students have challenges applying basic music theory to build the fundamental musical literacy skills to communicate their creations in traditional notation form. This paper describes my investigation of tablet technology, specifically Apple’s iPad (for the specific purpose of using GarageBand), to observe student engagement with numerous apps that aid in writing music, rhythmic notation, and music appreciation in a variety of forms.

Forty-five Year 5 students attending the German Swiss International School in Hong Kong participated in an action research study exploring the question, “What is the effect of using mobile technology in the teaching of music composition and theory?” A two-group comparison design measured student retention of music concepts eight weeks after a unit was taught. The experimental group consisted of a Year 5 class who were taught using specific mobile technology music apps. The comparison group consisted of a Year 5 class taught the same topics using traditional lecture-style approach, less specific music apps, and worksheets. The two groups were tested on basic music notation and rhythmic identification.  A Likert Scale survey was also administered to measure their attitudes about music theory before and after the unit of study eight weeks later. Paired t-test data analysis indicated that the scores of the Treatment Group went up slightly on average 8 weeks after the unit was taught, while the average scores of the Control Group showed significant improvement.


I am so pleased with James Newton Howard’s recent score for Disney’s Maleficent.  It is one of the best orchestral scores I’ve heard in the past year, rich with colourful orchestration and contrasting themes.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded the free Maleficent game app for iPad and one of the main themes ‘caught my ear’.  After seeing the movie last night, I couldn’t get this theme out of my head!

Maleficent Free Fall on the App Store on iTunes at 10.24.27 pmComposer James Newton Howard’s theme for Maleficent is expressive and powerfully built over a strong chord progression, romantic and programmatic, in nature.  If it ‘caught your ear’, then he skillfully created his score to represent the strength of this character well.  My only wish is that it isn’t played with greater frequency.  If you listen carefully throughout the movie, you will hear carefully woven motifs of her theme.

I’ve arranged the theme below in simple piano version, with chord symbols.  If you are classically trained, you may have heard this progression before in some romantic composers works.  If you have the soundtrack, it is from track 3, Maleficent Flies, around 1.35 – 2.00.  The theme comes in later, accented by French Horns/brass (in a different key) which transforms it to epic proportions.

Maleficent.mus at 10.45.08 pm


Launchpad Revolution


If you haven’t heard of Launchpad, you are about to be introduced (and, hopefully impressed) with its ability to create and launch rhythms, melodies, loops, samples or entire songs and mix them together.

At first glance, it doesn’t look like anything special, especially with what we’re seeing tablets capable of doing, but after watching this video, you might think differently.  Meet Nev…


There is an iPad app version which is quite impressive, especially for ‘on the fly’ demos or performances.  It integrates seamlessly with Launchpad mini and Launchpad S… read the specific requirements on their website.

Novation Launchpad on the App Store on iTunes at 6.04.42 pm

Launchpad_App-Pic3This technology truly engages its user from the start without the need for typical music theory.  In watching one of my students play the iPad version, it reveals the coordination (and learning) of another set of skills that could make some keyboard purists uncomfortable.  For me, it inspired, like a gifted performer in any area of expertise.  I see auditory skills of sound, texture and rhythm creation, coordination of the playing and synchronizing of the various pads/keys, and the aesthetics of the visuals which effectively make a performance remarkable.

Launchpad 'Sup small

There is a video on the Launchpad site… Novation, to see, first hand, what the creators want you to see.  YouTube will have others.

This is another technology that is giving a voice/stage to musicians and sound creators around the globe.  Similar to my love of sound mining on GarageBand for iOS, Launchpad allows for customization of each pad with the user’s own sounds which, if strived for,  allows the performer a unique sound.

Create, innovate, and entertain = followers of your sound, and admiration of how you put it together.

Music educators will need to evaluate their various curricula to see how this tool can be utilized to help deliver course content – the elements or concepts of music.  Like other forms of mobile technology, it can be a valuable partner in the teaching and accessibility to the Arts, producing impressive,  instant results and feedback.  Imagine how this technology will ignite hesitant students of music.  I can hardly wait to see!


Muskoka Steamship

Muskoka Steamship

Muskoka Steamship Reduced

Once again, George Shaw, my father (in his 85th year), has finished another painting portraying a quiet, early morning in the town of Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada.  In the background is the famous and historical steamship, the RMS Segwun docked at the Gravenhurst waterfront.   Reflectively, my father remarked about his trip there years ago with his wife, fondly remembering the early morning peace and tranquility, the bakery and fresh coffee.

My father’s goal of one painting a month is beyond impressive and I hope you’ll join me in wishing him good health, happiness, and the energy to keep his brushes primed for the next subject.  Please email me your comments and I’ll pass them on to him.

This link will give you further information about the RMS Segwun, and the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society.

Shadow Puppet Updated

Shadow Puppet Updated

Shadow Puppet on the App Store on iTunes at 5.36.37 pmHere’s an A3 infographic I created to assist anyone with using this powerful app.  I hope you find it useful.

Shadow Puppet Infographic small

From the Apple Web site description of the app:

Create custom videos that are easy to share! Combine photos, video clips, and your voice. Manipulate what’s on screen and record as you go. Tell a story, explain an idea, or send a personalized message.

∙ Instagram videos—combine photos, videos, music & text
∙ Photo slideshows with music an/or voice over
∙ Personalized photo greetings—100x better than cheesy Hallmark cards
∙ Show and tells about something you did, made or saw
∙ Simple presentations—think Powerpoint for kids
∙ Tutorials, how-to videos or app demos

1. SELECT – Choose photos or video clips from your camera roll. Or search the web for images and animated GIFs.
2. CREATE – Add music, record voice over narration, or both!
3. ANIMATE – Add animated titles, draw with emoji wands, zoom in and out
4. SHARE – Easily share your masterpiece with family & friends!

This app has a free version, with upgrading features (in-app purchases – well worth the price).

Mind Muscle!

Over the past two months, I’ve noticed quite a few math or memory-logic type Apps that are excellent for keeping various math and mind skills alert, or for teaching or reinforcing, to engage your mind.  More and more research suggests that an active mind may help to stave off the onset of the dreaded illnesses we may be seeing affecting our loved ones, or friends.  Regardless, it just feels right to keep an active mind stimulated by the thousands of apps available on any tablet or smartphone.  Come on, flex those mind muscles!  Mobile technology allows you to train anywhere!

Reader’s Digest has this article – 7 Anti-Aging Tips to Keep Your Brain Young

Web MD posts this article – 8 lifestyle tips to help protect against Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Here’s a brief list of my favourite apps on this subject… give them a try!  At the time of this post, they were FREE.

2048 on the App Store on iTunes at 2.12.39 pm






Kakooma Addition on the App Store on iTunes at 2.13.56 pm






Quick Math+ on the App Store on iTunes at 2.15.15 pm


Quick Math+




Red Herring on the App Store on iTunes at 2.16.06 pm


Red Herring



Composing to Go!

YDmzNqPM_33_l4BLTR5x1q1uzzGNh5cHkZ_v3L6ONxRSrSVdu-fWul4ksGqusfIVwv60=w300NotateMe Now

NotateMe Now is a mobile solution for composing music with your finger or stylus to work anywhere with a set of promising tools for a mildly, tech savvy musician.

It is available from Apple iTunes Store, as a demo, and full version.  It is also available as an Android App from the Google Play Store.

Overall, I’m impressed with the demo version’s ability to notate and share as XML and .mid files to later use with other notation apps and applications for your computer.  This is one of my main goals – notate anywhere, sync or email the file, and import into Finale for development.

Here is my process:

photo 1Part of the sample composition I created targeting the app’s ability in handling sixteenth notes and triplets.  Notice, it automatically sensed my triplet figure without having to write the ’3′ underneath or above the figure.

photo 2This is the entire piece (5 bars) displayed in the ‘full score’ window with playback ability.  The demo only allows for one stave.

photo 3Export feature screen.

photo 4Demo version allows for MIDI and XML export only.

photo 5Typical email window/dialogue with attached file.

The Magic Begins…

XMLImporting XML file into Finale 2012, now fully editable for development.


MIDI Importing MIDI file into Finale 2012, also fully editable for development.


GarageBandDragging MIDI file directly into GarageBand software, again, fully editable.  I have not tested this on GarageBand App for iOS.


This import feature would work with any software/apps that allow for XML, MIDI, or scanning of PDFs to acquire your score, i.e., Sibelius or various DAW (Digital Audio Workstations).

Happy composing!


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