Full disclaimer: I originally wrote this review in 2015, when I still had a handful of beginning piano students in my studio. Now that I've had three additional years of using this app with my students, I can say it has become a tried and true resource for me with students for review and theory work. What teacher can't use more of that? Read below to find out more!
Recently I found myself looking for an application to review basic rhythmic notation and syllables with students studying either piano, violin and viola in my studio. It was with this goal in mind that I found Rhythm Cat and immediately found it to be very complementary for my students to use in their lesson times and in their homes.
I found the bright colors and whimsical images to be very fun and light-hearted - perfect for children! Beginning with level one, I felt confident in proceeding after reading the simple instructions provided. As I quickly found out, it is important to make sure each tap is sustained long enough for your device to register your rhythm. After adjusting my tapping, this was no problem in further levels. Following the first level, students are steadily guided through half notes, quarter rests and more with increasingly difficult exercises.
As a Suzuki violin/viola instructor and piano instructor who has traditionally used the Alfred method series, this fits right in with the progression of students' first pieces in both methods. I am happy to report my students have taken quickly to this app, with many requesting to play this game in the last few minutes of their lessons; some have even downloaded it at home on their own devices! Several parents have even reported use at home without prompting - Something I love to hear! And I think parents appreciate not having to hound their children to do something musical or education related. Personally, I have found myself using this app in lessons when students have had an exceptionally good lesson or to introduce a change of pace when a student needs a bit of a brain break.
Pros: Logical progression for rhythm, fitting with Suzuki and the Alfred Piano series, particularly "Music for Little Mozarts". This has proved to be a fun way for my students to review rhythm values and syllables. Best of all, there is both a free and paid option! For my purposes, I have been using the Lite version to just give students a little taste of the game and keep them from expecting to do it every single week.
Cons: There is a slight learning curve when adjusting to how the game will give four counts before students should begin tapping the written rhythm. I found it helps students to demonstrate how to play the app first before giving them a turn on their own.
Overall, I have been very happy I added this application to my arsenal and I am looking forward to trying out the two partner applications, Treble Cat and Bass Cat as my students have need for these skills. I hope my students, their families and other music educators consider adding Rhythm Cat to their devices at home and in their studios!
For more information on this app and it's developers, please visit their website here.
This app is available on both iOS and Google Play. Check it out!
Hello and welcome to my new blog: Shaw Strings and Things!
My name is Renee Shaw and I am a violin and viola instructor based out of my hometown of Hagerstown, MD. I started my studio while completing my undergraduate degree at Shepherd University through a home studio and Shepherd’s Preparatory Division in 2011. Gradually I added studios through Music and Arts and the Cumberland Valley School of Music as I completed my time in school. Soon after graduation I added Grace Academy of Hagerstown, Maryland to my teaching locations in 2015, which rounds out my teaching schedules as of June 2018. Through these fortuitous openings, I have been able to establish a private studio that would allow me to keep my students as my full focus and devote extra time to performing in local nursing homes, holding student recitals, scheduling field trips to our local symphony orchestra and more – I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love getting to see students on an individual basis each week and seeing them progress on their own terms.
When I’m not working with students or keeping up with the administrative side of the studio, you will probably find me at home: Sipping my coffee or tea, snuggled up with my two cats, journaling and reading some French folk tales or poetry. Or I might be tending to my growing house plant collection and tackling my next house project. Between now and November 2018, I’ll also be planning my biggest event to date: My wedding to the most patient and sweet man I’ve ever known, who also happens to be quite the guitarist. We’re fresh off our adventures to England and France and eagerly looking forward to our future together - Hopefully with even more trips to far flung places!
So you might be wondering, why would a private music instructor want to start a blog?
Especially when it sounds like you’re always planning something! Since the third grade I have maintained a physical personal journal – Writing is one my primary modes of processing everything around me. Teaching is not excluded from this! I take my job as an educator seriously and strive to be the best teacher I can be. By having a writing space designated for this part of my life, I hope to be better suited to recognize patterns, fully develop my own teaching philosophy and continue to work on my craft. As John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience… We learn from reflecting on experience.” I want to constantly be reflecting and learning how to be a better teacher.
What Are You Going to Be Blogging About?
What I do day in and day out is about much more than teaching the violin – I am teaching and encouraging others to push themselves. A teacher trainer in the Suzuki method once told me Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy could be distilled to the phrase “every child can”. It is my job as a teacher to find the best means possible to cultivate ability in anyone I work with. Somedays that might cause me to reflect on the teaching supplies I use, other days I might be analyzing why we stress listening to our repertoire or attending performances. Even discussing the business of teaching directly impacts the kind of teacher I can be, so I would expect posts on that as well. Anything that might make me a better violin instructor is fair game! Hopefully you find these thoughts, review of my teaching techniques and more to be beneficial to you, too.
Who Are You Writing For?
So far you’ve heard a lot about me and what I hope to get out of this blog. However, I believe I am not the only instructor out there who believes in being the most creative and engaging teacher they can be. If you’ve found this blog, you might be one of those teachers, too. It is so easy to look around, see the teachers who are just phoning it in, aren’t engaged or invested in improving themselves or their students. I hope to be a lifelong learner in this field I’ve chosen and I know there must be other teachers out there that feel the same way. I hope this blog can help connect more teachers like myself so we don’t fall into complacency!
One of the few downsides I experience in teaching privately is the sense of isolation from other teachers. Where can I observe others’ techniques to teach music theory? How can I see what tricks other teachers have to maintain interest in the Twinkle Variations and Theme? When dealing with parents, how do I approach them in a way that reassures them my first interest is their child’s progress and well-being? There are many tough questions rolling around in my brain and I only have solutions for some.
By writing this blog, I am hoping to access all of you! The teachers who are struggling with these issues in their own studios. The parents and caregivers looking to know how to work with their children and teachers in the most effective way possible. The students interested in knowing the motivation behind their teachers nagging to fit in 15 more minutes a day. If you fit any of these categories, I believe you’ll find something of value here.
This sounds great – How can I get connected?
Let’s be friends! Please enter your email to receive updates on when new blog posts come out – My goal is to post at least two new posts a month. This list is for my eyes only and I’ll only send material that I feel has really benefitted me and my teaching. You can also follow me and my studio on Facebook and Instagram! When you’re there, you can see how I conduct my studio in real time and get more regular updates on what I have in the works with my students. Hopefully you can find good ideas for your own studio so more students can have a wonderful experience with their music! And isn’t that the whole point?
Thanks for joining me around the studio!
Welcome to Shaw Strings and Things!
This blog is dedicated to sharing my teaching experiences and resources as a private violin/viola music instructor. I think most agree you can always be improving, learning and developing new techniques as a teacher - I'm glad we're doing it together!