Using the Notestar app in your teaching studio is a great way to motivate your teen and adult students to keep practising as it provides realistic backing tracks (including vocals) for a heap of modern pop songs.
– enjoy teaching students about chords but find it difficult to keep students interested when they have nothing to play-along to, or
– want to keep your male teenage students interested in piano, or
– teach reading by lead sheets and pop chord charts and want students to be able to play along with the band,
then Notestar is definitely an app worth testing!
Notestar is a free app that allows you to download the sheet music and backing tracks for mainly pop and some classical pieces. You can select the volume level and mix of the vocals, piano and backing instruments, you can instantly change the key of the written music (although unfortunately the vocals also pitch change!), you can change the tempo (which is great for learning a new song) and you can view the music in a variety of sizes. The pages turn automatically and the interface and in-app download store is very easy to use.
The following is a great video of how to set up the iPad for Notestar and how it all works:
Best of all, when you register for the first time, you get one free song to download so you can test everything out. You’ve really got nothing to lose!
Here’s Mario Ajero using Notestar to teach Bruno Mars. This happens to be the track I downloaded free when I first installed Notestar and I’ve already had success with one of my teenagers loving playing the chords along to this song. The music is way above his reading level, but with a basic knowledge of triads, he has been able to play-along to the chord symbols. This is one of the perfect uses for Notestar as playing the chords for any pop song on their own is pretty boring and this sure beats playing along with a YouTube clip.
I also recently went through the entire library and found a copy of the timeless Canon in D by Pachelbel complete with string backing parts. Most students learn this piece at some stage during their education and given the chord progression repeats over and over, it doesn’t even matter which version they’ve learnt previously on sheet music, they can still play along with Notestar by turning the piano part off.
Check it out and let me know what you think!
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.