New Music Composition Contest for Japanese Instruments – a great IB Music Project!

19 09 2014

There has just started an new music composition contest that would be a great chance for IB Music students and others around the world to create new music for their course work that focuses on specific world instruments and new forms of music.

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International Center for Japanese Culture of ICJC for short and Yokohama International School has started an exciting new competition to promote the creation of new music compositions written for a traditional Japanese instrument and one Western instrument.

The composition submitted must be written for two to five performers including up to three 13-string kotos and one 17-string bass koto.  One western instrument must be included in the composition (flute, clarinet, violin or cello).

Composition length should be between 6 to 12 minutes and scored using western music notation.

The goal of this mission is to:

  • promote and raise awareness of traditional Japanese instruments and music by encouraging new compositions on an international scale
  • expand the repertory of quality compositions that successfully utilize Japanese and western traditional instruments
  • support young koto musicians and encourage their participation in the contemporary music scene

Cash prizes will be awarded to the top two compositions.  First place is worth ¥500,000 (approx. US$5,000) and Second place is worth ¥100,000 (approx. US$1,000)  Additional awards are: Performances in Japan and the USA, Composer Invitation to Yokohama Japan, and Music Publication of the work.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, May 31, 2015 (6:00 local time in Japan)

Please GO HERE to read more about contest rules.

Great Composition App for Music Students & Mashups

2 05 2014

One of my music students found a great FREE online application today while trying to make a mashup.  They wanted to find the tempo bpm of a song and the key it was in, so searched for an app and found  This application will do that plus a whole lot more.  They have a beginner music composition music theory ibook for purchase at $14.95 as well as two wonderful online applications that are totally FREE.  This interface is slick and easy to use and it will even create a notated score using western notation and even tabs if needed.  Composing is simple and fun.  Everything is colour coded and the application will even suggest chords to go with your melody.  Checkout THEORY TAB for composing.  The snap shot below gives you an idea of how everything look.  Pretty straight ahead and if you have trouble figuring things out there is an online manual with video tutorials.  CHECK IT OUT YOURSELF ONLINE.  


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Easy YouTube Looping Trick

30 01 2014

If you use YouTubes in the classroom and want to put one on continuous repeat mode just change the URL. I am teaching a film soundtrack unit and asking students to create their own soundtrack for a film. To practice as a group I was replaying the YouTube without sound and getting students to try out different concepts. One of my students suggested I use an easy trick to put the YouTube on loop.

Here is a screen shot of the URL on the original YouTube page.

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All you have to do is replace the word “tube” of “youtube” in the URL with the word “repeat” so it looks like this and you will be taken to another page where when played the YouTube repeats itself in a loop.  Pretty easy and useful!

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Leonardo’s Da Vinci’s Viola Organista

21 11 2013

What a cool instrument.  The viola organista.  Leonardo Da Vinci had many talents and was given a large dose of creativity.  One of his inventions was just created for the first time.  A new instrument called a “viola organista” that is a cross between a piano, a violin, and listen for yourself.  Interesting article  from “the Age Entertainment” Nov. 18, 2013  Read more.


IB Music Prescribed Work: Xian’s, Yellow River – Chinese Instruments

10 11 2013
Great resource for investigating Chinese and Western instruments.

Great resource for investigating Chinese and Western instruments.

Those who are studying Chinese music and want to learn more about Chinese Instruments, such as this years IB Music grade 12 students, will find the Musical Instruments E-book site very useful.  IB Music students are studying Xian’s “Yellow River” as one of their prescribed works for their final listening exam.  One of the interesting features of this music is that it was originally composed for Chinese traditional instruments and then later rearranged for Western instruments.  For those not familiar with the Chinese traditional instruments the Musical Instruments E-book is a great resource. It is also a good site for investigating Western instruments as well.  Check it out and learn more.

Here are a couple more useful resources: 1.  Chinese Music Resource from NPR online on the Chinese “Erhu” instrument.  2.  Chinese Music online Radio

Awesome Screenshot app lets you make great tutorials

1 11 2013

Many educators are starting to have quite a presence on web via blogs and websites and many now communicate with their students, parents, and other educators via the internet.  If you have a class site and frequently create ‘how to’ lessons that include screenshots you really need to check out ‘Awesome Screenshot’ for Chrome and Firefox.  It makes life so easy.   As you can see below the app lets you take a screenshot of any or all of your desktop and then annotate it with boxes, pointers, and instructions.  You can then save it to your desktop, email it, or upload onto your google.doc account direct.  Very handy and time saving.  A great way to make instructions clearer and easier for everyone. Awesome Screenshot  I teach IBDP Music in which students are required to produce detailed analysis of music in many different types of media formats as well as essays.  This app helps capture the part of a music score they need and then mark up the exact area of concern for discussion.  Awesome!

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Interactive Listening – Music History Exploration Fun

2 06 2013


Interactive Listening for Music

I have been waiting for something like this new music history electronic textbook to come our way for several years.  Now that computers are affordable to the point many schools are going one to one, the technology can be harnessed to make the exploration of Music History a really fun adventure!  Interactive Listening uses all of the current popular cloud computing applications in such a positive and appropriate way to challenge inquirers to understand and experience music.  It also incoporates looking at music from many different lenses , which links very nicely with the MYP, IBDP Music curriculum.

I have been technology to help my teaching of music for many years but it is always a more than a little bit tricky to have everything run smoothly when you have 20 tabs open with a presentation, audio files, youtubes, audio listening files, backchanneling and even more.  Even if you get it all working smoothly it is such a pain to share all of that with the students for homework.  Interactive Listening brings it all together in one neet package.

Currently it is only available for the ipad as an ibook.  I purchased a copy after trying the free download sample on iTunes.  The ipad version is so slick and is such a fun way to get to know music history, composers, composition techniques, world music history, and so much more. I love this already and I haven’t even used it in the classroom yet.

The winning duo of Pete and Brian are the creators and their team has informed me that an electronic interactive version of the book is coming soon for laptops.  It will not be exactly the same experience as the ipad but I am sure looking forward to playing with that as well.

This has come at a perfect time for me as listening and analysis has become such a major part of the music curriculum in middle and high school. I don’t really like working with textbooks but this seems to have harnessed everything my students need in one.  Apparently there is also a Interactive Listening student workbook in the works as well so students can work independently to complete assignments.

Pete Carney teaches at the City Colleges of Chicago and Saint Xavier University, and is Assistant Band Director for Chicago All City Jazz Ensemble. As a saxophonist, he has performed and composed music for Grammy winners including Kirk Franklin, Tito Puente, the Winans, and the Plain White T’s. He studied composition with William Bolcom and William Albright at the University of Michigan and classical saxophone with Donald Sinta, before completing graduate school at Florida International University and the University of Miami. As a Jazz artist, Pete Carney headlines Jazz festivals in the US and overseas with his group Orange Alert. He was the first American to be featured at the Aberdeen Jazz Festival in Scotland. He lives in Chicago with his wife Caroline. For more information and music go to

Dr. Brian Felix is a music performer, composer and educator. He is an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Asheville where he teaches classes on jazz piano, jazz history, music business, the Beatles and the Grateful Dead. His ensemble, OM Trio, has toured extensively throughout the US and garnered considerable critical acclaim. Felix holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and lives in Asheville, NC with his wife, Bridget, and sons, Sean and Gavin. For more information, visit


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