Hello everyone! Glad to be back with another blog post on the island. If you've been following us on the socials you know that my absence is completely due to being distracted by a new musical instrument at the hacienda. Also, if you're a super spy and have been following us here on the website this week, you may have noticed a new page pop up on our homepage–our fabulous new Playlists page. Every Monday we'll drop a new Apple Music playlist, usually 10 songs, that are clean, tried, and true for use in the music classroom (especially elementary school). You can click to buy from iTunes or sign-in and easily add to a classroom playlist if you're an Apple Music subscriber. Having the right music is only part of the story though, you're eventually gonna want a better app than your standard music player on your phone, tablet, or laptop to get the party started. Today's post is all about an app I love and have been using for years–Djay.
Here's how it works:
These are turntables. They look like to records. If you're young and don't understand records or even CDs, well, rub it in professor. I'll be using pics mostly from the classic Djay app version, But here's what the new one looks like.
It's best to have actual music on your device to use it in the app. So, if you're a Apple Music streaming subscriber, but didn't actually pay per song like the good old days, it won't show up as an option to play. Spotify is an option (to Dj streaming music), however, it's never a good idea to trust a wifi connection with your party (or lesson plan).
How do you get music actually on your device? If you've bought music through iTunes you simply download it in the normal Music app, then look for it via the Djay app. If you're like me and have a ton of tunes on your laptop iTunes, then you'll have to sync your device with iTunes (like, plug your iPad into your computer via USB) to move it over, no biggie. Newer iTunes music isn't locked by DRM, so it should play in Djay just fine (if you don't know what DRM is don't worry - it applies to iTunes music purchases from awhile ago).
When you know you have music on your device, just click the 🎵+ button above one of the turntables (pictured above) to select a song to play.
So, there's a few things going on in the picture above. Look at the top of the screen on the left side and see how much time is left in the song you just played (press it to switch to how much of the song has played). See the key of the song. See the tempo over on the left (84 bpm). See the red play line on the squiggly sound wave. Also, this is a big one, look and the center bottom of the pic to see the white rectangle on its side, that's the crossfader. See how I slid it over to the left? That means we are hearing the left song only when I press play.
Now, gaze on over to the right side of the pic. Not only did I press the button to select my next song, I also pressed the 'sort' button to see some sorting options. BPM is a super handy sorting option. By clicking it, I'll have quickly organized all of the songs in the playlist by speed (BPM=beats per minute - 120 is medium, less than 100 is slow, higher is fast). That helps you decide which song to play next–you don't want to kill the vibe by playing a super slow song after a fast one...unless, the gig is over and you actually want to kill the vibe haha!
When choosing the next song, a lot comes into play. The first is the key (pictured above). It's not make or break, but following a song with a song in a relative key is pleasing. This is where those music theory classes come in handy. Now, C to Em isn't perfect but it's a lot better than say, C to G#. If you don't understand harmony quite yet don't stress about it–you can work on this later!
Next, I've chosen a song that is close in speed (BPM-beats per minute), and also sounds good in my headphones (more on that later). But, it's not exactly the same speed, so, I need to sync the tracks. First I press the two 8th note buttons (this helps keep your sped up records sounding normal...usually, when you speed up a song the pitch goes up–think chipmunk voices–you don't want this). Then, I press the sync button on the track I want to change (pictured below–I pressed the sync button on the right to match the 84 bpm of the song on the left).
So, now they're synced...sort of. The song on the right actually has a bunch of slow intro stuff. The beat doesn't get normal until about 20 seconds in. If I was to press sync and just fade it over it might work but probably not exactly. So, I listen for that moment in my headphones to the song on the right, move the record to get it just right, then pause it. I listen to the song on the left and when it's about to start a new measure (1, 2, rea-dy, play) and press play on the right track. Now they are playing completely in sync! Didn't get it just right? Then try again. Since the fader at the bottom has been on the left track the whole time, nobody hears you attempting to sync the tracks–the new song is only coming through your headphones (more on your headphones later).
When you're really-really ready, slide the fader over to the new song and start the process all over again (if you're new at this you're like, yikes lol). Also, you know how you sped that one song up to meet the other one? It's probably best to slowly slide the tempo back to normal for later. Just do it slow and no one will notice (pictured below)!
Listen, don't freak out. It's not as hard as it sounds. You actually could just pull up two songs (one on the left and one on the right), hit play on the first, listen for a few minutes, then hit play on the track on the right. Then just slowly drag the crossfader at the bottom over to the new song. Boom, done.
As you feel more comfortable you can mix via BPM, Key, both, or a million other ways. Actually, the new version of Djay (the one you'll probably actually download if you're new to this) has handy new packs for mixing (pictured below).
See them there in the middle? It is literally a beat middle man - you create a beat and it auto syncs to whatever song you're playing. It works surprisingly well. You could actually let the song end and use these beats to play before you start the next song. It's not perfect but it's interesting and fun. A great way to get a guest (student) DJ on stage!
Now, a quick word about headphones. Here's how it works. Besides a pair of headphones you need two things - a headphone splitter/adapter (sold separately), and to go to settings on Djay and 'split audio output'. What that does is put the next song on your turn tables in the headphones without letting the audience hear what you're up to. When you move the crossfader over the audio in your headphones switches to the other track. This allows you to get the next song ready before you mix. This is a must.
Well, how do you feel? Hopefully you're not too blown away and have also gained just a touch of respect for good Djs (even ones using apps instead of real tables haha!).
Djay is free to download and works on basically all phones, iPads, PCs, and Macs.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments or on Social Media!
Want to start building your music library for your next kid DJ gig? Be sure to check out our new Playlists Page!
~Mr. S 🌴🎵
This is it. This is the time of year when teachers [especially newer teachers] get down. You survived and made it to winter break and were so thankful to get a little bit of recharge time. You took a huge bag of content & materials home over break to get a head start on lesson planning for the Spring...but one thing led to another and you didn't touch any of it. You're back at school now, staring at quite a few weeks to teach until your next [well deserved] break. So, how do you stay pumped up about the gig? I'm here to help! I made a quick list of 7 things I've found recently that get my head back in the game!
1. Watch some TV: Mozart in the Jungle.
We've all got our favorite binge-worthy shows, some of them even have to do with music! Check out an Amazon Prime original, Mozart in the Jungle. If you've played any classical music in your life this one will hit home for sure. Episodes are only 30 mins each, you'll kill a season in no time. It puts the fun back into music and will pump you up for the classroom.
2. Podcasts are my jam.
I love a good podcast. Sure, I listen to all kinds, many about non-music subjects, but when I need a music boost I have a few favorites.
Classical Classroom - A classical newbie librarian journalist interviews smart people and learns about random classical music stuff.
Creative Piano Teaching Podcast - This one has everything to do with teaching private piano lessons. Doesn't exactly apply to the general music classroom but still a gem. Great for ideas for the piano lab (if you have one).
Make Moments Matter: A Music Education Podcast - This one is the best if you're all about getting new ideas for the general music classroom.
AMusEd - A great round table of music teachers from all grade levels talking shop. Fun and well done.
Music Technology Teacher Podcast - A great resource for learning about new ways to use technology in your music classroom.
3. A Movie.
Especially a feel good story with kids doing great things. My pick? An amazing 2005 documentary (before documentaries were cool!) called Mad hot Ballroom. It's the best.
4. Instagram. Now that they allow the following of hashtags, get back on there and check out what #musiceducation has to offer. See a song you want to try out? Just bookmark it and save it to a collection (name it 'songs I wanna try' or something). Not sure who to follow? Look us up and spy on who we're following. We're new there too...but it's great - professional development at your fingertips!
5. Youtube. It's like podcasts for the eyes! Subscribe to a bunch of people and see new videos when they're posted. As you know, there's a lot of junk out there...that's why [self-promotion lol] we've grouped a lot of great videos together on our channel. Clean and great for use in your music classroom! We're not searchable yet on the platform but get there through our website or by following this super-secret link - BRI Youtube!
6. Time Machine. This is a great little classroom helper. When you're searching for inspiration to get back on the lesson plan train sometimes it's nice to remember where you've been. As my students and I get close to winter break (or just come back from break) I like to ease in by playing a game we call 'Time Machine'. Basically I use an app called Decide Now!. It's a spinn-y wheel, like Wheel of Fortune, but you type in the things to each one of the slots. I make one for each grade level and enter games/songs/activities we've done already. I choose a volunteer to spin and off we go! Doing this allows me some mental time to get things right in the lesson planning department. The kids love it. It's like they have choices! But not really haha.
Listen, I need to ask you something. Have you thought about blogging? Are you a music teacher? An aspiring one? Have you got some great ideas to share? Writing about your craft is super therapeutic. Maybe you've looked into it and realized that hosting the site and urls and blah-blah-blah is a little bit of a commitment ($). Maybe you're looking to join an amazing island community of music education bloggers. OK, fine, I'll come out and say it. We're looking for a few other music teachers to join Blue Rock Island and submit an article every once an awhile. Pay is...nothing. But it's a great way to get yourself out there and a great thing to add to your resume. Think about it.
Give me a shout and I'll sweet talk you some more!!! ~Paul (Mr. S)
I'd like to start by boosting my own self-esteem here—I'm undefeated in the getting-a-music-job category. Every job I've applied for I've been offered. Yippee, high-five me haha. Am I the best music teacher in the world? No way. But I've got some practice interviewing–I've been on 9 interviews for music positions over the years (I didn't accept 9 different positions, I've had to turn down some offers!). I've noticed a few things that I'm gonna share here today.
Before we get to it, I'll also confess that currently I'm a little nervous. I applied for a full-time elementary position before winter break (about 3 weeks ago) and I haven't heard anything yet. The position doesn't start until next week so I'm expecting the yay or nay any day now, I'll update this post when I find out!
1. Make sure you're eligible for the position.
So here's the deal. School districts across the country advertise their positions in different ways. Ten years ago I had just received my teaching certificate from the University of Washington in Seattle. I had bookmarked the Seattle Public School's job site. I was sooo ready to apply. Once I officially got my cert I immediately applied for two positions. I interviewed and was offered both positions–score. I wanted the first one so bad so I accepted.
Then, a few days later I got a call. It was the principal. "Are you an employee at SPS?"
I thought, well, that's a silly question, not yet!
"Well, you can't apply for the position because we're only in phase I of the hiring process. Since you're new, you have to wait until phase III".
I was like, whaaaaaaaaaaat? I investigated the job posting and realized I had bookmarked the page at the listings and not at the start where it explained the hiring process. I thought, man, that's silly that they don't make Phase I & II private. Right? Oh well. It worked out for the best. I waited my turn and took an amazing position a month later at a different but equally great school in the district.
2. Make them laugh.
Ok, so don't tell jokes, but be personable. You're not trying to overshadow your abilities or experience with personality, but working at a school means working with people, on a team. A school team, a specialists team, sometimes a cabinet or data team. People want to work with someone smart, laid back, and fun.
3. Know your strengths & your weaknesses.
What are 5 words (adjectives) that describe you?
What is something you're always working on?
My 5 words: Engaging, passionate, funny, laid back, creative
Something I'm working on? I'm always working on content. It was as true my first year as it is my 12th year. Sure, I've racked up a lot great lessons and songs that are a hit but I'm always working to make them better, more engaging, and more relevant to my students.
4. Have a few fun warm-up songs ready to go.
Surprisingly, in my 9 interviews I've only had to perform/teach a song/lesson in one of them. That's kinda crazy if you think about it. But it doesn't hurt to be ready. Prepare a few intro songs that could work with any grade and be ready to belt them out (in front of an adult interview team) if necessary.
5. Make sure the position is right for you.
If you've been reading the blog here you may remember our S-words. These matter. What's the space like? The students? The schedule? The staff? The support? It's easy to be flattered by a job offer but if you look deeper and you can tell it's not gonna work it's better to make the call early. You may feel like you're letting the school down, however, being a professional means making tough decisions and looking at the big picture.
What do you think? Do these ideas get you in the interview mindset? What's the best interview you had? The worst? What are some more tips to add to the discussion? Leave them in the comments or on BRI social media!