This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Sarah Joncas.
Sometimes, the motor skills required to play a specific instrument aren’t attainable for a student. Whether it’s a temporary injury or a permanent disability, students can be disappointed if they have to play a different instrument than their classmates. With Keezy Classic, a student with a motor difficulty can make the same instrument sounds as their peers.
I have used Keezy to get a kid through six weeks of saxophone class while in an arm cast, and for a student with muscular dystrophy who could not hold a flute. It is also helpful for one of my students with an intellectual disability playing recorder. With some creativity, Keezy can be useful for students with many different types of disabilities or challenges. Even students who just need something new and novel can benefit from Keezy as a change from the routine of playing a traditional acoustic instrument.
Keezy Classic is a simple yet powerful iOS/iPad audio trigger app. The app’s main screen consists of 8 colored rectangles, each of which represents a different sound. There are some pre-set sound palettes, which allow for the creation of music with Keezy-designed sounds, but Keezy can do so much more than trigger the sounds already part of the app. As the teacher, just set up whatever instrument and notes or patterns your student needs, and they can play with a touch of a button! It makes literally any instrument accessible for many students who otherwise could not play them.
There are so many uses of Keezy, and the best part of Keezy is that it allows for all students to make music.
In Practice: Hot Cross Buns
I think the best way to see the power of Keezy is to see how it can be used. Like many elementary music teachers, I teach the recorder, and Hot Cross Buns is one of the first few songs my students learn to play. Here’s the notation I use with my third grade classes:
For students who do not have the motor skills to handle blowing air, tonguing, and moving their fingers at the same time, Keezy lets them have success, either as a replacement or a supplement to the conventional recorder instrument. There’s at least 2 different ways to set up this song for Keezy. One option is a rectangle for each note, or a rectangle for each measure.
Hot Cross Buns Option 1: Each Note on a Rectangle
To set up a sound palette for Hot Cross Buns, I bring up a new Palette in Keezy. I can get to the menu by tapping the black dot in the middle of the screen.
When I tap the orange record icon on the menu, this screen comes up. Touching any of the microphone icons will let me record.
I know there’s three notes for Hot Cross Buns, so for a student who can handle tapping once for each note I just need to set up three squares, one each for B, A, and G.
I tap and hold on a square to record a sound, then play a B on my recorder to record it. I’ll do the same for two other squares for A and G. When I only need a few of the 8 squares, I usually try not to use squares right next to each other. So that my students still get the concept of high, middle, low, I might use the top left for B, second row right for A, and third row left for G.
Hot Cross Buns Option 2: Each Measure on a Rectangle
For students who cannot tap quick enough to keep up with the class playing each note, there’s another option. I can set up Keezy to play a measure with just a tap, so my student only has to tap to start each measure. Since Hot Cross Buns only has two different measures, I only need to use two rectangles. This option can also be ideal for students with vision challenges, since there are fewer colors or areas that students need to focus on.
Again, I look at my song and determine what I need to record. With Hot Cross Buns, I know I need the BAG measure, and the GGGGAAAA measure. I’ll pick a rectangle, record the first measure, and then pick another rectangle to record for the different measure. This allows for a lot of flexibility in where the rectangles are, which is great for students who may not be able to reach or handle the whole iPad screen.
Using the Palettes
Once it’s set up, my student can play immediately using Keezy Classic. I usually connect the iPad to a speaker via the headphone jack in order to allow for a louder volume and clearer sound than the built-in iPad speakers. Fortunately, the instructional aides who work with my students with special needs have become used to Keezy as I’ve used it with more students over time, so they are often able to support the student’s use without much help from me.
Other Keezy Options
Keezy Palettes can be set up to be flexible across songs. My recorder students stay in the land of 3 notes for quite awhile, so my setup for Hot Cross Buns playing each note is likely going to get us through a few months. However, my beginning band students need 5 notes within the first 6 weeks. So I might set up a palette for clarinet that has our first 5 notes, or even a full octave scale. This allows for flexibility, and for a student to get familiar with where the different notes are located on the iPad.
Keezy can also be used for non-pitched percussion instruments. Of course, you can record a drum or triangle into Keezy Classic, but there’s also a separate Keezy Drummer app that’s worth checking out. Virtually any sound you or a student can make acoustically can be recorded and triggered within Keezy to allow anyone to make the sounds.
Keezy allows for students to play the same instrument through different modalities. It also allows a student, once they’re familiar with the app interface, to make the sounds of many instruments without needing to learn new techniques for each. Keezy can augment or replace traditional instruments, and can be differentiated for students with different needs even within the same class.
Keezy is a free app. For cash-strapped schools and teachers, free is key, and it also makes it more likely that students may be able to get the app on their own devices. Because iOS/iPadOS is so popular both inside and outside schools, it is likely to be available and accessible to many students.
Another benefit of Keezy is that it is easy to use for students, and easy to set up for the teacher. Unlike other apps which have a steep learning curve, Keezy is easy to start using right away, and because it does not have a lot of functions or buttons it is simple for anyone to figure out. The app tends to be intuitive both for music teachers and non-music teachers, allowing other adults like special education teachers or educational assistants to help a student use the app without prior training. The colored rectangles in Keezy can even correspond to color coded music, allowing a student who cannot yet read traditional notation to follow along with music that has scaffolding especially for them.
Keezy is not specifically an app made for accessibility, and it can be used by students with and without disabilities. I’ll often have students who do not struggle playing a traditional recorder rotate through taking turns on the iPad playing with Keezy. This gives peer models to the student who can only access recorder with Keezy, and gives a change of pace and new way of playing music to the other students in the class. I find some students enjoy “iPad recorders” as they call them more than the standard instrument!
Keezy is a great app to add to your accessibility toolbox. It allows for students to access instrument sounds they may not be able to create with acoustic instruments, and gives great flexibility to allow a teacher to set up the app in a way that is best for their students. The app is easy to use, and allows for all students to make music in a meaningful way.
I would recommend all music teachers try out Keezy to help all their students succeed at making music. Play around with the app and see what you think, it’s worth checking out to help students!
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About the Writer
Sarah Joncas is a music teacher from Massachusetts, USA. She teaches kindergarten through fifth grade general music, fifth grade chorus, fifth grade band, and percussion ensemble. Before becoming a teacher, she worked with technology and educational software.In 2014, she was named a TI:ME Technology in Music Education Leadership Fellow, which allowed her to attend a music education conference in Texas and explore cutting edge music teaching technology. She has earned degrees in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston University. You can connect with Sarah on Twitter or her blog Teaching Music Musings.
Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.