Meri’s Musical Musings

Thoughts on Flashcards, Recordings, and Learning/Playing other instruments

Posted on: April 16, 2009

Some music teachers say using flashcards is bad for developing music reading skills. I personally think they are helpful, especially when you encourage the student to find the note they are playing on the instrument. (notice I did not say piano–I use flashcards with a few of my clarinet students, especially an autistic boy I teach, who is playing at the Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 4 clarinet level) I also have my students read sequences of notes, some patterns easy, others hard. I created my own flashcards to memorize standard harmonic progressions, and frequently use them to help students learn their key signatures. And most of my students love them, some of them find learning their notes and theory concepts with flashcards much easier than writing them down, I have had a few students who found writing exercises challenging, because their motor coordination was under developed. I love the flashcards created by the FJH publishing company, they have theory, notes, sight-reading in one set of cards for less than $10. And it makes something easy for parents to do with music students, even if they have little to no musical training besides what they may have gotten in school.

I aslo think students of all instruments should be listening to recordings. I know some piano teachers who discourage their students to do this. Another way I see this is that it’s possible to learn elementary pieces by ear, but it gets difficult later on, and it’s impossible with intermediate to advanced pieces. Then ear player may get the harmonies wrong, especially if it’s possible to use more than one possible chord, or they get the order of the notes or the range of the chord wrong. Or even to have the teacher play along with the student. Students of other instruments besides the piano are often recommended to listen to recordings to develop a sound concept, and with students who play instruments that requires them to figure note the note partially by ear (as on brass and most string instrument) then it’s essential. Recordings can also be used to develop an ensemble experience.

I’ve also noticed that some music teachers, most likely to be piano teachers, try to discorage students from playing multiple instruments. Yes, there is such a thing as spreaing yourself too thin, however, I find my most expressive piano students are often those who play a second instrument (one of my piano students also plays violin in the same orchestra I play clarinet in), and I had a really brilliant piano student a few years ago who played the flute quite well especially since she had only been learning it for a couple of years. My piano teacher too thinks that my experience on clarinet helps me understand the concept of articulation on the piano, I know I get some of my phrasing ideas on the piano from my clarinet training! My husband too, is a multi-instrumentalist, he plays, expertly, piano, organ, and trombone. Not only that, some exam systems have a certain piano requirement in order to graduate from the exam systems, I know a few musicians who are highly accomplished on two instruments, and quite a few who are vey advanced on one, and play to at least a late intermediate level on another! Even my piano students who are too young to play most other instruments get to develop a sound concept and learn to think orchestrally. Piano students to, can become interested in accompanying, I even give some of my piano students early training in it with one of the pieces in the 2A Piano Adventures book, I transposed the vocal part so it’s playable on a B flat clarinet. Piano students who learn to think orchestrally learn the importance of playing with good timing, especially when playing with other musicians!


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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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