Meri’s Musical Musings

Random thoughts on Music, October 16, 2009

Posted on: October 16, 2009

On older versus newer class method books for school music programs:

I really like the older ones much better, mainly because most of the newer books have only an excerpt of a tune. I also don’t like the CDs and DVDs included with some of them, a lot of them have an average to mediocre sound.

On students and parents asking potential teachers to perform for them…

Teachers should have a few pieces they can play on short notice and maintain. I notice that many good voice teachers are also excellent performers, same with most other instruments–except piano! Teachers should regularly play along with their students, especially their beginners and intermediate students, particularly duets.

Teaching students how to compose…

I let them record what they made up in my audio recording program, teach them ways on modifying it (playing it backwards, upside-down, creating varations, creating a canon), show them some harmonization techniques, usually single notes for the earlier beginners, and chords and inversions for the more advanced ones. I teach them about melodic sequences too, some of my students have created some very nice compositions. I’ve shown some of my students (usually 8 and up) how to transcribe their pieces into notation, and my computer ear training program has a component where they have to translate the rhythm they hear into a written rhythm. Does wonders for them learning to locate where the notes are on the staff, especially the piano students.

A few ways I help students understand rhythm…

I will often have students tap out rhythms they are struggling with on a rhythm instrument, sometimes having them tap the rhythm while I play, reverse the roles, together, and finally with them on their own. But sometimes word cues work, for the dotted quarter, eighth, quarter quarter rhythm, I find a lot of students find the word cue of “deck the halls with” helps in playing it. A couple of my students like the terms the Fabers use for combination quarter and eighth notes, using “walk” for quarter notes, and “running” for eighth notes.

On using easy versions of favourite pieces versus pedagogical repertoire…

Though I hate the overly simplified versions available of many pieces (if I have to use one, I’ll let them play the correct rhythm, not the simplified one), I prefer to familiarize students with the great themes from the masters as opposed to the pedagogical repertoire out there, especially for piano. The Fabers publish a fabulous Pretime to Bigtime series for beginners to intermediate students, which a lot of students are inspired by. Sometimes I’ll create arrangements of the themes students enjoy if I can’t find one, such as one early intermediate student loving (and sometimes dancing to) the Chopin Revolutionary Etude which is on his digital piano. I wrote out a version where he plays the main theme, and an advanced pianist plays the accompaniment. After all the learning repertoire of most other instruments is easy classical themes and folk tunes.

Why I think it’s important for students to perform in front of an audience…

It’s important for the advanced students to inspire the beginners, the beginners to gain confidence performing even really easy pieces, and for the advanced students to see how far they have progressed.

Detecting vision problems with music students…

Check if they have difficulty with sight-reading very easy stuff after about 3-6 months. And sometimes music for other instruments is printed quite small, even the clarinet method I use with most beginning students I think is too small, and sometimes I will copy the pages slightly larger. Also paper colour may make a difference.


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  • 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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