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Isn’t it frustrating watching a new student struggling to work out the pitch of the notes on their sheet music. Is it a C or an A? You can hear them muttering “every good boy…” under their breathe whilst their parent waits anxiously on the edge of their seat to see if they might finally “hear a tune.”
Or what about a more advanced student? Surely by now they should be able to recognise that note on the ledger lines? Why can’t they remember to play a G sharp when playing in the key of A major? If only they would play that note in the correct octave?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried everything under the sun over the years to try and help my pupils quickly recognise pitch; flash cards, all manner of computer software and other miscellaneous methods in an effort to help them become better music readers. After all, faster pitch recognition equals more fluent sight reading. New pieces then get learnt quicker and everybody, pupil, parent and music teacher are much happier!
This could be it!
And then the light bulb moment! One of my students introduced me to Read more…
Posted in Music Theory, Practicing, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Teaching Tips
As a teenager I was intrigued how my history teacher could refer to the Victorian period as being both in the 1800s and in the 19th century! It wasn’t till more recently that I fully understood the two methods of counting numbers humans have mysteriously been using over the years and the interesting impact that has on the world of music. Curious? Let me explain. Read more…
Posted in Music History & Facts, Music Theory, Teaching Tips
Take a few minutes, relax, and test your knowledge of music theory and instruments. Just for fun!
Posted in Music Theory
We all know there are lots of online resources out there, but often we can’t afford to comb through it. Very useful pages are out there that we never hear about. I know I’ve made some very useful resources on my own site, including online tunelearning pages, and the people who know about and use them are mostly students, because it’s hard to let the right people know about it, and expensive to advertise. Perhaps you’d like to share in the comments below some of the ways you like to get the word out about your offerings?
One ever-changing music site with a lot of useful information, especially at a more basic level, is the about.com website. For ideas related to music education, go to http://musiced.about.com and you will find descriptions of various music methods (such as Kodaly, Orff, Suzuki), quite a few lesson plans for elementary school music ranging from Beethoven to Duke Ellington to folk songs; lesson plans that integrate music into language arts and other subjects; also reading lists, ads, biographies of composers, timelines for different periods of music, ads, Read more…
Posted in Music History & Facts, Music Theory, Practicing, Product Reviews
It strikes me that there are basically three groups of music users:
Group 1 is made up of the vast majority of humans who enjoy listening to music. But that’s as far as they will ever take it!
Group 2 are the ones who aren’t content with just listening to music. In addition, they want to make music as a singer or a musician.
Group 3 are musicians who, whilst they enjoy listening to and performing music, want even more! For them, creating music from nothing is the ultimate musical expression giving them an additional voice. Traditionally this activity was supported by at least a measure of technical ability at a musical instrument but increasingly people with no previous experience are using computers or even apps on their phone to create music!
Sadly though, many students and even teachers are convinced, even if they would like to compose, that they Read more…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips
Usually new resolutions are made to break a habit–over eating, avoiding exercise, partaking in a favorite yet unhealthy past time.
Why not add a habit that my enrich your skills as a musician and enhance your students’ experience at the keys? Join the Eye Ear Revolution….Here’s the scoop:
Eye players read music; Ear players improvise. To broaden their musical creativity and stylistic range, contemporary musicians need instruction in both. Reading music and playing by ear used to be common among European classical musicians until about 100 years ago. Then, as the minimum technical abilities required to interpret and play the repertoire grew with increasing complexity, creative music making gradually ceased to be a part of formal music education.
Creative Keys, a joint effort of Bradley Sowash and me, Leila Viss, is carving a path for 21st century strategies that balance and combine the eye and ear. At 88CreativeKeys.com (a blog founded by Creative Keys) you will find the following: Read more…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips
If your students are anything like mine, they will have been playing Christmas carols for a number of weeks now. As it gets closer to Christmas and the carols are well known, my students use them as a basis for composing a theme and variations. This activity can either be improvised at their instrument or notated. Read more…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Teaching Tips
I spent much of this summer and early fall working on a curriculum program for my studio. Because I reopened my studio in 2011 after a three year hiatus in teaching, many of my students are transfer students. Some of these transfer students have a very solid background. Others…well, let’s just say they do not.
In order to remedy some of the holes in my students’ musical knowledge, I thought it would be helpful to have a leveled system in place. I warned all my students that no matter how advanced they are, they will each have the chance to work through every level, starting at the very beginning. As incentive, I added Music Dollar rewards to each level, as well as a chart to list each students’ progress. Read more…
Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips
LAD (Listen, Analyse & Develop)
Arguably, the most important skill a musician can acquire is the ability to “play by ear!” Am I dismissing the art of reading notation? Absolutely not. In many aspects of my life as a musician, reading music is essential to me. What I really mean is that, whether a musician is reading music or not, his or her ability to carefully listen to the sound they are producing whilst playing is essential to creating a musical result. I like to call it the “LAD” technique (no offense LADies)! Listen, Analyse and Develop. You have to Listen carefully to the sound you are producing, Analyse the musical elements and then adjust to Develop it yet further. A person might be the best “sight reader” in the world but unless they focus on progressing their “playing by ear”/listening skills, the impact and message of the music will be lost on their audience. “Playing by ear” surely is at the very core of what we do!
So how do we as musicians and teachers develop these essential skills both in ourselves and in our students?
Ear Training Methods
One effective way is to record ourselves and hear our music back. Suddenly we are listening as a third party to the sound and can hear what’s good, bad and ugly! Carefully listening whilst simplifying the music by practicing it slower (and hands separate if possible) can help us focus on detail not previously heard. Other musicians use the
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Performing, Practicing
Looking for one more reason why you and your music studio “need” an iPad. Or perhaps, I’m just providing one more reason to justify the two I own–had to get the iPad 3 since my first generation does not have a camera.
Whatever the reason, you may want to check out iReal B and add it to your growing music app collection for your studio. Of course, the app works with smart phones and other tablets but I prefer using this one with my iPad.
The app is basically a template for lead sheets and provides a style accompaniment to go along with it. For $7.99 you get a book and a band, all in one.
With this app you can:
1) Collect chord charts for all your favorite songs and access them from anywhere. You can find 1000s of charts and download them for free from online forums.
2) Play along with a realistic sounding band to help steady that forever-wandering beat.
3) Choose from more than 30 different accompaniment styles that use a variety of instruments (purchase may be necessary).
4) Edit any chart or create charts from scratch. The app will generate an accompaniment– with a style of your choice–for your own, unique chord chart. Read more…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Practicing, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips