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Blog posts tagged with 'Listening'

What to do with Sleeping Students....

What to do With Sleeping Students….

 

We all know the feeling…. It’s the last couple of weeks of term. The kids are tired, the teachers are tired. If it’s the summer term everyone’s too hot… if it’s the winter term then everyone’s full of cold.

 

So rather than dragging students through the same pieces they’ve been working on, but you know they won’t practice over the summer why not use the time to do something fun and something that works out their musical ear and brain in a different way.

 

You know yourself that if you’re tired you don’t work as well and that things are more of a chore – and it’s exactly the same for your students.

 

So here’s my go to end of term games:

 

  • Improvisation – so much fun, works on their listening skills and gets them working creatively too

  • Don’t Play This One Back – play or clap rhythms that the students have to copy – but they shouldn’t copy if if you clap the rhythm to the words Don’t Play This One Back

  • Beat the Clock – students have to say and play a series of notes against a time limit – usually I give 30 seconds then they have to beat the number of notes they said in the next round

  • Dictation – Can they write a rhythm or melody down that you play

  • Copy Me – Can they play a melody back – I usually start with one note then gradually increase the phrase (a bit like that annoying Bop It game!)

  • Spot the Difference – Play a piece of music and see if they can see what note / phrase was different

  • Speed Scales – how fast and accurately can they play their scales – who’s the fastest – student vs teacher

  • Speed Pieces – who can play a simple piece the fastest – student vs teacher

  • Creative Composition – writing a piece of music using a story – so not focusing on melody or harmony – just using sounds to create a musical landscape

  • Graphic Scores – if you’re doing some creative composition they might like to draw a grahic score to go with it

  • Long Note Competition

  • Musical Maths – Can they add the tied notes together

  • Musical Word Searches etc – There’s lots of theory based written games that you can find online that are great for the hot weather

  • Backwards Playing – Can they play their piece backwards?

  • Musical Hangman – This is my students favourite game – Write down a musical word for them to guess – but in order to be able to guess a letter of the word they have to do something musical – it might be say the name of some notes, say what key it’s in, clap the rhythm etc etc – then normal rules of hangman apply. (Needless to say this game does take the longest but it’s a great lesson filler and gets students thinking about all sorts of aspects of theory etc.) (And when we play this at Christmas I do get accused of cheating – I’m sorry but no – Sprouts is not a cheating word…. I just quite like to win!!)

 

Any fun games I’ve missed – why not add them in the comments!

 

Happy end of term!!!

Why Aural Tests Count!

 

Why Aural Tests Count!

 

Just because aural tests are the last bit of the exams doesn’t mean they should be the last thing you practice!

 

But sadly they are.

 

Even some teachers leave them until the last minute – putting more emphasis on getting marks up for the pieces as well as worrying about scales and finally sight-reading.

 

Just recently I was asked to accompany a grade five exam and in the rehearsal a week before the exam date the student asked me when she was supposed to start practising her aural tests?!?!? And after a bit of a twitter rant it seems that this isn’t unusual. Some teachers do indeed not rehearse the aural test section at all and leave it to the accompanist to do.

 

But why?

 

They’re a good chunk of marks so they can make the difference between a pass and a fail.

 

Also aural is important.

 

It shouldn’t just be something that gets dragged out near an exam date. It should filter through into every lesson. Yes I know it’s difficult when you have students who only have 20 minute lessons, even 30 minutes is a push to get everything done in time.

 

But people should be well rounded musicians.

 

The aural tests are annoying I know, but their focus is on elements that students should be encouraged to do and should just be part of lessons regularly (then they become less of an exam only worry).

 

The clapping – this is great to see whether their musical memory is working and if they can externalise what they hear in their head. Clapping the pulse is also perfect for working on their sense of ‘in time’. If the rhythms flow then everything else will make sense and then they have a bit more brain power free to think about other things (hint hint… dynamics!)

The singing – has so many benefits including memory, pitch and getting students to understand the relationship between the distances between the notes

The listening – students should be regularly encouraged to listen and appraise what they’re playing, so if they’re listening to a teacher or another student play it starts to get their ear used to listening while they’re thinking.

 

Like everything I’ve written about recently that’s focused on the exams – it all boils down to regular practice.

 

Aural skills should be part of a regular lesson and it should be things that students are working on their own too.

 

So – if you’ve got an exam coming up – don’t just leave it to the last five minutes of your lesson to work on them. Ask your teacher what will be in the exam and get friends, family and loved ones to sing at you, or clap things for you to copy. Or be self-reliant. There’s loads of examples on youtube for all of the aural tests for every exam board. So go and look.

 

Practice. Practice. Practice.

 

You can find some clips I’ve done for the aural tests here

 

And if you want some more hints and tips about loving the singing element – check out the blog post here

 

Five Ways to Learn to Love Your Metronome

 

Five Ways to Learn to Love Your Metronome

 

Ah the metronome! That annoying clicking, pingy or too quiety thingy that all teachers insist you must have yet everyone avoids practising with.

A lot of my students have been learning to love the metronome this year and have really found it a great practise aid (but I’ll be honest they’ve also found it really difficult too!). But why should it make it harder I hear you say? Well – the simple answer is that we’re not robots. When we play there’s always a bit of an ebb and flow to our sense of timing (even though we try desperately for it to stay ‘in time’). Best example of this was when I started a big band rehearsal with the band at one speed, with a sneaky metronome silenced in the back ground, then turning it on and up half way through a song – it really shocked them to see how much they’d dropped collectively!

But it doesn’t have to be all heart-ache and misery! Metronomes are really useful – and practise with them can be great fun too!

 

1. Start with the basics – do some rhythm games with it to help your body internalise the beat. If you ‘feel’ the difference between crotchets and quavers you will naturally play them better. So start the metronome and play crotchets alongside – then suddenly swap to quavers (or have someone shout the rhythm changes out!) or minims etc and see if you can keep up and keep changing.

2. Scales practise – to get used to playing ‘in time’ choose some nice easy scales to run up and down in time with the beat. Again – you could play crotchets or quavers, or swung quavers… or dotted quavers….

3. Use it to help with long tone practise – put a really slow count on and if you have the old fashioned metronomes you can see how close time wise you are to holding a note for an extra beat longer. It also means you cant cheat by speeding up your count!

4. Headphones – now this might seem odd, but bear with me. As a teacher of tenor and baritone saxes and all those loud based instruments – just hearing the metronome can be a pain. So – best advice for the battery operated ones is to put some headphones in. Even if you can hear it – sometimes having the sound that little bit closer helps. (But obviously if you’re like me and always forget to change the batteries and rely on an old fashioned wind up one then this won’t help you!)

5. Dexterity – often students find that there’s always a piece of music that has one or two nigglingly bars that the fingers won’t get around in time. This is where you should learn to love your metronome. Isolate the difficult bars and practise them at a really slow speed. Then a tiny bit quicker. Then a bit quicker still. Then at the speed you need it. Then…. Go for it. Way above the speed you need and see what happens. It’ll probably be a car crash *but* when you go back to the speed you wanted in the first place – you’ll probably find that the brain relaxes over it and suddenly it’s easier.

 

 

 

How Duets Can Inspire Your Students

 How Duets Can Inspire Your Students?

 

Ahh… the duet point in any tuition book. How many teachers skip over these because they know most students dread to play them.

Although they can be difficult to do – duets actually can be really good for students in many ways and here’s just some of my favourite reasons.

Recorder DuetsIntonation! How many times do we get exam results through that moan about intonation? But in an exam situation students panic. Yes, they might be listening to the accompanist but are they listening to themselves? Duets are a fantastic way for students to work on their intonation as the sounds they hear need to blend that little bit closer. They’re also hearing the same sort of sounds (assuming you duet on the same instruments) so again it can really make them have to work out what sound is coming from them and what’s not.

Ensemble experience - Duets are a great introduction to ensemble playing – if they’re keen to join an orchestra or band, but aren’t sure what it feels like then duets can be great starting place.

Listening – You’ve got to listen to make duets work. Unlike being accompanied where the pianist will often work with the soloist to support their lines, duets really do need a sense of balance. The rhythms need to work together, the tone needs to blend, the dynamics need to match etc etc etc. So for the ear – again they’re a great work out!

Breathing – Although all students do remember the breathe when they’re playing (hopefully), duets can help them progress a bit further with their breathing. Because you’re playing together the natural result is that both players begin to breathe at the same time. So it becomes natural and organic, rather than prescribed four bar phrases.

Sight-reading – I know I keep going on about sight-reading (partly because I love it and it really isn’t as scary as students make out!) but duets can also be used to add a different angle to their sight-reading practise. Give them a minute to look over part one, count in and both play it from scratch. This would give them a real boost in the importance of making sure when they perform a sight-reading exercise that they stay in time and learn the importance of keeping going (and blagging it when they’re not sure!!)

Repertoire – There’s such a wide range of duet pieces out there that there is really a vault of untapped music ready to be played. They’re a brilliant filler if you need something extra from the tuition book. There’s always a great array of different styles and genres out there to explore.

So get out there and get them playing more duets!

Flute Duets