I’ve found myself falling back into old ways a bit at the start of this term.
I talked too much. I explained too much. And this meant that there wasn’t enough music making in lessons.
It is so easy to slip into familiar and comfortable teaching habits especially when trying to juggle all the additional demands that go along with the new term.
The problem with explaining something pianistic takes much, much longer than just demonstrating it. This has a big effect on the pace and variety of the lesson, both of which are central to keeping a pupil engaged and motivated.
So, this week’s blog post is all about exploring ways of taking a piece of repertoire as the starting point for Making Music.
WHY MAKING MUSIC IS SO IMPORTANT
Our pupils come to lessons initially because they want to PLAY the piano!
As teachers we know that along with playing the piano comes a lot of hard work and practice. We are in danger – if we get too bogged down in technique, how to play and how to read – of distancing our pupils from the very reason they started learning in the first place.
In every lesson we should aim to include some satisfying and meaningful music-making no matter how short the activity. And of course, if we can link it to some of the repertoire currently being learnt then so much the better.
Today, I am going to use Angelic Harmony No. 21 Op 100 by Burgmuller as the starting point for making music. The piece is currently on the Grade 3 ABRSM 2017-18 syllabus and is an intermediate level piece.
KNOW THE SCORE
As in previous weeks this is a crucial step as teacher. There are several concepts that the piece could be used for:
- Technique: it requires a balanced and alert body with flexible wrists.
- Rhythm: it has an even, rolling feel to it created by the constant triplets.
- Harmony: triads in various positions form the backbone of the piece.
At this stage of the learning process all pupils should be familiar with the concept of triads. Angelic Harmony is an excellent way to reinforce and deepen what they know and understand.
So the focus of my Making Music theme is the triads and chordal structure that make up the piece. The first 8 bars has the following chord sequence:
I I IVc I V7 Ic V7 I
It’s a simple, yet effective, progression to mess around with.
Here are just two activities that you could try with your pupils:
MAKING MUSIC 1
Because you have already analysed and know the chord sequence, aim to present this in the lesson without the score open on the piano. Otherwise you and the pupil will end up staring at it even though it’s not relevant to the music making!
If you are used to improvising with your pupil, you’ll have your own ideas of how to go about this. If, on the other hand, improvising takes you out of your comfort zone, then watch the video below where I outline some steps for you to follow.
MAKING MUSIC 2
In this video I show how students can be encouraged to explore the tonic-dominant relationship that is found in the opening bars. Ultimately this can lead into a composition process.
BACKGROUND, MOOD AND CHARACTER
Friedrich Burgmuller (1806-1874) was a German pianist and composer. Today he is mostly known for his etudes; in particular Op.100 and 109. Both of these sets of studies are essential repertoire for the teaching studio as Burgmuller manages to create lovely, small character pieces that need a technical focus. You can download all of Op.100 from IMSLP.
Recording of Angelic Harmony on the UIPianoPed Channel CLICK HERE
For more information about each piece in Op.100 CLICK HERE