Learning to Read Music
I’m teaching a class of 9-year-olds. It’s an after-school guitar class at a nearby Catholic school. I don’t quite know how that happened.
I decided to run an experiment, and instead of starting them out with chords and nursery rhyme melodies, I gave them a classical guitar book. We started with rhythms. I felt from my own experience that if they got comfortable with reading rhythms in standard musical notation, the rest of the process would be easier for them.
So I taught them the duration values of whole, half, quarter and eighth notes. I explained that each of those notes had a corresponding rest, a sign that tells a musician how long NOT to play.
Then we moved to the white board. I asked each student to write out 4 bars of rhythms, using the note values that I’d taught them. Afterwards, students would assess whether their peers had done it correctly, and if not, where the problem lay. After everything was corrected and cleaned up, we would all sing the rhythm, using one single pitch (melodic note).
It became quite competitive. Students have loved pointing out each other’s errors and criticizing someone else's penmanship. When we sing the rhythms, it’s downright riotous.
We’ve since added pitch to the rhythmic exercise, and have begun to work on some simple duets that come at the beginning of the classical book.
The funny thing is, I half expected these children to hate reading music. I thought they would BEG me for something else. Every week, I have taken copies of blues chords and scales, as well as the chord chart that tells one when to play which chords in order to play the blues. Being prepared to teach them to play the blues has been my “fall-back position.”
I’ve asked them several times if they want to learn to play the blues (which is truly the basis for most of the popular music that we listen to). For the first three months I received a flat “No” in response. "We want to keep doing THIS," they said.
Two of the students have just recently consented to working on the blues a bit in addition to working on the classical music. They don’t want to stop reading.
I’m still shocked. :-)
Here's another interesting article about brain development through music.
I just saw this wikihow, and want to share it:
The Call to Teach
I fell in love with the guitar when I was ten years old, and it’s been one of the healthiest, most satisfying, long-lasting romantic relationships of my entire life. I am still in love.
When I began to play AND sing, the magic grew. Through performing solo and with bands, I discovered that other people also enjoyed the magic that was being channeled through me musically.
Then I found that I could teach. This was a surprise to me. I found that I can explain concepts and demonstrate technique in a way that makes it fun for a student to absorb new information. My students enjoy learning, and I enjoy the fact that they are enjoying it. It’s amazing to see a student’s face light up because something suddenly makes sense, and they GET IT. I have the privilege of bringing one person after another to the club of people who love to play and/or sing.
If you want your child to have more balance and a way to soothe or express strong emotion in a healthy way – and in a way that pleases them – I would like to help you give that gift to them. As a child and a teenager, I spent countless hours alone in a room with my guitar, and it helped so much to keep me on an even keel. It also taught me about discipline: practicing on a daily basis brings satisfying results. I was able to make music that was beautiful to listen to, and as long as I kept practicing, it got better and better. It proved to me that if I wanted to accomplish something important, consistent focus on it would bring results. That’s true of most things in life. I make a point of telling my young students that practicing an instrument is just like doing homework: you get out of it what you put into it. And the results can be joyous.
Perhaps YOU, an adult, are the musician or prospective musician. It’s never too late to fall in love with a musical instrument! It’s a joy and a meditation, a sedative or an outlet, and it’s all YOURS. There is always a creative element to playing an instrument – even when two different people play the same music, it never sounds exactly the same, because a person’s personality always shines through. The creation of music or the re-creation of music is magical. And I would like to give you a guided tour of that wonder-world.
If, by chance, you should find that you want to play with other people, I will show you how to do that and have a BLAST. The word for what you do with an instrument, and what children do with toys is “PLAY.” Fun is always the objective, and I’ve never had more fun in my life than when I was playing with other great musicians. Making music with other people creates art beyond understanding. This is not just fun, it is BIG FUN! I love giving people the tools they need to be able to experience that.
I’ll teach you how to play and sing easily and comfortably, and give you the foundation you need to play any style of music you desire, well. I’ve been privileged to have really amazing teachers as I learned and developed, and I’ve taken all the best techniques from them with regard to sharing musical knowledge.
I’ve made music my life’s work, and I have lots to show you.
Music & Academics
There is a lot of documentation that examines the correlation between musical training and mathematical ability. When I Googled “Math & Music,” I found over 2 million entries. You can watch a quick overview of some of the connections between the two disciplines here: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=1373
There is also a connection between music and language. There has been ongoing debate about whether music actually IS language, and there is evidence that learning to play music enhances a person’s ability to learn new languages. http://misschrista.wordpress.com/2007/03/22/article-from-ny-times-musiclanguage-connection/
Music, math and language all have systems, rules, equations, and formulas. To play a musical instrument is to stimulate the areas of the brain that make use of those concepts. The concepts become familiar to the brain, which makes it easier for the brain to assimilate new information based on those familiar patterns and structures.
Another valuable aspect of musicianship is the importance of practice. One crucial factor that predicts any level of success with an instrument is regular practice. A hidden benefit of regular practice is that It allows a student to observe the connection between working at something on a daily basis, and achieving a desired goal. The discipline that a student learns because he or she wants to make music is a discipline that can easily be applied to academic study.
A bonus benefit is that practicing an instrument can be an amazing study aid. The brain is able to absorb new information for approximately 20 minutes at a time. If a student alternates 20 minutes of academic study with 5 or 10 minutes of practicing an instrument, the brain thinks it has been on “vacation,” and is able to refocus on the academic study with renewed concentration.
A music instructor’s job is to broaden students’ minds, and teach them about the phenomenal results that consistent effort can bring -- all while the student thinks he or she is simply having fun. It’s important to teach them to play music by ear, to build their abilities to read and write music fluently, and to help them develop a strong foundation in music theory. Each of these facets of playing music will augment and broaden a student’s total learning capacity.
"Kipp stories" about teaching people to play music