Reuben Vincent

5 Ways to Start Composing

September 14th, 2016 by

composing music techniques

There is nothing quite like the thrill of writing your own piece of music or helping your student to compose but sometimes it can be extremely hard to get started. What can you do to get the ball rolling as it were?

1 Numbers: A great idea I picked up the other week is to pick an easy key, roll three or four dice and convert the numbers (1-6) into degrees of the scale to generate the start of a melody. For example, say we picked G major and the numbers were 3, 4 and 1, that would equate to B (3rd note of the scale of G major), C (4th) followed by G (1st). After toying with these three notes, you should be inspired to know what comes next. If not, roll again! You could try something similar with a phone number. After writing out the number, cross out any zeroes or nines (not degrees of the scale) and see what happens!

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

The Art of Silence

July 27th, 2016 by

music teaching resources

The art of silence often has sad beginnings. I point to a spot in the music and say, “What about that?”

My student, blank-faced, says, “That lightning-shaped thing (or “squiggly-shaped” or “the seven with a bump” or “that hat-looking thing”)?”

“Yes. Did you do that?”

“Um, what am I supposed to do with it?”

And there we have our problem. Our students are in Go! mode in a world that’s in Go Faster! mode. Telling them to pause is akin to telling toddlers to walk at the pool. They don’t have that gear yet! It’s time to…

Teach them the Art of Silence

Make it Memorable
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Posted in Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Magic

So much in music can be analysed with rational conclusions drawn as to why a certain result is produced. For example, why does a certain piece of music make you feel melancholy? On closer analysis the composer has no doubt made a series of strategic decisions to create that result; minor tonality, quiet dynamic, low register of a well-chosen instrument, slow tempo, simple rhythm, descending melody etc. The great Hollywood composers have been masters of knowing exactly how to evoke the necessary emotion from a scene, building on a huge legacy of skillful composition for many hundreds of years. Conscious and calculated.

However, I love that music still holds onto some of its mystery. Magical moments that defy analysis. Happy accidents that touch the hearts of millions. Somehow it can manage to penetrate through human boundaries such as race, language, class, education, religion, social status and generation. It can be deeply therapeutic; a massage for the emotions. It can reach the seemingly unreachable; humans with severe learning difficulties, people with severe dementia and even animals! How extraordinary and how little we really know about the secrets of our art even though some of us have made the study of music our lifetime pursuit! Here are a number of mysteries in music to contemplate:

What is it about the groove in a song that gets your body moving to the beat without any conscious thought?

How come certain songs on an album become hits? Why not the other equally well-produced songs?

Why does a certain melody become, as the expression goes these days, an “ear-worm” that plays in your head like tinnitus for hours and hours?

How does that sudden Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music History & Facts, Music Theory, Performing

image

Let me tell you about a little secret I’ve been keeping!

All my pupils love it! It’s been handy for helping them learn new songs, especially tricky bits! It’s helped them improve their music reading skills! It’s encouraged a deeper understanding of theory! And best of all it’s free!

So what’s the big secret? Drum roll please…. Noteflight!?!

What does Noteflight do?

Noteflight is easy to use software with which you can create, listen and print out high-quality sheet music notation. And it’s brilliant!!!

Is there a catch?

Not really. Most of my students use the basic version which is free. You can pay a monthly or yearly subscription for extra features but the free version is Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Music Theory, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Groove website-3

“Here’s my top tip for musicians interested in becoming better improvisers: Forget the metronome. Practice with backing tracks, those auto-accompaniment loops that inspire, keep you on the beat, and mesmerize you into practice loops.” -Bradley Sowash, jazz improv specialist.

If you aren’t sure how to find or create backing tracks, I’d like to personally invite you to a webinar called “Groove Your Theory. The idea stems from Bradley’s regular use of backing tracks in his lessons and his own practice. We also use them at our 88 Creative Keys keyboard improvisation workshops that Bradley and I co-founded four years ago.

The webinar will be packed full of ideas that will help you save practice (or lesson) time as you compress theory, timing and technique and creativity into one activity. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Practicing, Teaching Tips

When a Group Class Goes Off Course

By Robin Setinweg

What do you do when a group class goes off course?

“It couldn’t. It wouldn’t!” you say. Well, after successful group classes for years, it happened. And it was probably all my fault.

What was I thinking? Spring weather had just begun. That makes squirrely kids. It was right before spring break. That makes kids mega-squirrely. I made it a pizza party. That brings in higher numbers. And—here’s the biggie—I did not recruit help. I didn’t make sure any older students were attending. So I had oodles of young ones, and no older ones with whom to pair them up. Yikes.

It started great. I had three pizzas cooked ahead. I cut them to give my young learners a visual of whole notes, half notes, quarters, and eighths. They had to ask for the number of eighths they wanted to eat, and tell me how many quarter notes they took, or dotted quarter, etc. (nobody got a whole note!). But then the fun started.

Without supervision.

I was kept busy putting pizzas in, taking them out, cutting them and pouring beverages. So the party became quite noisy and full of high spirits. They weren’t naughty or ill-behaved—these are good kids! Just over-the-top energy and behavior. Which meant it was nearly impossible to get them back.

I had learning games planned. I swapped one in to quiet them down. I played a CD, and they were to draw how it made them feel. I spent the next 10 minutes answering questions like, “Can I draw the London Bridge?” and comments like, “Did you know the London Bridge was moved to (some city here in the States) in (some year I missed)?”

When the quiet music time became noisy due to high spirits, and I astutely realized this was not accomplishing the quiet mood I’d thought it would, I moved on to another game.

I think, by the final game, some music facts sank in. I had four chairs set up, with students on them. Each was a quarter note. We counted them. Remove one or more, the counting stays the same, because after all, rests take as much space up as notes (the chair is still there, simply unoccupied). They needed to decide how to make a half note, whole note, dotted half. Only one student was tall enough to lie across all four chairs to make that whole note.

I know they had fun, and they got the point through some games. But I also know I was done-in. I should have had help. I hope to help you avoid “when a group class goes off course.”

Have you ever had a group go amiss? Can you laugh about it now? Comments welcome!

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

breaking mental barriers teaching music

Research shows that playing music involves the firing of neurons in multiple areas of the brain at once.  (See my previous post on this.)  And yet many, if not most, learners, and I would venture to say most teachers as well, emphasize verbal and conscious control in the playing of a musical instrument.

I suspect that this emphasis on control not only hinders the musicality and facility of students, but also places improvisation and learning by ear out of the box, as if they’re difficult or unusual.

If the brain fires in many places at once, then clearly the verbal and executive centers are not all there is to playing music.  Is it possible for teachers to help nurture the nonverbal and subconscious activity that is essential to playing music? Read more…

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

music books

By Robin Steinweg

Books can be effective learning tools in our studios. February brings a couple of library observances: the 6th is “Take your child to the Library” day, and the 14th is “Library Lovers” day.

Here are 5 ways to include books in February (or anytime) lessons:

1. For a beginner learning piano keys or notes on the staff, every time sleep or bedtime is suggested in a book, the student places erasers or other tokens on the B-E-D keys, plays those notes on their instrument, places tokens on the correct lines/spaces of the staff, or draws them on a staff (Goodnight Already -Jory John & Benji Davies or Snoozefest -Samantha Berger). This would also work with a drawn guitar fingerboard.

The same thing can be done with other books and notes: D-A-D (The Daddy Book -Todd Parr; Oh, Daddy! –Bob Shea)

C-A-B-B-A-G-E (Cabbage Moon –Tim Chadwick; The Giant Cabbage –Cherie Stihler)

B-E-E-F (Cows in the Kitchen –June Crebbin; When Pigasso Met Mootisse –Nina Laden

E-G-G (Green Eggs & Ham –Dr. Seuss; An Egg is Quiet –Dianna Hutts Aston)

2. What books can be used to drill rests? Stop Snoring Grandpa –Kally Mayer (a rest whenever Grandpa snores); Last Stop on Market Street -Matt de la Pena (a rest whenever the bus stops)

Again, choose spots in the book ahead of time, and whenever you come to them, students find a particular rest in a piece of sheet music for their tokens, or draw rests.

3. Students learning the interval of a 5th could drill the circle of 5ths notes or keys along with Around the Clock -Roz Chast or Croc Around the Clock –Andrea Pollock

4. If your student is far enough along, perhaps they’d like to create sound effects on their instrument to go with a book: Whoops! -Suzi Moore & Russell Ayto, What the Ladybird Heard -Julia Donaldson, or Listen to My Trumpet! –Mo Willems. Really ambitious? Let them make up one or more themes for the characters in Peter and the Wolf. Afterward, let them hear Prokofiev’s version. What might they do with I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly -Nikki Smith? This activity can be done with a group!

5. Also for a group, you might create (or help your students create) a “Stomp-type” score for a book. Try The Phlunk’s Worldwide Symphony –Lou Rhodes.

Since Library Lovers Day is also Valentine’s Day, your tokens might be conversation hearts or red-pink-white M&Ms.

If your library doesn’t carry these books, try the inter-library loan, purchase them for your own library, or download them on your Kindle.

There are far more than 5 ways to include books in lessons, but these should get your thinker going. MTH readers would love to hear if you incorporate books in lessons!

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Posted in Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

Teaching Grouping

December 6th, 2015 by

21 The Coins of the Money Changers

I always found the rhythmic grouping of notes and rests very difficult to explain to students. How do you try and explain this concept to your theory and composition pupils?

Here’s an idea I stumbled on recently which seems to be helping: “money, money, money!”

• Before attempting to beam notes up into the correct groups, I first lay out a mixed selection of coins equivalent to four pounds sterling (I’m from England but the principle is the same whatever the coinage of your country. You can use real money or plastic play money).

• I then ask the pupil to organise the coins into four stacks equal to one pound, no more no less. The principle that this exercise demonstrates to them is that Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Created by Kent State University’s School of Music, this inforgraphic shows that music not only has educational merit, but that it can be used to close the educational gap among students and schools. As a private teacher, how much do you value the importance of music in schools? Or what is your reaction to the data in the below visual? Let us know in the comments.

Using Music to Close the Educational Gap
Kent State Online Master of Music in Music Education

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Music Theory