What is music arranging?
Arranging music simply means taking existing music and making it playable on your instrument or for your ensemble. Good reasons to arrange might be to make a piece easier to play. Or convert music originally written for an ensemble so as to be played on a solo instrument, possibly with accompaniment. Although arranging can be a highly complex skill, it is also realistically within the grasp of every music teacher and most music students. Also, it’s great fun!
I have personally found that arranging pieces especially for my students has given me a USP (unique selling point) to help me market my music teaching business. The idea that a prospective student can learn any song they want at the skill level they are at, is an extremely appealing reason to start having lessons. I also enjoy arranging as it is often very creative without the pressure to compose something from scratch. Encouraging students to try their hand at arranging is a practical way for them to develop their Read more…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Professional Development, Teaching Tips
How many times do you explain what an interval is in a year? How often do you introduce and review chords and their inversions? Wouldn’t it be nice to offer a resource for your students that suits your curriculum that can be viewed repeatedly and accessed any time? Ideally, this approach—called a flipped classroom—leads to less lesson time spent introducing a concept and more time reinforcing it.
A flipped classroom is defined as
“a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.”
With today’s tech tools, you can produce your own material or borrow resources from others for your flipped classroom approach….
An app called Book Creator makes it easy for teachers to design customized “lectures” for students to watch at home or during off-bench time at lessons. The app provides a user-friendly platform for creating interactive e-books that feature text, narration, graphics and videos. It’s available for the iPad as well as Android and Windows tablets. Read more…
Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews, Studio Management, Teaching Tips
“But Miss Robin, I love all my songs. I can’t pick!” Yep, I have students who simply cannot choose only one favorite for their recital. When this happens, I might show them ways to make a medley.
I tell them to choose two or three songs. If they are older, more experienced students, they may choose more.
How to choose?
- By theme: Christmas or other holiday; seasons; animal songs; love songs, etc.
- By genre: Pop; rock; blues; country; folk; classical, etc.
- By similarities in tempo, key signature, style or patterns, even in random selections. For example, “Popcorn” by Hot Butter from the ‘70s could be paired with Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mtn King” because they are both staccato and in a minor mode. For Billboard Top 20 medley hits, go here.
Next decide the order of songs in the medley. The student should play them through. Switch the order and try again. Does one seem to flow better into another?
Think about creating interest/avoiding boredom. Do the songs all sound the same? Try these ideas:
- add another piece with a contrasting tempo. Include one in the relative minor key, or go from D to D minor.
- Make a surprise in the medley by turning a ballad into an upbeat song or a fast piece into a slow song. Change from 3/4 to 4/4.
- Remember that modulating up in pitch raises the energy and intensity. Modulating down in pitch tends to calm. But beware—it could also be anticlimactic!
Will songs flow easily into one another, or do they need a transition? Here are ways to tie songs together.
- The chorus of one song might serve as transition between each.
- The intro might work as a transition.
- Can the student create his/her own brief transition?
- Your student might need to try different combinations of verse, chorus and bridge of each song until the medley is cohesive.
Finally, make sure the medley isn’t too long. Students with many favorites might try to fit too many in. Keep the audience in mind. Make the ending special. Can the intro be repeated as an ending? Can your student place the most exciting piece last?
A medley can allow students to include more of their favorite songs. It can showcase their versatility and make performances even more exciting. They will have learned a skill they can use in the future (for graduations, weddings…)—to make a medley!
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Performing, Teaching Tips
A game of “Terminator” in full swing! From left to right, Lauren, Amanda (Mom) and Alisha Adams
Let’s be honest! Who enjoys learning a long list of Italian terms for their music theory exam? Not many! Here’s an idea for making learning music terms fun! Enter “Terminator!”
Giving the activity an exciting name is half the battle. The two girls pictured are currently preparing for their grade 2 theory exam so we called the game “Terminator 2.” Lauren and Alisha have downloaded free buzzer apps onto their phones and their Mom, Amanda, has really embraced the role of game host giving the girls a fun way of learning their terms several nights a week between lessons in the lead up to their exam.
There are lots of ways of calling the Read more…
Posted in Music Theory, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips
Early Impromptu Improv. That’s what you can do spur-of-the-moment when something like this happens: your pre-note-reading siblings arrive with worried smiles and one says, “I forgot my instrument.”
“No problem,” you say, “I have several others around the studio.”
“And my books…”
“…and I forgot what you showed me last week.”
The younger sibling chimes in (with frank cheerfulness), “I don’t have any of my piano books either!”
Instead of various reactions of a negative nature that spring to mind, you could do an Early Impromptu Improv with them.
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Teaching Tips
Are you looking for learning games for your group class? Music Jeopardy could make a big win and motivate your students. I crafted my own. Here’s how.
What you’ll need:
- Tri-fold project board
- Velcro dots
- Cardstock (tagboard) squares, 3” x 3” or 4” x 4” (or similar-sized cardstock figures—I purchased cardstock owls)
- Sticky notes (smaller than the squares or shapes)
- Buzzers (or bells, boom whackers, or even good-old hand raising)
- A non-partial judge to decide who buzzed, rang or raised hands first
- A game host (you)
Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management
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!
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Teaching Tips
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
Posted in Music Theory, Teaching Tips
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…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music History & Facts, Music Theory, Performing
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…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Music Theory, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips