Teaching Tips

Tips for teaching music

Music theory is a passion of mine. As a composer as well as a music teacher, I realise that teaching music theory provides the building blocks of a more complete musician. Put simply, “knowledge is power.”

So it was with great interest that I have noticed that the ABRSM (The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music), who lead the way in music examinations in the world, was having a major overhaul in the way they test music theory, starting from January 2018.

Why the change? What will be different? Are there any resources to help with the change?

Why the change

A need to modernise their exams and react to feedback from teachers and students has brought on these recent changes. Looking at the new specimen papers, you get a feeling that the tests are less ambiguous than in times past.

Differences

The changes will only affect grades 1-5 at the moment. The rhythm-writing in early grades is being replaced. This used to provide a nice little introduction to the basics of composing but I would imagine that the quality of preparation for this question would have varied greatly from teacher to teacher depending on their own skills or imagination. At the grade 4, there used to be the option of the word-setting question. That has now been axed as well as the option of writing a complete melody at grade 5. How will students cope with the transition into grade 6-8 where composing is a large portion of the assessment? I think that step will be harder for candidates from now on. I have long thought that, although the exams for grade 6-8 are excellent, the resources and support material for these higher grades are appalling and desperately need revamping by the ABRSM. But that’s a subject of another blog.

Gone are the SATB open and short score converting question which was extremely time-consuming. I really like the use of multiple choice questions for the meaning of performance directions. Generally, the exam looks a lot more inviting, modern, clean which is very welcome.

Resources

At the start of 2019, the old exams papers for 2018 will be posted as a preparation booklet but that is quite some time away. In the meantime, the ABRSM has published on their website two sets of sample exam papers as a free download.

I really like a free quiz page that you can share with students to give them practice with the new multiple choice question. That will continue to be a very useful resource do-doubt.

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Dear MTH blog readers,

It has been a while since I last posted! I hope you have all been well. You may remember from one of my previous posts that I had a baby (which is why I have not been able to keep up with my blogging!) Well she is 20 months old now!

Anyway, I am still teaching, and I wanted to share with you one of my studio secrets. It is called the Music Teachers National Association Music Achievement Award Program.

What is it?

“The purpose of MTNA’s Music Achievement Award Program is to help encourage ALL the students in the teacher’s studio, especially the “everyday” students, to continue their music study and to strive to achieve goals that will not only help them become better musicians, but also will enhance their love and appreciation of music.

The teacher sets goals that are both realistic and attainable for each individual student according to the student’s needs, ability and motivational level.

The student achieves the goals over a specified period of time.” – MTNA Member Resources

I have been doing this program for the last couple years. Basically every student in my studio participates in it. If you are a member of MTNA, there is detailed instruction on how to implement the program in the Members-Only area of the website. The beauty of the program is that the teacher can tailor the program to suit each individual student. Some students may complete as few as one goal, while others may complete as many goals/events as the teacher’s studio offers.

Here is my studio’s goals/events list for the past year:

For the beginner students, the goals can include completing a method book, listening assignments, and even attending live concerts. MTNA provides a very detailed list of suggestions for goals.

At our annual studio recital, I award the students that have completed their program with a trophy. Here is what this year’s trophy looks like:

Having this program in place really motivates my students to work hard throughout the year. It also saves me time as I plan the program at the beginning of the school year for each student, and at each lesson we can see clearly what is our upcoming goal and what repertoire we need to focus on.

This is only one of the many benefits of joining MTNA. If you are not yet a member, now is time to join before the next school year starts!

Here is wishing everyone a great summer!

 

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When I was a kid, I loved buying expensive pads of manuscript paper. Trouble was, I didn’t quite know what to do with them!

Now, thirty-something years on, I’m always reaching for some manuscript paper to demonstrate to my students, scribble down an idea or to give to my pupils so that they can transcribe their latest creation. [···]

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