Teaching Tips

Tips for teaching music

Of the many educational music games out there, some are free online games that kids and adults can enjoy.  Some help with eartraining, some teach about instruments, rhythms and more.

One page I ran across recently was on About.com’s Classics for Kids site, offering 4 simple games, including one to name notes, one to imitate rhythms, another to teach information about the lives and works of composers, and one to allow kids to compose a simple tune.  (Links from this page will lead you to many other music education sites of interest, quite apart from games.)

The New York Philharmonic has some fun and sophisticated music games and learning sites, including a game room with about a dozen games, a chance to compose, learn about instruments, and even make your own.

Less sophisticated but well worth a visit is a Flash Music Games site which offers a large array of ear training games, piano and guitar games.  For example, one ear training game called Noteshooter sounds a note each time a treble clef floats from the bottom of the screen towards the top; the player uses arrow keys to identify the name of the note, by maneuvering the clef so it passes over the right letter.  After you get one note correct (by luck, or by matching the note on an instrument–or if you have perfect pitch!), you can then listen and identify the relative pitches of subsequent notes as they come through.

Another game is called Trichords, a memory game where you match two cards, but in this case, clicking a card plays a triad of some kind, and you have to match the sounds of pairs of triads to win the game.

How you might use these games in working with students is up to you (and perhaps you could add a comment to share with us any suggestions you have for using computer music games in teaching), but games like these are certainly food for thought.

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One day last week, I calmly listened as a woman told me how her son had come to “choose” the clarinet as his instrument. I didn’t let on that I felt a bit stunned. The boy’s music teacher at school had lined up all the kids and told them which instrument they were physically suited for. This boy had been told he had a “clarinet mouth.”

This sounds a bit like Harold Hill in The Music Man (“you have the perfect little finger for the Eb flugelhorn!”). Of course, it’s nothing new. I remember a woman who said she was told she’d never be able to play violin because her little finger wasn’t made right. Somewhat in the same vein, I had a fiddle student whose classical teacher kept trying to switch her to viola because she was “too big” for the violin. (Through fiddle music, this girl continued playing violin and later majored in music in college.)

How should people choose an instrument? How should school music teachers distribute instruments? Let us know your observations by adding a comment at the end of this article.

Someone told me once that the instrument chooses the player, rather than the other way around. However it happens, it’s hard to imagine a good choice being made without some hands-on exposure to the instruments. With this in mind, I’ve set up a summer day camp for kids to hear and try all the instruments. It’s called “Meet the Instruments.” [···]

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I’ve heard that many people take a beta-blocker or other drugs to fix stagefright (see the blog article about stagefright for some more musically based ideas), and I know there are gadgets out there to keep a bow on track, play the next note of a tune every time you tap on a drum, show a piano student which keys to press remotely from an online connection, practically play a guitar for you, and so on.

I think it’s time for some more advanced products to help people learn to play musical instruments:

Magnetic Tune Teacher–electromagnets on the playing surface of the instrument are activated based on a programmed piece of music, and magnets in the student’s fingers are drawn to the right place at the right time for the right amount of time, thus teaching their fingers to play the music. Slight drawback is the minor surgery required to insert the finger magnets.

Tune Pills–building on advanced memory research pinpointing the sites and structures in the brain which retain musical patterns, these pills make it a snap for the victim, I mean the student, to learn musical patterns overnight. Just take the proper pill (e.g. “broken thirds going up for three steps, then proceeding down 6 major scale notes”, or “minor scale up 4 steps, dropping a sixth and then back to original note”) and the student will find it simple to learn that particular passage the next morning. Alternatives to these pills are also available but are much more expensive, including hypnosis, and practicing.

Musical Tuneup Juice–no, this isn’t about tuning the instrument, it’s about  [···]

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