Motivating Students to Practice more…
Students enjoy learning interesting facts about the composers of music they like to play and listen to. It can be really exciting for them to learn what is ‘behind the scenes’, motivating them to want to practice more too.
Composer Time Capsules
As Samantha Coates suggests “It is not your job to motivate students. It is your job to create the environments in which students will motivate themselves.” As part of our students’ theory classes, we have been learning about a Composer of the Month. We have found that group classes offer a great way of motivating students. Students discuss and understand more about the music that they want to learn to play. They are also learning music history at the same time as well as learning some music theory.
Samantha’s words certainly resonated well with me. Students have enjoyed learning about the composers of music we have listened to. They want to learn to play all kinds of music, both modern and historical. It certainly doesn’t matter to me (as their teacher) which genre they prefer best, what the level the music is, or the skill level of the student. These students are wanting to play music more now they know something interesting and fun about the person who wrote it.
John Williams: Harry Potter’s Magic Box
We started with composer John Williams. Our students were already familiar with some of his music. It has been popular for many years. In fact, both the ‘Star Wars Theme’ and Harry Potter’s ‘Hedwigs Theme’, were clear favourites. A selection of music of many levels has been offered to the students to learn from, based on the skills of the student (ages 6 to teens). A student booklet was filled in during class time (and coloured at home too). Notes were written down about the composer’s facts. We listened to some of John Williams’ music on YouTube and then discussed what the music had to offer us, what instruments were used, dynamic changes in the music, and more.
The younger students liked to play with the Star Wars figures too… and were fascinated to see the inner workings of the small music box that played ‘Hedwig’s Theme’. Different items have been collected for each composer, depending on the most interesting facts about them. It has taken a while to find the right ‘props’ but it has been totally worth it.
After John Williams, we have been learning more about J.S.Bach, arguably known as one of the most influential musicians of all time.
In class we opened Bach’s ‘Time Capsule’. Many thanks to Jennifer Foxx at Music Educator Resources for all of her amazing resources for J.S.Bach, John Williams and so many others.
We learnt that Bach had been put in jail by his employer just for wanting to change his job(!); a scary thought for any musician who just loved to write and play music. Bach also wrote his music with a quill pen, often in candle-light. Our younger students have been really interested to realise that there was no electric light in those days.
An opportunity was also taken to relate the style of modern music with the Baroque era style and to understand some of the differences, similarities and reasons why we think this music is still so popular many hundreds of years after it was written. Students as young as 6 years old have been keen to learn to play both of these composers’ music, even though some students’ playing skills are still quite basic. Rote pieces, music with ‘beginner notes’, lead-sheets, and full music scores have been offered to students. Help was given to choose music of a suitable level.
Practice is therefore not something they have a problem with now – students are very keen to practice more with the pieces they have chosen to learn!
“Can we learn about the next composer now?
This is such FUN!” …
Creating a box or time-capsule for each composer has brought music more to life in our studio in a way that has fascinated students. It has helped get them more motivated to learn more than just the notes on the music score. They love practicing music that they have chosen to play and now understand more in depth.
So who will be next?
Our next influential musicians and composers this month will be ‘The Beatles’. Students will learn about them all from what’s inside The Beatles “Rock Band Box” and also from some of my own personal experiences. (I also grew up in the 60’s and was fortunate to meet them when they were recording/mixing ‘Hey Jude’ at Trident Studios in London).
Most youngsters (and their parents) nowadays are familiar with one or two of the famous ‘Beatles tunes’ even though The Beatles were perhaps most popular in the mid to late 60’s. Students are interested to learn those songs. Certainly I hope parents will enjoy listening to their children practice them.
We will soon be going back in time to the Classical era to look at Mozart, to compare his music (perhaps ‘Sonata in C’) with modern music from Coldplay (perhaps ‘Clocks’).
Visit this link: Music Educator Resources at TpT for the Time Capsules mentioned above. I was certainly really impressed and excited with all the information Jennifer has available. Highly recommended!
Would this idea of creating ‘Composer Time-Capsules’ help you to motivate your students to practice more? If you would like more information about all of the resources I used, please leave a comment below and I will send you details.
Part 3 in this series on ‘motivating younger students to practice’ focuses on some of the ways we are motivating our students to learn and practice their scales.