music lesson

Light Bulb MomentA few weeks ago, I conducted an experiment on my pupils! No, don’t worry! No one was harmed in the process!!!

I simply asked them to share with me a memorable event from their childhood. It soon became clear that things that make the most impression on our memory, are events that had the greatest stimulus on our senses.

I can’t remember much of my childhood. So much of it was playing, eating and sleeping. Just the normal, everyday activities.  But I do remember going for my first music lesson as a seven year old…

I can still see and smell the thick fog of cigarette smoke that greeted me as I opened the music shop door and stepped into what felt like a scene from a Dickens novel. And the intrepidation I felt as I heard for the first time the voice of the Fagan-like character who introduced himself as “Mr. Coffin.” I remember the feeling of hopelessness as my mother disappeared off into the distance. I still feel uncomfortable now as I recall the feeling of his long, bony fingers pressing down on my back and guiding me further and further into the gloom of the music shop towards the instrument that I was to learn on.

Why does this long ago memory feel like yesterday? How can I remember so many details?

The answer is simple. The event had such an impact on my senses and indeed, the rest of my life. (For although, Mr. Coffin ironically died a month or two later, I carried on studying music with a new teacher. And my new teacher’s studio was called the “torture chamber” but that’s another story!)

So if stimulating the senses has such an impact on long-term memory, how can we as music teachers exploit this knowledge to help our students learn new concepts better?

10 suggestions to involve more senses   [···]

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I love the start of a New Year. Perhaps it is because in the Southern Hemisphere we have our summer holidays over the Christmas/New Year period, so by the time the New Year rolls around we have already had a month of rest and have another month of holidays before school begins again. I always use the start of the New Year to reflect on my studio and teaching habits; making decisions on which parts of my teaching practice could be enhanced, and which areas might need to be revised.  [···]

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Here are some fun ideas to use as ice breakers or to brush up on rhythm skills in group lessons and workshops. I’ve even used them to kick off my teacher workshops, and they inspired very enthusiastic participation from all!

The Rhythm Ring

1)  Prior to class, set out a group of rhythm instruments in the middle of a circle of chairs or rug area where the students will be sitting. As they enter, explain that you will be passing the instruments out to those who are waiting patiently when class begins. (This will help with chaos control!)

2)  Ask the students to think of a rhythmic pattern in 4/4 time, and to be prepared to play it repeatedly, once they have been asked to join in the rhythm ring.  [···]

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