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Arguably, the most important skill a musician can acquire is the ability to “play by ear!” Am I dismissing the art of reading notation? Absolutely not. In many aspects of my life as a musician, reading music is essential to me. What I really mean is that, whether a musician is reading music or not, his or her ability to carefully listen to the sound they are producing whilst playing is essential to creating a musical result. I like to call it the “LAD” technique (no offense LADies)! Listen, Analyse and Develop. You have to Listen carefully to the sound you are producing, Analyse the musical elements and then adjust to Develop it yet further. A person might be the best “sight reader” in the world but unless they focus on progressing their “playing by ear”/listening skills, the impact and message of the music will be lost on their audience. “Playing by ear” surely is at the very core of what we do!

So how do we as musicians and teachers develop these essential skills both in ourselves and in our students?

Ear Training Methods

One effective way is to record ourselves and hear our music back. Suddenly we are listening as a third party to the sound and can hear what’s good, bad and ugly! Carefully listening whilst simplifying the music by practicing it slower (and hands separate if possible) can help us focus on detail not previously heard. Other musicians use the

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New Release Review: Alfred Pop and Movie Hits Level 5 and Level 6

This series is part of Alfred’s Premier Piano Course, designed to provide students familiar music from Disney cartoons, movie hits, jazz and popular songs, while reinforcing concepts introduced in the lesson books. Each piece correlates page-by-page with the materials in the lesson books; teachers may assign them according to the specific instructions, use them as review material, or to supplement another method.

Although I am familiar with the lesson books of Premier Piano Course, I have not tried the Pop and Movie Hits in my studio, so I decided that I will play through the entire Level 5 and Level 6 books and see. My verdict? Worth every penny! Here are some of the reasons why I think this series is superior in the field of popular music arranged for piano students. [···]

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Need curriculum for teaching the creative stuff?      

Have favorite resources to share?

 

  • Over the next few months, I’d love your help in compiling a list of  resources for teaching music creativity. My own experience has been that it is difficult to find adequate materials in the areas of  improvisation and composition curricula, and I would love to know about  resources you use to inspire your students in their music creativity!  I will share some of my favorites. As you can see, many of them are my own, developed for use in my own teaching and then published for others. They have been successful!  But, I would really value your suggestions as well! Please add your favorites by comment, and I will amend the list as we go!

Here’s just a start…as I am on vacation as I write this, so I may be able to add more upon returning to my studio after the New Year!

Resources for Music Creativity –

Places to Start, and Were to Find Them


Imagery and Stories

Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (all levels) – Amazon

Crazy Staves by C. Schumann (beg/int) – Piacere Music Press

Flip for Improvisation “Jr” and “Original” (beg/int) by C. Schumann – Piacere Music Press
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