Friday, September 13, 2013

Educating the Complete Musician


Now that you've begun Let's Play Music class, you might be wondering, why aren't we on the keyboards yet!?  Why isn't my child doing drills and building up a big repertoire of performance pieces already!?  What's the holdup!?  Is my child falling behind in the music world!?

I often tell people, "we're not just a piano class, and we're not just a voice class, and we're not just a theory class...we're a complete musicianship program."  Our program is intentionally broad, and covers so much more than technique and repertoire. 

Why Musicianship? 

Can read music...but not improvise?
Imagine if your child could play a fancy piece of piano music beautifully, but he struggled to learn new songs or pick out a melody by ear.  

Or perhaps he doesn't seem to notice discordant mistakes until the teacher points them out.  

Or perhaps he plays his lesson repertoire just fine, but is baffled at the thought of improvising or creating music, wondering when his lessons are going to teach him how to do that.

On the flip side, what if he could sit down and easily play 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider' by ear, but really felt overwhelmed trying to read any new songs from sheet music?

In each scenario, the student is learning from lessons that lack different elements of musicianship needed to create a complete musician.

At Let's Play Music, we nurture all aspects of musicianship before your child graduates into specialized programs like private lessons. We are building a foundation for broad musicianship that pays off in the long run.  It seems that there are so many elements to be taught, but luckily activities of each type are complimentary to each other: skill in one task helps a child have success in the others. 

The Big 5 Skills of Musicianship

I tried to put into words what defined lessons that would output a musician instead of a one-song-wonder. Luckily the concept is summed up in this intervieat www.easyeartraining.com with Dr. Chad West. 

Dr. West is a leading expert and author of a recent article defining FIVE core skills that define musicianship. They are:
http://www.easyeartraining.com/learn/big-5-skills-modern-musicianship-chad-west-interview/
  • Executive
  • Notation
  • Rhythmic
  • Tonal
  • Creativity 
Executive skills are the obvious ones: how to make your fingers actually technically play the instrument. 

Notation is also pretty straightforward: how to understand written notes and music theory in order to play what was intended. 

These two skills are the external skills of musicianship; progress in these skills is easy to evaluate because the results are external (the student's output is measured.)

Executive and Notation skills are the main focus of many school anprivate music lessons, often at the expense of other skills.   Students may take lessons for years, but still feel unmusical.  

After lots of practice with executive and notation skills, they are probably amazing at reading and playing music, but may still not feel like they can create music.

Our programs don't neglect tonal/ear training that often get left behind. Singing is necessary for feedback on how students are audiating, so we include singing as an important element of musicianship.

We believe a student is never too young to take what they know and create new music.  Teaching chord theory early empowers students to make new music and better understand the music they hear in daily life.

What Do We Cover?

Note reading AND ear training !
-Music theory: playing in 5 keys, transposing, understanding chord inversions, chord progressions, triads, creating scales and more!

-Ear training: interval recognition and singing, chord recognition, chord progressions, and melodic patterns

-Playing by ear: taking ear-training to the keyboard

-Sight singing: solfege, note-reading

-Vocal training 

-Dictation: melodic and chords/harmony

-Sight reading/ piano playing: two-handed repertoire in 5 keys, piano technique 

-Improvisation: melodic improv, chord style improv

-Ensemble playing and singing: harmonizing parts, following a conductor, listening to multiple parts at once

-Analysis of simple and classical music: puppet shows!

-Listening to music from various styles: class musical CDs
 
-Arranging and composing: students complete a piano composition to perform 


You're probably saying "Hey! when I was a kid, my piano lesson didn't cover all of that!" Life is better now! Our programs are carefully crafted and designed to help you raise a well-rounded musician.  

You CAN Teach Talent

With all of these skills in place, folks will be saying "he's a talented musician!" and not just, "he can really play piano!"

To answer the questions, "Why aren't we on the piano yet?" and "Are we falling behind!?" the answer is: We are taking the first year of class to train the ear and brain for success on the piano. We're training the large and small muscle groups, too, through harp and bell performance. We're fundamentally internalizing how music works, through a variety of types of training, so that when we play piano, we'll be truly successful as whole musicians.

Now remember, when your child asks, "What will be doing in class today?" simply and honestly answer, "fun songs and silly games!"  It's the perfect venue for all that hard work we're not telling him about.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher


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