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Reflections on Teaching Note Reading

I have these A4 sized magnetic whiteboards in my music studio. Students learn names of notes on them, the concepts of notes going up and down, and notes going up and down skips. Yesterday, I taught students the concepts of fifths on them. And then I got them to create a mini tune using six notes and at least two fifths. Their duo partner or parent for a single student then plays the mini created.

I started reading Music Outside the Lines by Maud Hickey recently. I read something about Maud’s opinion that students should compose everything that they have learnt or something to that effect. I believe that every student should compose/improvise something upon the concept that they learnt. For instance, I got the students to create a tune solely based on 5ths yesterday. It was very experimental and some students were uncertain with what they were doing but I think it “worked” from a pedagogy perspective as students explored sounds based on 5th and are more familiar with playing 5ths on a piano. They learnt about melodic and harmonic 5ths as well.

I have to learn how to facilitate a creation process in the context of creating a piece using 5ths. E.g. a piece based on emotions, object, person, etc.

Hmmm, how do I extend music composition to even a note that a student learns on the first lesson? I was rather impressed with Ligeti who composed the first piece in his Musica Ricercata using only the pitch A. Wow. How about I have the student create something based on D, the first pitch that a student learns on their first lesson? Or for that matter, create something based on two black keys as that’s the prelude to learn the D key on the piano.

What if I get students to compose their own sight reading exercises consisting of steps up, down, up skips and down skips and then get them and other students to play them? Would this process strengthen their understanding of notes on a sheet vs what they actually play? Hmmm.

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