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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rhythm for beginners

Last week I wanted to check to make sure my beginners were internalizing note values and rhythm.  There seem to be always a few that struggle to write in the counting on worksheets and I wanted to create something to make it easier to understand.  I am so happy with the results.  My classes completed this worksheet last week by writing in the counting and they got it!  All students were able to succeed and my slower learners were able to understand.  After using this exercise as a worksheet I projected the image to the front and we practicing counting/plucking/air-bowing each line as part of our warm up for a couple of days.  I feel it really helped solidify counting/rhythm skills.  Especially that pesky dotted quarter to eighth note rhythm.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Piece Previews - help your orchestra learn faster and sound amazing

In my Suzuki training I learned how to introduce new pieces.  Suzuki teachers pick out sections of the music called 'previews' which contain the difficult passages, tricky bowings, special fingerings, etc.  I like to introduce new pieces to my orchestra in the same way and I feel it helps the orchestra master technique and be more ready to tackle the music.  There are a few different ways to implement the idea of 'previews' in a string orchestra setting:

1.  Rhythm training using measures from the music

Recently my Advanced orchestra was learning a piece in 2/4 time with some tricky counting.  I made these slides in PowerPoint and we drilled the rhythms as part of our warm-up for a couple weeks.  Students quickly mastered the rhythms and it was much easier for them to learn the new music.

2.  Let the entire class learn the same difficult section.  

If there is one section that has a hard passage, we learn it together as an orchestra.  In December students learned 'Appalachian Snowfall' arranged by Bob Phillips.  There was a tricky passage in the violin part that needed lots of practice, so we learned it as an orchestra and all students had to pass it off in a playing test.  The cello/bass parts in that piece are a little boring, so they welcomed the chance to learn a more difficult part.

Bushwhacker Stomp by Keith Sharp is a piece I often teach my beginners at the end of the year.  All students learn the melody to help the violin section with intonation on the high E string notes:

3.  Create a practice assignment that drills technique and tricky measures.  

When selecting music for my orchestras to play I try to pick pieces that will help students develop techniques we are learning in class.  I usually select different music every year, but there is one piece that I do every year in my 2nd year intermediate class.  It's called 'The Code' by Alan Silva.  Students love learning to play 'The Code' because it sounds cool.  It has been worth it to have students learn this piece because they get really good at extensions and high 3's in the key of A major.   As students came back to school after the new year, they had a practice assignment to drill techniques and tricky measures from our music.  After just one week of rehearsing these 'previews' and having students practice them at home, our piece is sounding so much better!

All of these previews were created with Finale, but before I had that program I used PrintMusic and it worked great.  I import the music into Microsoft Publisher to add the text.