Creating Music

Opening the door to creative musical expression

Posts Tagged ‘performing’

Surviving YouTube: Playing Smart with Music Instruction Videos

Posted by Pamela Szalay on February 23, 2013

YouTubeYouTube is giving many aspiring pianists the ability to learn popular songs by rote. Without a doubt, many beginning students learn easily through imitation. When a song is learned this way, I believe it should be celebrated! An accurate, fluid performance is an accomplishment.

However, I heartily believe that the learning should not stop there. A budding musician who is successfully learning songs by rote is in a perfect position to deepen  understanding and speed progress. Here are a few ideas for looking a little closer at the songs you play. Feel free to ask a musical friend or mentor to help you with any of these steps.

  1. Identify the key and meter of the song.
  2. Learn the names of the chords. Then, create a chord chart or find one online in the same key.
  3. Break down the song into smaller chunks. Identify the sections such as the introduction, verse, chorus, bridge, and any other unique moments.
  4. Look for chord patterns. Perhaps there are four chords that repeat over and over during the verse.
  5. Determine the role of the piano part in the song. Is it mostly a chordal accompaniment or are there fills, too?
  6. Test your understanding by re-arranging the song. Play the sections in a different order, for example, or repeat a line of the song.
  7. When you are secure with the key, meter and chord patterns of the song, try some rhythmic, melodic or harmonic improvisation. For example, throw in a surprise accent. Play a chord in a different inversion. Create your own fill.
  8. Record yourself playing the song, in its original form and with your variations. Listening back will make you more aware of what you do well and what might need further improvement. It would be helpful to get feedback from others you trust as well.
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Posted in Improvisation, Music Instruction, Philosophy of Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Right to Play Music

Posted by Pamela Szalay on August 3, 2010

Who should learn to play music? Do only the musically gifted deserve the opportunity to learn music and play publicly? Some music teachers conduct evaluations before accepting students, even at the elementary level. If the goal is to produce performers, then this makes sense. But for most people who study music, in the long run, the benefit will be mainly personal: playing for friends or self, or maybe in a local band. And studies have shown that there are both cognitive and emotional effects to playing music, so that tells me that everyone should have the chance learn how to express themselves through music.

How can we open the door for more people to participate in music? I follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Remove the goal of performing publicly or professionally—at least initially.
  2. Concentrate on enabling musical expression.

Even beginners can improvise after learning just a few notes and rhythm patterns. One of my favorite first activities with students is something I call “The One-Note Blues”: I provide the chord changes and they improvise on a single note that I assign. It helps students see how much can be done just with rhythm and attitude!

Of course gaining knowledge and skill is important—it certainly gives players more options as they create music. But depth of knowledge and refined skill is not a prerequisite to enjoying creative musical expression, even in the first days of learning.

Look for the video featuring the one-note blues in the weeks ahead!

Recommended Reading:

“The Child’s Right to the Expressive Arts: Nurturing the Imagination as Well as the Intellect”. Position paper of the Association for Childhood Education International, by Mary Rench Jalongo, Professor of Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana. 1990.

Related Links:

http://acei.org/action/acei-positions/positions-papers/

Posted in Parents, Philosophy of Education | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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