In my article, "We're Back... Now What?" I relied heavily on using improvisation as a vehicle for getting students back into the habit of making music. I chose improvisation because it affords students the most freedom and stress free environment for quickly making music. But it is only free and relaxed if it is not … Continue reading How I Teach Improvisation
I have found that many music educators, especially those of us who spend most or all of our time at the elementary level, have lost a good deal of what we once knew of music theory. We seldom teach much of what we learned in undergraduate music theory classes, never much more than note names … Continue reading Music Theory Tutorial: Scales and Intervals
When I go to an art museum, I take in the art in one of two ways. If there is a collection of works by the same artist, I like to give each painting a short glance, and get a sense of the mood and tendencies of the artist. I like to speculate on how … Continue reading Observing Music: Going Beyond Aesthetics
This week, a colleague was reading a unit plan I was working on, and noticed the phrase "practice improvisation." She immediately pointed out to me that improvisation can't be practiced, and to put those two words together makes an oxymoron. I was not convinced and still am not convinced that this is so. What is … Continue reading Practicing Improvisation
Until I got to college and began working on my music degree, I thought music was a pretty simple thing. There were people like me who sat in a band with a clarinet, and people like the conductor who told me and all of the other players what to play, and how to play it. … Continue reading There’s Always So Much Going On Inside Music
When my students learn what intervals are in music, they first learn the interval name, a second, third, fifth, and so forth, before they learn the kind, major, minor, perfect, and so on. It is one of those strange things about music theory that a number represents some distances between notes, while a word represents … Continue reading The Twists and Turns of Music Theory
Teaching intervals to music students is on of those concepts that can easily be either overlooked, or if taught make students wonder why. Like most concepts in music theory, if intervals are just taught but never applied or made practical, there really is very little to recommend teaching them. On the other hand, teaching students … Continue reading Why Teach Intervals?
Given the choice, I'm sure I would learn more about music in a class that featured musical genres I liked and that I was familiar with. It is a solid principle of teaching that new concepts should be taught within a familiar context. Introducing new music and a new concept at the same time is … Continue reading Connecting Students to Composing Music
A casual survey of so-called music theory books used by piano and violin teachers reveals that music theory is frequently understood to be the body of knowledge needed to read music. When students using these materials “learn music theory,” they are asked to name notes and chords, identify and define symbols such as key and … Continue reading What Is Music Theory and How Does It Fit Into Music Education?
Music theory is an area of music education that can easily get out of hand. We own much of our knowledge of music, particularly Western art music, to the scholarship of music theorists, and my study of music theory in college provided me with enough knowledge to enjoy listening to, performing, and even composing music … Continue reading Where Does Music Theory Fit In?