Bagpipes, Leaps in V (new activity)

Goal: Process and transcribe leaps within the dominant triad.
Smaller goal: Some students are bored; the content is too easy for the skills they already have. This music has lots of extra nuance that they can work towards processing, but I have to set it up in such a way that students with weaker skills don’t try to do too much. The set-up I do will end up introducing the idea of skeletal melody (one with no embellishments).

Musical example: Queen of the Rushes (Irish jig, played on the uilleann pipes by Máire Ní Ghráda) Continue reading

Exploring the Middle Ground

No, [for you music theorists] this is not a post about Schenkerian analysis.  This is a post about an exciting opportunity I’m exploring with my Form and Analysis class next week.  We are going to our campus’s extraordinary art museum for our first of a series of three classes (spread out over the semester).

What has captured my pedagogical imagination the most is engaging with the idea of middle ground. I was introduced to this concept two weeks ago during a workshop about using our wonderfully equipped and staffed teaching museum.  It comes, as far as I can tell, from Richard White’s book, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815Led by a history professor, the workshop I attended touched on the change in power structure that occurs when I take my class to the museum. I am no longer an expert learner; I am now on the similar footing to my students. What a treat for me! I have been fascinated by the implications and simplicity of the idea for two weeks now and am excited about our first trip to the museum next Wednesday.

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Pearl, Pearl, Pearl… (new activity)

Inspired by the Punch Brothers concert I went to last night, I decided to look through some Earl Scruggs classics for tomorrow’s (quick) teaching example.  I’m planning a 7-minute activity on his (and Lester Flatt’s) song, Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, which makes me smile.

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Evaluation: Tuvan Throat Singing Dictation

This reflection is an evaluation of the activity I planned/described in this post and implemented in three consecutive classes today.  I was happy with how it went and will describe the strengths, weaknesses, and stuff I might tweak next time I teach this class. Continue reading

New Activity #2: Tuvan Throat Singing Dictation

Back in the classroom tomorrow after a day off for Rosh Hashanah, it’s an exciting day for expanding the content of Aural Skills 1.  We’re ready to start working on leaps within tonic triad, and I was thrilled to hear an excerpt of Tuvan throat singing that was perfect.  All leaps are within what can be conceptualized as a tonic triad.  This feature makes sense because of the way Tuvan throat singing produces pitch (overtone series, given above–the ones heard most often in this music are shaded in with black). It takes a while to get used to listening for the higher pitches and the repetitive segments are easy to get lost in.  So, I’m going to set it up this way: Continue reading

Everything I needed to know I learned in …

…my daughter’s kindergarten class.  Well, not really.  But, I did learn a lot from volunteering a few hours a week last year.  Most of it is not applicable in this post, but here is one strategy that my daughter’s kindergarten teacher used that I admired and will be trying out tomorrow: personalized goals. Continue reading

Acquiring Basic Skills

Do you remember those timed multiplication table tests in elementary school?  The kind where you do the 2s, and then the 3s, all the way through the 9s.  You earned a start on a public chart when you mastered each flavor of multiplication, and mastery was defined by getting a specific number of answers correct within a strict time period (1 minute is what I remember).  Even though today it seems somewhat old-fashioned and a mite-bit draconian, it worked.  It worked. As I’m teaching the first semester of a four-semester course, there are certain parallels with basic knowledge acquisition. So, I’ve been experimenting a bit with this old fashioned model. Continue reading

Happy Class: Good Discussion

We had a productive discussion today at the end of my upper division course (students with four semesters of music theory under their belts). Over the course of my teaching career, I’ve really struggled with how to improve discussion.  I’ve done reading, met with master teachers, observed, and experimented.  But, today really was the first where I think I found a good combination of strategies.  There were three: Continue reading

Evaluation: expanding content for meter ID

This post evaluates how well my new activity described here went.

So, this was easier and harder than I had thought.  Class went well, but mostly because my preparation was solid and careful. Continue reading

Skill: Asking Questions

We all know that the job prospects for the 22-year-old Bachelor of Music student are grim.  For most, it’ll take persistance and debt in addition to continued discipline in their practice and commitment to excellence.  My job is to help them understand better/deeper/differently the music that they have committed to. As I think about how best to help my students succeed, I put a lot of thought into other skills they need.  For instance, I try to foreground excellence in my grading systems (see this post).  Recently, I have also been experimenting with the skill of asking questions. Continue reading