Category Archives: Aural

Games 5

“Nothing you can’t spell will ever work.” Will Rogers (1879 – 1935)

Spelling Games – where pupils:

  1. spell out in notes a word you have specified
  2. identify a word after you have played it in notes


  • to underline that the musical alphabet is the same as the everyday alphabet (indispensable to making sense of musical grammar – more of which another day)
  • to strengthen links to language
  • to improve (active) listening and aural memory

The spelling option sounds like a very complicated activity to mark, with several pupils simultaneously spelling out the same word with varying degrees of speed and accuracy. In reality, Continue reading Games 5

Games 4

“The ear is the avenue to the heart” Voltaire (1694 – 1778)

Aural Games – where pupils rely solely upon their ears. Written music is barred (ha ha).

Purpose – to encourage pupils to play by ear. This is a process which eventually/hopefully (delete as experience decrees) be intuitive. Thinking = hesitation = gaps in the music. Playing by ear in class only works if everyone in the group has heard the tune many times. For this reason, regular favourites include:

  • TV theme tunes
  • Christmas tunes
  • National anthems
  • Nursery rhymes

The complete tune need not be tackled – a phrase or two is often enough.

At the simplest level, playing by ear involves Continue reading Games 4

Games 1

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)

Since beginning in the primary sector eight years ago, I’ve become a great believer in the power of musical games to animate young minds. How far into education should this go? Well, if you hope for the majority of a PhD viva to consist of games, you could be in for a lean afternoon. Apart from that, Continue reading Games 1

Driving Rhythm

“Listen and attend with the ear of your heart” (St. Benedict)

Today was rounded off with the first rehearsal of a staff/students band at MGS which is to take part in the Gig On The Grass at the end of term. This event is organised by Gordon Gallagher (guitar) PT Performing Arts. Bands who have come together through the school’s Live Music Club have a chance to perform more songs than they can in the normal lunchtime gigs.

Learning the three songs from a CD led me to reflect on how my views on transcription have changed over the years and therefore my advice to pupils on this. Continue reading Driving Rhythm

Dead Beat

“All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this.” Miyamoto Musashi (1584? – 1645)

Flexible Tempo (leading on from Spot The Difference )

One of the first things beginners learn is the necessity of staying with the beat in order to stay in time with the group. Having mastered this, they begin to realise that playing all the right notes, for the right duration, in the right order, sounds merely correct and not necessarily musical. Dynamics and articulation go a long way towards humanising a performance, but a rigidly steady tempo can, in certain styles, sound robotic. Continue reading Dead Beat

The Decorator’s Dilema

“There is no such thing as a long piece of work, except one that you dare not start.” Charles Baudelaire (1821- 1867)

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Another day without pupils (no, not conjunctivitis – just activities week). I took the opportunity to get stuck into writing reports on an industrial scale.

The dilemma of instrumental reporting consists in Continue reading The Decorator’s Dilema

Music Has No Bars

Music Has No Bars

I had a reminder from Roger Montgomery, this year’s examiner from The Guildhall School of Music & Drama, about a forthcoming TV programme featuring his daughter, Ruth. Despite being diagnosed as deaf at the age of three, Ruth pursued her interest in music, becoming a flautist and instrumental teacher.

The programme, entitled See Hear, features her trip to St. Petersburg to play a flute concerto with a local orchestra and will be broadcast in two parts Saturdays – 20th and 27th at 12:00 on BBC2. to see a video preview of these programmes under the title Music Has No Bars