Category Archives: Thinking

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 2

“Its not the taking part, it’s the winning” (Just kidding)

Location Games (aka Note Quiz) – where notes are specified and pupils find them on the instrument.

Purpose – to encourage pupils to find notes with the minimum of delay; to raise awareness of relationships between notes; to reinforce basic music vocabulary in a practical setting.

This can be done either with flash cards or by naming the notes aloud. Given the combinations in the more complex versions of this game (see below), it seems far simpler to use the voice. Moreover this acts as a safeguard against a rather strange phenomenon. Continue reading Games 2

Tempus Fugit

“As usual I told myself that everything would change tomorrow. Tomorrow never came, because it couldn’t.” (Clive James – from May Week Was In June )

I plan to take up procrastination when I retire – bit busy right now. I have never agreed with Edward Young that it is “the thief of time.” And it’s not simply because he also wrote, “Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote, And think they grow immortal as they quote.” The cheek of it!

This poet engraver knoweth not,

The endless hours in which are wrought,

The blogger’s musings, born of sweat,

Two-meg broadband and t’internet.

No, procrastination seems to me more like the thief of achievement.

Recent reflections on pupil practice have prompted me to consider the idea of a handbook of guidelines for pupils and parents about practice: what it means; how much time is required to progress at any given age; how to make the most of that time. The parental involvement is clearly more relevant to, say, a pupil in P5 than S5 but reflections on time apply to both situations. Many pupils claim they haven’t had time to practise due to clubs, activities, homework, family commitments etc. There are two possible solutions here:

  1. they need to be convinced of the amount which can be achieved in the moments between other activities
  2. they need to be able to see a clear description of practice recommendations while considering the option of instrumental tuition

I don’t like to rain on September enthusiasm and so I favour the former. I also hear a ring of truth in the saying, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

So, how much can be achieved in a short time? Technically tricky moments are often to be found in transitions rather than sustained passages and problems can be pinned down to a few beats or, at most, a couple of bars. After all, a piece which is laden with difficulties is probably not going to be given to a pupil.

Practising slowly, a 4-beat bar might last for 4 seconds. Playing it once with a 4 second gap to realign the mind, eyes and hands before repeating would last 8 seconds. This means that a pupil could repeat that passage 7 times in one minute. Tea’s out in two minutes, would allow them to play it 14 times – which could be enough to conquer it. Extrapolating from this, one could play the troublesome phrase 95 times in the 15 minute interval of a Scotland vs Brazil World Cup final. By this time, the alarm might have gone off and you’d realise it was all a dream.