Practicing & Playlists

Time for More Music: memorized or not?

Jen P., Utah

Are the songs in Time for More Music meant to be added to their repertoire of memorized songs and the long term playlist? Or just used for learning to decipher the written music, and once they can play it well, they move on?

Joanne D., Australia

I believe that once they have processed it and can play it, they move on. I tell my students that it doesn’t need to stay on the playlist but if they like it they can keep it on there.

Mark M., New York

I think there are some pieces from throughout the curriculum worth keeping in the repertoire indefinitely. Robin Keehn has a list of such pieces. Along with those, I think a couple from TFMM are worth keeping.

In general, though, I think it’s really important with all (or at least most) TFMM pieces to work them to memory. Not to then necessarily keep them indefinitely in the repertoire, but to prove the process, to show that reading can (and usually should) be used just as another source of instructions, and that the learning of a piece and consequential side-effect memorization is all the same as has always been the case throughout the program. If some or many TFMM pieces then are allowed to wither away, even if right after initially memorizing, so be it.

Laurie Richards, Nebraska

Neil mentions somewhere – I think in TFMM – that once a student is reading comfortably, the student should determine what they’d like to keep on their playlists. Starting in Level 7, I have some songs I require they keep on the playlist because they will be learning an arrangement of the song at a later time. The rest they fill in. They can choose from Foundation, Arrangements, Accompaniment, Blues, Jazz, outside reading pieces, or anything they choose to keep alive.

I’ve seen a few recent comments about teaching requiring students to memorize TFMM/reading pieces. I have never required that, and my students actively use their playing-based tools and strategies while learning a song from the page, and it is quite common for memorization to happen naturally because of that. But I don’t require it. I’m not sure what purpose it serves.

Assigning students regularly to come up with learning strategies, and discussing them in class, is part of the process. This is the part of SM which Neil refers to as a ‘hybrid’ approach – using both playing-based and reading-based skills to learn new music. Some students are naturally stronger at playing-based skills and others excel more at reading-based skills. So there is a continuum (playing-based <—-> reading-based) along which students find what works best for them. It’s okay if someone’s reading skills are stronger than their playing-based skills.

Allowing students to use all of the skills we have taught them, in the way best suited to the individual, is what will get the best results. It doesn’t have to be weighted toward the playing-based end of the continuum by definition.

Bonnie T., Oklahoma

I like the fact that my students have this natural bridge into reading. They love it. I do not require memorization at all for TFMM but Laurie is right – one of my students reads well and carefully, one memorizes everything. It could be discouraging, I think, to my students in general, if this aspect of the curriculum also required memorization. Two of my students are reading so well – because of Simply Music – that I think they will be able to help out in their choir programs as practice accompanists in the not-so-distant future. This is a new and wonderful discovery for me, and amazing, really. It has taken me 5 years to finally see this.