Patterns & Playing Other Instruments
Found in: Playing-Based Methodology
Barbara G., Massachusetts
Our family just got back from a weekend at the New Hampshire Highland Games (USA) which featured workshops on learning to play the Folk Harp. Over the course of the day we learned 3 – 5 songs to play as solos or group ensembles made up of 1 – 3 parts. The techniques used to teach the songs were the same techniques used at the Edinburgh Scottish Harp Schools in Scotland .
Almost all of this learning was done playing based: aurally and by sight. With no written music to reference at first, they would begin by “patterning” out the songs through finger patterns, hand placement, directions of pitches, and fragmenting the melody and then advancing the fragments. It was amazing! Does this style of teaching sound familiar? It was so similar to SM’s Learning Clues and techniques. At the end of each workshop they gave us the written music for home reference.
It has been fascinating to be aware of my own growth in this area of patterning out songs. Before SM I was totally reading based in my music. I had no clue how to find the patterns in songs, and in some cases didn’t even know they were in there. The freedom to learn, observe & play by “patterning” music is a joy.
We were told that this style of learning harp and bagpipe tunes is very ancient. The student would “take tunes from your teacher” (meaning learn the melody by patterning & fragmenting) and then develop your own arrangements adding harmony notes, applying different rhythms, and ornaments. A beautifully played melody is the overall goal, whether the melody is pretty, jaunty, angry, jovial, etc. The rest (harmony, etc.) is only added to support the melody and create the mood.
It was great “food for thought” to apply to my piano playing. Have other teachers found similar cross-overs in learning other instruments?
Jan D., California
I have a 13-year-old daughter who takes guitar lessons and an 11-year-old son who takes drum lessons. I attend their lessons with them and have observed their teachers using similar playing-based methods. I have often wondered why many guitarists and drummers “get it,” but traditional piano teachers don’t.
However, my daughter’s guitar teacher also plays the piano and he is always surprised when I tell him that I teach something on the piano basically the same way he does on guitar. He composes and improvises and is very proficient on piano, but he obviously doesn’t think of the piano keyboard in the same way as the guitar fretboard.