Question Regarding Diagrams
Kylie S., Australia
Sorry, it’s me again (have a few things floating around in my mind at the moment : )
A parent queried me re the diagrams this week, and I’m looking for a solid answer.
The question is: why do some songs have substantial learning clues on the page, and other songs have sparse/limited learning clues? I guess one good example of this is Dreams (which outlines each sentence, and the order of sentences) versus Night Storm which has very basic info.
My initial reply is that we are training the brain to learn patterns, and training the memory muscles. Each song is different in its approach – we are taking different colors from the palette, so to speak.
But I’m wondering if there is a more adequate response… mine didn’t feel particularly adequate!
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
In general, Neil uses a non-linear approach. He has talked about that in regard to the difficulty level of the songs as they progress through the levels. Every song is not necessarily more difficult the one that was just previously learned, which is what many people expect (ever heard “what’s the LAST song in level 18 like?!?”).
Instead, it’s like life – sometimes you struggle for a while, then – thankfully – things are easy for a bit. Then you really get hit with a doozy, etc. etc. Like the relationship chart. It’s nice, because then when an easy song comes along, students can experience learning something fairly quickly and easily. That’s also a great reminder of how far they have come and how successful they’ve been.
With the diagrams, I guess it’s the same – sometimes you get more input from the diagrams, other times you have to work a little more at it. On the ones where there isn’t much on the page, it challenges the students to flex their playing-based muscle a bit more. I look at it this way – if there are only a few clues in the diagram, they must be pretty good ones.
I don’t know if you’ve taught Level 4 yet, but the 2nd song is Brahms’ Lullaby. Here are the clues in the Level 4 book:
That’s it! Nothing specific about what is played or where. Maybe because it’s such a recognizable piece and students can use their ears on this one too. Anyway we take some time in class to discuss the importance of these clues:
Hand Positioning – I use an analogy of framing a new house. You can clearly see where all of the rooms will be in the house by the framing. Within that framework, all of the details get filled in. What would happen if you didn’t plan the finished layout ahead of time? You would frame in one room, then plan where the next one would go adjacent to that room, and continue until you had enough rooms – and probably a very weird-looking place that wasn’t horribly efficient or functional. I think of Hand Positioning in the same way – by planning out all of your hand positions ahead of time, filling in the details (the melody) within that framework is much easier.
Fragmenting – well, this is a brand new, important playing-based clue at this stage. This is where they learn how to process a playing-based song that isn’t as ‘patterny’. We practice this one in our round robin in class while learning the song.
That’s just one example; my point is, try to see what you can squeeze out of the clues that are on the page. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss or overlook some things that could be really helpful.