Arrangements & Variations

SHM and a Partial Lesson

Kim N., Texas

This is my first official post as a “teaching” licensed teacher!! Yeah! It’s nice to be able to jump in and ask pertinent questions. I’ve learned so much from all of you.

I know it is a judgement call on how much information to unfold in a lesson and it will take me a while to properly assess that. My question is, if I feel like Dreams and Night Storm are coming along for my students (sisters in a shared lesson, 6- and 8-yo) but aren’t completely rhythmic, do I go ahead and unfold a bit of Jackson Blues at the next lesson? If I do begin teaching it and they can, say, only absorb the right hand because of time constraints, do I assign them only the RH portion of the video or can they watch the whole thing? I think I have heard Neil say in some of the training videos that If you don’t quite get the whole song taught in a lesson, they can finish it up at home with the SHM, but he may mean just the tailpiece, for example, and not the whole left hand and two hands together.

If I don’t introduce anything new because I don’t think they are ready, what do I focus the lesson on after going over the playlist/previous material? I would think if they go home with nothing “new” they may see it as a “wasted” lesson. Of course, that could just be my perception and not theirs!

Thanks for any input. This is all very new (I’m a SM novice), but I am really enjoying the challenge and the excitement of the kiddos!

Emily C.

I’ve only taught SM for almost a month but had taught traditionally for more than 7 years. Here’s what I’d suggest for your questions:

Rhythm for Dreams and Night Storm will come easier once the students have heard the songs on the audio recording many times. But it’s also possible that once they stopped listening to the audio, they could forget and change the rhythm again, and in that case, remind them to listen to the audio recording frequently. And yes, you may go ahead and introduce Jackson Blues at the next lesson.

I’ve only been assigning the chapters on the videos up to what they’ve learned during lesson, and I think that’s what we were told to do also. I believe the parts where Neil said we don’t need to go through the whole song in lesson were those blues pieces when they had already learned the whole chord progression previously. Or ones that just have different arrangements of the sentences, but no tailpiece or changes anywhere in the piece. Once they know how the piece starts like, the rest should be self-explanatory, since they are just following the chord progression or the sentence patterns on the reference book.

I don’t think the students would feel the lesson is wasted if you don’t introduce new materials, as long as you spend some time helping them what you think they need more work on. It’s also good to tell them that that’s what the lesson focus is for today, because you want them to learn the materials solidly before moving on to new things. I think students would appreciate that too and wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. I feel like although they can always watch the video, sometimes they don’t know what they are doing wrong exactly. During the lesson, we can also teach them other ways that would achieve the same results but wasn’t discussed in the video.

Robin T., Tennessee

I would not move forward just yet and just focus on those two songs. In my experience, especially with the younger ones, they are still working on their dexterity or motor skills. Meaning, the movement in their fingers is sometimes what is causing the song not to flow. You will start to notice this, especially with little ones and it is something that they sometimes have to conquer in their own way.

I have a little girl that plays every single note two times. The first time is gentle (like she is just barely playing it to make sure that is correct) and the second one is very very hard (like, “Yep, I got it!”). That may be some of the issues that may be causing them to not get their song flowing as well. Their brain is telling them that they need to move F2, but F3 moves instead. Have them listen to the audio recording and just keep working on it. This is actually a discussion that I have with my students and parents when they begin lessons. Even adults have to conquer this at times because it is a movement that they are not used to. Sure… most of them type, but even in typing we typically do not move our fingers one at a time up and down.

In terms of the lesson, I would teach them some of the variations on those songs. Not the accompaniment variations, just the ones that have been listed here and that Neil sometimes mentions at the end of the level.

So… for Dreams… have them do it on D. Or, teach them the Chinese Dreams that has been brought up in Simpedia. My kids LOVE that one. Then, for Night Storm, I use the Night Storm INC that someone mentioned.

  • “I” stands for intro which is RH – DCT on A two octaves above Middle C and LH- Night storm (beginning and end of sentence just like in Dreams).
  • “N”: Then, they go down and play NS where they normally play it (that is the “N”)
  • “C” is the conclusion which is the same as the “I” but I have them compose their own ending. This will give them some things to play with so that they are learning something new, but still working on the rhythm and flow of the song… just not in its original format.

Hope this helps.