Curriculum


Shoo-Fly LH and Generativity

QuestionQuestion
Joy O., Alabama

I’m learning Shoo-Fly. Any thoughts on reminder clues for the LH runs in the second part? It starts on D and goes up, then starts on C and goes up, and both have a black note but in a different spot. I find myself coming back to the videos over and over.

Answer
Ian M., Indiana

This one of those places where crowd-sourcing ideas for how to remember something makes great sense, but if I were your teacher I would give you some homework before sharing my approach: We’re always trying to create an internal mental map of the keyboard as it relates to a particular song. In order to do that, you should take the part of the piece you’re having difficulty with and just describe/articulate (out loud) what is happening, as specifically as you can, in words that make sense to you.

I would give you an example, but that sort of defeats the purpose. However, I’ll try to explain what I mean a bit further. There are many concepts that have utility when describing what is happening on the keyboard. Some are covered in The Basics; some we’ve learned since then. For instance, white and black notes, note names, directions – up and down, locations relating to those directions – top, bottom, middle, and so on. So you need to put into words – utilizing those concepts – what is happening over the course of those eight notes *in a way that makes sense to you*.

Let me know when you’ve done this homework and we’ll do the next step, which is to compare how we’ve described and understood the passage and how it’s going to help us remember what to do. Sometimes my way or another student’s way will be a revelation and make much more sense to you. Sometimes, your way will be the revelation for someone else.

I had a student who said, when I asked him how he remembered the final chord of 57 12/8 Blues, “Uh … it’s the Bishop Street Blues chord with the middle note down a half step?” I was stunned into a brief silence and then I said “thanks, that’s really going to help me!”

Answer
Joy O., Alabama

This is exactly the process I’m looking for. I want to learn it and also learn how to present it to my students as they become more self-generative. For me, it’s start on D, whole, half, half up; then start on C whole, half, half up. I also noticed that we skip the first black note in both, then every note thereafter.

Answer
Ian M., Indiana

For me, I’ve noted that I play the bottom black note in the group of three in the first run, and the top black note of the group of two in the second … but the first chance I get I’ll process the “D-whole-half-half-C-whole-half-half” that you’ve come up with – I think that will help cement it even more securely in my mind.

This process is an excellent thing to pick apart with your students, especially in group lessons. Emphasize the idea that our brains work differently on the same problem, and that the insights of each person’s brain can really change the way others look at a problem.

Answer
Joy O., Alabama

When I started asking students to look at chords and describe them for me, I actually had one student’s mom who said, “She doesn’t know.” Mom was really uncomfortable with my waiting silence after I said, “What do you notice about this?” I did express specifically to mom that we were starting the self-generating process, and that it’s ok not to know, that we were going to work together on it. They stopped lessons not long after that.

Answer
Ian M., Indiana

That can be a scary thing – not knowing the answer. Very uncomfortable-making for some people, including that mom. Being able to talk through the process and communicate what you’re doing and how it helps students to become self-generative can be a pretty important conversation to master.

Answer
Kym N., California

Shoo-fly is a song I have students transpose to different keys and sometimes in the cycle of 5th using the concept of note numbers in the key (include flat 3, augmented 5th which I sometime call 5 1/2 or 5.5, and 7th), and of course the intervals, and half step, whole step (like 5WHH, 4WHH). I had a few students who could play it in all 12 keys. Before they tackle a different key, I will ask them the letter names of the 5th and 4th by looking at their LH with pinkie on home key. They will first practice that moving down to 5WHH and 4WHH (e.g. for C: GWHH FWHH) before they start the new key.

Answer
Joan H., Canada

2 shapes, larger curve first, followed by smaller curve with a white note at the end.

Original discussion started May 9, 2018