Time for More Music – Doses
I have a question about the reading process. One of my groups is in Time for More Music and has just begun to source from their own material for reading. I understand we’re supposed to give correct doses. But let’s say that the dose for a successful experience at the moment we’re in lessons is 2 measures. So I assign that, but the student gets those two measures down the first or second day of practice. Do they then go on to the next two measures, or wait until the following week for another dose? I have a tendency to give too large of doses, and I don’t know if in this situation I should give the dose that I think they can be successful with during a full week at home, or just the dose that they can be successful with at lessons.
Gordon Harvey, Australia
I’ve just conducted a training workshop on Time for More Music. Hopefully it will become available on audio sometime soon for teachers to purchase. I didn’t address this exact question, but I suspect that if you follow the general principles I outline, and if the student has grasped the whole playing-based approach, for the most part they’ll know what to do. Of course, this will depend on the piece.
To take a simple example, if you’ve given them the RH first two measures of Watching Things Run and they’ve handled them, if they’ve spent time examining the whole piece (which they would have done when first introduced to the piece) they’ll have seen ways in which the next two measures are closely related to the first and will be very capable of working them out. When they come back next week, have them present their discovery to the class, and everybody wins! If they get it wrong, they’ve learned a little about working out their own dosages. Remember that Time for More Music is all about students becoming self-generating, so a little venturing out on their own is appropriate.
On the other hand, a project like the last two lines of August, where we’re looking at some complex details, may have to be more strictly managed. You could insist they go no further than what you’ve set and of course, like all obedient SM students, they’ll comply. Either way, the guide for their readiness to move on is simple: do they understand and can they play the section you’ve given them? If they can’t, but still go on, remind them that we are still, and will always be, a playing-based method. Back they go and finish that section!
Also, as I was re-reading the instructions for Time for More Music, I realized that it says the student should come away saying “I can figure this out,” and not “I can sight read this.” They are to map the instructions now from the page to the keyboard. So my son was working on a reading based piece, and after playing the four measures several times, had virtually memorized it and wasn’t looking at the page. I thought he needed to look at the page so that he could get used to seeing the notes and connecting them with his hands.
Is that not right? Is he supposed to figure out the notes, then map it so that he doesn’t need to look at the page? I mean, I know if he wants to ultimately get it into a playing-based piece he would do that, but even if he’s not?
Gordon Harvey, Australia
We’ll always be a playing-based method, and thus we’ll always be focused at the keyboard, which is where we can most easily see patterns, shapes, sentences and so on. The only difference when we’re reading music is that we’re sourcing our initial instructions from the page rather than from the teacher or the video. We only need the page to the extent that we need to extract the information required to map the music out on the keyboard.
To make sure a student is really getting back to the keyboard and applying playing-based strategies, it’s a good idea to take the music away and check that they can still play the song. However, there are also reasons to spend plenty of time with the page in front of the student at this stage.
For one thing, we want to make sure they acquire all the reading tools they can, and at this level there’s a lot of information to absorb. This is mostly a process of examining the piece, spending plenty of time looking for patterns etc, and observing elements they haven’t encountered before. Much of this is done prior to touching the instrument.
Secondly, where appropriate, we can use the page ongoingly as a reminder of different elements, looking for signposts – “here’s the section where the bottom note comes down in half-steps”, “this is that triangle shaped chord” and so on. In a way, we’re using the page like the diagrams in our note books.
So you see that we’re neither required to sight-read nor to memorise every note, but of course if we’re applying playing-based strategies, we ultimately won’t need the page very much. And with lots of experience of lots of different projects, we’ll get faster at the conversion process.
Still confused? Wait for my workshop recording, where we’ll have a detailed look at strategies for each Time for More Music piece.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
Another thought that came to mind regarding what dose to administer in TFMM is about fragmenting. I may send a student home with an assignment to learn 2 measures, and if those become easy, to fragment in another measure, then another if needed, etc. Of course, we have spent time in class discussing exactly what that means, and they have a clear understanding. I think it’s a great way for them to experience first hand the powerful tool of fragmenting.
One of the many things I love about Simply Music is that once students begin learning to read written music, they will naturally utilize their playing-based skills after they have “sourced the initial instructions from the page”, as Gordon said (I love that, it really clarifies how this approach works!). It morphs into a hybrid approach (playing-based and reading-based) to learning new music.
As Neil says on one of the videos (TFMM?), students will naturally lean toward that which they are more proficient at (reading- vs. playing-based), but that both will be utilized. More tools make it easier to learn new music.
I look forward to Gordon’s workshop recording.
On the training materials for TFMM, Neil says allow the students to discover musical elements on their own. Don’t reveal everything to them. He also talks about administering the dosage to ensure success. I have only done the first 2 pieces with 2 groups, and these have been very easy for them.
What do you experienced teachers do in the lesson?
- Give a section (or whole) piece to the students and ask them to figure it out at home a la SM (after they are familiar with the discovery process)
- Have them do above, but not play the piece at home.
- Have them figure out and play the piece at home.
- Analyze the piece in class, assign playing it for home.
- Analyze the piece in class and play it in class
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
The main thing to keep in mind is that you give them a small enough dose that they will have success. That might mean 1 or 2 measures at a time. When they’re starting out in Time for Music, in class we will go through some of the basic steps of figuring out what to play to get them used to the process. For example,
- Looking at time signature (count to…using…)
- Clapping and voicing the rhythm
- Looking for patterns in the rhythm
- Looking for patterns in the pitch
The assignment for the week might be to master the first 2 measures, and if that becomes easy, proceed to the next 1 or 2 measures.
In the beginning I think we need to spend more time analyzing the music in class, in order to teach the students how to analyze and figure out music on their own. Once they get the general hang of it, then I try to just troubleshoot during class, and occasionally review the process from the beginning.
From what I read here, you do not actually have them play the song in class? For the first couple of songs I did, because it was exciting to be reading. After that, you analyse in class, then assign them to figure out how to play at home?
Gordon Harvey, Australia
To address your question briefly, there are no fixed rules about playing the song in class. I may not exactly have your question clear, but I will point out my view that students will always get each piece to the point of being comfortably played, because it seems to me that they may not have gained maximum learning value (not to mention satisfaction) until they’ve reached that point. After that, in most cases they can keep the song on the Play List or put it aside as they choose.
The really important thing to remember is that the process for learning reading pieces via the page is just the same playing-focused approach as we’ve always used. The only difference is that we’re sourcing our instructions from the page rather than the teacher or a video. We simply extract the information we need from the page and get back to the keyboard, where we can use the playing-based tools we’ve developed since we began. The obvious mark of our success is by being able to play the piece.
So if you mean that you may work the song out but not get to play it, that’s not correct. If you mean that they would attempt to play the song in class after viewing the music for the first time, that could be done, so long as you’ve followed the process of examining the piece, looking for patterns and clues and then unfolding on the keyboard. This of course is not the same as sight-reading.
The more advanced pieces are really no different except that the dosage is smaller. So in all cases you can choose to spend time together in class sharing the task of examining the project and working out strategies, or doing the same at home and sharing your discoveries next week.