This month's Curiosity Box from The Curious Piano Teachers has been filled with Christmas activities to do with our students. I must admit to being a little lax with preparing these as my printer had run out of ink, however on my last day of teaching this week I opened up one of the challenges on my iPad and to my delight found that each of the students I tried it with really enjoyed it. Two children in Year 7 studying for Grades 1 and 2 wanted to continue way past when I thought they might have had enough and an adult was equally engaged.
So, what was the challenge I hear you ask! The Curious Piano Teachers have compiled a list of Christmas songs and carols and written them down, but not so that they are easily recognisable: rhythm and pitch have been separated and you're only allowed to hear it in your head. I've put three examples below in case you'd like to try it yourself!
The skills needed for these are those of musicianship. The students needed to be able to:
The results were that sometimes students could work out the song from just doing those three steps, and other times they needed to then play the song on the piano to try to identify it. Jingle Bells was easily identified by one student before she'd completed the three steps. The activity is designed for those around grades 3-4 so my students did pretty well!
I tried this with a friend who studied guitar to about grade 3 many years ago. He was able to clap the rhythms brilliantly but was at once stuck on the pitch - he had never been taught to sing as he played so it was almost impossible for him to sing the pitches. I am yet to find out if he has identified any of the songs!
With the New Year around the corner you may be looking for piano lessons for yourself or your child. The sort of teacher you want is one who will prepare you for a challenge such as this, without even knowing it is coming. So don't be afraid to dig into their teaching qualifications, experience and professional development activities before committing to lessons. Look for a teacher who'll make this challenge a walk in the park for you!
Director of Surrey Music School.