In my “Telescope Teaching,” I design a student’s assignments to incorporate work in three important areas of musical development. We blend this work into their regular practice time at the instrument. There are only three areas of focus (beyond repertoire and technique), but there is a much longer list of benefits.
These are the three areas we target:
1. Aural skills. The specific skills we work on are pitch hearing and matching, note reading, sightsinging, rhythm skills and score reading.
2. Expressive tools. This area includes different articulations like legato and staccato, phrasing, tone and dynamics.
3. Music theory. We learn and reinforce key signatures and scales, intervals, triads and seventh chords.
The key to this plan is to incorporate as many of the target areas as possible into each lesson, and at home using the repetition that is part of their regular practice. For instance, if a difficult section of one of their repertoire pieces requires extra work, instead of telling a young student, “Play this ten extra times,” the practice assignment may look like this:
Play the right hand, saying the names of the notes as you play. – two times
Play the left hand, saying the names of the notes as you play. – two times
Play the right hand, saying the names of the notes of the left hand as you play. – two times
Play the left hand, saying the names of the notes of the right hand as you play. – two times
Hands together – three times.
In eleven repetitions, we have set out a focused plan that will keep her moving quickly from one task to the next, but also develops note reading and score reading skills.
This is a system that can be used to practice any technique with any piece and, with applicable changes, on any instrument. If we are working on expressive possibilities for a piece, the assignment will include practicing forte, piano, different crescendo and decrescendo plans, using ritardando or not. Students usually like having artistic choices to make, and their expressive range and control is greatly increased.
Music theory can be more of a challenge to incorporate this way, but it is very effective. A one or two measure segment can be repeated in different keys. Naming the notes of the triads in a chord passage is very useful. In a tricky sequence of left hand intervals, the student can identify the intervals and repeat that pattern in different keys. A little creativity can produce interesting and helpful drills that make music theory relevant and practical.
And the benefits are fantastic. Here are just a few:
1. The need for written book work is greatly reduced or even eliminated.
2. Repetition in practice is more meaningful, focused and interesting.
3. Music fundamentals are demonstrated and used as part of daily playing.
4. Students learn “goal-oriented” practicing habits.
5. Students learn valuable and creative practice techniques.
Try “Telescope Teaching” today!