CLAA CLASSICAL MUSIC COURSES UPDATES
I wanted to give all of you an update of everything that is going on in the CLAA music courses. Below are four sections with updates on Classical Music Theory, Petty School Music, Piano, and Composition. I hope all of you are enjoying the courses!
- Mr. Peters
CLASSICAL MUSIC THEORY
In September 2011, Classical Music Theory II was opened for enrollment. Students who have worked their way through the first level are now currently studying in the second.
Before I talk about the new course I wanted to briefly mention a very common misunderstanding that some people have regarding these courses. YES, the Music Theory courses may be taken as stand-alone courses! Some families are under the impression that if they are not taking Piano in the CLAA they cannot take the Theory course. This is not the case. I know that some families cannot afford a digital piano (which is necessary for the CLAA Piano course) or that some of the children may have already had private lessons for 4-5 years and don’t want to start over. Although students will gain the most benefit from taking all of the core music courses, I would definitely recommend the theory courses for their own sake even if that is all that is taken.
In Music Theory II, students will continue building the foundation of knowledge necessary for all of the other core music courses, as well as beginning to examine some of the deeper mathematical properties of music; properties that are not as apparent as those intrinsic to the nature of rhythm (relative duration) are the mathematical properties of harmony (relative pitches). Now, it is important to understand that some of the theoretical concepts in these courses have practical applications while others do not. For example, knowing the mathematical properties of chords will not make students play chords any better. What this knowledge will accomplish is to impress upon the mind of the learner the fact that there is order inherent in nature, and also to create a great awe for God’s gift of music to man. I remember being completely blown away the first time I discovered these things and am excited to pass on this knowledge to others.
You will not find any music study courses out there that teach these things. I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is that modern man considers anything that does not have a practical application to be superfluous. Second is the fact that modern man believes that everything in nature occurs randomly. To him there is no set of pitches that sounds better together than any other set of pitches, for he believes that man alone is the determining factor in what constitutes order and beauty.
All that being said, here is a sample lesson from Music Theory II. In this lesson students will learn some amazing things about the nature of chords; in particular that the major
and minor triads are musical manifestations of the harmonic and arithmetic means.
PETTY SCHOOL MUSIC PROGRAM
There are currently two levels of Petty School Music open for enrollments. We have had a lot of good feedback and participation in this program right from the start. In fact, so many people asked me if their 7 yr. old children could take the course I decided to add another level. (It was originally intended for ages 4-6) I encourage everyone to go to the web site and read the updated course description and outline. I have added more concepts to Level III, added a Level IV outline, and also a “handy-dandy” chart useful for determining how many lessons a student should be completing each week based on their age and course level.
I am very excited about this course. (Two of my own children are currently taking it). Before beginning work on it, (when I was comparing methods for very young children and looking for something to base this course upon) I spent months researching the Kodály (koh-DAH-ee) Method in depth and was very impressed with what I saw. It was amazing to see the entire program as a whole – the order and manner in which concepts are taught are unparalleled in my opinion.
A brief “thank you” and credit is due my wife (who BTW minored in music and also plays the flute), who so graciously agreed to do all the singing and appear in all of the videos. (When doing intervallic training with young children it works best if they hear someone who sings in their own register) She and I have spent countless hours late at night after the kids are in bed, recording literally hundreds and hundreds of videos and
MP3s for this course. So thank you Mrs. Peters! We are currently working on completing the Level III course. This level is particularly
exciting to me as a teacher, since by the end of it, students are notating songs in staff notation! (Something totally absent from most modern music courses, but I believe crucial in being able to read music more fluently, sing and play music more fluently, and prepare students for composing music.) Music is a language…it makes sense that if you are going to learn a language, you need to be able to read and write it, not just speak it! All of my courses work towards these ends. The progression of the Kodály method is always 1) Auditory, 2) Writing and Constructing, 3) Reading. Concepts are only intellectualized after they are first known by the ear.
A quick side note: some music schools have kids singing songs just for the fun of it and call it “music class”. This is not at all the case in Petty School Music. Each song the children will be singing is carefully selected for its teaching value. Once a song is learned, it is re-used in many other ways to teach different musical concepts. Below please find a sample lesson from the level 3 course.
Piano I opened in February of 2011 and has had much positive feed-back. For those students who have already had some previous lessons, it has helped to fine tune their playing and technical skills while also covering concepts and ideas not taught in mass produced piano method books. I have even heard from one family with a little girl who has auditory problems and they say it has really helped her! Many people are afraid of learning an instrument on-line. Here are a couple of the common concerns parents have and my answers to them.
Q: How do you communicate with the student if you are not there in the room?
A: Each time a student submits an assignment I have the ability to make comments either via e-mail, or more commonly, directly on the submission itself when I grade it and send it back in SmartMusic. I may also re-assign an assignment, in which case I will notify the students via e-mail what they need to correct. (Recordings and screenshots of their music are sent back and forth between students and teacher)
Q: How do you correct posture and fingerings?
A: There is a whole lesson on posture and another on fingerings. I teach a fingering system that gives the student the ability of determining fingerings on their own. There are a few basic rules to follow along with using common sense and musical context. There are also questions in the exams asking things like “which finger would you use for this note?” Lastly, I will be able to see and correct anything wrong when students send in
their video assignments.
Below is a list of some of the benefits I believe are gained through on-line learning with the SmartMusic software.
- Students get immediate feedback of their playing with the SmartMusic assessment feature. (I have found that students love this feature and are always excited to try and score a perfect 100%) After playing, students are shown a screen shot of their sheet music marked in red and green notes. Red notes show all of the places they came in early, came in late, played a wrong note, etc. When students click on the wrong note they are shown a diagram of the correct note (orchestral instruments also include the correct fingering for that note). The screen shot of their performance can be printed and is also sent to their instructor when they submit their assignments.
- Students are able to record their music digitally. Each “take” is stored so that students can track their progress, listen to their takes, create MP3s of their takes, and choose the best take to send to their instructor. Students, parents, and the instructor can view, hear, and track the student’s progress over time.
- All practice time is automatically logged so that the instructor can see how much time the student is “actually” practicing on each assignment. (No more fibs!)
- There are many practice tools including a tuner, sophisticated metronome, stand-alone digital recorder, and loop function. The loop function is one of the most important features in SmartMusic and allows the student to loop the music from any starting and stopping point of their choosing so that they can practice the correct way and build the necessary muscle memory. (Muscle memory is essential to music performance and is talked about at length in the course. I also discuss the difference between “practicing” and “playing”.)
- The tempo of the song can be adjusted so that the student can begin practicing at a slower speed and then gradually increase the speed each day until they reach the tempo specified by their instructor.
- Students can play along with a piano accompaniment (good for teacher-student duets) or even a symphony orchestra. They can choose to hear just their part, just the accompaniment, both parts, or neither.
- SmartMusic also has an “Intelligent Accompaniment” feature that that can follow along with the student’s slight changes in tempo. When students speed up or slow down, the accompaniment will adjust to stay with them in the music.
- Students can transpose the song they are playing (or singing) into any key.
- Students also have unlimited access to the world’s largest accompaniment library for all ages and skill levels, which includes thousands of pieces of music.
Some of you have been inquiring as to when the composition course will be opened and what it will cover. (This is actually one of the courses I am most excited about!) Unfortunately, it must be written last since it is the completion of the core music courses. I do not want to give any premature opening dates since I am fully engrossed in writing all of the above courses as well as teaching. I also do not want to rush through the writing of these courses by simply throwing things together just for the sake of getting them out by a certain date. I want them to be absolutely the best possible courses available and am spending the necessary time, thought, and toil to make that happen. There is still a huge amount of work ahead and I want to thank all of you for your patience and for the kindness you have shown me in my first year with the school.
May God bless you all abundantly this New Year!