Category: Music Education

Train Yer Ears

As a keyboard and music teacher, one of the things I tend to harp on about with my students is to “use your ears.” Clearly, learning to sight read, understanding theory and practicing repertoire are important. However, really HEARING and INTERNALIZING what you play – melodic intervals, harmonies (I often refer to harmony as “colors”), even phrases that repeat within a piece – will boost your musicianship tremendously. Don’t misunderstand me – ear training is a process but it is certainly attainable and rewarding. Probably the best way to develop your ear is to sing while you play. Literally sing the lyrics if there are lyrics, or hum the main melody lines of an instrumental piece. HEAR what you’re singing and playing. I do this with all my students. This connects you to the music at a much deeper level…trust me on this one!

This morning I came across this article which resonates with my ear development philosophy. The website is geared towards jazz and improvisation, but can certainly be applied to music education in general. Check it out for some ear practice tips, but above all – SING!

Always Learning

For the past three or so years, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of teaching private lessons to many students of all ages – primarily in the area of piano/keyboards and in vocals as well. I never imagined I would love it so much…so much that I’ve decided to┬ámake music teaching and performance my full-time profession and to “always be learning” this craft.

I’m excited to announce that I’ve embarked on piano teacher courses through The Royal Conservatory, an institution of music education that I’ve aligned myself with for professional development. The mission of The Royal Conservatory is “to develop human potential through leadership in music and the arts”; this mission rings true in my own heart and convictions. For me, pursuing RCM Teacher Certification is not about achieving a feather in my cap, but all about helping your child (or you!) develop human potential via music to the best of my ability.

Good teachers are good students, I say!

Students as Teachers

One of the coolest aspects of teaching music is that I learn so much from my students. Sometimes it’s a teaching technique from a previous teacher. My favorite is the bass (F) clef line note acronym. This is usually taught as “Good Boys Do Fine Always” – but one of my kids learned it as “Grizzly Bears Don’t Fly Airplanes.” I’ve heard other versions, but the images of bear pilots stick to me the most!

More often though, I am exposed to music I haven’t heard before – which in fact puts me on the spot to learn it myself on the spot (FUN for me!). A lot of the kids will ask me to teach a specific song (usually the latest and greatest pop tune) or maybe a game theme. So the end result is, we really learn it together. Ear training, melody construction, chord theory, and finger strategy are just a few of the possible learning outcomes that can result in 30 or 45 minutes time. The student also gets to witness another person’s (namely, me) learning process.

Piano/music lessons can be powerful moments of learning and making connections with others. -Zach