Stephanie Lewis - Music & Education Talks expert

Theory for Music Teachers

Music theory instructions for students

In this new video for music teachers, Stephanie offers you actual "instructions" for how to approach music theory according to the level of the student, and, more importantly, how to keep the student away from iPads and such for maximum results.

Released on February 6, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Belated happy New Year, this is Stephanie and VSM continuing on from a series of videos we started last year examining how by using logical themes teachers can ensure that the key elements of music education, that is practical music composition theory, listening and discussion, are adequately covered in the classroom for all age groups. Now, I'm a month late in preparing this video, sorry, simply because VSM and I have been busy organizing the release of my musical. Yes, a total plug, I know, a musical for high schools, colleges, theaters, and cultural organizations. Now, if you don't know what I'm talking about, please go to the link below, where all will be explained.

Now, carrying on from my last video, today I'll be looking at theory. Now, if you're not a teacher, please still listen, as I'm about to get political. In my last few videos, I have stated clearly that these videos are really for the general music classroom. If you're working in or have experience within a school where orchestras and choirs abound, often with regular, if limited, touring, where students are already embracing Beethoven at the age of four, with music departments bursting with practice rooms and specialist instrumental teachers, 21st century classroom technology, and a school theater complete with Wagner and orchestral pit. Well, chances are, most of what I say is going to be water off a duck's back. Or is it? After all, I remember that my school, excellent but nonetheless state-run, was deemed good at music. This reputation was based on a handful of individuals with regular private lessons and supported by middle-class families with a certain amount of cash and culture. School or curricular involvement clearly had little to do with its positive reputation, and I suspect that this is still the case today. We need to remember that education is for all, and that its function serves to iron out discrepancies between students. It is not enough for a school to rest on its laurels whilst prodigal students spread the school's musical reputation. Education is for all, and if one of the objectors of any curriculum is to realize this, then curriculums must contain content that does just this.

And so here I turn to theory, an essential curricular feature in music education which provides an important, and extraordinarily democratic, means for reinforcing listening discursive activities, whilst allowing students the key toward independent practical learning by means of reading and writing. And then from there, it's a small step towards composition. Now, as you can see already, there is no need to do deliberate linking of this ingredient into a balanced educational diet, as it links up by default. But for the skeptical among you, let's go back again to the topic of humor, which I looked at in the previous videos. If the class is singing Lehrer's "A Christmas Carol," which I referred to in my last video, and they're using sheet music, at any point you can go over bar numbers, note names, score indications, such as, I don't know, repeats, and such like, increasing the difficulty with age and experience, you know, finishing without an O, cadences, intervals, the texture of a score, and so on. Likewise, if you've been discussing Beethoven's "Symphony No. 2," the scherzo, then play the piece using notation. My previous video gives four practical possibilities of this, all obviously linked up to written music.

But of course, all this needs to be backed up by quiet written theoretical work, and I've put a number of differentiated worksheets below that you're free to download. But attention to those of you already scoffing at my lack of information technology, yeah, there are many online music notation exercises out there that free up the teacher in terms of time and grading, and they also keep the student quiet in front of the computer or iPad. I don't approve. The main reason is in recognition of the importance of functional specialization, and this is a feature in humans which integrates sensation, movement, control, and thinking. Recognizing the hand's unique relationship with the brain, and with psychology increasingly linking the physical act of writing with high academic ability. I'd personally be keeping the good old worksheet where students physically have to write their answers up. Yes, it's onerous on the teacher, who then has to mark the darn thing, but that in itself is also positive, as teachers have a tighter control on their knowledge of a student's ability. At a practical level too, it's easier. Just think if wifi or electricity is down, or somebody's forgotten their computer, or their computer's broken, or whatever. Now, below you'll find two examples of easy, middle, and advanced classroom theory worksheets that were conceived with the idea of backing up practical and listening discussion activities I was undertaking at the time. By definition therefore, theoretical concepts were used, reused, and recycled in various musical camps, gaining greater reinforcement with every appearance.

Now, as for my next video, well, this deals with composition, and also we'll sum up the main points of the last four videos. I'll also include a series of lesson plans, resources that are grouped around specific themes that you are free to use at will. I would however ask you to write in and tell me how you get on with these resources and whether you've got any tips and extras that could improve upon what I'm suggesting here. Thanks a lot, and see you next time. Bye.
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