Friday, September 2, 2011

Pattern Recognition

  Wouldn't it be great to take the Magic School Bus into our student's mind and view music on the page they way that they do? Would we see that the lines and spaces move around and merge? Would we be surprised to see that they do not even notice the crescendo sign and ritardando sign we pointed to? The complexities of notation keep some of my students playing vertically one note at a time. I have a desire that they come to the point where they play horizontally, seeing, what Dr. Faber calls, "chunks" of notes. And so, one of the keys to student-centered teaching is Pattern Recognition.
  Pattern Recognition is seeing notes in larger and larger chunks. If seeing notes in groups is the desired outcome, why, I ask myself, am I drilling single notes? Why not do more sight-reading with groups of notes so that they become more easily recognizable in the pieces my student's play? This may seem obvious at first but as I analyze the emphasis I place on this endeavor I see I may be short-changing my students. I know I need to repeat and repeat and then assess if my students are actually seeing the chunks I am drilling.
  Dr. Faber made an interesting statement. Perception cannot be forced,  it must be invited. I have been pondering why that is so. I think one reason is because music is symbolic language and symbols have many layers to be explored. I could place flashcards in front of my students but  that does not guarantee that they see the relationship to these notes. I can talk to them and play it for them but really I need to invite them to be curious about how these symbols interrelate. As the student begins to explore these symbols I, as teacher, could invite them to see variations which keep the basic foundation but introduce a new element which changes their meanings. 

For example a 5 finger scale as a chunk, shows how notes step, like a ladder
 Add a bar line and introduce beats and rests, which makes the time signature become important. 

  Change the value of notes and see how the measure must extend. Behind this simple notation, are layers of more meanings; half-steps and whole steps, ascending tones needing dynamic interpretation and on and on. These layers of meaning take a while to perceive but my teaching should invite curiosity to widen perceptions. That is what I am after this new year. One book I am adding to my list for my beginning student "Piano Adventures, Primer Level Sight-Reading Book". 

  I hope it assists me in being more aware of my student progress and perceptions.How do you facilitate note-reading in chunks?

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