Approaches to Teaching

I teach violin, piano, recorder and musicianship to all ages privately and at Plymouth Academy of Creative Arts, UK – and now via video-link. I draw inspiration from Paul Harris’s pedagogy of ‘Simultaneous Learning’, in which students approach new music as if it were a spinning cloud of possibilities, whose parts can be detached for learning all skills needed for its performance, including improvising and composing with its musical elements, essential life-giving aspects of classical music that have been happily revived.

I find the most effective way of ensuring children become musically literate enough to do this is through the Kodály method, which is especially enjoyed by younger children. They learn to read music easily and fluently from a simplified notation that shows rhythm, and the distances between a set of pitches (instead of particular frequencies) using the ancient names for notes in a scale known as solfa, or solfeggio, familiar to millions through the Rogers and Hammerstein song from the Sound of Music, ‘Do-Re-Mi’. I have enormous admiration for the piano and recorder tutor books of Celia Waterhouse, which have been invaluable to me, both for individual students and school groups, and to the British Kodály Academy from which I have sourced among others, the books of Hungarian composer, Lajos Papp, that I use once students are ready for standard notation.

This approach to music teaching goes back to the essential beginnings of western music, starting with the metered words of plain chant and folk rhymes, adding pitches to make songs, then transforming them into a supremely flexible framework for creating simple instrumental music. It is an excellent preparation for being able to read, absorb and interpret expressively music on the five-line stave, in all its still developing elaboration, and allows the teacher to support students with mastering the technical challenges of their instrument while they have already the pleasure of being able to play new tunes at will or make up and write down their own as I have for this site.

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