We will be looking at the importance of using visual and aural templates for these families with regards to the essential visual, and often less conspicuous aural cues. These cues/templates in turn, will assist you in knowing what to look for and listen to, hopefully fostering a passion for the details in our task of ensemble training while also providing some useful strategies.
Remember: In the critical first 5 weeks of instrumental class/ensemble practice, it is important to commit to the consistent reinforcing of correct posture, hand position and embouchure. If not, we will be tacitly reinforcing that whatever is incorrect is OK. And, of course, we all recognise that this process is an on-going task!
We simply cannot assume that the itinerate/studio teachers will take care of everything for us. In fact, in order to competently reinforce good habits, we will need to understand and use the essential information on each instrument in aiding us towards fostering successful habits, leading to both lasting and rewarding learning! Our rehearsals should always include lessons on how to practice at home, which aides students in building healthy practice habits, critical listening and self-observational skills, along with the ability to apply proven learning strategies demonstrated in our class lessons/rehearsals. We will need to be committed to consistently and patiently reminding our students until the correct responses become automatic, internal and organic.
Great supporting article on beginning band training rationale! http://www.dansr.com/wick/resources/the-beginner-band-student
It is equally important that we understand that one cannot simply stand up and conduct our ensemble without being fully engaged with how the learning, sharing and demonstration and assessment process actually works. In fact, I do very little conducting with a learner band. I don’t want to focus on my conducting. My ensemble needs both my eyes and ears to be totally focused on the ensemble. Instead of thinking about my conducting, I need to be looking and listening, focused on using and employing the visual/aural templates I plan to share in my three future instalments. It is my hope that they will assist you in reinforcing correct performance habits, while also identifying those needing to be adjusted or corrected.
If we are to be effective ensemble trainers we cannot afford to have our heads stuck in our scores. Most method book exercises, including young band ensemble repertoire are straight forward enough for basic score study and preparation. Both generally contain clear, identifiable goals and targets necessary for even, consistent technical and musical development and growth.
At this point of our discussion it is important to understand that the proper use of a method book as an essential part of your rehearsal is not optional, and that you will need to regularly employ one as it was designed, sequentially moving from page to page, beginning to end, including its extra resources.
The method book purpose is to introduce and use the often self-directed learning strategies shared through a series of short, purpose written and self-explanatory exercises. These sequential exercises provide opportunities to learn, develop and acquire both technical and musical mastery through the use of ‘scope and sequence’ learning. These skills include; developing pitch and rhythm vocabulary notation, the use of counting & sub-division, articulations, phrasing, general musical knowledge and terminology through a systematic and sequential approach. It is easy to point out to the students the goals/targets contained in each exercise and assist them in recognising when the targets have been achieved. What is more, use of the method book provides for a daily discipline with clear ‘investment’ in practice strategies for experiencing rewarding advancement returns, which is comforting and encouraging for young students.
In fact, the ‘method book’ training materials provide our students with one of the most important educational motivation factors in our tool box; that of a student achieving daily achievement with the ‘five-minute’ goal process! Arriving at a successful outcome with a method book exercise that can be generally achieved within a relatively short time can be intrinsically rewarding and encouraging. I have found that students generally find more satisfaction receiving success from a shorter and more realistically achievable goal with clear, identifiable objectives, than waiting for weeks to experience a moment of success in, say a concert, contest or festival experience. If effective and informed home practice, leading to motivation, personal engagement, recognisable progress and, ultimately, retention is to be cultivated and achieved, we will need to share with students how their little successes gained through the use of a systematic approach to learning basic fundamentals will lead to greater rewarding achievements! It goes without saying that the method book also provides one with an excellent framework lesson/rehearsal planning!
I know that many will say that due to a lack the time it is not practical to use a method book, or for that matter, any training materials. However, with careful time management and the appropriate repertoire choice, you can do it. In a sense, you don’t have time not to include these essential study materials in your rehearsals. Besides, learning your repertoire will be that much easier when your ensemble possesses the skills necessary for meeting the musical demands of your repertoire choices. More on this in a later post!
Come prepared with your lesson plan, and know your scores and method book lesson material, including the array of targets for each exercise you wish to use and share with your students. Teach them to identify the targets for effective and rewarding home practice. It will also encourage developing their own personal ownership of their learning experience!
"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there" John Lennon
Please stay tuned for the next three instalments which will include helpful points on gaining a workable understanding of the fundamental pedagogies
Thank you for reading! Warm regards, Monte