My summer (July) teaching schedule is very light – a half-day a week. Two good piano students in the morning and two good theory students in the afternoon.
The summer goal for one of the piano students: to improve her reading ability so it aligns with her musical ability. She came to me as a transfer student last fall – grade 8/early advanced level. The technique, innate ability, hard work and desire to improve are there – the note-reading and comprehension of the construction of music are not.
Despite having done her 3 Theory Rudiments courses, she hasn’t made any connections between the theory and the music. Or rather, the connection hasn’t been made for her. She learns a new piece by pain-stakingly learning one hand at a time, memorizing the single line, then trying to put them together, hoping for the best. No sense of the vertical structure or the fact that most western music is chord-based.
The plan – besides a lot of the usual sight-reading activities* – to start her on some basic harmony exercises – starting with a triad chart in the key of the given piece (writing out the scale and building the triads above each scale note) – then rearranging the notes of each triad into different combinations – always having her play everything – then pointing out in a couple of pieces that everything is based on these notes.
The light bulb came on and it was glorious. It will be a mentally tough month for her as she works to incorporate a whole different way of thinking into her learning – but we’ve made a good start.
Image credit (sun): Hybrid Rasta Mama. I’d love to give credit for the triad graphic – if it’s yours or you know where it’s from, please let me know!