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Strategies for Developing Basic Music Knowledge

These tips to help your students learn the basics behind playing a musical instrument.
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Strategies for Developing Basic Music Knowledge


Developing basic knowledge is not thought of as fertile territory forthinking. It has been said that critical and creative thinking is onlyuseful once students have something to think about; however, eventhe acquisition of basic knowledge can involve student participationand thinking.

How do your students remember the basic information they need to"do music well"? Memorizing what they read or are told by someoneelse is not the only path to acquisition of basic content. Following areideas that involve students' minds as they learn basic information.

  • You are concerned that a trumpet student isn't holding the instrumentat the correct rotation. You place the instrument in the desiredplaying position and ask the student how he or she will remember the rotation angle. A possible answer from the student thatdemonstrates ownership of the thinking and the solution: "Thebuttons (valves) are at one o'clock."
  • Use board games (such as music bingo) or active games (such asa homemade version of musical Jeopardy) to check basic facts.
  • Ask students to create a way to remember how to hold the bongodrums correctly. (The students know that the larger drum plays alower sound and that the smaller side plays a higher sound.) Possible creative solution: "Remember 'L': Lower to the Left."
  • Posture is always important to good choral sound. A student-created idea for obtaining and maintaining good posture wouldbe to imagine zipping up a jacket as they prepare the body forsinging.
  • Beginning recorder students create squeaking sounds. Youremind them that one way to prevent this is to check to be surethat their fingers cover the holes tightly. You ask the students tocreate an independent way to remember this. Noticing the tinyround indentations on their fingers when the holes are coveredcorrectly, they might come up with "Check for Cheerios."
  • You are concerned that your choral students maintain a free andopen throat. You suggest that they imagine they are sippingthrough a straw to achieve the desired palate and throat position. Ask the students for other images. Two possibilities from students are: "Feel the cold behind the teeth" and "Pretend youhave a ping-pong ball in your mouth."

You may or may not suggest the initial idea or image. The important step is asking students to create their own suggestions or tips thathelp them build and remember the basic knowledge necessary formaking music successfully.

Excerpted from TIPS: Thinking Skills in the Music Classroom.

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