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Old 01-29-2015, 05:41 AM   #1
CalumII
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Default Deconstructing tunes

This is an approach I've been taking with my teaching for a while now; basically taking the tune, pulling it into all the constituent bits of technique, and then building it back up into the tune.

My approach for some time has been to teach the basic gamut of embellishments and require learners to reach a certain standard before hitting tunes. However, I've never been very happy with the result here - there is simply too much material and there are lots of sticky corners. You can spend an entire half hour perfecting an E doubling from D, say.

Instead, I'm finding that getting through the basics of the embellishments and then straight into these "deconstructions" is a better approach. You end up with only a few technical exercises to master, and it leads naturally into playing phrases and then the entire tune.

Here's an example of this approach, using Teribus: http://callingthetune.co.uk/?download=teribus.pdf
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Old 01-29-2015, 06:58 AM   #2
tbrown747
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

I like it. The emphasis on the initial "elements" notes only section is on rhythmic accuracy and expression I gather? edit - on further review I see, you're just covering the difficult note changes to watch for noises.

How do you gate progression through the phases? Do you assign elements for one week and then move on to embellishments the next if the student has mastered the previous material, or do you advocate practicing elements through to the phrases in each practice session?

I think I would build up the latter half of the elements section and the 1 bar phrases into a small group of 2, 4 or 8-bar exercises that can be played to a metronome, can be played without stopping, and are easily repeatable without losing the beat.I think you could make this work, for example, with the doublings line if you just switch the bars around a bit so the lead-in note for each doubling is different than the ending of the previous bar.

I find in my own playing that practicing very short (1-bar or note+single movement) sections is tedious and doesn't let you get into "music mode". The movement needs to be in some kind of musical context anyway, and by putting together several practice hit points into a flowing exercise it's easier to get the repetitions in without pulling your hair out.

The hard part is putting enough into each exercise that you're in the difficulty sweet spot without making it so difficult that you run in to the pitfalls you describe when covering all the embellishments in the tune at once.

Last edited by tbrown747; 01-29-2015 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 01-29-2015, 07:34 AM   #3
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

That's basically how my instructor taught me, except all on the fly.
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Old 01-29-2015, 08:17 AM   #4
CalumII
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbrown747 View Post
I like it. The emphasis on the initial "elements" notes only section is on rhythmic accuracy and expression I gather? edit - on further review I see, you're just covering the difficult note changes to watch for noises.
The idea is to cover only the specific techniques that occur in that specific tune - so if there's a D to E with a G gracenote, I won't include a plain D to E.

Yes, I am aiming for the "elements" to be brought into rhythmic competence (on the plain notes and gracenotes, I also have them flex the note timing). I am also looking to bring the overall speed of the embellishments up to something that is OK for a tune played slowly.

Quote:
How do you gate progression through the phases?
For those whom this is a first or second tune I take about 3-4 weeks to work through all of what I've presented here. Further down the line, I would expect students to direct themselves through these sheets on their own in a week or two. The next step will be to have them produce the sheets themselves, though I haven't been running this long enough to see if this approach works, but I think it will.

Quote:
I think I would build up the latter half of the elements section and the 1 bar phrases into a small group of 2, 4 or 8-bar exercises <snip>I find in my own playing that practicing very short (1-bar or note+single movement) sections is tedious <snip>The hard part is putting enough into each exercise that you're in the difficulty sweet spot <snip>
That's an interesting idea(s). Part of what I'm trying to do is get away from requiring lots of mechanical exercises that don't - in my opinion - add much to the developing musician until he has the maturity to handle them. I've been watching my students struggle through doublings scales and the like and I genuinely don't see that they get much benefit from it. Once they've got thirty, forty, fifty tunes under their fingers they will appreciate and benefit from heavier technical exercises but I think for someone with maybe four or five hours tuition under their belt tying it directly to an end result is of more interest.
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Old 01-29-2015, 08:32 AM   #5
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

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Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
Part of what I'm trying to do is get away from requiring lots of mechanical exercises that don't - in my opinion - add much to the developing musician until he has the maturity to handle them. I've been watching my students struggle through doublings scales and the like and I genuinely don't see that they get much benefit from it.
I see what you mean. Thinking about super-slow-motion kung fu-style practice, it really isn't so bad to do 1-bar repetitions because they're so spread out. For a beginner this is a more bite-sized approach.

I do like how you compile this into a 1 or 2 page study sheet. I think most teachers follow Bob's example and do things on the fly. I think the student is more likely to engage in targeted practice if they can easily view, remember, transport, and generally access their assignment for the week.

I have a couple of students who are entering grade IV competition. Each week I make a clean photocopy of their march and mark it up with the specific sections that they need to work on (almost always tachums, it seems ). I think your approach might save some paper. If I broke the tune down like this I could just indicate which embellishments, 1- or 2-bar phrases need to be addressed for the next lesson.
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Old 01-29-2015, 08:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

I think this is great, and I do something similar with my students. Giving students the opportunity to learn embellishments in the context of a tune gets them more excited than practicing scales or exercises alone. I take the phrase approach and also give exercises that help establish the muscle memory needed to perform the embellishments found therein. It seems to work.
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Old 01-29-2015, 12:08 PM   #7
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

My instructor has students keep a spiral notebook. She puts directions on what to practice in the notebook. It's really handy both for practice during the week, and also to look back and review something if you've forgotten. Like I could look back at the notes from the piobairechd I was learning three years ago to see what advice I had been given.

In my experience, this method does have the benefit you describe of re-enforcing the concept of directed practice.

I read an interview in a guitar magazine once, and this guy offered that you can learn everything there is to learn about technique, and never learn to make music, but if you start out learning to make music, it will necessarily involve learning technique. I think that's what's nice about the Sandy Jones tutor book. You learn some technqiues, and then there's a tune that uses only the techniques you have learned. Then you learn some more, and get a new tune, and so forth.
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Old 02-21-2015, 07:45 AM   #8
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

Breaking it down like this is how I learn new tunes. First I get the big notes under my fingers, using the simpler grace notes that I can handle for rhythm and expressions and then I go back and add in the harder grace notes, breaking it down into short phrases or even by the measure if the grace notes are finger twisting for me.

I learn mostly by ear (it's how I learned guitar) and had to self teach myself a lot through the dark ages before the internet really caught on with piping. I learn faster and more accurately that way, because when my fingers know where to go for the big notes, it's easier to add in the grace notes in.
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Old 02-21-2015, 11:14 AM   #9
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

I am an enthusiast of directed practice. Adult beginners can get bogged down in all the exercise sheets and all the scales, out of context. The learning of cuttings and embellishments does so much better when they are attached to melodies. Since the piping world is well endowed with tunes of great simplicity but with strong melodies, matching grace note instruction to appropriate tunes is not hard at all.

By phrase and by melody. Special exercises can be made out of the most difficult note and grace note combinations, for repetitive work.

Time signature and rhythmic structure, tone row and melodic line, tempos all go along for the ride with grace note learning.

But one thing I would NOT do is let a student learn a tune without the gracing. The have a huge impact on expression, and adding them i later is almost like learning a new tune.
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Old 02-22-2015, 09:42 AM   #10
CalumII
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Default Re: Deconstructing tunes

Quote:
Originally Posted by David View Post
Adult beginners can get bogged down in all the exercise sheets and all the scales, out of context.
I'm coming to the conclusion this is true for all learners. Having started doing this, I find myself rejigging my teaching of the basics to get to a point where I can focus on this stuff much sooner.
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