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Old 07-17-2019, 08:24 AM   #1
3D Piper
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Default Better teaching methods?

I am always looking for better teaching methods.

While I understand you may bend teaching methods to match a students needs, what is your basic teaching method?

Do you use a tutor?

Do you teach that goals must be achieved before moving on?

Do you teach basic music theory?

Do you teach to tap your foot while playing?

I have most of the tutors and the range of teaching is wide- from starting the student on advanced tunes that are simplified, to very methodical incremental lessons.

My favorite tutor is geared toward kids and teaches simple tunes for the skill level you are working on. Plenty of simple tunes with no embellishments, plenty of tunes with one-sound embellishments, etc. At the end of the tutor you finally get STB and some simple two part strathspeys and reels. To me, this method makes the most sense.

The last highland games we attended, I walked around to other tents and chatted about teaching methods. I was very surprised to hear "we don't use tutors, we just start new members right on band tunes".. Wha? No Hot Crossed Buns? No theory? Others said "we use a modified Sandy Jones tutor"
Am I missing something? I hope to crank out competent pipers and drummers. Is the monkey-see-monkey-do method the key?

Sadly, even with the best instruction, it comes down to the student to apply what they have learned. I remind my students: "I will not make you a bagpiper, YOU will make you a bagpiper." My job is to straighten their sails and point their SS Bagpiper boat back in the right direction, not move their fingers for them. If students don't have the motivation to do the work themselves, they will never progress.

-Matthew
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Old 07-17-2019, 11:15 AM   #2
bob864
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Default Re: Better teaching methods?

It seems to me that the method you describe would probably be pretty good. It sounds a lot like how band an orchestra is taught in school. That's a big industry with a lot of competition to find the best methods.

If I was a student in a music education program and had the opportunity to do a research project, I might do a summary of teaching methods used in band and orchestra and how those might be applied to piping.

I've never taught anyone and probably never will, but if I did, I'm intrigued by the idea of starting them blowing drones fairly early in the process.
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Old 07-18-2019, 10:00 AM   #3
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Better teaching methods?

There are so many things to address (both in regard to the thoughtful initial post and to teaching methods). There is the philosophy/perspective of the instructor, just as there is of the band (if one is involved). Does that band seek musicians, or are they more about strapping on a kilt and "having fun" (frankly, I cannot have fun if the playing sucks...but that's just my perspective)? Is the student naive/unrealistic (which won't be for long) about the progression, and willing to put in the effort? Are they an audio, visual or kinesthetic learner (the latter, though more rare, is often a nightmare for memorization)? And so forth.

When working with young ones, I first want to know if this is the child's idea or the parents'. If that latter, I might be dealing with a parent seeking vicarious pleasure over something they never did...and less motivation from the young person.

I believe very much in getting fundamentals down solidly; for with the basics learned, along with open clean playing, I believe all else comes easy. For that, I do believe in tutorials. Not everyone is an auditory learner (most, in fact, are visual); but playing a tune is helpful in the process. I learned, like many, from the CoP 'green book.' But as I became an instructor, I felt that recognizable tunes help. I'd never heard of "Scots Wha Hae". I started switching to the Piping Centre book. More expensive, for sure, but I liked early recognizable tunes with a logical, progression on the fundamentals.
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Old 07-18-2019, 04:48 PM   #4
Joseph Diodato
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Default Re: Better teaching methods?

I'm but a student myself, albeit with a fantastic teacher! I thought I'd chip in with my n=1 experience based on my last six or months on the practice chanter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3D Piper
Do you use a tutor?
We use the NPC tutor book, also supplemented by Rhythmic Fingerwork, various handout sheets, and a set list of tunes from the local pipers' society (mostly consisting of common massed band tunes and those played in our region). The "Green Book" is still considered the gold standard of tutors, but I think the NPC tutor will definitely take its place over the course of the next decade!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3D Piper
Do you teach that goals must be achieved before moving on?
I'd say my instructor takes a pretty regimented approach in his teaching. (As I hope all instructors do!) he really emphasizes a focus on the fundamental building blocks and making sure I understand each tune idom before proceeding. We're just now starting to do some strathspey exercises, and I feel like I can pick up most marches and slow airs/hymns with a bit of woodshedding.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3D Piper
Do you teach basic music theory?
Not in my case. I came to the pipes knowing a lot of music theory, and we occasionally touch base on things specific to piping as they come up. Mostly matters of interpretation and how different idioms are expressed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3D Piper
Do you teach to tap your foot while playing?
My instructor hasn't taught one way or the other, but we're both definitely foot tappers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob864
I might do a summary of teaching methods used in band and orchestra and how those might be applied to piping.
I think this is a fantastic idea, although I'm not sure how transferable any promosing pedagoical practices might be. Speaking as someone who was practically raised in school band and orchestra programs, the sheer number of instruments and techniques necessisitates a common core progression of muscianship and technique.

Perhaps the greatest thing that piping tutors could do would be to make the tune selection for appealing to beginners, as EquusRacer put so well.
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Old 07-20-2019, 04:01 PM   #5
Jim Fogelman
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Default Re: Better teaching methods?

My band has a packet that we hand out to beginners.

I make sure students get the basics down (good finger position, able to go up and down the scale, with and without grace notes) before moving on to embellishments. Depending on how the student is doing with the embellishments, I may have the student try a simple tune that utilizes only this embellishments.

I am a stickler for understanding how to read the music (I am a high school music teacher) and not relying on hearing the tune to be able to play it.

Foot tapping I donít care as much about but do focus on a it a little to make it easier to start marching.

Iím also of the opinion that students should get on the pipes as early as possible. When I taught the high school pipe band I would issue pipes right away to new students so they could get the mechanics down (just chanter - students had to play a HA for a solid minute before they could even start playing tunes on the pipes though). With regular bands this is more difficult as most bands donít have pipes for new students to play on.
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Old 07-20-2019, 04:15 PM   #6
Joseph Diodato
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Default Re: Better teaching methods?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Fogelman View Post
Iím also of the opinion that students should get on the pipes as early as possible. When I taught the high school pipe band I would issue pipes right away to new students so they could get the mechanics down
I wonder if we might see a shift in the usual approaches to piping in that students are able to learn the proper mechanics and technique needed for blowing and perhaps a simple scale early on. Even the NPC tutor begins to introduce the actual pipes quite early on!
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Old 07-21-2019, 03:49 PM   #7
CalumII
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Default Re: Better teaching methods?

I have for a while been introducing sol-fa and takadimi work with my students, and I have found it so useful that I am considering abandoning the use of the chanter altogether until the student can sight-sing accurately relatively easily.


The other thing I've done recently is ditch the traditional method of teaching via scales of ornaments and hacking slowly through tunes. Instead, I've built a series of short melodies that start off only using one hand, and I grade the progression so that the student can play each one successfully with only a little practice. I have them beat time and then use a metronome right from the start.



I've now got my first few students through to their first few "real" tunes using this method and so far I'm extremely pleased with the results.
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Old 07-31-2019, 07:32 AM   #8
piperdoc
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Default Re: Better teaching methods?

This might be a little piping heresy.

I encourage the students to listen to music...all kinds of music in addition to the great pipers. I want them to get the concepts of rhythm, melody, time signature , etc. from music they like. It is kind of the "Mr. Holland's Opus" approach after he had failed to impart classical music theory/knowledge to his class. He asked "What kind of music do you like?" He then played "Lover's Concerto" by the Toys which the students readily identified. He then transitioned their thought to Bach's Minuet in G as a classic example of the Ionian scale.

I assist and encourage them to train their ears to the pipe chanter scale and listen for contemporary songs or tunes THEY like and try to emulate them on the practice chanter. If they can hear/sing the tune they can play they tune. (Not quite "if you build it, he will come" but you get the idea.)

This segues into putting the melodies of the traditional tunes in their heads. It also gives them to opportunity to start self-critique of tunes/melodies they know.

I use the Green Book but do not like the fact that theory really isn't discussed until Lesson 8. I also use excerpts from Russ Spaulding's The Piper's Primer.

Great question and discussion Matthew.
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