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Teaching groups by rote

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  • #89767
    Angela Biggs
    Member

    Good morning!

    Following up on my Community College class last February, I’m going to be teaching a one-hour harp workshop through the local arts center (WCCMA) this Monday. I have three Harpsicles now (yay!), and class size is limited to six participants.

    The workshop is going to address posture, hand position, finger numbering; and I’m using some simple tunes to introduce 2nd finger plucking, 1-2-3-4 sequences, and perhaps some thirds and fourths, depending on time. If there’s any time left at the end, I’m going to introduce the parts of the harp while I retune the harps to the pentatonic scale, and then give everyone some free time on the instruments (thanks to [Jack](http://www.harpcolumn.com/users/jack-shuttleworth/profile) for the [idea](http://www.harpcolumn.com/forums/teaching-the-harp/posts/31348)!). I also have a very easy tune on standby in case things goes a *lot* faster than I expect.

    I’m pretty confident about this class, but I’m a little nervous because I’ve never taught by rote. Do any of you have any tips on how to go about doing this? I know it’s common in the Celtic tradition, but I’ve done some dry-runs alone in my practice room, and it takes so long to describe anything that I feel like students will lose interest in what I’m asking them to do by the time they know what it is!

    The attached picture has the tunes I’ll be using. The “Think of Me” portion is the first thing we’ll be working on. Participants will play the bass line of the “teacher copy,” one handed or in octaves. Those with a strong music background will be given the “musical student” music and a pillar prompter, and invited to pluck with finger 2, or use the fingerings written — and even place according to the bracketing if they want to attempt it. “Clock Chime” (a modified Whittington chime) is the next music I have lined up — it uses all fingers, moves around a little more on the harp, and is two-handed but only uses one hand at a time.

    If you have any suggestions for teaching this music by rote, please share!

    Thank you!
    Angela

    #89768
    andee-craig
    Participant

    Well for starters, I prefer the term ‘learning by ear’ (which in the Irish and Scottish traditions is actually more accurate) rather than ‘rote’. Rote just sounds like such a boring drudge-y task.

    First thing: play the tune for them a few times so they get what it’s supposed to sound like in their heads. Then start with the first phrase (phrases may or may not correspond to measures). Don’t say every note, maybe just like this for example, “First phrase, place four fingers starting with thumb on high c and go down.” So they’ll then play cBAG. Go around the room to make sure everyone’s got it before moving on. Then do the next phrase. Make sure everyone’s got it. Then remind them of the first phrase, play the second and make sure everyone’s got the two phrases together before moving on.

    Other examples of describing phrases: ‘Place three fingers from the D, skip over the blue F and play up.’ ‘Place three fingers up from C on every other string’ Or if they know what it is ‘A triad on C’

    Does this make sense?

    #89769
    andee-craig
    Participant

    I just realized your class is only an hour long. That’s a lot of stuff to cover in an hour *plus* learning a tune!

    #89770
    Angela Biggs
    Member

    That does make sense, and it’s very helpful! Thank you!

    Just to clarify, most of the participants won’t be doing anything with the melody line of “Think of Me.” Is this still lot to do? This is the first workshop, but hopefully it’s going to become a series; I’ll have a much better idea of pacing by the time I pack up on Monday night. 🙂

    #89771
    andee-craig
    Participant

    Yes it will still work, and be even easier, I think if they’re just doing left hand stuff. You just may fit it all into an hour–good luck!

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