The curriculum is goal-oriented, and these goals occur on several levels. The primary goal is the enjoyment of music over the student's lifetime. To achieve this, we must reach the subgoals of competence on the instrument, and familiarity with the mechanics of music itself. Competence on the instrument is achieved through skillbuilding subgoals such as learning the various scales, working exercises and etudes, playing duets and preparing solos. The familiarity of musical mechanics is achieved mostly through the study of Music Theory. Many of the technical and skillbuilding activities in my curriculum have been designed to reinforce the student's theory knowledge as well as his/her playing ability. This is done by using the best teaching materials available, and by supplimenting commerical materials with additional materials of my own. Students contribute to this also by writing out some of their more basic technical exercises. This conditions them to the kind of self-reliance that performing artists must have to unleash their own creativity, and gives them practical experience in a number of things that would be hard to learn on an intellectual level alone.Beginners generally start off playing by ear. Most have had recorder in school, and the fingering is very close to that of the C scale on Sax and Flute, and the low F scale on Clarinet. This activity has several purposes. First, it gives the student the gratification of actually being able to play a song in the first lesson or two. Second, it empowers them to explore music on their own and discover for themselves the necessity of the other skills to be learned. Third, it helps to solidify hand and finger position before bad habits can be formed.
Parallel study in the Master Theory Workbook teaches them the basics of reading music and counting rhythms. They can also reinforce their knowlege of notes on the staff by writing down the pitches of the songs they play by ear. Once some basic counting ability is established, beginners settle in for their primary curriculum--the first two volumes of Standard of Excellence. Play-along CDs are employed, and used--along with theory--for problem solving and playing discipline.
Intermediate Students continue into the second volume of Standard of Excellence, followed by the Rubank Intermediate Method for their instrument. Duet and sight-reading books are added to the curriculum. Students play duets with the instructor and with themselves via tape. Duets are selected to highlight both independent playing and the art of harmonizing. Sight-reading is done in the WB/Belwin Tunes for Technic books, which also introduces them to a world of common-knowledge songs. Compact, memorized scale studies are introduced with the purposes of solidifying technique, increasing comfort when playing by ear, and preparing the student for All-District band auditions.
Advanced Students diverge into methods that are traditional for their instrument. Pieces from the instrument's classical reperatoire may also be studied. More advanced duet and sight-reading books are employed, as well as etude books. A new generation of compact, memorized scale workouts is employed to hammer in proper technique, aid in problem solving, and provide a basic standard of competence. Students write these exercises themselves by transposing from an example document given to them. Advanced theory (harmony & arranging) and Jazz Improvisation are available at the student's option.
Basic Theory Curriculum consists of Master Theory Workbook volumes 1-3. This focuses on notation, counting rhythms, key signatures & scales, hearing scales and intervals, basic chords and two-part harmony. Final competency is to play a simple song by ear, write it down, add a parallel harmony part, and select guitar/piano chords to go with it. This is required of all students.
Advanced Theory Curriculum (optional) In order to keep theory study relative to the playing of band instruments, I put advanced theory students into Harmony and Theory, from the Musicians Institute Press. Here, they deal with harmony and melody issues in the environment and language where they're most likely to need them--in the field of pop music and jazz.
I have dropped the use of Master Theory Books 4, 5 & 6 because classical theory is available as a credit course in most high schools, and its nomenclature is different from what the student will find in the very circumstances where they need their theory the most.
Students who don't have good piano keyboard skills are encouraged to use software such as Noteworthy Composer to assist them with their advanced theory.
Jazz Improvisation Curriculum (optional) is itself largely improvised. Students use How to Play Jazz and Improvise (Jamey Aebersold Vol.1) as the core text. Emphasis is on improvising by ear, using basic scales. Students learn and transcribe jazz songs and solos by ear from recordings. They also learn about various song forms, and standard chord progressions. Jazz/swing style is learned through Jazz Conception by Jim Snidero and exercises in the Basic Jazz Conception for Saxophone books by Lennie Niehaus.
Other course material here is provided by the instructor. Cassette tapes, transcribed solos, etc.
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