What does pizza have to do with studying music theory?

"Pizza" probably isn't the first word that comes to mind when you think about studying music theory. Now, it's probably the first thing my students will think of whenever they study music theory. The idea of hosting a pizza music theory party came from my colleague, Dorcas Ng. Whenever she shared pictures from her music theory and harmony study sessions, it looked like the students were having a great time studying and eating pizza.

This is my first year teaching music theory as a group class. It didn't take long for me to realize that my Basic Rudiments / Theory 1 class would need coaching on certain areas, in addition to extra help on how to study music theory. It didn't take much convincing to tell them we should have a music theory study party with pizza.

Three out of four of my students in the class attended the music theory party this past Saturday. The party lasted for 2.5 hours. We got to a slow start because everyone slept in. Then, of course, the weather.

Each student bought study snacks to share. I purchased two 12-inch pizzas from Sobeys from the deli section.

The class was also part of an experiment. In October, the students drafted up rules of conduct for the studio. Each time a  student exhibited good manners as per "the rules", I added a marble into the Good Manners Jar. If they filled it up to the line (which they did), then I would get them a special dessert for the music theory study party.

The first hour of the music theory study session was dedicated to review. I zoomed in on the typical troublespots: the Circle of Fifths, intervals, rhythm and chords.

My students came up with a unique mnemonic to remember the Circle of Fifths:

We then took a 10-minute break, which gave me enough time to prepare lunch. One student played a game, another jammed on a keyboard, while the third student sketched.

The next part to our "How to study music theory" session was dedicated to working through a practice test. It was open book and I allowed my students to ask each other questions. This way, they could start developing their self-study music theory strategies.

During lunch, we chatted about non-music topics, such as everyone's plans for the weekend. We also discussed history, travelling and inventions.

The final part of the music theory study session was dedicated to vocabulary. My students took turns being the Quiz Master. It was a delight to listen to them give each other hints:

Students A & B: FORTE! FORTE!

Student C: I can't think! You're both too loud.


Student A: Rall - en - ta - - - n - - - d - - - - o - - - - - -

Student B: To get slower?

I took a snapshot of a couple of other cute definitions, mispronounciations and study helps that they came up with:

For homework, they are to complete the practice test. On Tuesday, they will write an in-class final examination.

Two of my students will write a music theory examination through either Royal Conservatory of Music or Conservatory Canada. The other two will continue to the next level before writing the official examination.

Afterwards, I asked each of my students if they gained a better understanding of music theory during the study session. The answer was a resounding "YES!" They also had a good deal of fun, whether it was when they were developing the Circle of Fifths mnemonic, drilling vocabulary or telling me, "Are you writing that down? You should post that on your Facebook."

Music theory has been one area that my students have called "boring". Teaching music theory in a class setting was my first step to changing things up. Hosting the music theory study / pizza party was another. It is my hope that the two changes make studying music theory a bit more interesting and enjoyable.