Music Teaching Idea: Using Visual Aids to Help Introduce New Works

When introducing a new work to a student, I try to give him or her an idea of the form, era and genre. It's a little easier to get music teaching ideas when the composition has a descriptive title. Last month, one of my intermediate students started working on “Arabesque” by Génari Karganov (Royal Conservatory Grade 5). He's a delightful transfer student who excitedly says, “Sonatina!” when I ask him what he'd like to work on first. “I've been waiting to show you all week,” he'd say. This student has the same level of enthusiasm for all of his classical repertoire.

When we listened to the RCM CD recording of “Arabesque”, I asked my student to describe the music. Our discourse turned up: “graceful”, “lots of curve” and “flower”.

Then, I asked my student if he knew what an “arabesque” was. He answered, “No.” I shot up from my exercise ball, and did a quick online search for an arabesque. We found one that was licensed for reuse and printed one off:

I am pleased to say that one month later, my student still has the print-out of the arabesque clipped to his music. His shaping is coming along nicely. That was one music teaching idea that I'm glad I acted upon the moment it popped into my head.

One more example to share: My students and I have been exploring the music of Jennifer Ecklund of PIano Pronto. "No Limits" is extremely popular with my tween and teen boys in my studio.

When discussing choreography and the importance of our body language matching the music, my student came up with this to remind him how to end the piece:

As far as visual aids go, you can't miss that!

What about you? What kind of visual aids to use in your music teaching to help your students learn their pieces? Let the music teaching ideas come in!