ConCan

Music Examination Systems in Canada

An overview of the music conservatories used in Canada and the music examination boards, including RCM, ConCan and CNCM.

Ideas for Practicing Piano Technique

Try as I might, some students just loathe practicing their technical exercises. You know the ones - scales, chords and arpeggios. I must admit that when I was their age, I wasn't too keen on practicing them either. However, if you want to "level up" and/or ace this portion of your music examination, you can't get away from it. You have to practice them. A lot.

If I have to ask my students to play a scale more than once in a lesson, I ask my them to play to play it differently. For instance, if a student played it legato the first time, they could play it staccato the second time.

But why stop there? Change the rhythm and make it sound like a real tune. Zig-zag back and forth so it doesn't sound like a scale. Change where you place the accents so that it's on every fifth note instead of every second or third.

The bottom line is that some degree of repetition is needed, so why not make it interesting for yourself?

Sheet Music Plus and Passive Income Streams

I like to shop locally whenever possible. However, sometimes it's just much more economical and just gosh darn convenient to shop online. Digital orders are just a couple of clicks away. You see with the ads on the side that I'm affiliated with Amazon. If you check out the ads, you'll see that I'm actually able to tailor them so that you will see music related items. Teachers, you can do this on your studio website and/or your blog, providing that your account allows you to host ads (for instance, Wordpress.com blogs don't allow ads but Wordpress.org blogs do).

Now, there is another joint in town though that sells a great selection of print and digital sheet music, learning aids and other musical goodies - Sheetmusicplus.com , This is the place that Rideau Music directed their customers to when Gill brothers closed their doors last year.

One of the cool things is that music teachers can create music lists for their students. Anything to make it easier for our busy piano parents to buy the right materials, I say. Some of my piano parents already shop online for sheet music.

Here are my lists:

Fellow music teachers, if you sign up for a teacher account, you can register for their Easy Rebates for Music Teachers program. You can earn 8% cash back on your sheet music purchases. Not only that, by creating music lists and sharing them with your students, family and friends, you will earn a little bit with every sale.

If you're looking for an additional income stream that requires very little effort, check this out. Just bear in mind that as with any passive income stream online, it does take time to build up your presence. You will need to go in an occasionally tweak the keywords and update your lists. You will also need to remember to periodically share the lists with your network of family, friends and students via print, email, your website and/or social networking.

Good luck and happy shopping!

RCM and ConCan on Youtube

Students - did you know that the Royal Conservatory of Music and Conservatory Canada have their own Youtube Channels? Check out tips, great performances, repertoire demos and interviews with musicians past and present. Conservatory Canada Youtube Channel

Royal Conservatory of Music Youtube Channel

Music Practicing 101 - Keyboard Harmony Demo

Another quick demo primarily for students studying through the Conservatory Canada system (although anyone interested in chording can still benefit from this). ConCan students in Grade 5 and up have to demonstrate that they can harmonize a melody. In Grade 5, they use the Tonic (I) and Dominant (V). As they progress to higher grades, they must be able to harmonize using a wider selection of chords. From a speed learning perspective as well as a piano accompanist perspective, I must say that keyboard harmony is a necessity! It's saved my bacon on numerous occasions. This video shows you how to practice when you are just starting out with keyboard harmony.

 

On Conservatory Canada's Contemporary Idioms Syllabus

Last year, Conservatory Canada released their Contemporary Idioms syllabus. I must admit, I was slow to get on the bandwagon at first, partially because I wanted to hear comments from other teachers and partially because I wanted to take my time looking over the requirements. A few weeks ago, I sat in on one of ConCan's workshops on the syllabus. Unfortunately, I could only attend one out of the four sessions.

Derek Stoll and Steven Fielder made the workshop exciting, interactive and dynamic. It's an exciting program. I imagine teachers are seeing this as a way to keep some students from quitting in frustration because "piano is boring" or because they "hate their songs".

Students study a variety of the contemporary genres: rock, ballad/blues, jazz, swing, Latin, traditional/folk and ragtime. Unlike the traditional conservatory systems, memory isn't stressed. However, students don't get off quite that easily. They need to learn their chords extremely well because they are expected to sight-read and improvise off a lead sheet (or jazz chart). They have to determine which style is appropriate for these selections (e.g., swing pattern, waltz, Latin).

In addition, the technical requirements are very challenging. My older students and I are finding that after years of playing the good old major, harmonic and melodic minor scales, our fingers and brains are running circles with the old church modes and jazz melodic minor scales. We'll get it though, with a lot of patience and practice! Thankfully, we agreed to use this year to learn the new requirements and to simply explore the program. Next year, they'll be more comfortable to take the test.

I actually don't mind learning all these "new" scales. I've been itching to play different technical exercises. Although adding a new program into my studio means the investment of more music (so close to RCM's upcoming release of their new syllabus and books), I am drooling over all these songs that I can add to my gigging repertoire.

My 10 or so students who are trying out the program are enjoying it so far. Some of them are a little frightened about improvising in a certain style or the new technical requirements or reading from a lead sheet but overall, the switch has re-energized their playing and practice. One mother commented that her daughter is practicing "all the time" now, which wasn't the case last year.

The program is not without glitches. I heard there were a few bumps during the last exam session. ConCan was quick to update their syllabus online to reflect the feedback they received from students and teachers. I wrote them yesterday, requesting they ensure the next edition of the syllabus includes the correct book titles as Rideau Music and I have had a tough time tracking down some of the books. They responded to me right away, assurring me that they will make the necessary corrections.

It's a bit of a challenge to figure out how the eight-level system compares to the traditional 10-grade system. ConCan clarified things a bit for me there as well. Level 1 corresponds to Grade 1 in the RCM and CoCan Syllabi. Level 4 is about Grade 5/6, while Level 8 is the equivalent to Grade 10 in the traditional programs. I have heard some teachers say that they're not going to teach beyond Level 4 (some up to Level 6). Lucky me, I have three in Level 4/5, three in Level 7 and one in Level 8.

The program isn't for all teachers or all students, but that can also be said for all the conservatory systems and beginner method books. Some students are clearly "Royal Conservatory" or "Conservatory Canada" material. Then, there are the students who could thrive in either system. And then, there's the group of students who are "just playing for fun".

Regardless of which stream is best for a student, we can incorporate elements from the other programs to enhance our students' musical education.

It is wonderful to see how the resources and programs are evolving to meet the needs and interests of students and teachers.

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