Mixed ... rhythm: musical activities for young pianists growing up
It’s difficult to read music!, I’m so afraid of mistaking that my hands are sweating!, I have fun improvising!, I’ve found the sounds of the song!, I can choose the chords and sing on them!, This text works!, Classical music? Can we play Pirates of the Caribbean? Requests, difficulties, satisfactions of pianists struggling with music with the aim to play on their own or all together. Can an instrument teacher satisfy the students’ needs without neglecting musical needs? Is it possible to play and have fun, to compose lyrics and melodies, to improvise, to analyze the melody, harmony, form and dynamics of pieces listened to and performed, to create accompaniments and arrangements? The challenge of “Mixed rhythm” involved music in its whole: same elements but combined differently within contexts, eras and inner worlds. The rules of music are tools to help learn the rules of life! Piano, violin, percussions, recorder; instruments to grow, to develop personal identities that interact, share, reflect, make conscious choices for one’s personal life.
The educational path was conducted in Palermo throughout the academic year with the first-year and second-year students of the music/piano oriented lower secondary school Ics Cinisi and Ics Perez-Madre Teresa di Calcutta. It was realized entirely by the students, and the pieces were all performed during lessons or performances. The path was adapted to the students’ individual skills in order to enable them to carry out all the activities, all together; therefore, they worked all together not only on the performance, but even on all musical elements - pitch/melody, intensity/dynamics, duration/time/meter/rhythm, timbre/instrumental blending – and related activities: reading-writing, listening and analysis, single and ensemble performance, composition, improvisation, transposition. Rhythmic cells: quarter note, half-note, whole note, half-note with dot, up to double eighth note and more complex rhythmic cells. This procedure can be adapted to any instrument due to the sharing of rhythmic cells. The 4 instrument teachers can cooperate and make the work consistent and gradual for all, converging to orchestra activities. Tools: piano, keyboards, lyrics and CD, worksheets, scores of different genres and eras on rhythmic cells to be used, staffs, percussions, sounds/gestures, voice. As regards space, the path can be conducted in the classroom equipped with a digital piano, an IWB, a sound system, Internet connection.
The skills, goals and training objectives selected by the teacher for this experience are shown below.
- Sound perception
- Reading and Writing
- Use of conventional analogic music notation
Lower secondary school
- Understands and evaluates events, materials, and musical works recognising their meanings, also in relation to his/her own musical experience and the different historical/sociological context.
- Actively participating in music experiences through the execution and the interpretation of vocal and instrumental music pieces belonging to different genres and cultures.
- Capacity to conceive and create music and multimedia messages, also though improvisation or collective elaboration processes, using also IT tools, in critical confrontation with models belonging to the musical heritage
- Reading and Writing
- Using different notation systems functional to reading, analysis and reproduction of pieces of music
- Integrating one’s own music experience with other knowledge and practices using appropriate codes and codification systems
As regards the musical instrument
LISTENING – The students learned how to:
- recognize rhythmic cells and their combinations
- distinguish meter, agogics, dynamics, melodic register
- connect rhythmic-melodic-instrumental sound, context and genre
- analyze the form and compare the musical and verbal phrase
- distinguish the musical instruments in the pieces
- analyze minor, major and seventh chords
PRODUCTION – The students learned how to:
- perform rhythmic cells on dynamics, agogics, harmony, melody, phrasing
- reproduce melodies by ear on known rhythms and write them on the staff
- reproduce melodies by ear on rhythms not known yet
- perform melodies by ear on rhythms not know yet
- justify their performance choices with regard to agogics, dynamics, phrasing, on the basis of melody, text, context
- perform pieces for four/six hands and with other instruments
- improvise on classical, blues and pop rhythms, melodies and harmonies
- realize simple accompaniments on chords and arpeggios
READING-WRITING – The students learned how to:
- use the conventional notation in a progressive way and depending on the performances
- read while striking up the pieces to be performed and memorized.
- compose and reformulate simple phrases (proposal/answer) on known rhythmic-melodic cells.
- transcribe, transport, compose, create variations on known rhythmic-melodic cells.