Flynn Piano Studio’s latest group lesson focused on the closest musical periods to us, the Romantic and Modern Periods (follow these links to see other group lesson details: Classical Period Group Lesson; Baroque Period Group Lesson). I found this lesson from last Saturday to be the most fun and rewarding, personally.
Performances are the standard beginning to my group lessons, so we started with my students playing some pieces they have been learning during one-on-one lessons.
- The tunes get longer and stronger.
- The louds get louder and the quiets get quieter.
- The mood changes are much bigger and happen more often.
- The orchestras get bigger.
- The music goes on for a longer time.
- There is more music with the same names as music from the classical period. So there are a lots of symphonies, sonatas, and concertos. There is also music with some new names, such as symphonic poems.”
As far as the Modern Period goes, I told students that Modern music uses notes that sound unusual together (I mentioned the word dissonance but didn’t use the term much throughout the class time, especially considering some of the students were quite young).To illustrate the Modern and Romantic eras, I played a bit of Bela Bartok and also a snippet of Mendelssohn’s song, “Sweet Remembrance.” The students weren’t convinced which era Bartok was from, but I only played a short section of Mendelssohn when students were confident that it was a Romantic Period piece. I played a snippet of Chopin as well and asked students what the mood of the piece was since Romantic music tends to have one mood in particular for each piece.
The musical spelling game reinforced note-reading. I found it went smoothly and everyone got involved. The idea of spelling words on a keyboard is not original to me, but I modified the ideas I’d seen to suit what I wanted to do. The photo above is a treble and bass clef which I drew the night before the lesson using a permanent marker. I also used medium-sized buttons (7 is plenty) for students to delineate individual notes. The 6 participants all sat on the floor around a small coffee table and I assigned them a word one by one. We started around the circle using the treble clef as the spelling board and then did another round using the bass clef. I wanted everyone to get involved, so when someone would complete a word, I asked others if the word just spelled was correct. I found a helpful spelling word list (Spelling Word List) which I printed only for myself (which saved time and paper since I didn’t create individual cards for each word that students spelled).
While the game was finishing up I played a youtube video of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, particularly the variation of the Quaker song, “Tis a Gift to be Simple” (on this video it is from minutes 20:30-24:00). After the game had finished I turned on Copland’s The Cat & The Mouse. The young girl who plays in this video did a great job and it caught everyone’s attention. Two questions I asked continuously to encourage listening were: “When do you think you hear the cat?” and “When do you hear the mouse?”
A quiz on music periods was a great way to end the lesson. I would play a music clip and ask students what era they thought it was from and also why they thought so. “Classics for Kids” have a selection of various music which uses Naxos recordings, so I used their website for this quiz (Music Clip Links). Below is a list of the songs I chose for each period and also my notes of why I thought a piece sounded like it was from a certain era.
The oldest two participants in this quiz had a more comprehensive understanding of Classical music in general and their ears were better trained, but it was nice to see younger students participating, too. If nothing else, this quiz was a good way to introduce famous pieces of music.
Brandenburg Concerto: trill, various voices
Four Seasons: terraced dynamics, trills, lots going on!
Turkish Rondo: ABA pattern
Symphony No. 8: simple, balanced
Hungarian Dance No. 5: Dramatic, sweeping
The Happy Farmer: one mood
The Peer Gynt Suite: sneaky mood
The Planets: unusual sounds placed together
Children’s Corner Suite: rhythmic, unusual sounds placed together
Hary Janos Suite: experimental (i.e. bells)
Over the summer, some of my blog posts will be about various music games online that can be a help to students’ rhythm, note-reading, etc. So more posts to come soon, God willing.