Rhythm, seasonal / holiday, Teaching Piano

Christmas Rhythm Learning Moments

As I’m sure is currently the case with many of you, my students are working on Christmas pieces along with their usual assignments.  As usual, a few of them have encountered rhythmic “simplifications” in their arrangements (Away in a Manger and Go Tell it on the Mountain come to mind).  After pointing it out the difference between what they played and what is on the page, together we made the executive decision to play the rhythm as it is normally heard.  We also took a moment to discover what is the actual rhythmic notation of the tune and then marked it in the score above the staff.  For a more complete discussion of this issue, check out this Forum Q&A post regarding rhythmic simplification in arrangements.

A few of my students in particular are really thriving on these Christmas pieces!  Once again, I am reminded of the value of learning familiar tunes.  I find that it gives students an extra boost in learning their pieces, since they can depend more on their ear for pitches/rhythms rather than their eyes.  This means they will learn the pieces quickly and more accurately.  I also find that playing familiar tunes is a huge motivator for students.  They love to be able to play tunes they know!

Hurrah for Christmas music!  :)

For a listing of free Christmas music arrangements on the internet, check out this post

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks | CC 2.0

Forum Q&A's, repertoire / methods, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

Q&A Forum | Rhythmic “Simplification” in Arrangements of Familiar Tunes

For last week’s Forum Q&A, I broached a few questions about memorization and many of you left comments regarding whether or not to require memorization for performances within your studio — but not many of you addressed my initial question about whether you consider the skill of memorization is essential to piano playing (i.e., do you think it is necessary/required for concert pianists to play by memory?  Why or why not?).  I discussed this topic further in yesterday’s post, which you can view here.  As always, it’s never too late to add your thoughts to this ongoing discussion.  =)

Today, however, marks the introduction of a new topic for discussion:

Many popular piano methods today include (as they should) arrangements of familiar tunes for students to learn.  This is great, because many students LOVE learning how to play tunes they are familiar with!  (Side note: click here to view a post regarding some thoughts on what makes a great piano method.)  However, these arrangements sometimes present a problem:

Oftentimes in arrangements, the rhythm of the tune is altered and “simplified” in order to accomodate the rhythmic values that the student has/hasn’t learned yet.  This is all fine and dandy, but as a teacher, what do you do when a student comes back the next week playing the rhythm “wrong”?

To give one example that frequently occurs with beginner students, I’ve heard many students return playing the rhythm of “Ode to Joy” with dotted-quarter-eighth rhythms instead of playing all quarter notes (despite the fact that we sightread it together with the rhythm as written).  How do you handle this situation: do you “fix” the student’s rhythm to match what is on the page even though it goes against their intuition, or do you “let it go?”

I’m sure many of us piano teachers have been in this situation before!  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Rick Harris | CC 2.0