Reading is taught in combination with ear training in this studio. Often students
learn to read without a connection to the feeling of the rhythm or a sense
of the tonal structure. Thus, the music often sounds rather mechanical and
disconnected rhythmically. In this studio ear training
preparation is done as much as possible before the student tackles a reading
challenge. The student is then more likely to have greater success playing
accurately without the distraction of making sounds that are not in congruence
with the music.
All students learn how to say rhythms in syllables, drawing from Indian solkatu
and from African drumming. While the traditional counting by numbers is certainly
useful structurally, rhythmic solfege allows the student to recite rhythms
at performance tempo even with the most advanced compositions. Students quickly
are able to read rhythms sometimes three levels higher than their playing
level. They often synthesize complex rhythmic structures with ease, especially
if they have Non-European backgrounds.
Younger students study solfege (i.e. The Sound of Music) in addition
to reading. Transfer students and adults are encouraged to use solfege, but
are not required. Solfege gives the student a sense of tonal organization
that helps retain melodies and makes the student less reliant on finger numbers
as an approach to learning their instrument. Using the voice also helps create
a more lyrical tone and sense of phrasing on the piano.
Feeling the sense movement underlying a piece of music is an important part
of the students training. Students have much more fluidity and rhythmic
conviction when they have a visceral connection to it. Chris Chalfant draws
from her extensive training in Dalcroze Eurhythmics and dance of many cultures
as part of the training. Typically, when a student does not get a rhythm,
they dance the phrase to match the feeling of the rhythm and then go back
to the piano with an accurate interpretation of the music.
The student is encouraged to listen to music to enhance the learning experience.
Going to hear music live is especially encouraged as it gives a fuller sense
of the musical experience both as listener and performer. It gives the student
a context so that they are thinking beyond the lesson itself. Students are
often encouraged to listen to particular pieces of music to get a sense of
style and form. Students who study jazz and improvisation learn music from
recordings in addition to their other studies. Attention is given to matching
certain elements with precise phrasing, rhythm and articulation, and sometimes
the student uses the recordings as a jumping off point for improvisation.
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