Music Factory Clarinet & Saxophone Methods
The Linear Approach – “In one ear and out the other”
Over the years I have tried practically ever tutor book available, and have been continually dissatisfied with the underlying concept behind them. Without exception they are all linear in nature, all taking a “stepping stone” approach to learning - presenting a list of techniques and information in order of difficulty, starting with the simplest and progressively becoming more and more complex.
The problem with a linear approach is that the mind and body rarely learns in that way. What happens, time and time again, with the linear approach is that as soon as a student learns a particular technique or idea, the tutor book moves them onto another, and then another, and then yet another. There may well be a strong sense of progress, moving from piece to piece very quickly, but more often than not, the pieces haven’t been learnt in any depth. The student very quickly forgets what they have learnt in the previous pieces, while attempting the new ones. In linear learning there is no consolidation and students are not given the opportunity to learn deeply the fundamentals of music. In my experience, students learning in a linear fashion have a superficial understanding of music and their instrument.
The Holistic Approach
Holistic learning travels the path of a spiral, as opposed to the straight line of linear learning. The learning spiral is always turning in on itself and forever getting larger. This approach consolidates what has been learnt and builds a strong foundation for the student to begin new material and ideas. The essence of holistic learning is to build a solid base on which further learning can be achieved with confidence.
The Music Factory Method Books
The Music Factory Method Book 1 allows the student to learn and understand music and their instrument in a holistic way. The aim is to develop the student's overall musical ability right from the start. Rather than jumping from piece to piece, being confronted by something new at each turn, the book is set out in clear sections based on the 3 primary meters (time-signatures) – Simple 4 time (4/4), Simple 3 time (3/4) and Compound 2 time (6/8), each section beginning with a Rhythm Chart. This allows the student to build an ingrained knowledge of these primary meters. I have found over the years, that the most proficient students can feel the pulse and the meter strongly. This skill allows the student to build a solid platform on which further musicianship skills can be learnt.
How the book works
Students work on each section progressively until all the pieces in the section are mastered. Consequently the pieces are played many times and are learnt in far greater depth than it’s possible to convince a student to do using standard tutors. Once the student has learnt all the pieces in a given section, they are given a test on the whole section, the pieces performed correctly are marked off and the remaining will be continued until performed successfully (generally this takes another few weeks). As a result all students achieve a 100% success rate. Following the test, the student will start memorising the tunes from the beginning of the section as well as starting the next section.
The beauty of progressively working on the whole section is that the student's practice time gets longer and longer. Initially the student will work on the first tune and as they develop new pieces are introduced. The student continues to play from the beginning of the section, consolidating what they have done as well as having new pieces to work on, thereby always expanding the boundaries of their technique. There is always a combination of the old and the new.
Holistic learning encourages a deeper understanding of music. From the very first piece, the student is being made aware of the primary elements of music - notes, rhythm, meter, phrasing and form- in a structured way that can be applied to each piece. If this process is repeated enough times, these musical elements will be thoroughly learnt.
The pieces in the Music Factory Tutor Books are “real” pieces. In contrast to many tutor books, which have short, often abbreviated pieces, the Music Factory Method Books have substantial pieces. The advantage being the student practises for longer as the pieces are longer and they have a greater sense of satisfaction. The pieces also seem more mature to the student than the short one or two liners often found in other tutor books.
Each section begins with a Rhythm Chart. A Rhythm Chart is a rhythmic vocabulary list of the primary rhythms of a given time-signature. Each rhythm is played for 4 bars on the first 3 notes of a major scale eg a bar on C, a bar on D, a bar on E and a bar on D again.
The Rhythm Charts develops
1. Primary rhythms of a given meter (ie time-signature)
2. A strong sense of meter (ie the ability to “feel” the length of a bar)
3. 4 bar phrase structure and 4 bar breathing
4. Joining of notes ie so there is no gap between them
5. Tonguing technique co-ordinated with sustained tone (i.e. blowing)
6. Co-ordination of fingers and tongue
7. Strong tone, independent of finger and tonguing.
The Rhythm Charts are an essential tool to develop the students tonguing technique. Right from the start the student is being asked to engage in thinking about and being aware of the action of their tongue. It also gets the student to do “fast” rhythms such as semiquvers/16th notes, which is highly beneficial as the faster the tongue moves the better the tonguing technique has to be.
Rhythm Charts also introduce “advanced” rhythms at a very early stage, but in a very elementary way. So when a student is presented with such rhythms later on in their development, they already know them, making learning the “advanced” rhythms in context, far earlier.
A key feature of the books is how the pieces are set out. Most music has a 4 bar phrase structure and as an understanding of phrasing is crucial to glean meaning from music, teaching students phrasing and phrase structure is vital right from the start. Each 4 bar phrase takes up 1 line, with the breath mark at the end of each line. The advantage of this is that the student can see the whole phrase in a glance. With this understanding students start to develop an awareness of where to breath and as a result start to develop an innate sense of phrasing.
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