Music for the modern player

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
PERFORMING IN ELECTRONIC KEYBOARD: Resource Pack (Advanced Higher). by Jean Allison. One sent free to all secondary schools; pound;8.50 from Learning and Teaching Scotland, 74 Victoria Crescent, Glasgow, G12 9JN. tel: 0141 337 5000.

Over the past 10 years, more and more music candidates are choosing to study an electronic keyboard as a major part of their course work. Higher Still music means pupils are assessed at a wide range of levels, and this pack includes many resources and ideas to advance them through the course. Especially useful for the teacher is advice on suitable material for performing at Advanced Higher level.

The book is divided into four sections. Section one opens with a 12-page introduction which is useful and interesting, but few teachers will have the time to read through all of it. This is a pity because there are a number of important teaching points which would be particularly useful for teachers at the beginning of their career. For example: l if pupils are receiving private lessons then the work set out for them must be considered differently. Perhaps alternative materials should be offered;

* group melody playing for beginners can greatly build confidence; and

* invention may be started in parallel with keyboard performing.

The first keyboard exemplar is a simple piece called "Little Bird". The author has chosen to write the names of the notes above the music and the chords below. While there is logic in doing this, since the bass is lower than the melody line, the majority of printed keyboard music iswritten the other way round. This will confuse some pupils.

The music selected for this first section is fun and appealing and the choice of Latin American will go down well because of its present chart popularity. There is also very good information on melody writing and arranging, which would be particularly helpful for the new teacher.

Section two considers keyboard functions and gives advice on balance, timbre, volume settings and auto introductions. It also looks at the study of different types of music including Scottish and popular music. Section three includes a series of repertoire lists for Advanced Higher and section four records a chord bank.

The pack contains a lot of useful material that will assist the classroom teacher. It is slightly disappointing that each piece available for photocopy has no level denoted on it. It would have been preferable also to see tone and speed indications entered on the music. Since understanding listening concepts through playing is vital for pupils, it would have been helpful to have one or two concepts listed on each example.

It was also surprising to see no mention of ICT multimedia resources. Voyetra has an excellent little software package of music games, which encourage note recognition, and also the useful program Piano Discovery.

These small points aside this is a vital addition to the teaching and learning of electronic keyboard music in the classroom.

Aileen Monaghan (pictured above) is principal teacher of music at King's Park Secondary School, Glasgow

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