Encourage your pupils’ brains to develop to the 4th dimension
Educational Progress is often measured in a one-dimensional way, from one point to another in a linear direction; e.g. learning the spelling of a new word, memorising a new fact, developing one more skill that takes the student along a line from A to B.
Music is a whole new four-dimensional world set in space and time, where we want children to gasp at how amazing it all is, thrill as they manipulate it for themselves, and share it with others.
This four-dimensional world requires four-dimensional progress and we describe this through a variety of words such as quantity, quality, understanding and enjoyment. So with Ocarina-playing, as children regularly play more notes and tunes (quantity) they should be challenged to play a chosen tune with greater fluency, a more beautiful sound, better tonguing, etc (quality).
As children’s repertoire increases and their style of playing improves, so does their understanding. For example, as the physical requirements of playing become embedded in the brain, muscle-memory develops and enables playing the Ocarina to become ‘second nature’, just as driving a car is for adults. Discovering that music comes from different times and places grows players’ historical and geographical perceptions of the world. And reading Ocarina music also becomes second nature through playing.
‘Understanding’ is not therefore limited to learning facts. It begins more importantly with a child’s brain developing through active participation and reflection: listening, watching, copying, reading, playing and performing. This understanding may be conscious (eg. learning a musical note’s name) or unconscious (eg. the feeling under the fingers of playing that note and it’s internalised pitch and sound).
Whilst most art can physically be described within three dimensions, music cannot. It happens in time and is audible one minute, gone the next. Our fourth dimension of ‘enjoyment’ relates to this thrill of the performing moment, of creating memorable experiences for ourselves and our audiences and the pleasure of sharing music with each other.
To sum up, whatever their age, your children should regularly:
- – play something new with their Ocarinas
- – improve the performance of something they can already play
- – discover something new, consciously or subconsciously, about playing, music or themselves
- – create memorable experiences through performing in class and/or the community.
As an illustration, let’s assume your class has moved on to Play your Ocarina – Book 2. You introduce ‘Can Can’ by Offenbach on page 16. You could practise playing up the familiar D major scale as a ‘warm-up’ using flashcards or books. See how many of the class can play this from memory, or by slurring (no tonguing – one continuous sound) or with a lightly tongued staccato (very short notes). Then ask the class to follow the charts in reverse order, reading from right to left, to play down the scale. Practise this rhythmically until they can play it steadily in a relaxed manner. This will prepare them to get the trickiest phrases right first time!
~ Listen to Book 2 CD Track 9 for the tune’s downward scale. Play the whole thing unaccompanied, practising slowly individually or together. Listen again to the CD so the group can note how many times the tune is played (twice), what instrument accompanies the Ocarina (accordion), and how quickly it is played (speeds up on the second time through). Practise the whole piece with backings and perform.
~ You may also like to see how quickly and slowly individual pupils can play the tune as a challenge. Listen to the Can Can tune on an orchestral recording and also as it appears in Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens as a very slow ‘Tortoise’ (isolate the Can Can tune itself so you don’t listen to the whole work). Playing very quickly and slowly will help with your final more ‘normal’ performance.
~ The Can Can was originally a high energy, high-kicking dance so you may like to link a group playing the tune to another group moving as tortoises or Can Can dancers, depending on how brave you are and how slick your group’s playing is! Perform to each other, to other classes and in the community.
This illustration shows how just one tune can introduce new techniques (downward scale), instruments (accordion), reasons for making music (dance) and a new performance. It shows continual progress as each stage of practice is reached and each new challenge taken (playing quickly and slowly). It is likely to create memorable experiences as the tune is familiar, popular and fun. This could be one focussed yet varied lesson or, most likely, a small part of several lessons culminating in a performance.
Read more about musical progression here and listen to this class of infants playing the Can Can together: