Talking About Music….

You know the line “talking about music is like dancing about architecture“? It’s true: talking about music is a little like dancing about architecture (or singing about economics, if you prefer that version of the line), but I make this claim as someone who loves to sing about economics and who constantly dances about architecture. Talking about music is one of my favourite things to do. I’m both fascinated by the way music works and astonished at its power to unite and divide, to motivate and to soothe. I think about music nearly all the time; admittedly, this is my ‘job’ as a composer, music educator, music publisher and marketer, but I’m certain that my musical jobs are the result of my thinking about music nearly all the time, rather than the other way around. Mostly, I like to think and talk about the way music makes us feel. This makes me a tad unusual in academic and art music circles,

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P Plate Piano Masterclass (VMTA January 19)

It’s been a while since I talked P Plate Piano. After a flurry of launch events introducing the P Plate Piano philosophy and publications in the last weeks of 2009 and the first six months of 2010, I’d had a welcome lull. But the new teaching year is almost upon us, and AMEB Victoria saw the Victorian Music Teachers Association Conference as the perfect opportunity to look at P Plate Piano one year on. One year on means that students (and teachers) have actually been using these books, playing the pieces, experimenting with the activities, and exploring the things they can do with this repertoire. One year on also means that the world has changed: touch-screen technologies have gone mainstream, with primary school students receiving iPodTouch and iPad devices for Christmas. [Yes, one would think they’d have had to be particularly good to have an iPad in their Christmas stocking.] Factor in toddlers and preschoolers expertly manipulating any range of

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Scale of the Day #2: The Simpsons Scale

Rather than alter the original post (which would make the comments below somewhat hard to follow) I will leave it as is, but point out that “The Simpsons Scale” certainly does have a name within the jazz tradition, the Lydian-Dominant (just as last week’s scale has a name within the tradition of South Indian classical music, “Mayamalavagowla”), so in reality when I call this scale “The Simpsons Scale” I am boldly naming what hundreds of thousands in the world of jazz have named before. (And note that this scale has a name in the South Indian tradition  [Mouli’s comments below]). Now this scale isn’t actually called “The Simpsons Scale”, but since it isn’t actually called anything [in western theory] I have decided to boldly name what no one has named before. In reality the Simpsons scale is the melodic ascending pattern starting on the 4th degree, but it happens to be the pitch pattern used for the tonic harmonies in

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Scales as propaganda

Why do we require our students to learn scales? It’s heresy, really, to suggest giving piano lessons without teaching students the full range of major, harmonic and melodic minor patterns. Not teaching scales would be seen as gross negligence, in fact; a kind of failure to innoculate, or a musical malnourishment that would only happen in the worst of circumstances; a pedagogical incompetence, perhaps, or a breathtaking breach of duty of care. But why? What is it that scales (and arpeggios) deliver that simply cannot be gained any other way? Teachers respond quite naturally with issues such as finger strength and velocity. And scales do focus on these two important skills of execution. But scales are certainly not the sole means available to piano teachers to develop a student’s finger power and speed. Some teachers might add that scales allow students to develop tonal control and evenness of touch, and this is also certainly true. But these skills can also

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