Monday, January 13, 2014

Teaching College Level Music Theory's hard to get kids excited about Music Theory.  I have difficulty understanding this because theory was one of my all time favorite classes.  To have the ability to take a piece of music apart piece by piece....I just think it's incredible!

I was excited to see that TJ uses the Theory book we used at Elon (Benward's "Music in Theory and Practice" for those of you theory nerds).  I've seen quite a few theory books and I think this one is top notch.  It starts with basic notation, intervals, chords, and then cadences/non-harmonic tones.  For me, the class really starts to take shape when you get to cadences and non-harmonic tones.

So, after introducing different cadences and non-harmonic tones to my students, I walked them through an example.  It was most likely an excerpt from a Bach Chorale that we analyzed and had to name the non-harmonic tones and cadences.  I'm getting really excited because it is so cool that we are able to take Bach's music apart piece by piece by piece!  As I'm explaining this excitement, it's obvious that my students are not sharing in my special moment.

What do you do when your students are giving you the "deer in headlights" stare?  Well, I always try to make an analogy to help them understand how something could be so amazing.  I find that food works best and I usually go with the first thing that comes to mind (it's usually odd and catches the kids by surprise).  I decide to compare music theory to steak fajitas.  See....steak fajitas are amazing...they taste wonderful and they're oh so flavorful....but how cool is it when you open up that tortilla and you see what goes in to making that perfect flavor?  You have the tortilla, the steak, the guacamole (which is made up of avocado, onion, and lime juice), red bell pepper, and green bell pepper.  Perhaps steak is okay on its own, but add it with the tortilla, guac, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper and you have something very special.

After that analogy, they think I'm completely nuts.  It's okay, though.  I hope that one day they'll realize how cool music theory is.  It just might take them a little more time.  ;-)

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