I’m sure there are different ways to enhance your music programs in elementary schools like accompanying singing groups with piano, but what about band or string ensembles? So why not use the piano there too? Piano accompaniment could add vertical sounds and structures to an otherwise linear sound of unison horns or strings. Instead of letting students depend on only the pitches they hear from their partners in crime the next seat over, they might hear the sounds of chords played on an immovable pitched instrument like the piano.
At first, the goal of every beginner musician is quite literally to play and recognize songs. But when do they start to listen to and react to how the notes they play interact with sounds around them? I think that’s a question right up there with: “How many licks does to take to reach the center of a tootsie roll pop?….. The world may never know.”
So why not start students off as soon as possible? Accompany them with the piano forte right from the beginning. They play a note, and also hear what it sounds like with the sound of the vertical pitches you supply on the piano. When do they become part of the music internally? When do they hear the music rather than just read the notes?
….. Again, the world may never know. At least you as their mentor can give them the opportunity. Wow, you are about to add another dimension in their musical life.
If you are not a pianist in the first place, it might be a little awkward for you as well. The good news is that you probably have some piano experience under your belt already from college. In my experience, I had learned the concept of playing the IV-V-I progression in all inversions using block chords. While that was great, it was introduced and worked on only in the basic keys: C, G, and F. But the seed was planted. Once I got my first teaching position working with elementary band, I found myself not fluent in the band keys like Bb, Eb, and Ab. Out of necessity I did take the time to learn and apply those techniques.
This brings us to YOU. Are you an elementary band or string teacher/director, current or future, that sees the value of this blog? Then I can aim you in the right direction.
Check out the “Yankee Collection” band or string director’s books. They have just about all the songs with chord symbols that you will ever need in your music programs or elementary concerts.
It’s down time in the summer right now so try those basic piano accompaniment techniques for elementary band, string, and even classroom music. For some, this could be the summer to broaden your teaching style, and add this unexpected gift to give to your students. Whether you try this or not, have a great summer! All teachers deserve it.