There are probably dozens of apps available for trumpet fingerings, violin fingerings, flute fingerings, etc. Are these technologically-advanced mediums more effective than traditional flash cards at helping young students learn their notes and fingerings? Let's compare them in several ways:
1. Can a student practice going from notation to fingering? App: possibly, but they may appear on the same page and focus primarily on quizzing note names. Flashcards: Yes!
2. Can a student practice going backwards from fingering to notation? App: depends on the app, but probably not. Flashcards: Yes!
It must be done, but it is probably my least favorite part of being a music teacher. Assessment. In particular, playing tests.
On the one hand, I hate having to stop rehearsal to spend time doing it, but on the other hand I love the chance to hear each student individually and offer particular feedback to help them improve tone quality, rhythm counting, articulation, etc. The big problem I have always struggled with, though, is what in the world I should have the rest of the class do while I focus on one student at a time.
Over the years I have tried having the students sit quietly (ineffective and nerve racking for the test subject), read an article (better, but too short of an activity), and watch a video (easy and effective, but I soon run out if new videos to use...plus the sound is distracting to the test subject). Well now I have the perfect solution: music flashcards!
The students stay engaged for up to 30 minutes or more, and are doing an educationally rich activity. They can work alone for a while, and then with partners. They can test each other with or without a timer. They can play games that pit them against each other (8 games are included with the flashcards). It is so easy and so awesome!
Next time you need to assess your music class's playing skills, consider using the StepWise instrument fingering flashcards while doing it. You, and your students, will love it!
Band method books and fingering charts only go so far for helping students memorize all of their notes and fingerings. Having taught band for 17 years, I am very aware of the tendency for students to get overwhelmed with note reading after getting to the 4th, 5th, or 6th note. While we, as teachers, continue teaching class day after day, believing that our students are building a comprehensive understanding of their instrument and the music staff, many students are secretly struggling to keep up and begin trying to learn each new song by ear or by watching the other students around them.
When students start falling back on survival strategies to keep up with the classroom pace, they stop focusing on building logical schemata for how their fingerings are organized because they don't feel like there is any comprehensible order. They come to believe that our system of music notation and fingerings are a jumble of unconnected factoids that are impossible to memorize. When they refer to the fingering chart in the back of the band book they can find each note's fingering, but not a way to organize the hundreds of bits of information so it can be easily memorized.
The StepWise instrument fingering flashcards help students memorize their fingerings in two ways:
1. They help students see visually the way each instrument is organized. The flashcards for Woodwind instruments show which key is primarily responsible for each note, and brass instrument cards show how the notes are distributed by fingering AND by partial.
2. They allow students to become engaged in learning, memorization, and speed-of-recall activities. The tactile and interactive nature of physical flashcards are beneficial for all styles of learning, and allow struggling students a way to review and memorize note names and fingerings at their own pace.
As a music teacher I LOVE seeing every student actively engaged in learning activities at the same time. Providing every student with a set of StepWise Flashcards has made this possible for learning notes and fingerings. EVERY single student, from the brightest to the slowest, is able to engage in meaningful and motivational learning activities with these flashcards using only a small part of my rehearsal time. They are all learning, and improving, and mastering their essential knowledge of each instrument at the same time. BAM! It is amazing!
I hate leaving any student behind as we push through page after page of the method book. I believe that the truest measure of my success as a band teacher is if I can help EVERY student in my beginning classes to learn to read and finger every note in the beginning method book by the end of the year. For me, in my small Title 1 school, it was never possible to succeed in that way...NEVER, until I started using StepWise Flashcards.
Have you found other ways to engage students in learning and mastering their notes and fingerings? Please share in a comment.
So, you have a nice jazz program going at your junior high or high school. Is it time to start hitting the jazz improvisation? I have tried every jazz improvisation method available from other publishers over the years, and none of them were very user-friendly or effective. So, I spent the last 3 years developing the perfect beginning improvisation method. It comes with hours of recordings on 5 discs, including 6 awesome, accessible solos on each instrument for students to transcribe. It covers all the essentials in 18 thirty-minute lessons, and will motivate your students as it educates them.
You can read customer reviews and download sample lessons and audio files from www.improvpathways.com. I love using it with my students!
Fingering charts can be useful reference tools, and practically every band method has one in the back. They help a flute player when she can't remember the fingering for a high note, and they help a clarinet player when he can't remember the alternate fingering for a chromatic passage. But fingering charts have a limited use, whereas flashcards are more useful and multi-purpose.
Fingering charts don't help a trombone player to stop marking the slide position for EVERY single note in every song. And, they don't help a saxophone player to finally learn the difference between an F and an F#. They also do not help your percussionists to memorize all their stinking treble clef notes on the xylophone. A fingering chart simply does not help students develop mastery or speed with note recognition and instrument fingerings.
If you want speed and total mastery of notes and fingerings, so you can make music from the very first note of a new song, you need something that is an effective and motivating learning tool. You need flashcards for band!
If you want to learn to play the violin, viola, cello, or bass, you need to know 3 things:
1. How to hold it. There are many books and websites that can show you this.
If you are like me, and have taught beginners how to play instruments in band or orchestra classes for several years, you have realized what a challenge it is to help them learn and memorize all of their notes and fingerings. It is not enough to just teach them what the notes and fingerings are, and it is still not enough to review them over and over. What students need is assessment: they need to be tested on their notes and fingerings. Assessments serve two functions: 1) they put pressure on the students, making them feel a greater sense of urgency to learn things...and this sense causes the brain to memorize and retain things at a faster rate, and 2) they allow teachers to see what each student specifically knows (or doesn't know).
Traditional brass fingering charts are missing some critical information. Most importantly, they do not show which partial (or "overtone" or "harmonic") the note should be played on.
Consider the example to the left. In the traditional fingering chart, a student learns that to produce a written B-flat she must depress the 1st valve. However, when she blows into the trumpet, she can get 5 or more different pitches with that fingering. That means she has a 1 out of 5 chance of playing the right note. Not very good odds!
Now, I realize that the StepWise fingering chart looks very complicated at first glance. However, with a little explanation, even young beginning trumpet students understand it (and LOVE it). Which valve do you depress? Well, below the written B-flat you can see that the first valve is marked, similar to the traditional chart. But, you can also see how all 7 of the trumpet fingerings relate to each other. It makes the trumpet seem more like a woodwind, which have always been easier to depict graphically. Is this one reason my woodwind students, traditionally, have tended to know their notes and fingerings better than brass students?