How did week one of the Feeling the Pulse emphasis go for everyone else? The Have a Heart activity was a big hit with my students! I did it with every single student, and had some unexpected surprises. Some of the students I thought would do really well struggled quite a bit, and some of the ones I expected to have a little trouble caught on quickly and did a great job.
They are all getting into playing their pieces with perfect pulse, too. I decided to let them keep track of the hearts they earn on the studio door (nothing like a little healthy competition!):
I have a confession to make, though. Most of my students are really bad at this. I realized how little I’ve actually worked with them to develop the skill of keeping the pulse going in their playing, even if they make mistakes. We’ve talked about it a lot, but it’s amazing how well your ear can compensate for pulse inconsistencies when you’re not making a concerted effort to play through those mistakes. It’s especially difficult when you’re playing solo. Duet playing helps, but it doesn’t take the place of learning this skill in the context of playing solo repertoire. We’ve definitely got a long ways to go, but I’m super excited to see the progress we make in this area by the end of the month!
Now, on to next week’s Fresh and Fun! idea for Feeling the Pulse. This one doesn’t requires any extra materials. It’s a Call-and-Response Improv. If you have two pianos/keyboard instruments, you sit at one and have the student sit at the other. If not, just position yourself at different registers on the same instrument. Determine the time signature and then count-in two measures of the beat. You play a two-measure pattern completely improvised, using any notes. Then the student picks right up and plays a two-measure pattern also improvised on any notes. Continue back and forth, keeping the pulse flowing continuously between both of you (set a metronome, if necessary, to help the student keep track of the beats). Try different time signatures for variety. For more advanced students, you could even specify specific keys in which to improvise.
Remember, if you have an idea to contribute to the Fresh and Fun! ideas – either for this month’s Feeling the Pulse emphasis, or for a future month, leave it in the comments below or e-mail it to me. I’d love to incorporate some ideas from others!