Monday Mailbag – Introducing Baroque Music

How do you introduce baroque period music or any music with counterpoint to a student for the first time?

What a great question! However, I’m afraid my answer will reveal my total lack of structure when it comes to intermediate level students, so I’m hoping that others will share their thoughts on how to approach teaching Baroque music. 🙂

I hardly ever follow a systematic approach when working with intermediate – advanced students. I’m working on improving in this area, but at the same time I recognize that every student is different and has diverse interests and goals. I’m always on the lookout, though, for great materials that will capture students’ interest, introduce them to different styles, and help facilitate a good understanding of the various historical periods and composers. Here are a few of the books that I really love for Baroque emphasis:

Exploring Piano Classics by Nancy Bachus – This is a relatively new series and I’ve only used the first book so far with a student who is just getting into early-level Classics, but I absolutely love it! In fact, I just ordered another one for another student. The layout is clean, with wonderful illustrations and bullet points discussing historical information and brief  biographical sketches of the composers.

Spotlight on Baroque Style by Catherine Rollin – This is obviously not original Baroque music, but it is full of delightful pieces and performance notes that will introduce students to the different styles of the period.

The Baroque Spirit Books by Nancy Bachus – Chock-full of everything you could possibly want to know about the Baroque period, even discussing other cultural aspects beyond music, these books are wonderful for the student who really wants to learn more about music history!

Succeeding with the Masters, Baroque Era by Helen Marlais – These books don’t contain as wide a variety since they just include three key composers of the Baroque period (Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti), but they include great practice tips (both written and verbal via an accompanying CD) that will help students grasp how to learn and play the pieces with appropriate interpretation.

A few general things that I am always discussing with students in relation to Baroque music:
* Instrument history – harpsichord as the forerunner to the piano
* Dynamic leveling – more of a terraced dynamic approach
* Technique – non-legato touch, contrasting articulation between different rhythmic values of notes
* Cultural Elements – architecture, clothing, etc.
* Compositional Techniques – polyphony vs. homophony; listening for the different voices

Baroque music can be very complex, but I love it! And I do what I can to help instill a love for it in my students as well!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

Share and enjoy!

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