Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rehearsal Prep Sheets…do them yourself! (Part 2)

Hello there!  Welcome back to my blog!  Hopefully, you have been thinking about a piece of music you might like to have fun with, trying your hand at developing an RPS.  One factor that I should have covered in RPS #1:  Students should sing the RPS a cappella.  If we have done our job, moving from simple to complex (successive approximations), just give the starting pitch (usually the key note), and they should be "set."

Here are a few additional considerations in the writing of an RPS:

4)  Keep the examples short - When students see short examples, they have hope for completing the task.  If the example is incredibly long, they might be overwhelmed.  Just try a 4-6 measure example.  Yes, I realize that eight measures might make more sense in music…just be sensitive to "length."  Success…we're going for SUCCESS!!  My husband is a minister, and as he can tell you, "short" is better in every "Sunday Situation."

5)  Coordinate the Keys - If you are studying an octavo in the Key of F Major…create an RPS in F Major…not G Major…not F or G minor.  We are teaching for transfer.  We want students to be able to use the knowledge they gain from one experience, and apply to another…so…write the RPS in the same key as the octavo…no "clutter"...otherwise, there is yet another "unfamiliar" component in the learning process.  The keys must be exactly the same.

6)  Simplify Modulations - If a piece eventually goes into another key, create a couple of short examples in the new key.  The most difficult aspect of creating an RPS has to do with getting from one key to another…modulations in the voices.  Practice getting the students to the new key, using the things they know…step-wise motion, half steps, etc.  Make it easy…so important.  Once you get to the new key…write an example for the new key.  Ah…feels like home…a new home.

7)  Fast Passages - If the tempo is fast, it is easier to sing a new passage a bit slower than up-to-tempo.  For all RPS sheets, I indicate a moderate tempo for rehearsing.  With every repetition of the example, I speed up a bit, until I eventually reach the tempo notated in the score (known only by me).  Your students will let you know how quickly they are prepared to move toward the given tempo…if mistakes are heard, they need a slower tempo.

My process:  start by writing augmented note values (whole or half notes).  Once the pattern has been presented, write the note values shorter (quarters/eighths, etc.), until you get to the note values in the score.  Always move toward the exact notation you see in the score.  Transfer…

8)  Difficult Harmonies - Present these chords vertically…and…slowly.  We must give our singers time to get these harmonies in the ear, so that they can retrieve them later.  We need to spend a little time, so you might want to write these harmonies in whole notes first, then half notes, then quarters, etc.  However, the goal is the score...the score…the score…the score.  If they hear different durations in rehearsal, it only makes for trouble later on…trust me.

Again, go to my website, and click on the Rehearsal Preparation Sheet link on the left side of the Home Page.  Take a look at some of the sheets…I'll refer to them more specifically later on.

I love writing these supplementary "helps," and I write many for my publications.  As always, if you need one for a purchased octavo from my website, just let me know, and I'll gladly compose one for you, at no extra cost.  At this time in my life, it generally takes an hour to create an RPS.  The first one?  Uh…quite a bit longer.  Hang in there!!!

Just so you know…my office is the place where all of the RPS sheets "happen."  Until next time…enjoy writing an RPS!


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rehearsal Prep Sheets…do them yourself! (Part I)

From the feedback I have obtained from choral music educators in the field, one of the most helpful contributions I have made to the classroom has been that of providing Rehearsal Preparation Sheets (RPS) for many of my pieces.  The good news is that you can prepare your own RPS materials for yourself.

Yes…it is a bit easier for me, because I have built every chord and every section of choral music from the "idea" to the notation...definitely an advantage…yet…sometimes you can crawl into the composer's head, and create materials with relative ease that will assist you in your own rehearsals.  More good news:  the more you create RPS materials for your choir, the easier the process becomes.

There are some basic steps to follow in creating an RPS.  I am going to share the steps I have followed over the years, with a tiny bit of explanation along the way.  Feel free to comment, or ask for clarification.  In addition, please share your ideas regarding the creation of materials that assist you most effectively in the teaching process.  The entire idea regarding my Rehearsal Preparation Sheets came about because I wanted to  assist teachers in teaching my music in the shortest amount of time.  

My wonderful friend Gayle Box gave me idea of using RPS materials, while I was observing her classroom in my "student teacher observation" time.  Gayle was a supervising teacher, and provided short examples that would teach challenging melodic lines, harmonies, rhythms, and other elements she would be teaching THAT DAY (really important).  In short, she was preparing her students for daily success!  That's exactly what I wanted to do with an RPS…get them to know the music…get them to love the music…every day.  My hope is that they will have a clear understanding of the "nuts and bolts" of the music...and…maybe they will love it!!  

Here is the process I use for creating Rehearsal Prep Sheets:

1)  Work from simple to complex - Start with whatever the students know…then take them to what they do not know.  Take them where you want them to be in systematic steps…that is, if a student understands quarter notes and 8th notes…instead of just throwing out a dotted quarter…you might try having them sing a passage with quarter notes and 8th notes…then…write a "tie" going from one of the quarter notes to an 8th note…then….cleverly replace the 8th note with a "dot," once the students perform the tie successfully.  Just take a chance, and see if there is someone in the class who might know about the "dot" in music…give those advanced students a chance to shine.  A little more explanation about the "dot" might be necessary, but…they have already experienced the significance of "the dot."  It has entered "the ear."  They have heard it.

2)  Repeat unfamiliar concepts - New concept?  Rehearse it a bit...let them perform it at least 4-5 times, until it becomes familiar.  Let them see it, and get it "in the ear."  This will allow them to perform the concept with confidence in the context of the entire piece.  They are no longer strangers to the concept…however, you might need to remind them gently in the larger context.  They panic sometimes…they are human.

3)  Use RPS content relevant to the repertoire being studied - If you are singing a piece with triplets, then the RPS should include opportunities to sing triplets…moving toward the goal of seeing and singing these triplets AS THEY APPEAR in the actual octavo.  Make everything relevant to the score.  THAT'S where you want them to be…you want them singing the score correctly…so…why teach materials they will not encounter in the octavo?  Stick with the most relevant teaching material…then students will not become confused.  Other components might be good, but focus on the score of study.

I will discuss more components of the Rehearsal Prep Sheets in the next blog entry.  In the mean time, take a look at the RPS materials on my website:
These are free materials…print off a couple of them, and follow along with the process.  

Have a great day…in order to give you time to digest the process, I will share more "steps" in future entries.  You might want to find a piece of music, and just try creating an RPS for fun.  Again, the entire process will become much easier after you have begun to think "RPS Style."