Adagio, Andante, Allegro, Modera…whaaa?
Have you ever had moments when you feel like banging your head against the wall during a lesson with a student? Those moments seem to happen to me most often with musical terms and symbols. I’m not shy to say there are times I’m screaming in my head “Seriously, how many times have we used this term during lessons? It’s called a ‘staccato!'” while my more experienced and sensible teacher-side calmly says“Ssssttttaaaa” trying to draw the word out of them with a verbal cue or gives them multiple choice.
When asked what the term “Andante” means, the student looks at you with a sideways glance, eyes squinting slightly in uncertainty as if they had just eaten a piece of sour candy, hands twisting, and mind whirling. “It means…it means like slow….or well, maybe fast?”
At this moment, my teacher-conviction takes over, and I remember:
- I was once in their shoes and could not remember these same terms. (Heck, if we’re honest here, I still have to look up terms at times, albeit harder ones of course.)
- These terms are in another language and not necessarily easy to remember. Like all things we learn, repetition and continuous reinforcement is necessary.
- I probably haven’t done enough of the above-said statement beyond just saying to them during the lesson “Remember our tempo marking, Andante, means a walking speed.” I wouldn’t remember from just being told either!
At one time or another, we have all used the often coined phrase “it’s on the tip of my tongue!” Crazy enough, there’s an actual thing called “tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon” in regards to memory retrieval. According to Boundless.com
“The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon occurs when an individual can almost recall a word but cannot directly identify it. This is a type of retrieval failure; the memory cannot be accessed, but certain aspects of it, such as the first letter or similar words, can.”
While we all have moments like the opening scenario, it’s our deep-seated duty to help our students be successful. I’ve come to realize it’s OK to give memory triggers or “preemptive insurance” to my students whether it’s with repertoire or music terms. (I first learned about “preemptive insurance” from Piano Safari Mini Essay 7:Teaching Strategies). Eventually, with lots of reinforcement and repetition, the day will come when they will suddenly remember on their own.
Dynamic and Tempo Meter
In my quest to help make musical terms easier to remember and more concrete for my students, I embarked on a little project I’m sharing with you today.
I’ve had the Fuzzy Dynamic Meter on my “teaching aid project list” for awhile. Julie Knerr wrote about it here and here. My kiddos love Mr. Fuzzy, so I knew it would be a great way to reinforce dynamics. After reading this article by Wendy Stevens, I had the idea to combine the dynamic meter with a tempo meter and include visual clues alongside each term.
The best note-finder to use for this particular project was the Wright Way Note Finder as the knob on the back makes it easy to scroll up and down. At $11, I didn’t want to lose the ability to use it for note-naming, so I multi-purposed it by creating this “jacket” that fits nicely over the front. Unfortunately, in my quest to multi-purpose, Mr. Fuzzy didn’t make the cut.
I printed it on heavy card stock, attached a strip of velcro on the back of each side, then folded it over the front. This allows me to show both sides at once (shown above), one side at a time, or fold them both back to reveal the staff.
This has been an incredibly useful tool and students have even requested to use it during lessons! $11 well spent!
You can download the dynamic-and-tempo-meter for free!
Enjoy, and let me know how it goes!