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Thomas Gregory

Looking for teaching materials for group learning?

August 16, 2012 at 9:40 AM

I have recently be asked to present my Vamoosh materials to a captive audience at Kent Music in the UK. This is a lovely opportunity to gain feedback and ideas from many teachers. I was however, billed as having written music for all instruments at the beginner level (not just strings). Though I may have mentioned my intention to expand the series at some point, I hadn't reached that point to yet. The workshop would involve teachers of all instruments expecting to play together to experience the pieces first hand.

After a moment of panic I got working on what will be a collection of pieces for group instrumental teaching that combines strings, recorders/flutes, clarinets/trumpets and guitars. Not an easy task, especially where transposition instruments are concerned. The plan is to produce affordable books with CD that contain around 25 pieces (enough for the first year), that will overlap with each other, providing teachers with an opportunity to combine groups for concerts, at the same time as providing quality individual teaching material.

This is of course not an original concept, but the need for new material of this kind is continuing to grow as the El Sistema effect spreads across the world.

Thank you Kent Music for getting me off the sofa!

From Dottie Case
Posted on August 16, 2012 at 12:15 PM
It'll be interesting to see how you feel about it as you go along. The prime reason that strings and winds are usually taught separately has to do with the 'native' keys that eachare learned in. Because of the open strings (and being tuned in 5ths) the most basic keys for strings to be taught in, in early months, are D, (and for violins A) then G. However, a transposing clarinet is in E when strings are in D, and in B major when violins are in A. This by definition requires advanced fingerings that would not be easily learned in the early months/years. By the same token, if the clarinet is in C, utilizing its most basic fingerings, the violins are in Bb...presenting the same sort of challenge to string players, and thereby not allowing instruction based on a basic tetrachord fingering.

I've had people approach me about trying to start a full orchestra of young players, who don't understand that it really isn't possible until both groups are proficient enough to play on what would be considered advanced keys on their instruments. Strings would need to be comfortable in up to 4 flats and Clarinets/trumpets in up to 5 sharps for them to work well together. It's just built into the structures of the instruments.

Good luck... perhaps you'll invent violins that are pitched down a step! Open strings named F, C, G and D would take care of all of that business! :D

From Thomas Gregory
Posted on August 16, 2012 at 10:15 PM
An excellent suggestion! Tune all the string instruments down a tone. Alternatively writing for A clarinets would also make life easier. This however, leaves recorder and guitars out in the cold.

What I am doing however, especially while string players are only on open strings, is writing in D minor. This makes for a happy medium, and there's plenty that can be done, especially using a pentatonic scale. Difficulties will start in the second term when string players will be largely in D major. Only select items will involve everyone, so I'm hoping for a happy medium.

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