Category: Music Teacher

How to Teach Music Online | What are the benefits and where are the pitfalls?

December 9th, 2021 by

How to Teach Music Online. What are the benefits and where are the pitfalls?

Due to the effects of Covid-19 around the world, we’re all facing extended periods where meeting face to face could be off the table. However, this doesn’t have to mean the end for your teaching, but it does mean we all have to think differently about how we teach, or more importantly how students learn.

Originally posted in March 2020, updated December 2021.

This blog seeks to set out a few key strategies for online teaching and learning, referencing some good practice and highlighting some of the pitfalls. We interviewed Rockschool Examiner Georg Voros, DIME Online Head of Education Mike Sturgis, and Rockschool Drum Syllabus contributor Pete Riley for their views in using online platforms.

Using the right technology

Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp and the like all provide great services for video calls, however, we are at the mercy of our connection speeds and those of our students.

Rockshool Drum Syllabus contributor Pete Riley has invested in a fully mic’d teaching studio for his online lessons, but even with great technology in his studio he still finds that the student’s environment can create challenges as they may be working with internal microphones built into laptops and phones.

Video conferencing is useful, but not the only technology to rely on. Virtual Learning Environments (also called Learning Management Systems) are an excellent way to set interactive tasks that your students can respond to and most have video conferencing built in.

Click here to find some of the best free tools…

Mike Sturgis, Head of Education from DIME Online uses Canvas for his faculty who teach RSL Awards Vocational Qualifications online. DIME have built a bespoke environment for learners built around tasks that are submitted for assessment online – giving students an individual learning experience.

It doesn’t have to be the same!

For centuries teachers have utilised a mentor/apprentice style of 1-2-1 teaching in music lesson. The challenges regarding online learning mean that it is often not possible to hear the nuances of a performance over video conference, so referencing great recordings and curating well recorded video tutorials is going to really help. For example, RSL Fellow and drum legend Steve White’s YouTube channel has some amazing rudiments that you can set for your students to watch.

Building your lessons around material that learners have already watch/listened to is often referred to as ‘flipped’ learning, making the engagement with students much more valuable. Imagine if you were teaching how to play a song, if the student already knows the song before you start it makes the whole process much easier.

Our good friends and Rockschool public exam centre, Roar Music Academy, moved their teaching services online due to current circumstances. Click here to find their learnings so far…

Time is flexible

The traditional model of 1-2-1 teaching often requires strict lesson times. Online learning can be much more flexible. A 30-minute lesson in person might only contain 6 minutes of talking with the student and lots of demonstrating. In an online model you might stretch the lesson out with several bursts over a few days. Setting a task and asking the student to record themselves for you to review saves both students and teachers time.

Mike Sturgis points out the main advantages to online study are the 24-7 access to the content and the complete flexibility to study your lessons when you want to.

Find the right resources

Part of all teaching is to help guide the learners, and the job of curation is even more implicit when thinking about online learning. We recently helped Music Gurus out with their seminar on Online delivery at the Music and Drama Education Expo. The number one comment from teachers was that it was hard to find resources they could trust.

We spend a lot of our time at RSL creating material that is suitable for different levels of learners. If you haven’t already got the Rockschool or RSL Classical books, sign up for our Learning Platform app or Teach Today, Shape Tomorrow programme that includes books and teaching resources free to teachers.

Replay - interactive sheet music tool

The Replay interactive sheet music tool can be a great way for students to explore the Rockschool repertoire and allows them to loop, slow down, or even change key of the pieces.

The student sets the pace

In other areas of education there has been a long-established movement to place the pace of learning in the hands of the learners. A movement from traditional cognitive models into constructivist models can help learners engage in topics for longer and in more detail. Setting goals and benchmarks with individual learners will give positive reinforcement.

For example, the overall goal for the learner might be to complete their Grade 2 Electric Guitar exam with Rockschool – but to get to that end goal the student will need smaller objectives such as learning part of a piece or technical exercise broken down into tasks. Every time a task is completed there is an opportunity for encouragement.

Online communities

Along with constructivism, social constructivism encourages the idea of learners supporting each other. Learners sharing their progress is a great way to create an environment where all your students support each other. This will help retain the students and support your teaching business. Social media groups are an excellent way to connect all your students together.

Mike Sturgis sees many benefits to working in this way…

“some of our tutorials are allocated for the entire group, so this functions like any conference call that you might have experienced in Zoom or Microsoft Teams. However, it’s the forums where students upload examples of their work where we see a lot of discussion between students and staff.”

Finding Students

Recruiting new students is always tricky, but using platforms like Rockschool’s Teacher Registry can build and online profile. Promoting this through social media is a good way of boosting a profile, and with online learning there is a whole world of students who might be looking for your services.

What do you miss out on?

Pete Riley highlights that the physicality of teaching instruments is challenged when we use online methods, as well as the ability to move around the students to really observe technique from different angles. Of course, extreme situations call for extreme measures and whilst we may never be able to recreate all the features of an in-person lesson, for the time being we may just have to adapt. Currently having a live ensemble jam together is a big challenge for the technology, but perhaps not for long.

Safeguarding

When delivering online lessons, remember that safeguarding and child protection remain paramount and you need to ensure that you have considered this carefully to ensure that you can provide a safe and secure online learning environment for both you and your students. The professional bodies at the MU, ISM and Music Mark have both created some very useful guidance, so we recommend that you check it out:

DIME Online Head of Education, Mike Sturgis’ top 5 tips for online teaching

  • Tip 1: Ensure that the platform you’re using to deliver the course will meet the needs of the student learning experience.
  • Tip 2: Communication surrounding assessments must absolutely clear. This includes how the assessment will take place, what is required from the student, how they need to submit their work and the deadline for this.
  • Tip 3: Opportunities for developmental assessment at key points in the term.
  • Tip 4: Prompt, regular and incisive feedback for students on their work, including 1-2-1 contact time with a tutor at key points in the term.
  • Tip 5: Course content must be of a high standard, preferably with a combination of text, notation, graphics, video, images and audio as appropriate. Also, the presentation of the content needs to be done in a way that is easily navigable and considers diverse learning styles.

Rockschool Examiner Georg Voros’ 5 Tips for teaching Online

  • Tip 1: Connectivity. Without good connectivity you’re dead in the water and this will never work. You may have fantastic connectivity your side, but if the person on the other side hasn’t then this won’t work. So aside from making sure you’re well set up your side, make sure your student has good connectivity before you get started.
  • Tip 2: Audio quality. Very challenging for drum lessons if all that’s being used is a laptop microphone or similar. The result is not always great. As the teacher make sure that YOUR sound is clear and audible. Maybe test this with a friend before starting to teach online. Give suggestions to your student on how to best improve sound quality their side in the most affordable manner.
  • Tip 3: Camera angle. If you’re a guitar teacher or similar, then this is easier as you don’t need a hugely wide shot. If you’re teaching drums or keyboard then you need to angle your camera or cameras to make sure that everything is visible.
  • Tip 4: Lesson content. Be selective in what you can teach. Not everything transfers well online. If part of your lesson is very interactive and works well in a room with a student in front of you, eg. teaching technique and helping to physically implement this somehow, you may want to rethink how you can get this across.
  • Tip 5: Lesson scheduling. It’s all very well wanting to teach someone in a different time zone, but you will need to take into account when they are able to have a lesson. Will 3 am in the morning suit you?

Tell us about your teaching

We’d love to hear more about your experiences teaching online. Head over to our social channels and send us a message! Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // YouTube

How to Build a Professional Website with Good SEO

November 1st, 2021 by

Having a great website is a huge selling point for potential students. Not only does your website act as your central business hub online, but it can also make you more visible.

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MGR Music by Leigh Fuge

But, I’ve never built a website before…

Don’t worry! Building a good website doesn’t have to be rocket science anymore. Sites like WordPress allow you to use their modular builders to craft a great looking site with minimal effort. You can download loads of free themes (And even a bunch of paid ones!) to give your site the perfect look

By using a theme, you don’t have to worry about design. You just choose a layout and drop your content in.

You can further enhance your website with plugins. Most website services will have some option to install plugins from their “app store” style area. Many of these are free but there are also a load of paid ones for anyone who wants to take it to the next level. Plugins can range from contact forms and newsletter opt ins to embedded social media feeds linking all your services together.

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When you build a website there are only a few things you need to really get in place to make it work:

A web host – This is a place where your website will be stored on the internet. There are loads out there from GoDaddy to 123-Reg. Each with their own pricing and feature set.

A web building client – Some hosting services offer their own clients but you can also use websites like WordPress to build your website.

A Domain Name – This is important! You need to create a domain name. This is often the name of your business or something that describes what you do. It’s important to try to get the .com domain for your business name.

Plugins – The plugins you add to your website will allow your potential customers to enjoy your website. You could use contact forms for keeping in touch, a forum for a social area, social media feeds to show what you’re up to and way more.

Rockschool VIdeo Exams

SEO – Why is this Important?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. If your website has good SEO then it will get picked up faster by search engines and rank you higher for searches related to your business or service.

The better your SEO, the better your website ranks.

So what can you do to increase your visibility? Here are a few things to ensure you add to your website content:

Key words for Searching – If you are a guitar teacher, make sure you’ve got “guitar lessons”, “guitar teacher”, “learning guitar” and other related search terms in your website to help Google recognise what you go.

Location Information – This is particularly important. If someone searches for “Vocal lessons near me”, Google will need to know that you are near that person before it can point them to you.

Links To Your Website – Google likes to see websites with a lot of links pointed at them. This tells Google that the website is an authoritative area and therefore will rank higher. Register for all your local business directories to have links pointed at your website. If you can partner with other local business to share links, this will also boost your presence online.

Use an SEO Plugin – Most web clients plugin areas will contain an SEO plugin if some form. You can use this to help make suggestions and recommendations to what you can improve. Things like the overall readability of your website are important. Get your headers, URLs and Meta titles in order too. There are loads of great tutorials online about how you can make these improvements to your website.

Rockschool Ukulele Method

About the Author:

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MGR Music by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh’s pieces relating to Rockschool here…

What Age is Best to Start Piano Lessons

October 10th, 2021 by

If you’ve been teaching piano for a while you’ve probably been asked this many, many times: “What is the best age to start piano lessons?”

Hand size, finger independence, and the desire to persevere all play their part in the beginning, but the answer should almost always be “start now!”. If you’d like to immerse your child into the world of music – why not, see how it goes? If they think those prime years of opportunity have already passed – they’re wrong. Adults: if you feel the same about starting yourself – guess what? So are you. Studying music at any age is good for body, mind, and spirit, and something to enjoy for a lifetime, whenever that journey begins.

To play, study and appreciate music is of course a wonderful thing; but in more practical terms, learning the piano aids the development of self-discipline, hand-eye coordination and problem solving (to name a few), whilst embedding a skill that can bring a lifetime of happiness and sense of achievement. According to the Journal of Educational Psychology, “students who take music courses score significantly better on maths, science and English exams than their non-musical peers.” Surely, even if it’s something you don’t stick with for life, the act itself carries with it many substantial benefits.

Is It Ever Too Early?

Now, it’s true that a quick Google-search can probably find a three-year-old playing like they’re Jimmy Smith (among other things) but that certainly doesn’t mean that your three-year-old is ready to commit to lessons each week. Children under the age of five who show an interest in the piano should probably be allowed to explore the instrument (among other things) without any kind of formal structure. They may be incredibly curious, which is fantastic, but the attention span needed to actually progress might take a little while longer to develop.

Cultivating a general interest in music and its innumerable expressions is only ever going to be a good thing (and something we actively encourage). Singing, dancing, and listening to your favourite music around the home is a wonderful way to spend time with your family whilst exposing young ears to a myriad of sonic adventures; but If you’d like to be a little more hands-on than that, then there are also many pre-school music programs available, such as Little Notes (other services are available).

LEARN MORE ABOUT ROCKSCHOOL’S PIANO METHOD BOOKS

Are You Ready?

The best time to start piano lessons will be different for everyone, but how do you know what the right age is for your child? Here’s a three-part checklist to help:

1. Hand Size

Before starting piano lessons, make sure that the child has hands large enough to be comfortable using a keyboard. If the can cover 5 white keys within the span of little-finger and thumb, that’s a pretty good rule of… thumb.

2. Finger Independence

Working from one finger to the next, you should work on developing the finger independence for each hand of the player. The little finger is definitely the trickiest to move without affecting the ring finger next door (try it yourself!), but with a little practise each digit can be strengthened pretty quickly.

3. A love of Music

Without doubt, this is the most important factor to consider before you even begin to explore the subject of trying piano lessons: do they (the child) actually take a real interest in music? All of you adults will appreciate (especially the Brits) that nobody likes forced fun. Well, this concept also applies to forced hobbies. If the interest is led by the child then you can expect them to succeed because of their own desire. If that passion isn’t present, you might find you’ll end up in power struggle that ultimately someone has to lose (worse-case scenario, you both do).

The Sweet Spot – Five to Eight

Within this age range, kids have already had pre-school/nursery and primary school experience, with adult-directed lessons imbedded into their learning. Young, ‘spongy’ minds of this age are primed to pick up new languages and build neuro-connections at an amazing rate – learning the language of music applies just the same.

Another, more practical reason, is that it’s much easier to pick up a new skill when you’ve got lots of time to grow at your own pace. The older you get, the more likely it is that our lives fill up with a variety of other interests. A good thing with an array of its own positives, of course, but time itself will become a scarcer, so it’s really profitable for the learner to build a solid foundation before their wide interests start to accelerate later on.

Reading Skills

One thing that might slow a five-year-old down as they begin to study is their ability to read fluently at this early age. With this in mind, the Rockschool Piano Method books stimulate the development of this skill from the beginning. Although this might be a struggle and cause some frustration early on, a good foundation of decoding symbols from a page is incredibly value when it comes to developing musically later on.

What this development also means it that you don’t have to wait until a child can read before beginning music lessons. Reading and writing music shouldn’t be introduced until much later, but they will be much more prepared for it when that time comes.

Is It Ever Too Late?

If you were taking notice during the intro, you already know the answer – it’s it is, of course: absolutely not. Anyone who really wants to learn the piano and is willing to put in the time to practice can learn as quickly or even quicker than a younger child in those most influential years. (Especially if that child doesn’t really like playing in the first place.)

As we get older, it is not only our bodies that get less flexible, but also our brains! But, at the same time, our ability to focus, conceptualise and stubbornly persevere can most definitely increase. Your determination and tenacity to excel on the piano is a gift. If you possess it – why not start now?

What a lot of people forget post-childhood is that they’re actually really good at lots of things. They’ve mastered their native language (and maybe some non-native ones along the way), they can do mathematics, developed problem-solving skills for multiple situations. They can walk, run, dance, ride a bike, drive a car, play sports, cook, read and many, many things younger children would struggle with.

Young children aren’t actually good at much yet, for obvious reasons. Because of that – compared to their adult counterparts – they are less likely to get frustrated and then feel awkward about their limitations. It’s easier to stick with the things that you’ve already mastered. The struggle and obduracy that you’ll end up displaying should also ensure that you feel proud of yourself after each hurdle is cleared. Don’t give up – you can do this. Remember: all you’re really doing is connecting with your inner child all over again. Set whatever time you have aside, make sure your environment is right for you to lock-in and, most importantly, enjoy it.

Not that hard really, is it?

LEARN MORE ABOUT ROCKSCHOOL’S PIANO METHOD BOOKS

Rockschool Digital Exams | Guest Blog

October 6th, 2021 by

My name is Matt Wensor. I am a professional guitar teacher who runs Guitar Lessons Northampton. Over the years I have entered many of my students into Rockschool graded exams and today I will share my experiences of how lockdown has changed how I teach the guitar.

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Matt Wensor

Adapting to Covid

Due to the plight of the Covid-19 pandemic, the music industry ground to an incomparable halt overnight during 2020. As a musician and guitar teacher, it was an incredibly uncertain and challenging time.

To adapt to this climate, I made the decision to migrate all of my teaching online, via Skype and Zoom. Thankfully, as most students were happy to agree to this, I then purchased an Aston Origin condenser microphone, some Adam Audio monitor speakers and created a small home studio space to teach from. The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Music Online that was produced by Leigh, Matthew and the music teachers in our community was of great help as a resource to aid that transition online.

Thankfully, I was able to sustain around 15 – 20 lessons per week over the course of the last year. Considering the average number of in-person lessons I had was around 25 before the pandemic, I feel very fortunate.

This has posed a challenge in itself as an online call can create distance between the teacher and student. We are not in the same room and I couldn’t move students’ fingers to the correct frets, or play musically with them at the same time due to a latency between internet connections.

It has been challenging in many ways, such as poor internet connection on the student’s side, and even having to tune a complete beginner’s guitar, by ear, over a Skype call without my own hands on the guitar to adjust. Believe it or not, this has happened on multiple occasions!

Moving exams online

The impact of the Covid pandemic has not just changed the way we work as teachers, but it has encouraged innovation for the examination boards greatly too. Rockschool’s determination to explore online exams gave me great reassurance that as an industry we could get through this challenging time. I was certainly going to give it a go and was keen to learn how an online exam differs from a physical Rockschool exam.

Firstly, it is to be filmed in its entirety, performed and managed entirely by the student.

Secondly, the student has to talk their way through each section of the grade book themselves, explaining which piece or technical exercise they are about to perform, either with a metronome or backing track.

A third element which is different for an online exam, is that Improvisation and Sight-Reading tests cannot be completed, as they are usually given on the spot by an examiner.

Finally, the student has to then send this completed video file to Rockschool’s website for moderation.

This has introduced a completely new area of content for me to cover with my students, such as learning to balance their guitar amplifier to their CD player/phone/laptop device in volume. This was largely so they can hear themselves and the backing track clearly, but the position of a guitar amp and playback device in the room was also very important, it meant they could produce a clear and balanced sound on the recording. Having one of these devices too close to their mobile phone or camera would distort the microphone and the perfect video take would be ruined.

A lot of time was spent teaching students how to manage these large video files, operating Google Drive to upload and transfer them, and getting students into the habit of setting up a camera every time they would practice.

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Digitally competent students

Speaking of takes, this was a key advantage that students of the ‘online exam’ era had over in-person physical exams. As long as their exam was filmed in one continuous video, they had the ability to do multiple, in fact, unlimited takes. Students who were willing to set up a camera and practise through the grade book over and over had the opportunity to have unlimited attempts at the grade – as many as their discipline would allow.

Dedicated students managed to achieve great results by taking on this practice routine. Another advantage mentioned earlier is that because the Improvisation, Sight Reading and Musical Knowledge questions couldn’t be carried out, much more time and effort could be invested into perfecting their pieces and technical exercises.

A product of this was that it created students who were much more independent, confident, competent physically and comfortable playing in front of a camera. They have built their knowledge of performing, practice, recording and managing video files far beyond what a physical exam would have done, which in this ‘YouTube & Instagram Musician’ era, is not a bad thing at all.

Rockschool Ukulele Method

Overall, it has personally been incredibly interesting and rewarding to coach students from all areas of the country and watch them progress from the comfort of my own room, some of whom I’ve had a working relationship with for over a year that I have never actually met in person. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and experience which I will take on in my practice and look forward to helping more students achieve their goals and pass these fantastic exams.

About the Author

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Matt Wensor, an experienced guitarist, tutor and journalist from Northampton. Matt is part of a community of professional guitar teachers offering guitar lessons to students around the world. Read more of MusicTeacher.com’s pieces relating to Rockschool here…

Quick Tips: How to Practise and Improve your Sight Reading | Guest Blog

August 31st, 2021 by

The term “sight reading” is enough to send chills down any musician’s back. The ability to just look at a sheet of paper and play the piece is a skill that many of us assume is reserved for the absolute elite of musicians.

The truth is, sight reading doesn’t have to be such a mountain to climb. Anyone can learn to sight read by starting simple and working up.

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Leigh Fuge.


Rockschool VIdeo Exams


Let’s consider some key points that would help you learn sight reading:

1. Familiarise With Rhythmic Awareness

Are you familiar with how to read your note lengths on both staves and rhythm charts? Having the ability to spot your note lengths will make a huge difference when sight reading. Being able to read note length without thinking means you can look at the note and focus on the pitch and not the length.

Whole Note

Half Note

Quarter Note

Eighth Note

Sixteenth Note

2. Improve Key Signature, Chord and Scale Knowledge

Often, when it comes to sight reading you may be given a quick opportunity to scan the page first. This is a good time to take in the key signature of the song. This will immediately give you an insight into what scales and chords you should expect to see in the piece.

I would recommend learning your Major and Minor scales as chords, understanding intervals and relative major/minor keys. If you look at a piece and you can identify the key right away, that will give you all the information you need providing you know what scales and chords fit into that key.

Check out this other resource I wrote for Rockschool called Key Signatures: A Beginners Guide. This has all the information you need to get started with understanding key signatures.



GET YOUR ROCKSCHOOL MUSIC THEORY SAMPLE PAPERS


3. Start Small and Grow

Don’t expect to be able to sight read at the highest level after just a week of learning the basics. Sight reading is a skill that takes time, practise and patience to develop to a high standard. A great way to start sight reading is to take a melody that you are familiar with and find the sheet music for it. Study the key signature of the piece and try to follow it along with the sheet music. You can use your scale knowledge to help guide you and your familiarity with how the piece should sound will help you piece together the notes.

By doing this, you are associating the notes on the stage with the pitches on your instrument. Don’t go for a piece that’s too complex right away, take it easy with a piece that you know well.

4. Study Before Starting

Before you dive into a sight-reading exercise, spend that little bit of extra time looking at it and making notes (either in your mind or by writing them on the charts) about what you’re looking at. Look for any key areas where you might run into difficulty or something that might not look like it belongs in that key family.

You should also pay attention to any dynamic changes or repeated sections. I often do a lot of live gigs that involve showing up and playing off chord charts with no prior rehearsals. I rely on my understanding of these charts to get me through the gig. In these situations, the first thing I always do is study the arrangements and look for any key points where I need to repeat something or change the overall feel or dynamic.



5. Learn to Think Ahead of Yourself

When you start to progress with sight reading, you’ll realise that you need to think ahead of your current playing position. Many accomplished sight readers will learn to take in an entire bar in one go, or even a few beats at a time. This means that you can be playing something while your brain locks into the part coming next.

This might sound quite intense, and at first, it will be. It’s essentially splitting the brain into two halves, one to play and one to read.

Like all sight reading, start slowly with this. This is something else that using a familiar melody or piece could benefit from as you will be familiar enough to play a section while allowing your mind to move ahead to study the part that is coming up next.

Are You Getting Better?

Let’s imagine you’ve now been trying to learn sight reading for a few weeks, how do we know if you’re getting better. Firstly, you will feel more comfortable with the idea. You’ll feel more at ease when you look at a piece of music and you’ll feel more confident in your ability to just dig in. You’ll also feel that you’re spending less time “working it out” and more time just playing it.

A good measure of this is to once again call up the notation for a piece of music you are familiar with but make sure it’s a piece you can’t already play from memory. Try to sight read it, if it sounds as you expect then that’s a positive indicator that your sight reading is moving in the right direction.

Don’t give up! It’s a long road but the results are worth it. You’ll get into the swing of it very quickly but don’t forget to keep working at it and keep pushing yourself.


About the Author:

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh’s pieces relating to Rockschool here…

Am I Ready to Take My Rockschool Exam?

August 25th, 2021 by

With autumn fast approaching, we’re looking ahead to the next session of Rockschool exams in the UK and Ireland.

We have a wide range of assessment options available to accommodate all learners, so whether you’re keen to do a face-to-face exam, a recorded digital exam, or live stream digital exam, we have you covered!

For some, it’s hard to know when you or your students are truly ready to apply. This is why we’ve asked guest blogger, guitarist and educator, Leigh Fuge, to explore ‘Am I Ready to Take My Rockschool Exam?’

MusicTeacher.com’s Leigh Fuge explores…

Am I, or my students, ready to take my Rockschool exam? The golden question! What do we consider being ready for an exam? The exam will follow the same structure and contents that would have been covered in lessons using the Rockschool books. So, with that in mind, let’s break it down into a few simple areas:

Technical Knowledge

  • If you get asked to play a particular chord or scale, or variations of this, can you/your student do so without hesitation?
  • Is the chord played cleanly without any wrong notes and its pitching clean and concise?
  • Is the scale played correctly with all notes at an even tempo?

Performance

  • Are you using a performance piece from the book or do you have a pre-prepared one?
  • Can you perform this from memory or comfortably whilst reading from the book/sheet?
  • Can you deliver a confident performance that sounds as close to the original as possible?

Theory/Listening

  • Can you answer a range of listening based questions on time signatures, rhythm and melody without hesitation?
  • Can you replicate different rhythms and melodies from hearing them?

If you can answer yes to all or most of these questions, then chances are you, or your student, are ready to take the Rockschool exam.

For teachers, I would always recommend spending a few lessons running over the content in an exam format as a mock test with students to help them get used to only having one attempt at playing pieces or answering questions.

When preparing for exams, it’s important to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Here is a useful blog I wrote on Recovering from Mistakes During Exams. This will help you and your students prepare for mistakes. Remember, making mistakes does not ruin the exam. Keep calm and focused and you’ll nail it!

ENTER NOW!


About the Author:

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MusicTeacher.com by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh’s pieces relating to Rockschool here…

RSL Awards Launches Teach Today Programme at ICMP!

August 11th, 2021 by

RSL Awards Launches Teach Today Programme at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance!

RSL Awards are delighted to partner with The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance’s Careers & Industry Hub to extend its Teach Today programme, helping ICMP students and alumni develop teaching as a valuable part of their portfolio careers.

Located in London, the heart of the global music industry, ICMP has been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. The school offers a specialist range of industry-aligned courses focused on preparing musicians, producers, performers, creative artists and entrepreneurs for a successful and rewarding career in the music industry.

The Careers & Industry Hub team is also on-hand to support students and alumni throughout their studies and after their graduation as they work towards their goals. Most ICMP graduates build portfolio careers across different projects; many will look to teaching as a key revenue stream that offers flexibility and develops key transferable skills as well as enabling them to share their passion with others.

“It’s imperative that we support talented musicians with world class education materials, which is why we are delighted to extend RSL Awards’ Teach Today programme with The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. Music teaching is such an important part of a musician’s portfolio career, which is why we’re so excited to see how ICMP graduates will embrace our teaching materials on their journey to a successful music career.” Suzanne Harlow, CEO RSL Awards.

Teach Today, Shape Tomorrow

As part of RSL Awards’ Teach Today programme, you will have access to:

  • Digital copies of available RSL Awards grade books*
  • An ICMP-branded profile on the international RSL Teacher Registry
  • Guidance on teaching and schemes of work*
  • Access to RSL Awards’ Learning Platform App
  • Discounts to professional development qualifications
  • Join a network of almost 3000 international teachers

*Currently available across Rockschool Electric Guitar, Ukulele, Drums, Piano, Vocals, Music Production.

RSL Awards X ICMP Teach Today

How To Get Started

To create your teaching profile and access your free resources follow these steps:

  • Click here to create your RSL account and start building your profile.
  • Once started, simply select ‘Teacher’ from the first dropdown box and make sure you select ICMP in the ‘Affiliate Institution’ dropdown option.

Once you have submitted your profile for moderation, ICMP will approve your contact details before moderation and it will go live on the RSL Awards site.

About RSL Awards Graded Music Exams

RSL Awards are one of the leading awarding bodies for qualifications in music and the creative industries, with a dedicated community of music teachers in over 45 countries. They provide high-quality qualifications and examination experiences for teachers and students alike, whilst also giving teachers across the globe the opportunity to achieve formal recognition for their teaching standards.

Teachers using RSL Awards products offer the most professional services to their students with graded exam materials that have a proven track record of keeping learners engaged with their instruments. RSL Awards have developed graded music syllabuses in Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals, Piano, Classical Piano, Keyboards, Ukulele, Popular Music Theory and the world’s first Music Production syllabus. Their Graded Music qualifications are recognised and regulated at the highest level by Ofqual, SFA, CCEA, Qualifications Wales and the Department for Education, with all successful level 3 (Grades 6–8) exams being awarded UCAS points to bolster university applications.

If you are interested in accessing free, high quality teaching resources, learn more about RSL Awards’ Teach Today programme here...

Teaching Rockschool – Drums Debut | Guest Blog

August 1st, 2021 by

This week we’re taking a look at teaching Rockschool Debut Drums with drummer, educator and music psychologist, Michael Hutchinson from Triple-T Drumming based in the North-East of England.


Ready to roll! Michael poses for a picture with one of his drum students

Teaching Rockschool – Drums Debut

Welcome to a quick walkthrough on how to teach drums, starting with with early learners at the very start of their music education. As an instrumental teacher, many of you may not have formal training, and without structural influence teacher training can provide, building a lesson plan can be tough going when you have very little practical experience. We make mistakes and eventually lose students before we discover the right approach for them. Wrong or untrained techniques can lead to a demotivated student and your job – as a teacher is to motivate and inspire – can quickly seem jading and unfulfilling.


SIGN UP FOR FREE! RSL’s Teacher Registry advertises your services to music students in your area

In this article, I am going to take you through a couple of steps that could help you best serve the first students that come to you for help. Hopefully, these ideas will seem like common sense, but at the same time spark some new ideas, and if they do, allow you to implement them into your lessons and see how well they work. Debut grade is the longest and hardest grade to teach for the majority of students, young and old, because it is your learners’ first example of music tuition – so really concentrate on making it fun and exciting, and you’ll always be improving naturally over time.


Duncan Lee performs ‘Z’ from Rockschool Drums Debut on the XYZ Drum Channel

Things to Cover in This Grade

  • Holding the sticks – German, French, Traditional
  • Drum kit layout – Using terminology like ‘drum voice’
  • Counting – Why we count, how we count, understanding industry-standard counting techniques
  • Tempo – Can we keep time naturally, playing to metronome
  • Crotchets/Quarter Notes – both UK and US variants of this value
  • Quavers/Eighth Notes – both UK and US variants of this value
  • Drum Beat in 4/4, using eighth note and quarter note high hat patterns – Let’s play it, let’s count it
  • Moving the bass drum around that basic groove – 1 and 3 to start, then all quarter notes, then all 8th notes, then doubles
  • Rudiments – What are rudiments? Why is this knowledge useful?
  • Single Strokes in Quavers
  • Double Strokes in Quavers
  • Paradiddles in Quavers

“You can encourage reading music by standing next to the music stand and with a pencil point to the notes as they play. Younger students will take longer to master this skill, where you’re older students and adults may get this quicker.”

Reading Music

Reading music is possibly the hardest thing to teach, especially early on. In my experience, a student at this level will find it really challenging to look at the music and play the drums at the same time. Do not rush into reading music before you have both explored the drum kit first; got the grooves going; and have some fun! When you feel the student is ready, then introduce the scripted music bit by bit, recording their successes as you go.

Tip: You can encourage reading music by standing next to the music stand and with a pencil point to the notes as they play. Younger students will take longer to master this skill, where you’re older students and adults may get this quicker.


Stephan Seiler Drums plays through the Rockschool Drums Debut track “My Name Is” from Eminem

Passing the Exam

To successfully pass this grade, the student needs to be familiar with all of the above (see ‘Things to Cover in This Grade’), and more importantly, feel comfortable with all of the technical aspects before they can even think about entering an exam room. Using RSL books in conjunction with the above will help the student achieve a solid pass; however, they must feel comfortable, and that is your job as the teacher to get them to that level. Judging their ability to feel calm enough to perform whilst being watched by someone new is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Remember, this doesn’t, and shouldn’t, be something to fear. But, that means ensuring that every box is ticked, including mental prep before the big day.

The student must enjoy the song to play it well, and as a teacher, you should actively encourage your students to listen to the grade songs and choose four songs (3 for the exam and 1 spare) which they can identify with in some way. Never force a song onto a student if they don’t connect with it of any level.

Encouraging Personal Discovery

I’ll ask a question. Are you sure your way, is the right way? All students will have their quirks; and all players and educators will have them too! If you are teaching a technique, ensure that you’ve done your research on that specific technique, and identify any potential gaps in your approach. As educators, we must remember to expand our own knowledge over time. There is always something you don’t know that could improve you as a teacher, and in turn, the experiences of your students.


REPLAY! RSL’s interactive sheet music player gives you the ability to jam along with your favourite Rockschool performance pieces

Take stick grip, for example. Let’s take the ‘German Grip’: I have seen so many different variants of this grip, and I know I have changed my own approach over time to match my ergonomic style. Thanks to training from guys like Paul Elliott (Rockschool composer, educator and session player) and Gabor Dornyei, I have learned how to hold the sticks correctly, while adjusting to my own bodies specific dynamics. I do not teach my German Grip technique; I teach my guided version of the method, or more importantly, the correct technique, which should provide the best platform for a young player to grow and learn effectively.


Slow-Mo: Drummer, Stephen Taylor‘s ‘German Grip’ video breaks the technique down

Good advice and correct technique training should explain to the student the right way of completing the technique, but that it’s also ok to change certain aspects of it to match their body style. Never teach an idiosyncrasy specific to you, but create an open forum where they can decide what works for them over time.


About the Author:

Michael Hutchinson is a drummer, educator, and music psychologist from the North East of England. He runs Triple-T Drumming school of drums and has been teaching privately for 12 years. He is currently researching drumming from a psychological point of view studying with Sheffield University, music psychology in education performance and wellbeing and his main interest is drumming and its effects on working memory.

Anti-Bullying | Advice for Parents

June 21st, 2021 by

Whether you’re a parent of a bully or a child who’s being bullied, it’s never a comfortable position to be in.

We’re running a series of blogs focusing on bullying and how it can affect all parties involved: this week we’re focusing on how bullying can affect parents, and how you can help your children navigate the often tense and unpleasant world of bullying, choosing kindness along the way.

What is bullying?

Bullying can take many different forms and with the continued digitisation of our society, there may be forms of bullying that are new or which you do not know about.

Prejudice can take many forms, and whether it is a one-off instance or a repeated series of events, bullying must be recognised and eradicated.

Bullying may be homophobic (based on sexual orientation), sexist (undermining you for being of the opposite sex), and racist (based on your skin colour and background).

What form can it take?

Bullying traditionally takes the form of physical abuse, name-calling, and consistent taunting. However, with so many children having access to a computer or smartphone nowadays, bullying often continues outside the classroom, online.

How should I react if I think my child is being bullied?

There’s a 50:50 chance that your child is involved in bullying at school, whether that’s as a bully, a witness, or someone who is being bullied. If your child is being bullied, reassure them that it is not their fault. Bullying can happen for all sorts of reasons, and as a parent you should help combat any insecurities they may feel about coming forward.

Bullies often want to provoke a certain reaction in the children they target. Practising scenarios with your child and encouraging them to not give the bully the reaction they want can be beneficial.

All schools are legally required to have an anti-bullying policy in place. You should familiarise yourself with this as it should be freely accessible and up to date, but charging into the school and demanding to see the headteacher or the bully’s parents is rarely a helpful reaction as it can cause additional stress and anxiety for your child, potentially making the bullying even worse.

However, you should talk to your school if the bullying continues. Schools will have a range of options to choose from in how they deal with the bully. If you aren’t satisfied by the school’s response, the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) offers step-by-step advice on how to deal with the school, from how to write a letter to your options if you need to chance tact. Their advice line is 0300 0115 142. Bullying UK have some great templates that you can use to get in touch with them.

What if my child is the bully?

It can be a very disappointing experience to find out that your child is a bully. You are bound to look introspectively to consider how your relationship with your child is involved, but it’s important to distance yourself and realise that their bullying may be a sign of deeper emotional distress.

Your child may be bullying to fit in, to gain attention from their peers or teachers, or maybe they just made a mistake.

Children often don’t realise the gravity of their actions. They may not even realise they are bullying, or that the other person is being affected in such a negative way. It’s important that, as their parent, you communicate with them and ask them questions so you can understand their motivations and help them to empathise with the child they are bullying.

Encourage your child to look inwards and think about why they’re doing what they’re doing. Hopefully with your help, they will be able to point to a reason why they feel the need to bully other children, and get to a place where they can stop bullying, apologise, and move to a happier frame of mind.

If you’d like to learn more about how to deal with bullying if it becomes an issue for your children, then head to the websites below to explore further free resources that have helped to inform our blog and understanding of bullying.

NSPCC:

https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/schools/anti-bullying-resources

Young Minds:

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/bullying/

Bullying UK:

https://www.bullying.co.uk/anti-bullying-week/anti-bullying-week-resources/

Anti-Bullying Alliance:

https://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/tools-information/schools-and-teachers/top-tips-teachers-and-school-staff/abas-top-tips-teachers

Our next blog will focus on how children can deal with bullies at school.