Solos For Two?…Duets For One?

Solos For Two?…Duets For One?…A Radically Simple New Teaching Practice Method

The Use Of Duets In A New Teaching Practice Method
by Martha Yasuda

The following article is a description of an innovative new teaching practice method that I developed which enables music students to learn solo pieces more efficiently.

This new teaching practice method takes a solo piece of music and rearranges it as a duet for two players — this is the “Solos For Two” teaching dimension of my new instructional method; the notes in the duet arrangement are identical to those found in the solo piece of music. The “Duets For One” term refers to the practicing facet of my new method, which will be discussed in a moment, separately.

Solos For Two? – TEACHING In The Studio
Please Click on Figure A. Each musician plays approximately one phrase of music and is silent while the other musician plays the next phrase. A trade-off effect is created between the two players, with the music overlapping for one note. In other words, the first note played by the second musician is identical to the last note played by the first musician. (This overlapping feature prevents awkward silences and allows a merging of sound between the two instruments for every phrase whereby pitch can be frequently checked between the two players.)

Using this new Solos For Two teaching method in a music lesson, the teacher introduces a portion of music from the top line of the duet to the student. The amount played can vary depending on the difficulty of the music and the skill level of the student. Once the student is reasonably adept at playing the music on the top line (it usually takes about 5-10 minutes since the notes of the solo are now divided into two parts), the teacher and student play a duet with the teacher playing the bottom line and the student playing the top line just learned. The duet is repeated until the student is successful (this takes perhaps another five minutes).

This same process is used as the student learns and plays the bottom line while the teacher plays the top. Finally, once top and bottom lines are sufficiently mastered by the student, that is, the “Solos For Two” teaching method has completed its task, the student is ready to play the entire solo passage where both top and bottom lines are combined. At this time, it is better for the student to use the standard music score written for one player since it is much easier on the eyes. (This prevents the student from having to hop back and forth between the two lines.)

How Effective is this New Solos For Two Teaching Method?
Based on my anecdotal studio experience as well as that of several colleagues who have used my method, typically, after using this new Solos For Two teaching method for just twenty to thirty minutes in a lesson with an instructor, many students are able to play the original solo passages of music that would have ordinarily taken them anywhere from three to five weeks to learn, with the average number of weeks being four!

The process of breaking the music down into smaller increments and having the teacher actually play along with the student allows learning to take place in a systematic, non-stressful and enjoyable fashion. Those familiar with the Suzuki approach to teaching music may recognize certain similarities with this new teaching method.

A Comparison With Orthodox Methods
Please Click on Figure B. Having briefly described my new Solos For Two teaching method, I now compare it with the orthodox teaching practice method currently employed by the vast majority of music teachers (whether they use the Suzuki or traditional approach to teaching music).

Using the orthodox teaching practice method in a music lesson, students are assigned a portion of music. The amount is determined by the difficulty of the music and skill level of the student. Teachers attempt to have students practice small portions of music slowly in order to master the material. Some students have the necessary discipline and self-control needed to learn in this fashion.

However, many students become impatient and either play too fast or they get bored and want to move on to something else before things are adequately learned. Some students are overwhelmed by the sheer mass of notes in front of them; not to mention the number of musical markings, which varies by instrument.

In many cases, using the orthodox teaching practice method, both students and teachers become frustrated and impatient with the student’s slow or inadequate progress. In due time, after much stress and repetitive teaching and practicing, many students and teachers eventually achieve the results they are looking for. Others become discouraged and settle for less than satisfactory results because they are unable to untangle the seemingly endless number of challenges before them.
Advantages Of The New Teaching Method
I now juxtapose this new Solos For Two teaching method with the orthodox teaching practice method and, in doing so, highlight the advantages of the new teaching method.

The main difference between the new Solos For Two teaching method and the orthodox teaching practice method is the alternating duet structure found in my new teaching method. It is this alternating duet structure with overlapping note which significantly reduces the number of notes and musical markings a student must learn at one time. And since the teacher plays with the student, the speed of the piece of music can be controlled by the teacher.

By design and construct, the new Solos For Two teaching method inherently achieves the goal of the orthodox teaching practice method, which is to master discrete portions of music slowly. While the teacher is playing one phrase of music, the student has adequate time to prepare to play the next phrase of music. This feature significantly lowers the stress level a student can experience while playing. Simultaneously, students are given a sense of accomplishment, as goals are more easily reached. The new Solos For Two teaching method gives students a much greater chance that they will succeed.

Additionally, the new Solos For Two teaching method greatly increases the efficiency of both the student’s lesson with the teacher and the practice time at home, this subject being raised for the first time. Because the passages are smaller, it is easier for the student to decipher where the problem areas are and focus the most on those areas.

Typically, using the orthodox teaching practice method, students play everything on a given page simply because it is there. Consequently, much time is wasted.

The new teaching method allows students to get a much more specific picture of where the most difficult technical areas are located. Due to this increased awareness, time will not be wasted playing passages already learned.

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