Issue 130: Theory – Grouping of Notes

I have been teaching Grade 2 Music Theory for the first time ever this year. There are just half-a-dozen children, aged ten and eleven, taking the exam next month, and they are all at least Grade 2 or 3 on their practical instrument.

Lessons are informal, and lively, and only a few topics have given cause for concern; minor scales, identifying semitones, and Grouping of Notes.

Well, minor scales are really just a matter of learning the rules and applying them. I reckon I’ve done a decent job of teaching them, and now the children just have to get on with the business of learning them. Which also means key-signatures.

Identifying semitones is something that cropped up in a past paper, and I need to go over it. (It does rely on them revising their minor scales, and key-signatures – three birds, one stone).

Interesting? Inspiring? Wow!Grouping of Notes – Ugh. I haven’t found an easy way of explaining this. And it is not helped by having all the appearance of just being a matter of opinion

As soon as you teach a rule, for example “Every beat is a group”, you find an exception “unless you are in triple time, in which case you beam all the quavers together, or in quadruple time, in which case you beam/group notes together in half bars” – the children are now looking glazed.

If you now want to completely fry their brains, add, as an aside “and make sure you avoid unnecessary ties, especially in quadruple time”

Now you realize that they have forgotten what duple, triple and quadruple mean, and as for the concept of a half bar…

Back to the beginning. I guess the “every beat is a group” rule is the one to start with, and then take it from there. I’ve still got about a month (with SATS tests and half term intervening) to try and get this sorted.

birds on a branch divider


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