Parents’ Guide to Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series
Following is the text to the free Parent’s Guide that accompanies Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series. Written by series co-author Michael Martin, the Parent’s Guide is an excellent source of information about the general principles of Music Learning Theory and how those principles can be used by any music teacher to improve instruction.
Copyright GIA Publications, Chicago. Used by permission.
The purpose of this guide is to familiarize you with Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series so that you will better understand the methods and techniques used to teach your child to play a music instrument. Many of you took music lessons when you were in school. Some of you may even be professional musicians. When your child comes home from a beginning instrumental lesson at school this year, you may realize that she is being taught differently from the manner in which you were taught. Some of the terminology is new and some old terminology is being used in different ways. You were probably given a “method book” at the first lesson and told to memorize the names of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. You were taught to “count” and to follow “the beat.” In Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series your child will be singing, chanting, and learning to play by ear in class and with a Home-Study CD specifically designed for that instrument. The information in this booklet will help you to understand the purpose for these activities, and it will address common questions that may arise.
A good method tells us what to teach, when to teach it (the best sequencing of instruction), and why to teach it. A good technique tells us how to teach. Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series is based on over thirty years of research and observation into how children learn music (music learning theory). It is being used successfully by school districts across the country. It is the only instrumental series based on a comprehensive music learning theory and the only instrumental series coordinated with a general music curriculum. Because the methods and techniques used in Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series develop the “inner instrument” as well as the actual music instrument the student is learning to play, many teachers have seen a great improvement in the level of musicianship their students display.
Benefits for Students
- Students perform on their instruments more fluently, and in a variety of meters, tonalities, and styles.
- Students perform with better intonation and rhythmic accuracy.
- Students listen to music with an understanding of the tonality and meter.
- Students are able to engage in higher level skills such as creativity, improvisation, and generalization.
- Students have a large repertoire of songs they can play with and without notation.
- Students are able to read notation with better understanding.
- Students continue as adults to listen with understanding to music of many styles.
How Does Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series Achieve These Results?
Music learning theory tells us that the process of learning music is much the same as the process of learning language. How did you learn language?
First, you listened to language. From the time of birth, and even before, you were surrounded by the sound of language and conversation. you absorbed these sounds and became acculturated to the language of your culture.
Second, you tried, unsuccessfully at first, to imitate. Keep in mind that even before you were successful at imitating, you were praised for your efforts and encouraged to “babble,” even when the sounds that you were making
did not make sense.
Third, you began to think in the language. Words and phrases began to have meaning for you. You picked up the meaning through your experiences with the language.
Fourth, you began to improvise in the language. In other words, you were able to make up your own phrases and sentences that were organized in a logical manner. You were able to engage in conversation.
Finally, after several years of developing your ability to think, you were taught how to read and write. You learned to read with understanding because of all the experience you had listening, imitating, thinking, and improvising.
How would your language achievement have been affected if any of these steps had been skipped? How would your language achievement have been affected if someone had tried to teach you in a different sequence? For example, what would have happened if someone had tried to teach you to read before you could think, or even before you had engaged in a conversation?
Audiation is the word we use to describe the process of thinking music. To audiate is to hear and comprehend music that is not physically present, just as to think is to hear and give meaning to language, the sound of words not physically present. Musicians audiate when they recall music they have previously heard, when they anticipate and predict what will be heard next while listening to music, when they create and improvise music, and when they read and write music. The comprehension aspect of audiation is complex, just as the process of thinking is complex. This
comprehension aspect includes awareness and understanding of the underlying tonality and meter of the music. Do you think your musical skills would be better if you had been taught in a more effective sequence?
Everyone has the potential to learn to audiate. Some students have more potential to learn to audiate than others. Research indicates that potential or aptitude in music has very little in common with verbal, logical, or mathematical intelligences. Therefore, there are some students who have more potential in music than in any other subject. Research also indicates that the best way to develop this potential is through active participation in music, such as singing, moving, playing, creating, and improvising.
Many great music educators of the past have advocated “rote before note,” that is, aural learning and experiences with music before being taught to read notation. Suzuki, Dalcroze, Orff, Kodaly, and Lowell Mason, among others, agree that reading and writing music must be preceded by many opportunities to listen to and perform music. Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series goes a step further by teaching students to comprehend the music they are hearing and performing. Ultimately the students are able to read music notation with better understanding.
The Home-Study CD
A major component of Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series is the Home-Study CD. The cassette contains the following:
1. Familiar folk songs to involve your child in listening, singing, and playing.
2. Tonal patterns and rhythm patterns for your child to echo with her voice and
on the instrument.
3. Melodic examples that your child will learn to echo on her instrument.
4. Accompaniments to many of the song your child will be learning to sing and
5. Musical enrichment songs–”extra challenge” for your child.
The Home-Study CD is designed to be your child’s “teacher at home.” You should check the Assignment Schedule on pages 2-4 in the Student Book. This is where the teacher will be indicating the assignment. It is essential that your child have a quiet place, with a cassette player in good working condition, where she can study on the instrument for twenty minutes each day. Regular work at home is vital if your child is to succeed. You may need to help establish a
regular time for your child to study on the instrument. The amount of time may vary and the practice schedule need not be rigid, but your child has little chance of success without working on the instrument at least five days a week. How well would you be able to communicate if you only spoke once a week?
It is also important for your child to practice on the day of her lesson in school. Some students think they can skip practice on this day because they have had a lesson. In fact, a practice session soon after a lesson is most valuable because the lesson will be fresh in your child’s mind.
Why isn’t my child learning how to read music?
Your child will be learning how to read notation after he possesses the necessary readiness to learn to read with comprehension. The goal is to look at the notation and be able to audiate it (hear it in your head). Remember that knowing letter names of lines and spaces, or knowing which finger to push down, is not reading notation, just as knowing the letters of the alphabet is not reading language.
Should I begin teaching my child the names of the lines and spaces on the staff and the time value names of the notes?
Research indicates that we should not. Do not be in a hurry to have your child read notation. The more experience he has with music before reading notation, the faster and better he will learn to read notation.
What if my child can already read music?
We will simply explain to the child that the facts he has already learned about notation are valid and that we will simply be teaching him in a way that will not require reading skills for a while. There will be new challenges and new skills to learn before your child needs to read band music.
What can I do to help my child at home?
The most important provision you could make is that of encouragement. Set aside a good time and place for practice; let your child know you are interested and encourage her endeavors! Make certain your child has a cassette tape player in good working condition and a music instrument that works well. Read the book with your child. Sing, chant, and play with her. Be careful, however, to let her learn by ear. Don’t show your child everything. She must learn to teach herself. Do not write down the songs in any way to help her “remember” or “memorize” the song. This may seem like a good idea to get quick results, but it will ultimately delay the development of musical independence, which is the goal.
My child wants to quit. What should I do?
When learning something new, almost every child goes through a period of time when he feels like quitting; playing a music instrument is no exception. Be prepared for this! It is normal. Do not give in easily! You have invested time, effort, and money because you feel this is something worthwhile for your child. It is worthwhile, and your child will in most cases get over that feeling of wanting to quit as he becomes motivated by some new challenge that is presented. Encouragement and perseverance are needed! After all, you taught your children through perseverance to brush their teeth each night, even when they didn’t feel like it, because you knew that someday they would recognize the value of it and be glad that you persevered. Please contact your child’s teacher when he expresses negative
feelings about the instrument. You and the teacher can then discuss what has been taking place in the lesson and at home, and together devise a way to motivate your child.
What if my child wants to switch instruments?
Your child’s music teacher has tried to match each child with an instrument on which that child can succeed. Sometimes, however, there may be a legitimate reason for wanting to change instruments. In many cases it is best to continue on the original instrument because of the time and effort already invested to learn the skills of that instrument. Please call the teacher so that you can discuss the individual case and make a decision that is best for the child.
Why does my child need to spend so much time singing and chanting?
A music instrument is an extension of the mind and body; it simply reproduces and amplifies what is in the player’s brain. If your child does not sing in tune and move her body in a consistent tempo, what comes out of the instrument will not be musical. In other words, your child will not be engaged in musical thought. For many reasons, it is not uncommon today for a child to be unable to sing and move when first learning to play a music instrument. Also, it is easy for a student to become so concerned with the technical aspects of playing the instrument that there often is no audiation taking place. The singing and chanting activities require the student to audiate and enable the teacher to evaluate the student’s audiation progress.
My child is a visual learner. Can’t you give him notation to make it easier?
All of us, especially adults, have become better visual learners than aural learners. Music is an aural art. Recent research indicates that music cannot be taught visually or intellectually. Notation cannot teach audiation, just as putting words in front of an infant and explaining grammar will not help him learn to think or speak. Naturally, learning music is easier for some students than others. It is much more difficult for adults to begin to improve their aural skills than it is for children. This is a unique opportunity for your child to improve his aural learning skills. We will help your child develop aural skills to his fullest potential, then he will be ready to read music notation with comprehension. Note also that music aptitude has very little in common with other intelligences. In other words, if we are truly teaching audiation, many students will excel in music more than in any other subject. Conversely, many students who excel in other subjects may take longer to learn audiation skills. In the past, music was typically taught as an intellectual skill: memorizing rules, counting, mathematical formulas, letter names, and “decoding” the puzzle of notation were typically taught. Now we know that these intellectual activities actually get in the way of audiation.
I am a musician, but I don’t understand Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series. What can I do?
Perhaps the best suggestion is to begin by familiarizing yourself with the Home-Study CD. Listen and learn right along with your child. Listen to the enrichment songs and also do the enrichment activities with your child. Chant the rhythms and sing the patterns with your child. Many experienced musicians and music teachers have been astounded at the improvement in their own musicianship when using Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series.
How much time should my child practice?
We will be telling your child to study on his music a minimum of twenty minutes per day, five days per week. This includes time working with the Home-Study CD, singing, chanting, and playing the instrument. This time is best divided into two ten-minute sessions each day. Make certain your child has a quiet place with a cassette tape player in good working condition, and help your child establish a regular time to study his music, just as he studies other homework. Remember that the quality of practice time is much more important than the amount of practice time. Some students will become motivated to practice much more than the minimum twenty minutes each day.
What should my child be practicing at home?
In the Student Book on pages 2-4 is an assignment schedule where we will be indicating your child’s assignment. At the beginning stages we will be assigning items for your child to read about the care of the instrument, posture, etc. There will always be an assignment working with the Home-Study CD. At first it will involve only singing and chanting. Soon your child will learn to echo on the instrument the items he hears on the tape. Eventually, your child will be able to play songs without first listening to the tape. Still later, he may begin working on the enrichment songs which are at the end of side two of the Home-Study CDs. These songs and enrichment activities, which are listed on page 30 of the Student Book, provide extra challenge and motivation for those students. Congratulations on your decision to give your child the gift of instrumental music! Working together we can make his or her experience as worthwhile as possible.