This month has been Music Learning Theory month on timtopham.com and with that has come a lot of talk about audiation. But what is audiation really? What does it mean and how does it look in a teaching context?
If we want students to take full ownership or musical concepts and patterns, they should be able to audiate them. We don’t want them just imitating what they’ve heard, parroting back the melody or harmony or definition. We want them to fully grasp it right through to their core.
Andrew Mullen discovered Music Learning Theory through the choral training of James Jordan. It made a lot of sense to him, and so he started exploring further. He now teaches middle schoolers using this approach, and his students have reaped the benefits of a true understanding of music.
In fact, he’s about to transition over his whole school district to MLT teaching!
In today’s podcast, Andrew is giving us a great insight into what MLT looks (and sounds!) like in a practical context. Andrew’s enthusiasm for MLT is contagious, and I can tell his classes must be great fun as well as educational. I hope you’ll take a listen to hear some of his fantastic teaching in action!
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Would they be able to identify the home note or whether a chord was tonic or dominant?
Which of Andrew’s activities are you excited to try with your students? Do you like the way rhythm is simplified in MLT? Or perhaps how solfa is incorporated?
Tim: All right. Andy, welcome to the call finally. Great to have you on the show.
Andrew: Thanks, Tim. It’s a pleasure to be here, pleasure to talk with you. I love all the stuff that you’ve done for the piano world and the music education world at large. So it’s just a real pleasure to talk with you.
Tim: Brilliant. Well, look and for those of you who are listening and not watching, you’ll notice that Andy sounds incredibly professional. I think this is one of the professional interviewees I’ve had on here. But you’ll find out why a bit later on when we discuss some of the videos that he’s put together for you guys. So let’s first talk about how you personally got into Music Learning Theory, because you’re not only teaching it to your students, you’re actually…I think you’re a presenter, is that right? Or you’ve certainly had to study from the Gordon Institute
Andrew: A lot of that is right. About five years ago, I took an online course with the noted choral pedagogue, James Jordan, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, but he’s a pretty crackerjack teacher, and he uses Music Learning Theory as probably one of the main foundations of his whole practice. And so, after reading a lot of his materials, he kept making reference to this Edwin Gordon guy and to this monster book “Learning Sequences in Music” by Dr. Gordon. It’s a big one.
Tim: Oh my goodness, that is thick. I didn’t realize that. I can tell that it’s pretty heavy reading.
Andrew: It’s a heavy reading literally and figuratively. So I thought I would go right to the source, and I bought the book and I made it about two chapters in and just didn’t understand any of it. So I bought these lecture CDs, which I would highly recommend to anybody. They’re sold by GIA, which is the publishing company that publishes all of Dr. Gordon’s work. And there’s a half hour lecture that’s associated with each chapter, and it just, everything really, really hit home. Listening to Dr. Gordon speak is a lot easier than actually reading him. So I would recommend that to anybody who’s interested in Music Learning Theory.
There are some lectures that are available actually for free on the Gordon Institute of Music Learning Theory University of South Carolina website. We can link to that later on. But that’s really how I got started. I have about a half hour, 45 minute commute. So I spent a lot of time in the car just listening to the old guy talk, and it just really, really hit home. And he just said all the problems that I was having in music education, and he has answers. He has answers to many of those questions, and many of those problems that we have.
So you know, just listening and listening, and listening, and then more books and listening again and MLT, Music Learning Theory, is like you know, peeling back an onion. There’s just the layers just never ever, ever, ever stop. So it’s been a really exciting journey for me, and I’m happy to be now presenting all that stuff that I’ve learned to the world at large.
Tim: Fantastic. And so, what kind of teaching do you do today, these days?
Andrew: Currently, I teach middle school general music. I have sixth and seventh graders. Is that what you call it there? Year six and…
Tim: Yeah so about 12, 13-year-olds?
Andrew: Yeah, early teenagers. And I teach keyboard to sixth graders and guitar to seventh graders, you know, as well as just general musicianship. And I have two choruses, a big chorus and a more select chorus. And I do a little fiddle, a little banjo, and I have a rock band at the school. And yes, it’s a great opportunity to implement MLT in a number of different areas.
Tim: And the great thing is that the concepts work for small groups, for individual, for classroom, so even though we’re talking to you, you’re a classroom specialist effectively, I guess, in the Middle East. All of the stuff that we’re talking about can apply to any instrumental lesson, right?
Andrew: Yeah there’s Gordon certifications, and there’s one for early childhood. There’s a whole mess of early childhood materials, and resources, and certifications. There’s elementary general, which is the level that I just took last week. There’s instrumental one, as you know, you talked with Marilyn Lowe. There’s a piano one. So it’s, yeah, as you say, it applies to individual students and groups as well.
Tim: Right. Well, look we’ve had a lot of posts this week and some podcasts as well about Music Learning Theory. And a lot of the talk is regarding this concept of audiation, which is a term that Dr. Gordon actually coined, I believe. And it’s really, really crucial. But I think without seeing it in action, it’s quite hard to understand. So I’m really excited to have you on the talk specifically about audiation but to also share with my viewers some of your videos, which are just brilliant in actually getting a feel for these. So what I’m gonna do now is just jump in. We’re gonna listen to part of one of Andy’s audiation station videos. And you can talk a little bit more about it afterwards. But would you recommend the teachers who are listening to this for the first time or watching it what should they do as they’re listing or watching?
Andrew: I think they should start at the beginning.
Andrew: That’s what I think that they should do. They should start at the beginning. Gordon is fond of saying things like there’s no correct chronological age, there is a musical age. So you never really know what your musical age is until you start back at the beginning.
Tim: Cool, all right. Well, let’s have a quick listen to one of Andy’s first videos.
All right, so Andy, tell us a little bit about what we’ve just heard and how we can actually use this in my audiences, as piano teachers, how we can apply it to the teaching that we’re doing without having to go through all the process of having all the training. Are there things that we can do tomorrow with our students?
Andrew: Absolutely. Music Learning Theory teaches with what is called a whole part whole philosophy, W-H-O-L-E part, traditional spelling, and then whole, W-H-O-L-E. The whole, the first whole, is the context that we’re in. So the context being a tonality or a meter. The parts of it are what we refer to in MLT is tonal patterns and rhythm patterns. And then once we’ve listened to the whole dissected it for parts, tonal patterns and rhythm patterns, which are the words of music, then the whole begins to make a lot more sense. We understand the context of the content. For example, if we just have bum, bum, that’s just a total pattern that’s out there in the world, bum bum. But there’s no context to it. We can take bum bum, and we can give it this context. Now, that has more context. But say, we give it a different context. Well, now, that has a different context. Now, we’re in minor tonality. We could be in Phrygian tonality, you never know. We could be in Dorian tonality, but we’re getting a lot close.
Tim: Let’s stick with [inaudible [00:08:00]
Andrew: Yeah, all right fine. We’ll stick with mine [SP]. But I think too often as teachers, we give our students a lot of context without context, and they just become imitators.
Tim: You mean content without context, or did you mean to say context without context?
Andrew: I meant to say the right one, which is the way I think you said that.
Tim: We give content without context.
Andrew: Without context, yes. And they become imitators, and they don’t become audiators. And you need audiation in order to say something musically.
Tim: And so, part of this is about the fact that if they are given that context, of let’s say the major tonality, we want students to be able to go bum, bum, bum. Sorry, it’s like 6:00 a.m. here, bum, bum, bum. We want them to be able to hear that resting tone. The tonality of the key, right?
Andrew: Absolutely. In Music Learning Theory, in the practical application of Music Learning Theory, we’re constantly asking students to provide that resting tone. We always want our students to be able to provide the resting tone because without the resting tone, we don’t have good intonation. We’re constantly comparing whatever it is what we’re doing to the resting tone, and that doesn’t really make too much of a difference in piano because you know, everything is tune. But for most other instruments violin, and horns, you know, you really, really need to have a good sense of intonation. And so, what the audiation station videos do is and what we just heard, is it’s the parts.
It takes students through just some very basic parts. In the audiation station, I plan to take students through major and minor tonalities, duple and triple meters, and teach everybody…teach students, the one chord, and the five-chord in both tonalities. And for students to be able to understand big beats, little beats, divisions, and the space in between. So that’s my goal, and so what we just heard was effectively just one little snippet of parts that students should be able to take and practice and eventually reproduce and eventually, eventually, hopefully, not too eventually, improvise with. And I think that’s one of the most important things we can do for our students is to teach them how to improvise.
Tim: So if I was a seven-year-old coming into your music class, what would the first five minutes be all about?
Andrew: This means audiate. Don’t do anything just audiate. Listen to my song. Move like me. Now, you can’t see my feet, but I’m…Move like me. Then move like me. Little beats on the lap like this. You’re doing like the quick version for you. Then put them together.
Tim: So you’re tapping the feet. Is that what you’re doing that we can’t see?
Andrew: That’s right. Yeah, shall I move my feet?
Tim: No, it’s fine.
Andrew: Okay. So big beats are in the feet. Little beats are in the lap with what we call spider fingers. Then we try to put them together. Move like me. Together now. Et cetera.
Tim: And all this time they’re just listening, no vocal as yet?
Andrew: Not yet, no. This is the whole part whole philosophy. They’re getting the whole, the whole, the whole, the whole, the whole, lots of times. But the same sense, we’re comparing the whole against the parts. What are the parts? Big beats.
Tim: Which we’d call crotchets, I guess, or whole notes? Whole notes? No.
Andrew: Whole notes is a bad, bad word in Music Learning Theory.
Tim: Is it? Why is that?
Andrew: Because that’s what we would call in the business a theoretical understanding. We want to start with labels that are kind of devoid of theory. So big beats and little bits together. So we’ve isolated a couple of rhythmic elements. We still have the big whole. Then we talk about flow. We don’t talk about flow. We do flow. Flow is very, very important because flow is the space in between the beats. So we do it again. Listen to my song, and we do little flow. As much as they will do, sometimes they’re a little leery about flowing way too much. So those are some rhythmic elements then we do some tonal elements. Listen to my song and whenever I stop, I want you to sing. They’ll all say bam. We haven’t labeled it anything because we’re still in what’s called ro ro [SP] in through the ears out through the mouth and back in, which is a little bit challenging because it’s a five-chord function. And they have to kind of go back to one bum. And then we do, let it linger bum, let it linger, bum.
Tim: Good, very nice.
Tim: How did it get it, did I get it well?
Andrew: It is a great bum, great bum.
Tim: Well, thanks.
Andrew: And then we say something like, “Now, you’ve heard that song about 1,700 times could you please audiate the song. Can you please raise your hand when you are done audiating the song?” Audiate. And then they’ll raise their hand when they’re done. And then now, you’ve heard me sing a song about 1,700 times I bet you’d like to sing this song, yay. Ready, sing. There was one kid with a changed voice and mixing and then we do something like, I had this kind of all dial up here ready to go. I would love for you to sing it and then for me to sing something else, but I don’t think that it would jive in the space-time continuum.
Tim: We could try. Do you wanna try?
Andrew: All right. Let’s try it. So you sing the song, and I’m gonna sing a different song. I’m gonna call it my song, ready, sing.
Tim: Well, that’s gonna be fascinating to listening back to it or really awful.
Andrew: So effectively, you’re singing the melody and I’m singing the baseline. I’m providing the harmony for them. And then I divide the class in half and one-half would sing the melody then the other half would sing the code roots, the harmonic functions. And then we would switch, and they would their very first really true musical experience with melody, and rhythm, and harmony all together. Now, I talked a lot. In reality that would take about, you know, depending upon the length of the song, three, four, five, minutes. And it’s a really, really great introduction to Music Learning Theory. And that’s really what I was trying to provide in the A tune videos, is listening opportunities for individuals to be able to listen and pick out melody, and pick out rhythm, and pick out harmony, and have those kinds of musical experiences.
Tim: It’s such a great overview. I really, really love that you’ve got and demonstrated this for us because it really puts it into perspective. You can read only you want of that audiation but to actually hear someone who knows what they’re doing actually do it, I think it’s brilliant. So I actually reckon we might have a listen to one of your attunes right now. So this is this is a chance for all the teachers watching to actually participate in exactly the activity you’ve just described, right?
Andrew: Absolutely. And there’s a video that’s at the beginning of the playlist, which kind of gives you directions and challenges you and charges with what you should be doing with these attune videos.
Tim: Okay, to save us worrying about that now, can you give them a quick overview of what they should be doing when we’re about to listen to this one now. We won’t play the whole thing but just a little bit of it.
Andrew: Well, you just heard it. You should basically go through wrote song procedure with these videos. So listen to the video see if you can move your feet to the big beat, move your hands to the little beat, can you do both together? Can you move with flow as you’re listening to them? Can you sing the resting tone as you’re listening to it? Can you constantly hear the resting tone? Can you sing the melody? They’re spaces in the video where the melody drops out. You’ve heard it about you know, by the time the melody drops out, you probably have heard at six, or seven, or eight times. Can you sing the melody without the support of having it actually you know, in physical space? Can you listen to the baseline, and can you when the bass drops out, can you sing the bass line by yourself? So it’s really kind of an interactive musical experience.
Tim: I also like that the instruments built up as well over time. So you would start with just, I think it’s a piano, is it?
Andrew: Sometimes it’s a piano, yeah.
Tim: And then we add more and more instruments, but I was interested. Actually no, we’re gonna come back to that. Let’s have a listen now to one of your attunes, which one would you recommend just this…because they’re all in their different modes, aren’t they?
Andrew: Yeah. I would start with major and minor. That’s where we start with in Music Learning Theory. So maybe start with major.
Tim: Great. So let’s have a listen to the major attune from Andy right now. I really love coming back to what you’re talking about with regard to how you approach your classes that you’re using your voice. It sounds like you’re using your voice almost the whole time. You haven’t played an instrument. You’re not playing that thing. You’re actually singing it. Is that an important thing, or could you just as well play it on a violin?
Andrew: I think most Music Learning Theory teachers use their voice as their primary instrument. Now, I mean, I play piano, I play guitar, I play fiddle, I play banjo, and I do often use the these kinds of instruments because they do provide harmonic stability, which I think is important. But as much as I possibly can, I like to use my voice. And you know, the voices is the delivery of the patterns as well which we haven’t talked about in relation to the part, whole part whole the patterns being part of our audiation vocabulary. We use our voice for that. For example, audiate the pattern I sing. Wait for the gesture, take a breath and be my echo. Tim, would you be my echo?
Andrew: Thank you very much. I’m establishing tonality. This can’t be anything else but major tonality. If we are in minor tonality can’t be anything else but minor tonality and back to major be my echo.
Tim: Very good. Could you take a breath before you go. I think I botched that one and then that’s ro ro. And the next thing we would do is we would use solfege to label it . So la so fa mi re ti do. We’re in the tonality of major because do as the resting tone. Please sing do.
Tim: What’s the tonality?
Tim: Major tonality then we would apply the syllables to those same patterns that we did.
Andrew: Very nice. Any combination of do mi so is what we call in the business a Music Learning Theory.
Tim: Oh, was I gonna get wrong? Well I was going say a major triad.
Andrew: Yes, with music theory, not to be confused with Music Learning Theory, but with Music Learning Theory, we label that purists would label that tonic. I, in my own practice, and with apologies to Dr. Gordon who’s watching over us all, we call them the MLT police, but he’s no longer with us. So you know, his powers are useless here. I, in my own practice, I call it a 1-chord pattern. For me tonic is not the best label. Now, MLT purists would argue that you don’t wanna use one because numbers means something else to students. I understand that. But I feel it’s inappropriate. If we’re already going tonic, dominant tonic, we’re already kind of teaching them to label. So I’m just gonna cut right to the chase and just use chord to one chord pattern or for short, one. So anyway, back to my explanation any combination of do mi so is called a 1-chord pattern. If I seeing a combination of do mi so, say, “one.” if I sing anything other than one chord patterns, say, “no.” Let’s practice.
Andrew: Do mi so
Tim: One, sorry.
Andrew: So fa re ti
Andrew: And we would go on. And we would label any combination of so fa re ti is called a 5-chord pattern. If I seeing a 5-chord pattern say, “five.” If I sing anything else, you say, “No.” so we’re teaching students to label and to really get the sounds of do mi so so fa re ti in their ears. So that when we get to that first song, that we’re gonna play on the keyboard, and for me it’s Mary had a little ham, I can’t do it.
Tim: Did you say ham?
Andrew: Yeah, that’s right. I can’t do Mary Had a Little Lamb in middle school. So I talk about this selfish little girl named Mary, who wouldn’t give me any of her ham. So I sing Mary had a little ham, little ham, little ham, Mary had a little ham, and wouldn’t give me none. Pardon the double negatives. So when we get to that song I want them to have that sound. I want them to have that in their ears. I want them to have that sense of harmony in their ears. I think that’s one of the main problems with music education today is melody, melody, melody, no context. And we totally forget about harmony until they get to what, college?
Tim: If that.
Andrew: If that. I think we need to have a blend in music education of melody, rhythm, and harmony, you know. It’s the three thirds of music and harmony is really traditionally largely being ignored. I’ve been talking a lot, I’m sorry. I’m on tangent upon tangent, upon tangent.
Tim: It’s what I brought you here to do, right? This is what…I wanna get as much from you as I can in a short amount of time. I’m really interested how do your teenagers take a lesson like this, or do they just know nothing else? Because I would imagine other teachers who might have been teaching in a different way might look at this and go, “You know, that sounds really good. It makes so much sense.” But my teenagers would look at me like I’m a complete idiot if I started just getting them to swing their arms around. Am I off? Have I got it completely wrong?
Andrew: No, you’re right. You’re absolutely right. I think that it’s really all in your delivery. Now, my students they’re just used to me singing directions, and you know, we have like little roasts before my…for all of our concerts. And they all just start talking. They’re just used to it. You know, they’re just used to this language. They’re just used to you know, one fire they’re used to, bum. You know, they’re just used to this language. And as a matter of fact, in my district, we’re going “all MLT next year” The district kind of hired me as an in-house professional development specialist curriculum coach. And we’re implementing this K-12s.
Tim: Really? That’s huge.
Andrew: And I think that that’s a very…it is huge. It’s a very, very exciting time for me and for many teachers in the district. Maybe, maybe not all of them. But I think it’s gonna be fantastic that when students come to be in sixth grade, they already have a basic working musicianship, and they understand already when they come to me what a one and a five is. And they’re already audiating what the difference between major and minor is. And I really, dang it! I shouldn’t have to do this in the middle school and I shouldn’t have to teach them what a resting tone is, you know. I think this really should be a part of every music student’s vocabulary. And it’s not you know, currently, my students when they coming to me in sixth grade, most of them cannot audiate. I mean, they audiate to, they don’t have the labels, they can audiate, everybody audiates to a specific degree. But for the most part, most students in this country and maybe the world, just are not audiators. As I said, there are imitators, and that’s what the G-I-M-L, GIML, The Gordon Institute of Music Learning Theory is trying to do. It’s trying to teach students in this way.
Tim: What do you mean by imitating? Singing back what they hear on the radio sort of thing, but not understanding it from a tonal perspective?
Andrew: Yes, imitation without understanding. If I sing to them, if I said, “Could you sing to me the resting tone?” They first of all, I mean, or if I use, a word other than resting tone, could you sing me home? No, they could not. Could you tell me what meter we’re in? No. could you show me where the big beats are, where the little beats? As a world, as a music education profession, we’re just not teaching our students to understand. We’re teaching them to just imitate. And really the truly sad thing about imitation and this is directly out of Gordon’s mouth is if you gave a concert and the next day asked all of your students in solo to sing the song from the concert, the majority of them would likely not even be able to sing back by themselves. Everybody is just constantly imitating each other, and that’s why we have individual class patterns in Music Learning Theory. A pattern isn’t a student’s property until they can sing it back to you in solo then it becomes their property.
Tim: I think this is all just such a fascinating approach, and it makes just so much sense. As everyone who has responded to any of the post that we put out in this month have said, “This just makes so much sense.” So it’s fantastic to hear that The Music District is actually gone, “You know what? I think this is important.” Which is great. And it’s great that you’ve got music in your primary school. I mean, over here, it’s music’s really at the primary school level, it’s at the elementary level. It’s becoming a little bit rare. Kids don’t learn chords to the Christmas carols or folk songs anymore at class. They don’t sing national anthems very often. Yeah, it’s pretty sad.
Andrew: So they don’t take music the same way they would take art class, physical education class. They don’t…
Tim: It depends on the school as far as I believe. I would like to think that most of them do have something, but it wouldn’t be that comprehensive all that often if at all. But the amount of time that’s being devoted to it is definitely reducing and has an impact.
Andrew: Oh, that’s a shame. And it just speaks to how society at large feels about music education. You know, they feel as if it’s just you know a time for teachers, classroom teachers, to grade papers. And you just you need something for them to do. So they might as well do art. They might as well do music, and they feel that way because they themselves were probably given less than adequate music education. They weren’t talk to audiate. So the cycle just continues and continues and that’s what I’m trying to do as best as I can, in my YouTube way, to get that to get audiation out there.
Tim: We’re gonna share lots of links to all your videos as you have done in the blog post this week. So thank you very much for sharing that. I wanted to ask you about, code i and its use in Music Learning Theory and the importance of it. Because I know that when you start with these tonal patterns, the instruction from Dr. Gordon, I believe, is to use neutral syllables ba da bum and things like that, which is what we’ve been doing today. But then you take another step and you start adding sol-fa or solfege. Why is that important?
Andrew: Well, can I just address the beginning of your question, what you asked about Kodaly? I guess I wasn’t following how Kodaly fits into your question?
Tim: Oh, okay. So well, my understanding is that the solfege concept was a Kodaly construct.
Andrew: I mean it goes back even further than Kodaly. I mean Kodaly just happened to use this technique. I mean solfege syllables go back to you know, Guido in the I think, the 15th century if I’m getting my music history correct, but this constant. But okay. Now that we have that cleared up to answer your question, this concept of using solfege it’s a technique, and when we begin, we use what is called ro ro neutral syllable bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum; and in rhythm, we use ba, ba ba ba ba ba ba ba. And the reason we use those syllables is because Gordon always says that the sound itself is fundamental bum bum is it. The sound is the thing first.
And the reason that we use these syllables is because if we start to have too many patterns, students don’t have a way to organize them and generalize them. So we use, in rhythm, we use this beat function syllable that’s all based on do so that students can have it an organizational taxonomy in their brain of the system. So the way that the system works in rhythm is all macro beats are du du du du – so the big beats are always du du du du. If we take the big beat, we can either divide it into two or three. If we’re in duple, we use, du-de du-de du-de du-de du-de du-de. For in triple, we use do da di. Big beat is still du du du, then du du da di du du di do Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, du di du di do da di do. And I don’t know how much further you want me to delve into this syllable system shall go one more layer?
Tim: One more.
Andrew: We use the syllable ta to indicate that we’re gonna further divide the beat. So do de do de do de…In triple, do da de du…So we’re teaching them rhythmic function. Now, so you could take do da de do do da de du. Is that three-four, or six-eight? Who the heck knows? Because it’s the same sound. If you audiate silent night, you know, put a gun to your head. Is written in three-four or six-eight, I don’t know. So why should the syllable system be any different du ta di du, du ta di du. So it’s “in rhythmic,” the same way same word would be in harmonic. No C-flattened beats. Well, this is in rhythmic. You could write that same rhythm pattern in six-eight or three-four and the ending sound would be exactly the same.
Tim: I remember Marilyn talking about that and that the reason that you use the in harmonic structures is for that reason, and it’s something that confound students all the time, doesn’t it? That something that looks this way can sound different or vice versa.
Andrew: Yeah, and then you know, it’s music notation that has its limitations. And I think that if we follow the skill learning sequence that Gordon provides for us, if we start with the ear first, having oral organization taxonomy of these rhythm patterns and tonal patterns then when we get to reading, it’s just, “Oh, I know what it sounds like. This is what it looks like.” It could look like this. It could look like that. But if it’s always already in your audiation making that that transfer to reading is just a lot easier.
Tim: So the answer I guess, to the question reusing [SP] the solfege is to give them a way to…you call that a taxonomy, you know, a way to describe what’s going on musically.
Andrew: Yeah, an organizational system. If they hear, bum, bum, bum, they can…if they’re taught that that’s do, mi, so, “Oh, that’s a one-chord pattern.” So you hear a walking bass go, bum bum bum bum bum, “Oh, I hear that. That’s a one-chord pattern or a tonic pattern,” Bum, bum, bum. I already know what that sounds like. I know how to play that on the piano. And then you here bum bum bum bum bum. “Oh, that’s a four-chord pattern” Yeah, I already know what it sounds like. It’s just a beautiful system.
Tim: Yeah. It’s fantastic. How long did it take you to learn all of these?
Andrew: Let’s see, 45 minutes a day in the car times home and back. No, just kidding. It’s dense. It’s dense, man. But I think that it’s not as dense as this. It doesn’t need to be this complicated.
Tim: And he’s holding up Dr. Gordon’s original book, which is half the size of the Bible, and double the physical size, right?
Andrew: I think that one thing that that Music Learning Theory practitioners and Dr. Gordon himself did not do very well is to disseminate the information in bite-sized ways, step by step so that people, or persons, as Dr. Gordon would say, so that person could grasp it. And that’s really, what I’m trying to do with my audiation station videos and my YouTube channel is to get this information out there in an accessible way so that people can begin to audiate. And it’s not as hard as that book is making it out to be.
I mean, it’s dense, and there’s a lot to think about. But I think to do the bare minimum is not that hard. Is that a good way to put it? To do the bare minimum, to teach your students. I mean, if you took in everything that I said today in 44 minutes and 37 seconds, I mean, that’s a good starting point, you know. You’ve got a lot to just get you started, you know, to teach students lots of wholes, W-H-O-L-E, that is tonality and meters. You gotta learn them yourself that makes you a better musician to learn them. So spend a little time with these audiations or these attunes. Learn some tonalities, learn some new rhythms, learn some tonal patterns, learn what they mean. And you know, challenge yourself. Start at the very, very beginning. I think that’s it doable. It’s doable.
Tim: Fantastic. And with your videos, I think absolutely it’s doable. So my suggestion to everyone watching is to go and actually listen to your videos, watch them, and just have them playing. I was having them playing while I was preparing questions and things for the podcast. And as you say, they repeat so many times, you just…you start humming them almost without trying, and which might not be the point of course, because you’re trying to get people to concentrate. But you know, you do you pick these things up, and you can get a pretty good idea of the concepts that you’re trying to teach through just absorbing that way.
Andrew: Absolutely. I mean, to me Phrygian is no big deal anymore. I mean it’s just part of my audiation vocabulary right now. And I just had a very distorted view of what the modes actually were. I thought that they were just really abstract scales that you know people. who really. really knew what they were doing. In the jazz world, they were, oh, I’m playing with Phrygian. It just did not make any sense to me until I started studying this material and realized that Phrygian, yes, it could be a scale that you use, but these modes are tonal centers. You know, there are songs that are in Phrygian. There are songs that are in Lydian, and they’re beautiful. And gosh, if we could get musicians to start playing songs and learning songs and writing songs in Phrygian and Locrian, I mean, there are a lot of songs that are in Dorian, many, many songs that are in Dorian. A lot of reggae songs are in Dorian, a lot of folk songs are in Dorian. But do the musicians who are playing them know that they are in Dorian as opposed to they just have a minor chord, so it just must be in minor. Nay nay nay nay, no no, there’s a big difference between Dorian and minor. Shall I one [SP] to it?
Andrew: For your listeners?
Tim: Yes, very quickly.
Andrew: All right. Minor, same basic pattern but with Dorian.
Tim: Got that beautiful uplift, hasn’t it?
Andrew: It has, that major six.
Tim: Yup, make it a beat. Very nice. Very nice. Oh, this is brilliant. I just wanted to ask you whether you had any examples of a breakthrough or a big advantage that you’ve seen in your students that this part of this process has created and suddenly, a student could just play this thing that they couldn’t before, or you had put together a fantastic band, or…I’m not sure. Have you got anything that you can think of?
Andrew: Oh, it just happens all the time. You know, it just happens all the time, you know. in my chorus, I would love to play you some AB’s of my chorus once they understood the concept of resting tone, their intonation has just improved like leaps and bounds, just a tremendous, tremendous. So anybody who’s a chorus teacher I would strongly recommend you know wrapping your head around this because once you teach these concepts to your chorus, it’s pretty incredible the way that their intonation gels once you start teaching flow. I know it seems a little odd to get your kids to do this, but once you start teaching flow, you have far fewer problems with tempo just taking off. Why? Because they understand the space in between the big beats.
Tim: Brilliant. I think we’re gonna stop there, because, you know, it’s just been brilliant. And I was gonna, yeah…I’ve got a few more questions for you, but I think when we add the videos in, this will be over an hour already, so I think that’s a great amount of time. Maybe we’ll even chop it up into two podcasts or something because I prefer to actually share more of those videos perhaps than less. So anyway, I’ll have a bit of a thing about that. But look, people are gonna wanna know where to find out more about what you’re doing. So where should they go to find out about you and what you’re working on?
Andrew: Well, I have a humble, humble website called theimprovingmusician.com, and it’s a little bit of an upstart website. There’s not that much stuff, but all my YouTube content is on there. If you know of a good web designer, let me know because it needs a little bit of a face-lift. Yeah, it needs a makeover for sure.
Tim: You gotta start somewhere, so it’s good. It’s great that you’re getting…Look, can I thoroughly encourage people to go and watch and listen to your videos? the quality of them is outstanding. it looks like you’re an absolute professional. Well, you are a professional, but a professional voice-over person or something like that. They sound so clear, and they’re so easy to understand. So thank you so much for putting that out there. I was also going to ask whether you actually have put together a method of some sort or books or anything to support that work that you do.
Andrew: Well, I have a “method book” that I use with my sixth graders, but it has not been made available for publication. Maybe I could put something together like that, but…so I guess, the quick answer is…
Andrew: Yes, but no. Yes, I’ve made one, it’s just you know, collection of PDFs and takes my students through what I want them to know at the keyboard. I wanna show your readers, your viewers one other thing. This is a plug for a program called Little Kids Rock. Have you talked to anybody about Little Kids Rock? It’s just an amazing program, and they have these things that are called Jam Cards. Get in on this, Tim. These things are fantastic. This is what a what a Jam Card looks like. It’s little cards, and this is a wonderful technique that I use for my students once they’ve learned what a one-chord is and a five-chord is. Well, this card gives them a visual representation of a one-chord and a five-chord. Let me pop it on here see if you can…
Tim: Oh, yeah okay.
Andrew: Did it fall over?
Andrew: So right now we’re in F do, and it’s just a really, really, really, really easy quick way for them to just put their fingers in the right place without explaining it. And then you just move it over and all of a sudden, you’re in G do. And you move it over again, you’re in A do. It’s a pretty remarkable thing.
Tim: Groovy, yeah.
Andrew: So I use this as part of my curriculum, which is I guess why I haven’t really published it because, you know, I’m using somebody else’s.
Tim: Yeah. Where do people find those or will find out more about them? Well, you can send me a link.
Andrew: That’s at littlekidsrock.org. I believe you can you can print them out.
Tim: Great. And there was a link that you mentioned right at the start. We must try and remember what that is and pop a link to that in the show notes. I’ll get back to you on it.
Andrew: Very good.
Tim: Brilliant. Andy, thank you so much. It was really great fun talking to you. I’m inspired.
Tim: I’m going to do some do da di das.
Andrew: Well, very good. It’s been a pleasure talking with you as well.
Tim: Thanks so much. We’ll speak to you again soon.
Andrew: Very good. Cheers.
Tim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at timtopham.com and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.