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At the upcoming Winter Piano Seminar on July 16 I plan to run a session called ‘Games and Aural Training’. There will be several different games demonstrated, some on-screen and some with live volunteers from the audience!
The thing about playing games is that they are just so important for creating a vibrant and interactive atmosphere in a music lesson. Suddenly it’s not about whether you answer a question right or wrong, it’s about how much fun you’re having just trying. So we should all be playing games with our students, every lesson.
I dreamt up a game the other night called ‘Uh-Oh’. When I say I dreamt it up, I mean that quite literally… I woke up from a vivid dream in which I had played this game with one of my students. It seemed great fun in the dream so I immediately tried it out with my 10-year old daughter, mostly so that I wouldn’t forget it but also to see if she thought it was any fun at all.
To my surprise, she thought it was hilarious. And the reason I’m surprised is because it is just soooooo ridiculously simple. I have since tried this game with all my AMS students and it has fast become their favourite!
All that happens is this: you (the teacher) play an interval on the piano. The student attempts to sing it back and name the interval (a la AMEB practical exam test). If it is correct, do another one. If it is incorrect (which, sadly, it so often is)… say ‘Uh-Oh’ very loudly with the following sound effect: the “Uh” goes with any two white notes played on the piano and the “Oh” goes with elbows crashing down on many black notes at once!
As soon as my daughter got her interval wrong, and I responded with this ‘Uh-Oh’ sound effect, she giggled. But here’s the thing that’s so good about it, and I can’t believe this came to me in a dream: the ‘Uh-Oh’ actually rids the ear of the interval she just tried. I could test her on the same interval again and it’s like a new listening experience. This really helps to drill getting something right the first time.
Then of course she wanted to be the one doing the ‘Uh-Oh’ elbow crashing, and was having great fun. This meant she was very excited to get her intervals wrong, but of course also very chuffed to get them right. A win-win situation. Yay, go my sub-conscious state!