Dip It In Chocolate
Create a sensual experience around the music for added musical expression.
Musicality is hard to teach to young children. That's for two reasons: 1) Musicality is less tangible than technique, and 2) Children lack emotional maturity and depth.
How to get around these two rather formidable obstacles? The answer is direct experience. Direct experience makes musicality tangible, and helps students grow in depth of expression. Experience can come from imitation of the teacher or a recording. But it is important to note here that experience also comes from the imagination!
Our brains react to vividly imagined experience in the same way as to externally stimulated experience. So if we give students something to imagine that also enhances their musical expression, they will grow pathways in the brain that will deepen musical awareness.
The following story will illustrate what I mean.
A student who I’ll call “Philip” is a talented 7-year-old, with a highly sensitive ear. And yet Philip often plays sloppily and without any musicality.
In trying to sort out what was happening with Philip, I realized the following:
- He is a boy
- He is impatient
- He is movement-oriented
- He is very curious and wants to explore his world
- He is only focused when he is really interested in something
One time in the middle of a lesson, I asked him to imagine something that tasted really good. “Do you guys bake together at home?” I asked. “What is your favorite thing to bake?”
“Chocolate chip cookies!” he said. “OK,” I answered, “When you put those in your mouth, you want it to last as long as possible, right? I want you to imagine savoring those cookies, especially the chocolate chips.”
He closed his eyes and the look on his face became beatific.
“Now play your piece, and pretend each note is a chocolate chip. Keep your eyes closed.”
He played and the beatific look on his face translated into his playing. He lingered over each note, and made it into something to enjoy, something to savor.
ACTIONS FOR THE WEEK
If a student is struggling to play a piece musically, or is just going through the motions, have them try these exercises:
- Imagine chocolate melting in your mouth.
- Close your eyes and play the notes as though they were made of chocolate.
- What are some other things you like to taste?
- Circle in the music the places where you would like to have a special savoring moment.
- Draw on the notes a chocolate chip cookie, chocolate cake, or something you really like to taste to remind you to savor it.
Dipping the cookies
“What if we dipped the cookies in chocolate?” Philip asked. Now he was having fun, upping the ante. "Double chocolate!?" I said in mock surprise.
Since this is only in his imagination, why not? His music sounded extra chocolatey afterwards.
How can you let the sensory experience come into teaching and practicing more? When we teach our children how to savor notes, we give them a better musical experience AND prepare them for great performances to come.