One simply can not say that studied for a test. Studying involves looking over notes, rereading chapters, and any other method, such as flash cards, one may use to earn the highest grade possible on an exam. The same can be said about practicing a piece of music or repertoire. In the article, “Preparing Students For Vibrant Classical Sonatina Performances Using Rote Exercises”, Courtney Crappell demonstrates how rote exercises can be used to break down even the most complex pieces for a musical student during instruction by remembering “if we take the core elements of a passage and reduce the overall difficulty, our students will experience the essence of the music and gradually build a feeling of ease” (Crappell 17). There are many techniques that may be incorporated into a student’s music lesson; however, as the difficulty of the musical work heightens, so does the ability to retain the piece of music.
Learning a difficult piece can be frustrating for a student no matter what level they are at. In the beginning steps during a lesson, a music instructor may have the student listen to the selection a couple times. According to Crappell, since we tend to learn by imitating sounds, the same should be applied to when we are learning music. “We actively engage in sound based coaching every time we demonstrate passages for our students and say things like ‘try it this way” (Crappell 17). Teachers must have an understanding that by having a student analyze a piece of music by listening and following notation, it allows for the student to learn it more quickly. Once he or she has an idea of what the music should sound like, the instructor should commence the breaking down of the piece itself.
The rote exercises break down a musical piece, such as a sonatina, into elements including specific phrases, rhythm, and simple notation or measures. Crappell mentions that by making each exercise simple, they will be quicker and take up less time during a music lesson. For example, the teacher would take a complicated part of the selection (a couple measures to simulate the musical phrases the student will encounter while learning the music on their own) and have them focus on that one part until they can move on to something more difficult. “This entire process consumes about three minutes of preventative teaching time in the initial lesson and will save 10 times that amount in subsequent lessons” (Crappell 18). It may seem fitting that a teacher break all this down for their student while they are learning a piece; however, Crappell fails to mention if the students have the skills to comprehend this or if the teacher actually takes the time to do this.
Some students may not encounter long difficult music selections. Crappell states, “Due to their length, teachers tend to spend less time introducing and exploring sonatinas in the lesson before the student has learned the notes at home” (Crappell 16). With that being said, it is as though he is assuming with the exercises he mentions that every student can work with them. Music teachers have their own preferences and they decide how to help a student with a complex work based off of what their initial observations on the student’s learning are. While the rote system may work for some students, it is not “one size fits all”.
Taking on a complex piece is a challenge for any music student. Simply going through the whole repertoire on their own is not enough and the teachers have to incorporate good techniques to learn the music. Crappell shows in his article that by having the student analyze the composition, in other words break it down to make the piece easier, will allow the student to perform better. Although there is the question of whether or not he contemplated the student’s learning capacity or the exercise preferences of the music instructor, it would be a good method to include in the music lesson.