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How extensive do you cover theory? #1663037
04/19/11 03:55 PM
04/19/11 03:55 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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I have taken over a few students who are young teens with a few years' experience in another instrument. They are currently in an Alfred Theory Book that covers perfect vs. major intervals, augmented/diminished intervals, etc. Since I didn't have ANY theory training as a student, this seems a bit advanced IMO. Of course, I had finally learned this in college, but have to admit, am in need of a refresher course. I plan to do some serious revisiting of my old textbooks. Most of my students are very young beginners. I'd love to hear how advanced your theory lessons are.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
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Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1663061
04/19/11 04:57 PM
04/19/11 04:57 PM
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All the way up to beginning harmony and analysis is the furthest I've gotten a few students (mostly adults, teens, and those who I adopted as advanced from another teacher recently), and the furthest that is typical for most students.

They'd do actual harmony/four-part writing if they take AP Music Theory in high school. Even though I love theory and do study advanced concepts on my own/with friends, I don't think I would feel qualified to teach it just yet. However, since I'm starting to use the RCM material more and more, Harmony and Counterpoint and Music History are required subjects to be covered and tested.

Essentially, I cover everything in the Keith Snell Fundamentals of Piano Theory, supplementing with worksheets and practice CM tests. I wouldn't consider qualities of intervals advanced at all - that's begins level 3 of CM, I think, and by around level 5 or 6 they should know them (I haven't really looked at specific level requirements, but I do know they're covered in the KS books). Basically, everything covered in a Fundamentals of Music/Pre-College Theory/General Ed Music Theory class:

-Note reading (obviously, haha!)
-Rhythms - from very basic to very complex, and the meter behind it, as well as concepts like hemiola and etc
-Music terms
-Key signatures/Scale/mode construction
-Intervals in all keys, inverting them
-Chord recognition, inverting them
-Harmonic progressions/modulation
-Basic compositional analysis (motif recognition, sequences, repetition, canon, ostinato etc etc etc) and form analysis
-Basic composition to practice the above

Theory is a huge integrated part of my lessons. While I can't get kids to always practice, one thing they never seem to mind doing is theory/analysis - probably because they do it in front of the TV!

Either way, I have them analyze their pieces fully for all the things above. They'll have three copies usually:
1) clean, performance copy
2) practice copy (with performing notes)
3) analyzed copy, all marked for the things above (intervals, chords in both letter and roman numerals for progressions/modulations, sections, etc)

One thing I don't get to that I think is essential is ear training. We do the basics, sure, but not as much as I'd like (I try to combine it with the theory and technique so it's practical and applied, but it's not as stressed). I've been toying with the idea of using the Sound Advice series, which actually leads into basic harmony, and combines ear-training and theory. However, it doesn't seem to have as much practice and repetition, which a lot of students need.


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1663091
04/19/11 05:44 PM
04/19/11 05:44 PM
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Los Angeles
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I love the Kieth Snell books. I enjoy theory enough to review my college theory books for fun (nerd alert!) and emphasize it in lessons to prepare students in case they pursue theory minors/majors. So, I don't know how easy the Snell books would be to teach if your own theory understanding is pretty unbrushed, but take a look. As they progress, the Snell books review material with each level and even cover some advanced analysis and music history by the later levels. I think they're great books and less interested students can certainly work through them at a slower pace.


Teaching since 2004
Private studio owner since 2008
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Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: ll] #1663223
04/19/11 08:53 PM
04/19/11 08:53 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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Originally Posted by ll
All the way up to beginning harmony and analysis is the furthest I've gotten a few students (mostly adults, teens, and those who I adopted as advanced from another teacher recently), and the furthest that is typical for most students.

They'd do actual harmony/four-part writing if they take AP Music Theory in high school. Even though I love theory and do study advanced concepts on my own/with friends, I don't think I would feel qualified to teach it just yet. However, since I'm starting to use the RCM material more and more, Harmony and Counterpoint and Music History are required subjects to be covered and tested.

Essentially, I cover everything in the Keith Snell Fundamentals of Piano Theory, supplementing with worksheets and practice CM tests. I wouldn't consider qualities of intervals advanced at all - that's begins level 3 of CM, I think, and by around level 5 or 6 they should know them (I haven't really looked at specific level requirements, but I do know they're covered in the KS books). Basically, everything covered in a Fundamentals of Music/Pre-College Theory/General Ed Music Theory class:

-Note reading (obviously, haha!)
-Rhythms - from very basic to very complex, and the meter behind it, as well as concepts like hemiola and etc
-Music terms
-Key signatures/Scale/mode construction
-Intervals in all keys, inverting them
-Chord recognition, inverting them
-Harmonic progressions/modulation
-Basic compositional analysis (motif recognition, sequences, repetition, canon, ostinato etc etc etc) and form analysis
-Basic composition to practice the above

Theory is a huge integrated part of my lessons. While I can't get kids to always practice, one thing they never seem to mind doing is theory/analysis - probably because they do it in front of the TV!

Either way, I have them analyze their pieces fully for all the things above. They'll have three copies usually:
1) clean, performance copy
2) practice copy (with performing notes)
3) analyzed copy, all marked for the things above (intervals, chords in both letter and roman numerals for progressions/modulations, sections, etc)

One thing I don't get to that I think is essential is ear training. We do the basics, sure, but not as much as I'd like (I try to combine it with the theory and technique so it's practical and applied, but it's not as stressed). I've been toying with the idea of using the Sound Advice series, which actually leads into basic harmony, and combines ear-training and theory. However, it doesn't seem to have as much practice and repetition, which a lot of students need.


I guess I shoudl clarify what I do cover in my lessons: note reading, all rhythms, music terms, key sigs, scale construction, all intervals, chords and inversions, and composition. We do some harmonic progressions as well. When I mentioned intervals, I meant being able to i.d. what a perfect interval is vs. a major interval. We cover the basic interval lessons of 2ds, 3rds, etc. Like I mentioned, I didn't have any music classes while in school until college, and no theory, composition, history, etc. when I took private lessons. I will look into the Snell books. Once I scan through them it will all come back. The little I remember of part writing consists of the things you should NEVER do, like parallel 5ths, octaves, etc. I confess that my focus is definitely more on technique in the lesson. I do ear training for a few minutes with all my students as well, but there's just so much one can fit into a half hour lesson.

Thanks for your input! It's very helpful.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1663274
04/19/11 10:40 PM
04/19/11 10:40 PM
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Irene,

If you want access to the table of contents for the Keith Snell, you can see almost every level here plus a sample page:
http://www.kjos.com/sub_section.php?division=5&series=130

Except for a very few concepts (forms, maybe, or compositional techniques) at the higher levels, there should be nothing that you don't know in these workbooks. Even the analysis is incredibly basic.

The only thing that you don't seem to cover that these books do extensively is they eventually get into more detail about intervals and chords. Otherwise, all these workbooks provide are practice pages and explanations for students to do at home (which not all of them will, but hey, even a problem a day will be worth it!). They're very worthwhile in my opinion, and a solid theory knowledge is so fundamental and important to playing that any student should be doing them with their repertoire regardless of whether they are aiming to play difficult pieces/enter music programs or not.

The other series I mentioned, Sound Advice, isn't available in my area to browse, but may be in yours:
http://www.soundadvicedirect.com/about.html


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1663859
04/20/11 07:57 PM
04/20/11 07:57 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 16,930
Canada
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A couple of senior piano teacher turned my world upside down when I joined PW, because theory with them started with the physical and simply. I had already done a fair bit of theory, and passed the highest level (advanced) rudiments exam, but here I was back at looking at things like P5, major chords etc. I was also teaching rudiments as a volunteer so new ideas were welcome.

The idea was that when you experience theory rather than studying it as academics first, then it means something. For what you are mentioning, the perfects are octave & unison, P5 and P4. The first two stand out as being unique to anyone. The P5 is the 5 finger range and it is also the outer framework of any major or minor triad. P4 is an inversed P5. Another thing to explore is the fact that you cannot have a "minor" version of Perfects, and when you inverse them you have another perfect. And then there is the sound of perfects: they are more smooth, with less vibration or beats to them. You'll know why. Those are all simple explorations.

When we take a C major scale, and count intervals up from the C each time, every single interval will be called major, except for the perfects. CD = M2, CE = M3, [CF = P4, CG = P5], CA = M6, CB = M7. This has to do with naming, and the reason is historical. It's also simple when you take it directly from the piano, and it is concrete visually. This becomes a model for anything else, and eventually you can get abstract like in the theory books.

Any of these majors, if you slip down a piano key (semitone) will give you a minor. But you cannot do that with Perfects: they will become diminished. It seems simple to remember that the perfects are 1 & 8, 4 & 5, and everything else is a major using the white keys of the C major scale as a visual template.

Roughly that is the kind of thing I got introduced to. Another thing that I liked was a game you can play with major and minor chords. The C major chord as CG on the outside (root position) and that's our P5. The E can be brought down one to become Eb for your minor chord. It's almost like a light switch in the middle of a P5 "frame" turning the chord into major or minor. Again this is a very physical thing where we experience these intervals and qualities both with our eyes and our ears.

I "studied" theory the first time round, using a work book and doing written exercises. It seemed difficult and complicated, maybe like you are describing. When I got the views I described, it seems as though something straightforward had been made more complicated than it needed to be.

Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1663863
04/20/11 08:06 PM
04/20/11 08:06 PM
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Keystring, how long had you been playing and how long did you do the 'difficult and complicated' theory workbook?

Did you consider that it's what made the rudiments easier the second time around?

I'm not denying that the practical use of theory is more important - which is why we always do it at the piano first. But most people, especially kids, will do well with the reinforcement and repetition provided by the workbooks. A lot of kids won't understand the abstract yet either. Sometimes simply telling them is the better option.


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: ll] #1663880
04/20/11 08:58 PM
04/20/11 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by ll
Keystring, how long had you been playing and how long did you do the 'difficult and complicated' theory workbook?

Did you consider that it's what made the rudiments easier the second time around?

I'm not denying that the practical use of theory is more important - which is why we always do it at the piano first. But most people, especially kids, will do well with the reinforcement and repetition provided by the workbooks. A lot of kids won't understand the abstract yet either. Sometimes simply telling them is the better option.


Hm. I played self-taught as a teen, feeling my way into written notes by finding "do" but not reading music, and then didn't touch a keyboard for 35 years. My first formal lessons were on violin, and I got a piano again 3 years ago and had a handful of lessons. Reading your first posts I think our timing is similar in some ways. The teachers whose ideas I took have been teaching 35 - 40 years so there's a lot of experience and experimentation leading to what they do now. It had an effect and that's why they got my attention.

Quote
how long did you do the 'difficult and complicated' theory workbook?


I went through the three levels of B. Wharram's "rudiments" in about 5 months and wrote the intermediate and avanced RCM exams in that time period, getting 99.95% and 87% respectively. So in a sense I did not find it difficult or complicated. However once I got these teachers' takes on theory, I saw that what I had the first time around was relatively abstract while music is real, and theory describes something real. I also saw the music learning is a partnership between the mind, the senses, and the body. I was also seeing how many people seemed to have a total split between theory on one hand, and their playing on another. I was already seeking to heal that split when I taught theory to my student experimentally.

Yes, workbooks can help us remember facts and manipulate noteheads around the page, and give them names. But will it connect to music? Does it have meaning? And does one begin with abstract thoughts and written things, or with something experienced?

And since you play several instruments, is there a difference between theory as understood by the pianist, and theory as understood by the player of other instruments? What I described is "piano-centric" which isn't surprising, since it came from piano teachers.


Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1663927
04/20/11 10:52 PM
04/20/11 10:52 PM
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I totally agree that applying the theory is the only way to truly retain and learn the material. I never let the student get by without doing so, again, in their music, or their workbook away from the piano.

Maybe a good comparison would be repertoire:technique::applied theory:workbook. Essentially, you should be doing both repertoire and technique, and likewise, you do your 'applied theory' by analyzing your score, and you practice it with the workbooks separately. That's probably a bit intuitive for everyone, but it never was for me in the beginning. I thought if I just did all the workbooks and a textbook, I'd be good.

Having come from other instruments, I'd say I never knew my theory as well a few years back (even after Harmony/Counterpoint/etc) as I know it now that I apply it to the actual piano. Most other instrumentalists I know (except for the 'good serious' ones) have SO MUCH TROUBLE with theory - even within their music. They can't read chord patterns/shapes on sight, analyze the harmony as well, etc, as well as the pianists in the same program/level/even lower levels. Most piano teachers require theory as an integral part of their lessons, but almost no other instrumental lessons require it (as far as I've noticed at least) beyond the very, very basics.

I guess the idea is, as long as you are doing music, you should be doing theory - applied theory, at the instrument - to really learn it. But some people never do. And it's a real hassle down the road when you realize you easily could have during your studies.


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: ll] #1663973
04/21/11 01:37 AM
04/21/11 01:37 AM
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Originally Posted by ll
Either way, I have them analyze their pieces fully for all the things above. They'll have three copies usually:
1) clean, performance copy
2) practice copy (with performing notes)
3) analyzed copy, all marked for the things above (intervals, chords in both letter and roman numerals for progressions/modulations, sections, etc)


Are you photocopying books?


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: AZNpiano] #1663981
04/21/11 01:50 AM
04/21/11 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by ll
Either way, I have them analyze their pieces fully for all the things above. They'll have three copies usually:
1) clean, performance copy
2) practice copy (with performing notes)
3) analyzed copy, all marked for the things above (intervals, chords in both letter and roman numerals for progressions/modulations, sections, etc)


Are you photocopying books?


I have them buy their own books from the Keith Snell series (or other supplemental books, or expensive Urtext especially). The songs they polish/learn better than the others, I typically ask for two copies: the music theory one, and the practice one (the performance one being the book itself).

Considering they own the books and are not sharing them, I don't really care about the '1 copy is allowed' rule. Just makes things easier to sort in their folders and not go through so many books. They know they're not supposed to photocopy music for other families (I purchase the books for them and add it to their invoice, so I know they all own it anyway) and that I cannot photocopy anything for them because of copyright laws and etc.

And obviously I don't do this with method books - we just write straight in them.

Last edited by ll; 04/21/11 01:52 AM.

II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: ll] #1664069
04/21/11 09:01 AM
04/21/11 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by ll
I totally agree that applying the theory is the only way to truly retain and learn the material.


Theory is invaluable when it comes to fully learning a piece.

Also, theory is so important for improvisation and composition. I begin teaching chords from day one, no matter what age, so they can begin to understand form and use it with our improvisation.

Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1664082
04/21/11 09:27 AM
04/21/11 09:27 AM
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I always cover theory. I cover history too but not as thoroughly as I cover theory. I have a couple of students making their way through the ABRSM theory books, but they are seriously lacking in the 4-part writing and harmonic analysis so I end up teaching that a lot.


Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: Minaku] #1664404
04/21/11 07:23 PM
04/21/11 07:23 PM
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My gut tells me I shouldn't ask this question but, hey, I'm a big girl....

How "deeply", or beyond the basics, does one need to understand theory in order to play beautifully for recreational purposes ?

I'm thinking.....I do not entirely understand the details of how a car engine works , but I am an excellent driver! (As evidenced by my - KNOCK ON WOOD- KNOCK ON WOOD- KNOCK ON WOOD- safety record). Perhaps, there are many people out there who could not fully explain the physicochemical properties associated with cooking, but are great cooks!

OK, I'm bracing myself for the onslaught..... smile



I don't care too much for money. For money can't buy me love.
-the Beatles



Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: piano joy] #1664408
04/21/11 07:28 PM
04/21/11 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by piano joy
My gut tells me I shouldn't ask this question but, hey, I'm a big girl....

How "deeply", or beyond the basics, does one need to understand theory in order to play beautifully for recreational purposes ?

I'm thinking.....I do not entirely understand the details of how a car engine works , but I am an excellent driver! (As evidenced by my - KNOCK ON WOOD- KNOCK ON WOOD- KNOCK ON WOOD- safety record). Perhaps, there are many people out there who could not fully explain the physicochemical properties associated with cooking, but are great cooks!

OK, I'm bracing myself for the onslaught..... smile



The answer would vary, of course. But I don't think the analogy of cooking/driving/anything else would be appropriate.

Knowing the rudiments of theory won't necessarily help your playing - it'll just assist your ability to play (recognizing and deciphering). But once you go into the deeper details (learning and applying the theory), I think you become more acquainted with why certain things are the way they are, and it would enhance your playing by tenfold/hundredfold/infinitely.


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1664418
04/21/11 07:41 PM
04/21/11 07:41 PM
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I believe that theory is important (for the record I am not a fan of thoery but realize its importance lol). When it comes to fully understanding a song and picking it apart...like recognizing cadences and chord inversions etc. Music history is also very important. It is great to learn all that you can, to continuously be expanding your knowledge...thats what I would tell myself to make theory homework less painfull lol.

Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1664430
04/21/11 08:14 PM
04/21/11 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Irenev
Since I didn't have ANY theory training as a student, this seems a bit advanced IMO. Of course, I had finally learned this in college, but have to admit, am in need of a refresher course. I plan to do some serious revisiting of my old textbooks.


I'll take a stab at this if that's OK. As a younger student, I too, didn't receive much training in theory with my first teacher. (She was a young, new teacher who was conveniently in my neighborhood.) Nevertheless, I remember intuitively figuring out things about the relationships between notes and chord patterns and how composers "worked" things. When I finally moved to a newer teacher, a more established, experienced teacher (I was in high school by then), I finally got the real names for things. This sparked my interest further and in high school and I took two years of music theory as a junior and senior which allowed me to test out of part of my college requirement for theory. Nevertheless, once in college, there was PLENTY more to learn of theory, harmony, (functional and before and after) analysis, ear training, sight singing, all in theory classes that expanded on and added to what I had started learning as a youngster. That I had some solid training as a young person really helped me feel confident and not so intimidated to build on that solid base. That was good teaching.

Yes. Theory is important. You might get a kid like me to teach who is really interested in that stuff - or someone who may end up being a composer or an arranger, not to mention the student who, when playing in recital by memory can't end the piece because they don't know what key they are in or the student who is playing a sonatina and is amazed to find themselves back at the exposition when they meant to end the piece.

If you give them the tools they need, they can then owe their great start to you!

Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: piano joy] #1664502
04/21/11 10:40 PM
04/21/11 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by piano joy
My gut tells me I shouldn't ask this question but, hey, I'm a big girl....

How "deeply", or beyond the basics, does one need to understand theory in order to play beautifully for recreational purposes ?

I'm thinking.....I do not entirely understand the details of how a car engine works , but I am an excellent driver! (As evidenced by my - KNOCK ON WOOD- KNOCK ON WOOD- KNOCK ON WOOD- safety record).



The analogy does not work because modern cars are technologically mature and you do not have to understand much of anything except occasionally check the oil and air.

But if you went back a century, primitive cars required some basic mechanical knowledge just to start them and keep them running, and then to drive them.

Sure, you can play the piano without knowing much theory.

But regarding studying theory, the more you understand the inner workings of the structure of music that you are playing or studying, the greater insight you have about it, thus it becomes easier to learn and play, and even more of a joy to experience because you see the intricate majesty of its construction.

Last edited by rocket88; 04/22/11 01:01 AM. Reason: clarity

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Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: chasingrainbows] #1665098
04/22/11 07:59 PM
04/22/11 07:59 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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chasingrainbows  Offline OP
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Joined: Sep 2006
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I absolutely agree that theory should be woven into the lesson, but wondered just how advanced other teachers' theory lessons were. Given a half hour for lesson time and the very young age of the majority of my students (5-8), theory consists of composition projects, intervals, dynamics, musical terms, and eventually chord/scales and inversions. With the recent transfer of older students (who never remember to bring their theory books or do their assignments) I wasn't sure how advanced theory lessons should be. Thanks for all your input.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
Re: How extensive do you cover theory? [Re: liyhann] #1665100
04/22/11 08:07 PM
04/22/11 08:07 PM
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chasingrainbows Offline OP
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chasingrainbows  Offline OP
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Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,944
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Originally Posted by liyhann
Originally Posted by Irenev
Since I didn't have ANY theory training as a student, this seems a bit advanced IMO. Of course, I had finally learned this in college, but have to admit, am in need of a refresher course. I plan to do some serious revisiting of my old textbooks.


I'll take a stab at this if that's OK. As a younger student, I too, didn't receive much training in theory with my first teacher. (She was a young, new teacher who was conveniently in my neighborhood.) Nevertheless, I remember intuitively figuring out things about the relationships between notes and chord patterns and how composers "worked" things. When I finally moved to a newer teacher, a more established, experienced teacher (I was in high school by then), I finally got the real names for things. This sparked my interest further and in high school and I took two years of music theory as a junior and senior which allowed me to test out of part of my college requirement for theory. Nevertheless, once in college, there was PLENTY more to learn of theory, harmony, (functional and before and after) analysis, ear training, sight singing, all in theory classes that expanded on and added to what I had started learning as a youngster. That I had some solid training as a young person really helped me feel confident and not so intimidated to build on that solid base. That was good teaching.

Yes. Theory is important. You might get a kid like me to teach who is really interested in that stuff - or someone who may end up being a composer or an arranger, not to mention the student who, when playing in recital by memory can't end the piece because they don't know what key they are in or the student who is playing a sonatina and is amazed to find themselves back at the exposition when they meant to end the piece.

If you give them the tools they need, they can then owe their great start to you!


Thanks for the reply. I actually found the opposite to be true for me. When I was a youngster I had an instinctive knowledge of music -- how the melody line moved, chord inversions, could sight sing quite well, etc. Once I went to college and studied harmony and began to learn about the names of chords and intervals, part writing rules, etc., everything just became a kaleidescope of numbers and rules, and I lost my musical "intuition." My sightreading declined and so did my musicality. My college piano teacher tried his best to help me analyze chords in my repertoire, telling me that if I could remember the chord progressions, I would have less memory concerns. I replied that if I could remember the chord progressions and inversions, I would also be able to remember the notes in the first place. It just didn't work for me. Perhaps if I'd had training right from the beginning of my musical study, it wouldn't have been so traumatic for me in college.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member

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