Recently I have been considering the ways I develop aural skills with my students and other alternatives that may be available. Singing and aural development has always been a part of my teaching but I feel the need to do some further research and find some more tools to work with some specific students. In particular this stems from a couple of students who struggle to remember simple short phrases (think 2 bars of 4/4) to sing back. Rhythmic clapping is mostly ok, as long as it isn’t too long, but adding the melody to remember seems to short out their fuse.
Why? What happens after the first bar of music that they can’t remember the rest? How can I assist them to increase their aural memory and attention span? What is it specifically that is causing this issue?
So, off to do some research I went. Medical journals, text books, auditory processing diagnosis and management specialists and parents with children with auditory processing issues. I want to learn more and gain more understanding to be a better teacher.
I am still reading through much of the research. It is a very broad topic when looking at auditory processing, how it works, what dysfunctions can be present and how we utilise different techniques in order to benefit our students’ musical education. It is so vast that I am really just covering the tip of the iceberg currently and would like to further research some paths before I draw any conclusions worth sharing.
My reading has led me to devise something of a series on Aural Development: Print Resources, Tech Resources, Resources for Early Development and finally, Auditory Processing: Information for Music Teachers.
So here today is the beginning of the series, specific print books and resources out there for piano teachers to use in lessons. I wanted to discover what was good, useful and helpful in the development of students’ aural skills. Is there something we should be looking at that isn’t mainstream? What is the best thing on the market? Are there things students can use at home?
This list is by no means exhaustive, it is a collection of books on the market for aural training, test and exercises for students beyond the beginner (primer) stages. Please keep in mind that there are so many things you can do with students to develop their aural skills in those early years that go beyond the technical testing style offered in these books. If there are other books out there that you would recommend, please leave a comment and I will investigate and add that to my review panel! So without further ado, here are the books currently on my studio shelf:
Trinity College London Aural Book 1:
This is a book I have recently added to my collection in my recent Trinity College exam book buy up!
This is a book of specimen tests for the aural component of Trinity College exams initial through to grade 5. It has been designed to be used in lessons with the teacher or by a student at home. The book includes CDs with examples of the tests and an answer booklet that has notated examples. I particularly like that this book explains each test and the parameters that are set. It also highlights what the question is developing (i.e. musical memory, regular pulse, higher/lower pitch).
What I enjoyed most about this method is that it tends towards tests that have musical context (I will play the first two notes from a melody, what interval do they make?) and use questions that build on the same melody. For example, in grade one a melody is played and the student is asked to clap back the rhythm and identify the time signature, then after another play of the melody, identify if the last note is higher or lower than the first. Next, the melody is played again for the student to identify staccato or legato touch. Finally the original melody is played again, then once more with a change in it. Students are asked to identifying the point the change occurs. This progressive analysis allows students to build on their aural observation skills and requires more instinctive responses.
This is the stand out print book and my current favourite for development of aural skills with students.
Aural Training in Practice- Ronald Smith-ABRSM
Recently a newer edition of this book has been published, however, this is the copy I have in my studio:
Aural Training in Practice has been developed to support the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) aural tests for their practical examinations. There are tests for grades 1-3 in the first book. Unlike the other books reviewed, in this book, the examples are taken from pieces from a variety of composers (Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Bach, and Hayden for a small portion). In the first grade tests pulse, echo singing, noticing differences and identifying expressing qualities in performance are the areas developed. Examples are provided primarily for keyboard music, however, some examples for violin cello, trumpet, flute, double bass and voice are also provided. This book did not have an accompanying CD making it a book for use in lessons with the teacher.
Similar to the Trinity book, this ABRSM publication focuses on creating aural awareness and the ability to identify differences/similarities in melodies leading to students becoming more discerning when processing the sounds of the pieces they hear and play. Tests are presented with explanation and teaching notes/ideas for approaching the exercises with students. These features present the text as more of a training book than a ‘test-examples’ book.
Aural Tests- AMEB
This is a book graded to suit the Australian Music Examination Board’s aural tests in practical examinations.
Just as the title suggests, this text covers the exact requirements for testing in the AMEB exams and is not really aural training beyond providing examples to use with students. It covers AMEB exams from Preliminary to Eighth Grade. This book also comes with 9 CD’s (one for each grade) as all examples provided are notated for piano. Having the CDs make it is useful for teachers of other instruments.
The areas tested change over the different grades. Initially, time (pulse), rhythm, memory and pitch are tested in short examples. Progressively identification of duple/triple time signatures, interval recognition and harmony are added to exams.
This book is clear in providing examples for AMEB exams. This is all I would use it for. It does not give musical context or facilitate training and development and focuses heavily on memorization.
Aural Tests- Miriam Hyde
Deep in my collection I have a book published in 1973, written by Miriam Hyde. There are some entertaining differences in vernacular used in the foreword between editions! The most recent edition I have was published in 1995 and is somewhat toned down from the language used in the earlier edition!
This book was commissioned by the Music Teachers Association of New South Wales to provide examples an exercises for preparation for the aural tests in AMEB practical exams. This book covers the same categories for testing as the AMEB Aural Tests book above. It does not come with any audio support for the student to further their study at home.
In contrast to the AMEB book, this foreword has sound explanation for each test category with some ideas for developing students’ ability to perform well in each test. Grades from Preliminary to Licentiate have test examples provided and from sixth grade cadences are presented in groups rather than random exercises. In addition, there is a supplementary section at the back of the book with atonal melodies for “the interest of the enterprising teacher.”
Aural Training- Dulcie Holland
Written to provide further test examples for AMEB aural tests, this book covers similar ground to the AMEB and Miriam Hyde books. Test examples are provided from Preliminary Grade to Licentiate and are structured just as the AMEB book is. In contrast to the AMEB text, this book offers suggestions at the beginning of each section of each grade. There is no audio support with this book.
In reviewing these books, I have also created a quick reference table. I hope this provides you with some ideas for what might best suit your students and the methods you use in your studio.
Quick Reference Table- Aural Books
If there is another text you know of that would be helpful, I’m all ears!
For the next instalment I will look at the technology available to develop aural skills.
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