What I learned this semester

I think the biggest thing I learned in this class is that learning is a process that happens over time. Not an activity to cross off your list. Also, the more detailed your plan of action is the less likely you will run into surprises. In the beginning, I made broad plans and thought I could have done at least 2 or 3 songs. But I never had any experience in recording and I assumed it was going to be easy. But I soon realized that in my playing there is a slight delay in where the beat is. I learned that this is called latency. Latency refers to a short period of delay (usually measured in milliseconds) between when an audio signal enters and when it emerges from a system. Unfortunately, my computer was not equipped to fix the issue an I had to rely on dragging the sound file around until it sounded together. This meant that most of my time was spent trying to make the recording sound good.

 
I link this to the role of having freedom in learning. Because of usually I need to just follow the instructions of the teacher I don’t actually learn too much about the process. But with the freedom we were given with the ILP I had a lot of planning and work to do. Not like the usual project where I just do what the professor said. Which is ironic because I thought it was going to be easy since we were given free reign but it turned out the opposite.

 
I think projects like this can help students discover things about themselves that were not yet clear to them or some unconscious biases that they need to tend to. It can also serve to help them experiment with the knowledge they gain. As I had to experiment with recording music and discovered some things I did not initially know about.
I think the biggest lesson learned this semester as a learner is that I still have trouble balancing the amount of work I have to do. Granted I have noticed taking 19 credits every semester and being part of multiple ensembles has started to take its toll on my grades. Because at least during the summer when I work I never have problems staying on top of things. If there’s one thing I hope to teach students one day is how to spread out their work and pace themselves. Because so far I have learned through trial and error and wished I knew better.

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Reflection on ILP

I think I should I have gone with the trumpet, not the clarinet. Is that I was thinking this week about my ILP.

 

Allow me to explain. My primary instrument other than the guitar is the tuba. I say this because of I play it for three different ensembles, pep band, wind symphony and community band. This week I went to the brass studio for fun and the teacher was quizzing the students on scales and he quizzed me as well and I did ok without having to practice scales ahead of time. It goes without saying that I could pull that off because I practiced playing music so much.So what does this have to do with the trumpet? Well at first glance they might look and sound very different but there are a lot of similarities.

 

The trumpet has three valves and is tuned to Bb, this means when the trumpet plays a written C you hill hear Bb. While the tuba had 3 or 4 valves and is tuned to C, this means when tuba plays a written C you will hear a C. While they sound different the valve system basically works the same. Not to mention forming an embouchure follows roughly the same process. This means many of the skills I developed on the tuba are transferable to the trumpet. I decided to put this theory to the test by trying to see how it would take me to play the very last song in a beginning band book for trumpet. It took me roughly 2 hours to figure it out. While on the clarinet I still struggle to play higher notes. On the trumpet, I was able to play two octaves with not much problem.

 

But I won’t give up because of this. I’ll do my best on the clarinet but I think I’ll add the trumpet in the recording. Hopefully, I can get maybe two songs properly recorded by the end. But I just can’t help to wonder how much further ahead I could have been if I would have picked the trumpet to play for my ILP instead of the clarinet, no turning back now.

 

So that’s what happened. I learned that when picking projects you should pick things that you might have some skill to build on. Because going in completely blind has been frustrating to say the least

FINAL ILP

Well, here it is. The final post on my ILP. I got to say it is not what I thought it would be. At the beginning of the semester, I thought that I would play only on one instrument. But I ended having some fun with this project and ended incorporating some more instruments.

Since I am I big fan of big band music I picked 3 instruments to play from the horn section. The clarinet as the main melody, trumpet texture(inner parts) and tuba for the bass(the root of the chords) notes. I also experienced a jazz festival where I noticed that the main fear of beginning students was soloing so I tried soloing on the clarinet as well.

 

It was not very hard to motivate myself for this project since I enjoy playing on different instruments. But at times it was a bit frustrating because I was trying to make the process go to quick. Luckily I have some great teachers that were able to point out some unconscious mistakes that I was making. That intern helps me to be a better learner and teacher in the future.

 
What was challenging for me was getting the basics right consistently and recording the music, I have a new found respect for music producers/audio technicians. For every hour I spent practicing I spent 2 more trying to line up all the parts. As for the actual basics I mentioned, playing notes in the lower register(below C) felt relatively easy for me because all I had to do is loosen my embouchure. But when playing in the higher register the changes I have to make are smaller and more precise. I would put too much pressure and not enough air and no sound would come out. So it took a while for me to get the right notes out constantly. It may seem like nothing but when playing multiple instruments that you are not used to playing it is hard to get a nice sound out consistently.

The best part of this was that I was made conscious of all the mistakes I made or skills that I was lacking. This intern helped me develop some of my teaching skills. I noticed that when teaching a student to play the tuba, I did not approach the problem simply by telling them that there was a mistake and they need to fix it. But I could explain why they were making the mistake and how to fix it. I noticed that this made the success rate much higher than what I was used to. I did not need to repeat myself as often.

 
If I were to incorporate an ILP in a class I would like to take students to a music festival where there would be musicians offering clinics. I would ask the students to go to at least one session and write down at least 3 things they learned. Then have them record themselves while incorporating the things they learned and keep a log. This way I teach students to be learners outside the classroom as well as learning from multiple sources and applying it to see how it helped their progress.

Graphic/visual creation

For this week’s blog, I created a satirical comic that depicts a teacher in the process of assigning instruments.

I think the most challenging part of creating the strip was finding a site to work with. There are so many options that at first, it seemed a bit overwhelming. Some of the sites no longer worked. some of them lacked proper explanation on how to use their tools. This meant that there was a lot of trial and error. One particular site did not properly save the work I did. I was quite frustrated to hit the finish button only for it to give a link that did not work. Enough about that let’s talk about the comic.

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During one of my education classes, my teacher went over how the selection process for instruments goes. While I thought that instruments are given to students based on their aptitudes, my teacher brought up the point that more often than not it is based on what instruments the school has and what you need for your band. Or else you run the risk of having a saxophone choir based on his experience. But the comic strip also has a joke in it, namely that low brass people are often thought of as the jokesters. This is something we talked about in class. That sometimes we associate attitudes or stereotypes with instruments. For example, the stereotype that trumpet players have big egos. A student in the class brought up the point that perhaps these attitudes are developed because of the nature and role of the instruments. Percussion players don’t pay much attention because they have 50 measures of rest, trumpet players think they are in control because they often play the main melody loudly, tuba players don’t practice and still play well because they have 3-5 different types of whole/half notes to play, and so on.

I think as a teacher I would hang these around the class and encourage students to make their own. Because it can help students express themselves and also create a tighter community. I think there is a value in presenting information in these visual/graphic styles because it helps people associate information with pictures, which helps them retain information better. I think especially when you want students to recall information you talked about at the beginning of the semester, it would be worthwhile to make comic strips or visual graphics.

Podcasts and digital story telling

During this week’s dive into the topic of digital stories and podcasts, I discovered a new favorite podcast that I wished existed long ago.

While reading the article: What Teens are Learning From ‘Serial’ and Other Podcasts. I downloaded a podcast app and started scrolling through some of the recommendations based on serial. I came across another podcast called: American History Tellers by Wondery.

First, let’s talk about Wondery. It is a website with a collection of podcasts that deal with different topics. What attracted me to it was its history podcast retold American history in a storytelling fashion. Rather than just present it in a dry and boring fashion. I also wanted to listen to it because I wanted to know more about prohibition.

The podcast I chose was American History Tellers and its description said: “We’ll take you to the events, the times and the people that shaped our nation. And we’ll show you how our history affected them, their families and affects you today.” I was specifically interested in the episodes that talked about prohibition. I was quite pleased with how the experience went. The host Lindsay Graham would go over some historical facts to set up the theme and then he would tell a story that fits within that time period. As he told more of the story it would start to make sense why certain events happened or why people behaved in the matter that they did.

I think podcasts can be a great resource that teachers should encourage students to use. It can help move away from the memorize and regurgitate model that students have grown used to. For example, students mentioned in the serial podcast article had a public debate about a subject that they were dealing with in class. They not only knew the facts but they could argue about them. Which in my opinion is definitely a step in the right direction.

If back in high school history class, I had a resource like this I think It would have been a much more effective way to learn. I’m not saying that we absolutely need podcasts or digital storytelling alternatives to books (even though it would be nice). But because people learn in different ways when you introduce a new way to digest the information you are gonna increase the success rate of a class or at least increase interest.

Slow and steady

So in this week’s ILP, I am going to talk about guitar for a bit. It has to do with my ILP and as you read on you’ll understand why.

One activity that is encouraged among music students is transcribing. This is when you listen to a song which was previously un-notated and you write it down. One of my projects that I am working on involves transcribing 21st Century Girls for guitar. Originally this song is written for a jazz ensemble and what sets guitar apart from most instruments is that there are multiple places on the fretboard where you can learn to play a song. Learning a song in multiple positions on the fretboard will help a player find a more effective place to play the music. I spent almost 4 days learning a lick( a phrase or pattern in a song) getting it to where I could do it by memory only to realize that there is a better place to play it on the fretboard. This was a little bit frustrating because this meant I had to start the process of learning again. But it only took roughly an hour to relearn the pattern in a different place. A lot of instruments don’t have this problem because they only have one way to play a specific note.

So what does this have to do with my project? Well, there is a specific line in the music that has a 16th noteIMG_20180402_022529973.jpg run. I was having trouble playing it after hours and hours of practice. I went to my teacher and he asked me if I was using the alternate fingerings for that specific run. I was not, so that’s one thing I needed to fix. He then asked me how often I practiced the clarinet I told about 2-3 hours but this was usually in the weekend. He told me that there in lied my second problem. It would be more effective I just picked the clarinet each day for 15-20 minutes than blocking out large chunks of time for practice during the weekend. He said that on my main instrument I am used to playing for large chunks of time because it is something I build up but on a new instrument it is better to take smaller chunks of time constantly.

So the moral of this week is: like a marathon runner who had to build up stamina in shorter activities I need to remember when starting a new project I can’t expect the same performance I have with other things I have been doing for a while.