A Typical Saturday Morning
Here we try to illustrate what goes on on a typical Saturday morning at the Huntingdonshire Music School.
The activities are split into the following categories:-
- lessons. These happen throughout the morning with pupils dipping into and out of theory and/or group playing to take their lesson. Not everyone takes lessons.
- theory tuition. Where you learn the theory (that makes sense of the black sqiggles on the page) and, if appropriate, prepare for exams. Not everyone takes exams.
- group playing. Getting together in groups to practice, usually for a concert at the school or externally. Sometimes we do daft things, like turning the music upside down and seeing what it sounds like ...
- socialising / eating / drinking. Catching up with the gossip, in the cafe when we have quieter moments. Some even practice their pieces for the benefit ( ) of everyone else.
Theory is important when learning an instrument. It is so much easier to read and understand music if you understand the basic building blocks.
Theory classes are organised by Grade. This aligns with the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) examination grades. In terms of difficulty we start at Grade 1 and finish at Grade 8 (the hardest). You do not have to take exams and anyone can take theory lessons.
There are two types of theory tuition:-
- written. This is covered by a range of set books, by teacher-derived quizzes, tests, games and learning aids. Often a piano or other instrument may be used to help illustrate theory principles, or practice such as key signatures, scales, chords or timing. Practice theory exam papers are available for those taking theory and practical exams or those who want to see how far they’ve reached.
- aural. This aims to make the student better at listening to and analysing music. Since music exams include aural tests, as well as playing, students taking exams are encouraged to also take aural lessons where they get practice at the different types of listening skills looked for in an exam. For early grades these are covered in the last 15 minutes of a theory lesson. For Grades 4 and beyond these can take anything up to an hour (on top of the normal written theory lesson).
One of the strengths of the Huntingdonshire Music school is the number and variety of groups provided for folks to play in. You don’t have to learn an instrument to play. You might take lessons privately elsewhere and want to learn the skills of playing as a member of a larger team (albeit in loose formation at times!). This sort of experience is very hard to get and almost impossible to get as an adult (most things are geared up towards the little dots, youngsters and teenagers (a decidely different species ). Not only that, but it’s convenient, sociable and you can join as many as you want.
We are also looking at forming new ensembles, particularly choral/singing and perhaps blending music technology with classical instruments.