I was describing a Rock Write and Record class to a parent, whose son has been rocking in a band at Brooklyn Music Factory for nearly three years, and she stopped me mid sentence and proclaimed that she had absolutely no idea that that was what actually happened every week in a rehearsal. What?! How could she not know? It occurred to me that the magic that happens behind that closed door is pretty much a total mystery to most parents. What they hear is a finished song and maybe a bit of hand drumming at the beginning of each class. And, surprise, their kids are not letting them in on the secret. Let me briefly explain the shape of a band class.
Stage 1: The Drum Circle
Why do we start here? Simply put, there is nothing as easy and immediately rewarding as whacking on a drum. Anybody can pick up a drum and start playing a simple beat. Absolutely anybody. The first 20 minutes of every class begins with different games that teach the basics of communicating through music. Pass The Beat, Crazy Conductor, or Beat Detective to name a few….all these games help students learn to make eye contact, develop musical focus, and teach the basics of working as a team. Super fun and a great entry point.
Stage 2: The Movement Area
Musicians need to move! In fact, all students need to move. This is the area for just that. Open floor space allows the musicians to move around while continuing to expand their musical vocabulary. Games like Chord March, Stick To It, or Pass The Mic all help teach form, lyrical phrasing, harmony, and again…build team work. And all the while, continue the quest for improved focus.
Stage 3: The Band Stand
This is the final destination. The promised land! This is, of course where everyone wants to start, but we treat it like the carrot at the end of the stick. Here we put the pieces together while building a band….one note or chord at a time. The musicians begin to focus on their individual lines while learning to listen to multiple parts at once. Underlying everything on the band stand is a strong groove so the first parts to be added are the drums and bass and the last one to join is always the vocals. And slowly, week by week, the band builds up a song and by the time the gig rolls around, all the parts fit together. And the team has become a band.
The key to a successful band method is to teach the tools before the students get an instrument strapped onto them or a mic placed in their hand. What are the absolute essential tools for any musician? Focus, Team Work, Groove, Musical Memory, Strong Ears, and Respect for the music.
Next time you drop off your child at his/her rehearsal, take a few minutes to peer through the little window and watch the progress from the drum circle to the movement area and finally graduating to the band stand. The change in every musician over the course of one short hour is magical to behold.
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