In part one we discussed multimedia, part two was improvisation, and now we are on to the third and final part: movement!
One of the best ways to strengthen the mind-body connection is to get away from your instrument and move! This is especially important for children in their earlier years as they are developing their awareness, coordination, and listening skills. However, it is also beneficial for teenagers and adult students as well, who often have become physically tense, shy, or over-analytical of their playing.
Think about these words that we use and how they imply a physical sense:
That music really MOVED me
I could really FEEL the beat
I liked the eMOTION that you conveyed with the music
You may have heard of Dalcroze Eurhythmics. It was Emile Jaques-Dalcroze’s belief that everyone had an innate sense of music. Some get fostered, some get suppressed, but we are all born musicians. As music teachers, it’s our job to help tap into the musician inside everyone and to develop it.
I’m always exploring ways to help students really feel and embody music within themselves. I have done training in Dalcroze Eurhythmics and use the philosophy all the time in my teaching. However, you don’t need tons of training in order to grasp the basic concepts and apply them in your studios to benefit your students’ skills.
Most teachers do include some type of physical activity to help with music learning. Examples might be tapping the rhythm, stepping the beat, exaggerating a gesture, etc. But I like to take it much further:
Don’t just clap or tap the rhythm, get up and step the rhythm with your feet as you traverse the length of the room!
Don’t just exaggerate a phrase gesture with your arm, get up and use your entire body to expand up to the sky and then collapse back down to the ground.
Watch this video clip to see examples of how this teacher uses physical movement and engages the whole body in order to teach concepts such as rhythm, phrasing, solfege, improvisation, and more!
You can see how the students feel quarter notes, eighth notes, and half notes, instead of just knowing how to count them. The teacher used:
“walk” = quarter notes
“eighth eighth” = eighth notes (and she played light and staccato to match the energy)
“slow walk” = half notes
“ve-ry slow walk” = whole notes
Even with solfege, the students were feeling the relationship of the notes by jumping to each scale degree, making a physical connection to the scale.
Obviously it’s more fun in a group class, but these ideas can be successful in a private lesson as well. I have found that many musical problems that students have can be fixed using some kind of body movement. Problem with a steady beat? Get up and move! Problem with dynamics? Get up and move! Problem with form and phrasing? Get up and move!
Doing these kinds of things help awaken the inner musician, strengthen the mind/body connection, resulting in more musicality. Students then become more creative in their interpretations as they make their own decisions about phrasing, dynamics, rubato, etc.
Students also become more motivated to continue making music since it’s really a part of them. Their sense of music becomes connected deep inside, and they will naturally want to keep experiencing this great satisfaction and joy!
Check out these resources for more information about Dalcroze Eurhythmics: