|Posted on February 25, 2012 at 4:40 PM|
Recently I joined a group of teachers who are taking a class on the theory requirement of The Achievement Program http://www.theachievementprogram.org/. With our instructor, Dr. Andrew Hisey, Regional Leader for TAP, we've gone through all of the beginning assessment and have taken an exam. What has been most interesting is an emphasis on teaching power principles. I've tried to teach intermediate and advanced students the circle of 5ths before with the result they didn't really see a purpose for it, but I found some online resources to explain it in simple termsThe Circle of Fifths is a power principle and gives students all kinds of information when they understand it. If a student can reproduce the circle of 5ths in less than a minute it can be drawn on scratch paper during a theory test and be a way to check whether an answer is correct.
The lesson plan: I needed a plan I could use for all ages from 6 through 18, that I could make simple for the younger students and more detailed for the older. I used two items I found online; http://www.wolfpiano.com/bagoblocks.html
Sets of the Bag O' Blocks are available at wolfpiano.com for $24.95 a set.
I started with blocks in a C Major scale: C D E F G A B C
One thing that most of the students knew is that the key of 1 sharp is the key of G, so we took the 1st 4 blocks - C D E F, and slid the GABC blocks to the left, then put the C D E F on the right of the blocks starting with G A B C, like this: G A B C C D E F, took the extra C out, and took another G block from my 2nd set of blocks to finish the scale with a G, AND made the 7th tone into an F#, G A B D E F# G, and voila! we have the G Major scale. We did this in each key around the circle of 5ths (without referring to the circle itself) and built all the sharp major scales. Additionally, we started with C Major again and built all the major flat scales, pointing out that if we go from C DOWN to F, it is still a 5th. For the older groups, I emphasized that an inverted interval of a 4th is a 5th. To build the F Major scale from C Major, we take 3 blocks (C D E) and move them to the right of F G A B - C D E F, took out the extra C, and this time, made the 4th tone of the scale - B - into a Bb. Then we worked around the scale of 5ths to the left and constructed all the flat major scales.
The 2nd item, I found online at http://musicstudystudio.blogspot.com/2011/09/circle-of-fifths-caterpillars.html
I liked the fact that Lacey Range, the owner of the Music Study Studio website, used this sentence: Caterpillars Go Down And Eat Big Fuzzy Clovers. I liked that it started with a C, so we can start at the top of the circle with C at 0 sharps and 0 flats. It's colorful and interesting enough to hold the little ones' attention, and the placement of the fat green caterpillar emphasized the enharmonic scale. The sentence works starting at the enharmonic key of B = Cb, too, and brings you back to C at 0 sharps and 0 flats. I used the blank printable Lacey Range provides on her site and laminated each one for each student's notebook. Next week's lesson is the proof of what they learned. Will they all be able to reproduce the circle for me? We practiced it several times and most ended up being able to reproduce the circle as quick as 30-40 seconds.
At the end of the lesson we went upstairs where I had baked cupcakes for the circle of 5ths:
I was amused that it mattered to most of the students which key they ate! This was a memorable group lesson and I hope the message "sticks" for a long time.
Grace and Ethan chow down Bb and Eb!