Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)
Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher
Chris at the Piano
[6.1] The content of this research paper was guided by the question “Is the circle of fifths relevant to elementary music education today?” In this final chapter we consider the argument that a new approach to teaching is required, one that enables understanding, builds confidence in what and why an item is being taught, provides a standard of accountability for the teacher, and ensures the student is taught within the parameters of their educational requirements. Chapter Six presents an example of how the circle of fifths can be incorporated in a proposed learning plan for an individual student.
[6.2] The circle of fifths can be taught and understood at an elementary level by the use of long, medium and short-term planning. An independent private piano teacher appears to often depend on experience and habit to conduct thirty-minute lesson for an individual student. By facilitating a scheme of work, a private piano teacher can introduce the concept of the circle of fifths to an elementary piano student.
[6.3] A scheme of work is a written plan of the structure of an educational pathway with individual topics identified and relevant topics expanded. It outlines how the items being taught will be presented and approximate or average time indications are given. Items to be included are an overview of the content, prior learning requirements, future learning options, enrichment possibilities and key vocabulary. A chart may be used to specify the expectations that are considered for high, middle, and low ability students along with extension activities for students with special educational requirements, whether that be for remedial or premium learners. The scheme of work is completed with a assessment activity (mrsstrickey, 2021). A scheme of work ensures that a student does not become confused due to a disorganised, haphazard way of presenting music within the lesson. Use of the system ensures that sufficient time is given to developing the fundamental skills and ensuring the connections that enable understanding are established. A well-planned, specified, educational period will ensure the lessons follow a logical sequence with adequate time given to revisit previous items, ensuring the need to re-teach a skill is avoided (Brewin, 2018). What and how we teach cannot be separated and the scheme of work will need reviewing annually as the teacher’s experience and personal education standard increases. It will develop and change with new ideas and experiences; each modification requires reflection and subsequent documentation so a logical progression of educational awareness and ideology can be seen (theeducator.com, 2020). This scheme of work supports the individual educator’s vision and beliefs with the foci being nurture, development, and mastery of skills through review, revision and assessment.
[6.4] After the preparation of a suitable scheme of work, a flow chart will aid an educator to collate different methods of teaching the same item. This is of benefit to students with different learning styles and methodology requirements. As shown in Chapter Five a piece can be presented visually, with audio aids, written clarification or tactile supportive materials that can be made using art programs online (Canva, 2022) with a printer and laminator. Many ideas can be gathered from online resources via sites like Pinterest (Pinterest, 2019). An educator can select music that satisfies an educational requirement from online portals like IMSLP (imslp.org, n.d.) and prepare material to support the learning of each item using a program like Sibelius (www.avid.com, n.d.).
[6.5] The teacher should always ask what skills the student has attained and where the student, sponsor and the teacher, are targeting. Teaching materials provide small steps to understanding the connections found in the circle of fifths and how they relate to the music being studied. The chord connections and how scales can be used must be facilitated in engaging and addictive ways to learn, explore, and stimulate a student.
[6.6] The maxim presented in Chapter Three by Diletski in Idea Grammatikii Musikiiskoi, that works should be studied for the benefits of compositional understanding and skills is correct. By understanding the chords behind the music and the way the melody moves as part of the chords, the student will increase the awareness of patterns, sequences and notes reducing the requirement of overlong practice time and incorrect items practised to become habit. The foundation behind the scheme of work is to develop an understanding of musical grammar that is outside of the standard syllabi offered by the main examination boards and format of the plethora of tutor books. Instead, a scheme of work has been developed which works within the students’ learning requirements and supports the teacher’s educational style. To conclude this chapter, and answer this initial argument presented, the use of the circle of fifths in elementary music education enhances all other relevant piano educational material allowing a deeper understanding of the rationale behind the music. The understanding of the musical circle provides a student with the competence and confidence to create music which follows an expected musical chord structure. This would allow concepts learnt in the interpretation of pieces within the standard Western canon.
[6.7] To conclude this chapter, and answer this initial argument presented, the use of the circle of fifths in elementary music education enhances all other relevant piano educational material allowing a deeper understanding of the rationale behind the music.
[6.8] This study was limited by an absence of literature from India regarding the development of pitched instrumental music. The indication was that it existed in the Tamil based literature but was no longer a source to be traced ensured the third culture did not produce the expected results. Further research may be conducted in the cultures of Mesopotamia and Southern America to complete the historic origins.
[6.9] While the teaching experiences suggested in this paper are indicative of North-West English predominantly middle class setting this limits the scope of the study and further research is required in various settings to ascertain the viability for other localities.
[6.10] Due to time constraints a subject and control group were not established to discover the effect of an alternative pedagogical approach on the intermediate and advanced progress or knowledge following an elementary programme which was designed and enhanced by the knowledge of the circle of fifths and chords from an early standard. This program will last a minimum of four to five years and require substantial monitoring, data collection and collation. Further research is a distinct probability in a future doctoral proposal.
[6.11] The purpose of this research paper was to investigate the origins and relevance of the circle of fifths to an elementary piano student taking private music lessons. The question presented at the commencement of the article was “Is the circle of fifths relevant to elementary music education today?”
[6.12] I posit that the central research question that was presented at the commencement of this paper could be phrased as “Why is the circle of fifths, and the relevance of this interval, not included in standard elementary music education today, as it was in both ancient and recent historical times?” as opposed to asking its relevance. The conclusions gathered for this research and the data collated have enabled me to state categorically that the relevance of the inclusion of the circle of fifths is mandatory for a successful, fully aware elementary music student therefore promoting a desire to continue their learning journey with music interpretation, creation and understanding.
^ Brewin, J. (2018). The madness of writing Schemes of Work or how I fell in love with…. [online] Huntington Research School. Available at: https://researchschool.org.uk/huntington/news/the-madness-of-writing-schemes-of-work-or-how-i-fell-in-love-with-curriculum-design [Accessed 11 Sep. 2022].
^ Canva (2022). Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software – Canva. [online] Canva.com. Available at: https://www.canva.com [Accessed 12 Sep. 2022].
^ imslp.org. (n.d.). IMSLP: Free Sheet Music PDF Download. [online] Available at: https://www.imslp.org [Accessed 12 Sep. 2022].
^ mrsstrickey (2021). Writing a Scheme of Work/Learning. [online] Teach With Mrs T. Available at: https://www.teachwithmrst.com/post/writing-a-scheme-of-work-learning [Accessed 11 Sep. 2022].
^ Pinterest. (2019). Pinterest. [online] Available at: https://www.pinterest.com [Accessed 12 Sep. 2022].
^ theeducator.com (2020). blog details | How to plan an effective scheme of work The Educator | Education Jobs. [online] www.theeducator.com. Available at: https://www.theeducator.com/articles/blog/how-to-plan-an-effective-scheme-of-work/3918 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2022].
^ www.avid.com. (n.d.). Avid - Technology and tools that empower media creators. [online] Available at: https://www.avid.com [Accessed 12 Sep. 2022].