BlitzBitz - Samantha's Blog
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Samantha Coates' musings on teaching, publishing, theory, musianship, music craft, the AMEB and other things that spring to mind.
By Samantha Coates on 21/07/2015 9:57 PM
In Part 1 of this blog I talked about ways to get students to sing more confidently, as well as the three ‘essentials’ for good aural training: Singing, Practising and Memorising.

Now, let’s look into some of the sections of the exam more closely.

Rhythm Clapping and Metre The rhythm section of the aural test is very often a weak spot for students. There are two possible reasons for this: the first is that the student finds it hard to memorise the whole rhythm before clapping it back, and the second is that the student has not had a lot of experience at isolating rhythm from a piece or from a melody.

One way to find out whether a student is having trouble with memory or clapping would be to do a rhythm dictation. In other words, ask the student to write the rhythm instead of clapping it. If the student can’t clap it but can write it, they just need to practise clapping. If the student cannot do either, some remedial memorisation...
By Samantha Coates on 12/07/2015 10:11 AM
WP_20150703_11_37_51_ProHi :) I’m Courtney, Samantha’s daughter. I’ve been learning piano from mum for an extremely long time now, about *mumbles* years. In my experience, she always has some quirky way to get her students motivated to practice, and this term is no exception. Last week, she introduced to me the concept of Jelly bean practice. Naturally, this piqued my interest. Jelly Beans? Count me in.

She sat me down...
By Samantha Coates on 14/06/2015 9:17 PM
question 1Wouldn’t it be great if there were never any misunderstandings between teachers and parents? Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone was on the same page re things like practice, missed lessons, budgeting for music? In this blog post I explore two perspectives when seeking the right teacher/student combination. First, 10 questions I believe all piano teachers should ask in the initial interaction with a prospective student or parent, followed by 10...
By Samantha Coates on 4/06/2015 9:14 PM


We've re-opened the BlitzBooks Aural Survey. If you missed out on taking the survey the first time, please click here to take the survey now.

By Samantha Coates on 16/05/2015 1:39 PM
In the February BlitzBooks newsletter, I wrote an article summarising some of the survey results. This contained some fascinating data, including the fact that professional musicians had only slightly better aural skills than non-musicians.

Here, finally, is a much more detailed overview. Just to recap my reasons for setting up this survey in the first place: I have observed many times in the past an individual who is supposedly ‘tone deaf’ being able to accurately identify a certain pitch or piece of music, as long as it was very familiar to them. I thought it would be fun to devise a survey full of very familiar sounds to test the level of aural accuracy, and for this test to be open to absolutely anyone and everyone. While I was putting it together I have to say I was a little worried that perhaps it was too tricky for non-musicians, but I was HOPING that I was wrong… and I’m so glad I was!!!

I’ll start by showing the breakdown of correct answers for each of the 10 sounds in the survey (participants...
By Samantha Coates on 14/04/2015 8:27 PM
aural doggyA while ago I wrote a booklet containing tips, tricks and techniques which can be useful for those who find the aural aspect of music a bit more challenging. This booklet was only available for a very short time, and only as a promotional giveaway. So I thought it might be an idea to reproduce it as a 3-part blog.

I would like to thank the following people who have made invaluable contributions to this book/blog:...
By Samantha Coates on 21/02/2015 6:06 PM
At the end of last year, I announced to my students that everyone would be participating in the 40-Piece-Challenge, the origins of which are explained by Elissa Milne in her excellent blog. They were excited at the thought of participating in something official, and I spent a good deal of my time over the holidays preparing personalised progress charts, finding just the right stickers and stamps, and making a big wall chart to stimulate the maximum amount of competition between students as possible J.

Another thing I spent a lot of time on was thinking about what actually constitutes a ‘piece’. Some students do try to rort the system a little, learning pieces that are just WAY too easy for them and expecting it to count towards the 40. I wanted to come up with the perfect way of closing this loophole, so I put this to the Australasian Piano Teachers Facebook group....
By Samantha Coates on 28/08/2014 9:49 PM
sports-equipment (1)When it comes to playing piano – in fact any musical instrument - I think there are enormous similarities between sport and music. For example:

1. It is a physically demanding activity that takes hours of practice/training each week to do it well;

2. It is not possible to ‘cram’ – that is, ignore practice on a daily basis, and then practice madly the night before a game/an exam and still pull...
By Samantha Coates on 28/05/2014 8:45 AM
There is no question that music exams are a huge part of Australian culture. Recently, the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) published in their newsletter five excellent reasons for doing music exams. In a nutshell, these five were:

1. Have a goal to practice towards

2. Practice a broader range of skills (than repertoire only)

3. Gain performance experience

4. Get constructive feedback

5. Have achievements recognised.

These are all good points and very relevant to budding young musicians.

But what if the music student is not interested in exams? Perhaps he or she has done an exam in the past, but had a negative experience and doesn’t want to go down that path again? Or what if it just doesn’t suit his or her personality? As a teacher I find that it is an uphill battle trying to convince children and parents that learning music without churning through the ‘grades’ is a perfectly valid music education.

So this article is here to acknowledge that...
By Samantha Coates on 10/04/2014 1:41 PM
Well, the results of the practice survey are in, and they are very interesting!

There were just five questions in the survey (each phrased slightly differently, depending on the answer to question 1):

1. Are you a student/teacher/parent?

2. Did you practice much over the holidays?

3. Were you rusty at the beginning of term?

4. Did you take long to get back into the swing of things?

5. Did you recommend ways to get into a good practice routine?

A whopping 73% of all responses were from teachers, probably because these issues are at the forefront of their daily lives, but also due to the fact that my database is mostly made up of teachers! The graphs and pie charts following show the survey results as percentages of the total responses; so it’s worth remembering that whilst 50% of teachers comes to a total number of about 120, 50% of students only represents about 20 responses.

The answers to questions 3 and 4 were pretty consistent amongst the 3 groups: the...
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