Transcript of Mnemonics in music

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (20:24)

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate off the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom. Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. My name's Jackie King and I'm a creative arts project officer with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we're going to discuss the strategy of the week with Julia Harvey Trappel from Gorokan High School. Hi, Julia. How are you today?

Julia – I'm good, thank you. Jackie. Nice to see you and talk to you.

Jackie – Nice to see you too. I've asked you to come along today because you've got some fantastic videos on YouTube. I kind of think of you like music education's Eddie Woo almost with all of your fantastic videos that you've got on YouTube for teaching music, but I particularly enjoy your videos for the concepts of music for Stage 6 using the mnemonics for breaking down the concepts. I'd really love to chat to you a little bit more about that, but before I do get into your strategy, can you give us a little bit of background information on Gorokan High school and the music classes that you have there?

Julia – Okay, so I've been here at Gorokan since 2014. My previous high school was Francis Greenway High School. So I actually live in the Hunter Valley and travel down to Gorokan every day. Love the place. It has its challenges, but is certainly a great place to work. Since I've been here, we've been really lucky that we've always had elective classes. So we teach music in Year 7 and they do visual arts in Year 8 and then obviously electives from there. So for the last few years, we've been lucky enough to have two 200 hour courses, one in Year 9 and Year 10, and one 100 hour course in Stage 5. So three courses in Stage 5 and then obviously Year 11 and 12. So our kids are doing awesome. We were very lucky to do very well last year. Yes, so as I said Music at Gorokan, we're very much rock band, singers, those sorts of things, but I've never had as many string players in my life as I have here Gorokan. I think every year I've taught the HSC I've had a string player and I think we've got some coming through next year, I think we've got one in Year 7 that'll be a cellist. It's like, amazing.

Jackie – That's really interesting because I kind of liken Gorokan to where I used to teach at Kurri High School and we're very rock band, singer orientated. Is there a string teacher in the area, is that why you've got string players?

Julia – Yeah, there's an amazing string teacher in the area, Amanda. Sorry, I don't know her last name, but I know a lot of her students that comes through and she does a lot of that, obviously her soloists, but they do a lot of quartets and all sorts of other ensembles. I'm not sure about this year how much has been able to happen, but yes, she's got a lot of kids that we've got through that they're playing violin. It's just amazing. Like I said I’ve never had this many string players in my life.

Jackie – Yeah, that's fantastic. Fantastic. So I'd like to get onto your strategy now and I've used your videos with this strategy so many times with my students and my students love it. It just really resonates with them. You have broken down the concepts of music into some really easy to remember mnemonics for the students to hit all of the elements that they need to hit in the concepts. You're gonna be able to explain the concepts and the way that you've broken them down better than I will. So can you please give us a little bit of information on the strategy, the way that you've broken down the concepts and then also how you came about the particular mnemonics that you have?

Julia – Okay, so I'll start at the beginning. When you contacted me about doing this I was like, oh my goodness, how long have I been doing this? So I think it went back to 2007, I know that sounds like a long time ago, but I had a class that was really, really struggling at my previous school. And I was on the board and I remember we were doing a pitch question, and this poor girl, she just could not get it. Like she just could not get it. And we're going, like, the whole class going “well, you know, this this and this” and literally I've looked on the board and I went: Hmm, there was melody. There was ornamentation. There's range, role, register. There was phrasing and harmony. I went: hmm, that makes the word. Makes a lovely word. That makes morph. I thought right, well, if I could do this for that one concept, how else can this evolve? So that was for the Year 12 class. So, unfortunately, I didn't have it for that particular class because this was literally like the study day before the HSC exam, so you know, I wish I had done this earlier. Then I worked on it and worked on it worked on it, and then my next class, which was in 2007, I had a class of Year 11, obviously going into Year 12 in 2008, and I did it with them and it worked, so I just refined it and refined it as went. And then in 2013 again, I had another class that needed to have learned the concepts quickly because I'd taken over from a friend of mine just so we could follow our kids through. Anyway. I had been reading a lot about the flipped classroom, and that's where I came up with the videos. At the time Moodle was the big thing, I'm sure we all remember Moodle. It was just like “oh my goodness” but the problem was I couldn't load those videos onto Moodle. So that's why I ended up putting them on YouTube and I sent the kids there and go: “Okay, go and watch this” and whatever else. So the way my brain thinks in in mnemonics, it just works. Melody, ornamentation, range, register and role, phrasing and harmony. If you take the first letter from each of those words, it spells the word morph, so as a pitch, it's morph melody, ornamentation, range role register, phrasing and harmony. Sorry if I'm talking too quickly. Duration is total BP: total BP stands for time signature, ostinato, tempo, accents, length of notes, beat and phrasing. Time signature, ostinato, tempo, accent, length of notes beat and phrasing. Okay, so in tone colour, you need to be able to do these things: ICEDR so we've got I for identify, C for classify, E for explain how they played, D for describe or a description, and R for range, register and role. ICEDR. Identify, classify, explain describe range, role, register. So in texture, you've only got to look for four things. You've got to be able to describe the texture. You've got to be able to identify the instruments, you’ve got to be able to say what sort of phony it is. Please don't ever use that word phony in the actual exam, that's one of my made-up ones just to help you remember, and D for diagram. Then texture is DIPD, now this is the one I really need to fix, because it's describe the density, identify your instruments, your phony as in homophonic polyphonic, etcetera and then diagram. But the P that one gets the kids a lot, and they like, write sort of weird things in the answer they’re trying to give.

Jackie – Sometimes they try and use that word phony. I'm always like you cannot use the word phony. It's just to remind you!

Julia – Yes, that's right, because I was like, how do I group things like homophonic, polyphonic, monophonic? You know, how do we group that? But yeah, they always stuffed that one up. Then dynamics and expressive techniques. With dynamics and expressive techniques. Good little dog sitting there. And there's a reason for that. You need to do what's called identify. I for identify, T for terms, C for changes, H for how, so itch. So if you imagine a scratching dog or an itchy dog or you’ve got an itchy bite, then you’re doing well. Itch: identify terms, changes and how, and I've actually changed it recently, and I'll go with that in a minute. What've I missed? Structure? So for structure, you need to be thinking of Poti Road the way I remember it is the structure of the road has potholes basically, so P for phrasing, O for ostinato, T is for types, I for identifying, R for role and D for diagram Yes, structure. So it was, but I always came up with Poti Road and it was funny, I was Googling, you know, myself, not Googling myself, Googling things. And there was someone lovely out at Coonabarabran that went ‘tripod’, and that makes so much more sense. So Poti Rd was phrasing ostinato, type of structure, range, role, register and diagram. And I said they use tripod, now, it that makes so much sense. So it's type, range, role, register, identify, phrasing, ostinato and diagrams. Like yeah, that makes more sense because, you know, tripod, this supports the structure. You know what I mean?

Jackie – I don't know why, but when I think of Poti Rd, though, I kind of think of like Beatles and Abbey Road and that that just sticks in my head really well, Poti rd does.

Julia – Uh, it's just like random. It's one of those things, though, that it's a strategy that's just about trying to get them to recall and trying to get them to remember, which is fantastic. And over time, it's developed because, you know, I've been doing this a while. Way too long, I think sometimes. And it was like, okay, what else can I do then? Because then that that's fine for the concepts. But let's face it, we know what the aural exam that they always, that it's never just each question on duration. It's always a couple of things combined. Or it might be a comparison question or a variety interest, whatever it happens to be. And again, I was on a flight from Gladstone, my daughter was living up there at the time, and I have to come up with something for those other types of questions. So I used Mrs Hipdot. So Mrs Hipdot is for when you have those types of questions with variety, interest, and those sorts of things, I just get because remember, if you can get these, or some of these (whatever's appropriate), you'll actually be able to formulate an answer. So, it's melody, range, role, register. What’s structure? H for harmony, identify instruments, P for phrasing, D for dynamics, O for ostinatos or ornamentation, and T could be either tempo or time signature. So just again it's one of those things that it just helps the kids, because I know we were talking earlier, but I teach my kids the same thing. I get them to look at the question. What's the concept? Write down the thingy, write down the mnemonics so you remember what you’ve got to do and it doesn't matter what order you put it in, just as long as you're hitting those you should be right.

Jackie – Yeah, as I was saying earlier, we use this a lot, or we were using this a lot at Kurri High School, and we bought one of the student's papers at the end of last year or at the start of this year, it was one of our last year's papers, because the student had done particularly well. And one of the things that our school really suggests, like it comes from our senior executive, is to buy the papers to show they're our own students as exemplars. So if they've done really well, buy their papers to be able to show the kids that “hey, you can achieve this look, someone from our school did achieve this”. So we bought one of the papers from last year and we were so pleased to see at the top of every page the student had written the mnemonic that went with the question. So it was a pitch question. I can't remember the questions, but it was a pitch question, they had morph. And she had crossed out the letters as she had applied that part of the element of the concept for her answer. And she did really well, she got a couple of full marks and yeah, so this strategy when I know I jumped straight to outcome, but this strategy so works for our students at Kurri High School just to have them remembering and hitting all the elements. But funny story, when I first started introducing it, I did have one student who would ICEDR every single question. And I was like, please, only if its tone colour.

Julia – I've only ever taught in schools you know that are like Gorokan, pretty interesting students, I'll just say that. I mean, I'm not looking forward to my Year 7 class last period today, just never much fun. But you know the difference has been that my kids, I very rarely get anything below a band four. Now, some people go oh band four, but for my kids, that's amazing. Like some of my kids, that's amazing. Obviously, I've have been very lucky with the kids I've had. I've had lots of band sixes, but I'm just as happy for those band fours because those kids have actually, that's their best result for their HSC, so you know, I'm excited for them.

Jackie – Absolutely.

Julia – I've had a strange request from kids who find me in the name like mine. You can find me, and they, you know, I have to have a little chat to their teacher because you know, they although one friend when kids were saying, “are we doing Julia lessons?” And so that's what they call on when they're doing their aural lessons. It's Julia lesson. I just laugh. I think it's hilarious.

Jackie – You are pretty famous at Kurri High school I've got to say, and my colleague, who is still there, said when I told him that I was interviewing you, he said: “Oh, make sure you share the link. My year 12’s will be so keen to listen and so excited.” So that's when I said: “You're a bit like our Eddie Woo of music education because of those videos. They're fantastic.” Can you talk about how you implement the strategy without the videos? So just implementing the mnemonics with your classes.

Julia – It comes down to it, I said, I have what we call the rainbow cards and again, this is just developed as you go as teachers, you know, we're trying always to work out ways that it makes it easy for them and how they can actually access and be successful. I'm not saying this that works 100% for every child because there's some kids that still can't you know, as you were just saying, there's one kid that did ICEDR every time. I mean, I had one kid that slept every time we did an aural lesson. I mean, I he even fired me. I was supposed to sing with him for his HSC, saying he went: “No, I don't want you to sing anymore.” “Okay, don't worry.” But I do use what we call the kids nickname them the rainbow cards. So for each of the concepts, I know you were listening on a podcast, but I have these lovely things and I've just redeveloped again so that the kids get these rainbow cards. So I've got what they actually are and then under melody is the list of things they should be thinking about. So in year 11, this is what we start with, and we start with the cards so they've got the cards with them all the time while we're doing the aural. And then by year 12, I'm taking it back and going “nup, you don't have them today. You don't have them today”. And it's just a lot of repeating, actually. So you know things like, what instrument or voice, what's the melody, what is the contour? Is the melody conjunct or disjunct? Legato, staccato, those sorts of things and, you know, is there any call and response? But I've got those sorts of questions for every single one of the morph range, role, like everything, everything. And lots of things repeat and so they know that that's, you know, our that's the same as doing, you know phrasing everywhere is the same. So that sort of essentially how I do it. But, you know, I just developed a lot of resources they used for my own classroom. That's how we teach it and how I teach it. Lots of terms, lots of term cards, lots of games.

Jackie – I wish that I had had these the mnemonics when I was doing aural back in my HSC because it really just gives such an easy structure for the students to go: I'm hitting melody now, I'm hitting ornamentation now. Yeah, to start being able to formulate that answer. I really love it.

Julia – Because otherwise look as we know – I mean, I've had kids in the past where they hear piece of music and they might know it. So then they start talking about the history of the person and that these people are in the band and these are the instruments. And it was like, No, no, no, no. That's not what we want at all. And, you know, it's really hard to get them to, when you listen to a piece of music, what are you focusing on? You’re just listening to these things, and it was just a way to narrow it down for them and look, honestly, my really good kids go beyond those parts like that. They do. And I would expect any child that you know is doing the aural exam. That's just a good framework to start with and that they should be going beyond it. And, you know, I said, my good kids do, they just tend to it just happens.

Jackie – Yeah, it does. But it is just that really good framework, as you said for them to and to focus their listening as well, so they know what to listen for. For this particular question, it's fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing today. Do you have any sort of advice for teachers who might be wanting to start looking at using this strategy in their classroom?

Julia – Look, it comes down to what works for your kids. My lovely colleague that teaches with me here, she was using some other strategies and they were working for some of her kids, but they weren't working for all. And because they know that my class has the other things, they're like, no, we want that. And so you know, then we just say whatever works for you, we just want you to answer and use that advice is again. Just what works for your kids. Um, I have to say I'm a bit mean with my children in terms of, it was “Aural Friday”, all year, every Friday, every single Friday. It was an aural test, an aural exam, and they hated me for it, but at the same time they loved me for it in the end because I was forever: “we're doing one, I mark it, I give it back” and they just knew where they were at. So, yeah, that would be my suggestion. Just do lots of it. I know they don't like it, but it's the way to help them.

Jackie – Practice makes perfect.

Julia – Exactly, exactly.

Jackie – Thank you so much for sharing your strategy today. I have really been a little bit excited all week knowing that I was going to chat to you because I'm a little bit of a fan girl. I've been using this this strategy for a long time, and my kids love it or the students who I used to teach love it. I know that the students at Kurri High School will love to listen to this because they all really love watching the videos as well, and love this strategy. It's really helped our students and I hope that by sharing this with more teachers, who are listening that it's gonna help more students just to be able to focus their listening for that aural exam and find themselves a bit of a structure.

Julia – Thank you, Thank you. I just still think it's weird that people find it. It was only an accident.

Jackie – Well, it was it was a fantastic accident. Thank you so much for your time today.

Julia – No worries. Thank you, Jackie.

Jackie – Get involved in the conversation by recording your favorite teaching strategy. Using the strategy of the week flipgrid in the Creative Arts Statewide Staff Room. You can contact us via email at CreativeArts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au. Theme music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton, and audio production by Jason King.


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