Ellie's Blog

I am very passionate about bringing the joy of music into the lives of the children and adults that I work with. I have been teaching for 50+ years and I hope to continue for a long time.

If you were born after the mid 60's and grew up with color TV you have always enjoyed your favorite TV shows in color.  But there are re-runs of old shows in black and white, and some shows and movies will do a color change (like in "Over the Rainbow"), so you know what I am talking about when I say Black and White. 

Printed material was much the same way. If you read books or the newspaper before the advent of color print, everything you read was in Black and White.

When I was teaching 7th and 8th grade music as an experiment I had my students listen to a classical composition and as they listened they were to draw a picture of what the music reminded them of. I handed out colored pencils to each student. Some students got four or five colors some students got only two.

Of course the students with one colored pencils wanted to know how they could draw a picture with only two colors. One of the other students responded by suggesting that they do shading. It was amazing the pictures they drew even the students with only two colors.

So that brings me to Black and White vs. color in the music my students are learning to play.

When starting a new piece of music the students are supposed to study the entire page and everything on it before they ever touch the keys. If there is a musical term that is new to them they are to google it to find out what it means and put the definition right on the music. As a reminder to observe all the important markings in the music they highlight them so their eye spots it easily on the page.

Using my iPad I take a snapshot of all the things they marked on their page and then I have them begin to play. As they play I mark on my iPad things they missed or make other notes if they need to do more with a certain place. Maybe there is a mark (crescendo) to have them gradually get louder and they do but they need to do even more of it.

At the following lesson I play the piece for them without paying any attention to the marks on the music. I ask them what they think and many times they say I played it very well. So then I say to them, "Doesn't it seem to be a little Black and White" meaning that I was just pushing the piano keys up and down on the correct notes with the correct rhythm but nothing more.

So I play it again and add lots of "color" as I play by observing all of the marks in the music.

So the one thing that was and is constant about the "black and white" version of music they listen to, pictures that they drew, assigned pieces they are learning is that 100% of the students prefer the "color" over the "black and white". When I ask the question of the students why they prefer the music with "color" I get many varied answers from "it sounds better" it is "more interesting to listen to" but the most common response is that the color version "has heart".