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Why Learn Rote (Memorisation) Pieces?



Rote teaching is the systematic introduction of musical and artistic concepts that are best introduced by modelling rather than from the notated score. This means the student learns by listening and copying the teacher, without initial reference to the printed score. Music is an aural art and thus transcends notation.


Rote or memorisation pieces can be used to teach specific elements of piano technique, keyboard geography, musicality, creativity, style and rhythmic patterns. Rote music is used alongside other pieces taught by reading notation. They are considered indispensable to a well-rounded musical education, whereby students gain both visual (reading) and aural (rote) musical literacy skills.


Josie's favourite rote music resources are from:

Piano Safari (by Dr. Julie Knerr and Katherine Fisher)

Little Gems for Piano (Paula Dreyer)

Blitz Books Rote Repertoire (Samantha Coates)


10 benefits of rote music for the piano student include:


1. Motivation. Students want to play interesting sounding music from the beginning of study. Playing pieces by rote allows students to do this. The pieces need to be very patterned in a way that makes sense to a beginning student.


2. Concentration. Rote Pieces are generally longer than Reading Pieces, which helps a student build concentration.


3. Confidence. Students can walk up to any piano and play a great sounding piece without having to have their notated music with them.


4. Keyboard Orientation. Pieces based on keyboard patterns help the student develop a sense of the layout of the keyboard.


5. Pattern Recognition and Form. Since the pieces we teach by rote are very patterned, students learn from the beginning that music is created in pattern and form. It is not a random collection of notes.


6. Rhythm. Rhythmic ideas are best taught by rote at the first presentation before relating this to the notation. In this way, students can play syncopated rhythms early on. They can also develop a feel for compound meter in 6/8 more easily when introduced to it away from the score.


7. Technique. Students who are playing by rote can focus solely on the motions their arms, hands, and fingers are making without having to simultaneously decode a score.


8. Reading. Yes, rote teaching helps students learn to read! This is because the technique is already automatized. So the student can concentrate on decoding a score, and the hands will automatically play.


9. Artistry. Pieces in a variety of moods and styles can be taught by rote, which might be too difficult for the student to learn by reading. Students can develop a sense for phrasing and rubato.


10. Creativity. Students use patterns they have in their hands that they learned in their Rote Pieces when they improvise and create music.

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