As I put the piece together, I realized how many great teaching moments can be found in rock and pop music, if we take the time to look for them! My students often ask to play music by their favorite rock and pop groups, and I am always happy to oblige. Here are some reasons you should encourage your students to play rock/pop music:
- Kids love rock music. I will start with the obvious--most kids love rock and pop music and listen to it alot more than any other style. It is fun, familiar, and motivating. I find that many of my students' parents are more impressed by their children playing a rock song, no matter how musically simple it is, than any other style.
- Rock music teaches rhythm. Want your kids to feel a steady beat and learn to count eighths, sixteenths, and syncopated rhythms? Then rock and pop is for you! An added bonus is that many rock and pop songs are highly patterned, so while the rhythms are complex, they often repeat throughout a song.
- Rock music teaches chords. Most rock and pop songs are based on four bar chord progressions. Rock songs are a great vehicle for teaching how chords function--look at how many songs use the same chords in the same order! Learning about chord progressions can lead to learning about inversions and how to harmonize a melody. Students can even use their favorite progression as the basis for improvising their own rock song.
- Rock music teaches students about form. Most rock and pop songs follow a predictable form. Students can learn to identify intros and outros, verses, choruses, pre-choruses, and bridges. Songs with words make this especially easy, but once students can identify form in rock music, they can apply the same principles to identifying form in Classical music, too.
- Rock music is great for teaching students to play by ear. Because of its highly patterned nature and rather simple melodic and harmonic structure, rock music is perfect for teaching ear training. Encourage students to pick out the melodies in their favorite rock songs, singing the words as they go. Listen to songs and try to identify the chord progression, or the home key. Clap the rhythm to that funky bass line and try to notate it on paper.
What do you think? Do your students study pop and rock music?
(P.S. If you would like to take a look at my original rock piano piece, "Epic," you can find it here!)