The Reading, Writing, Rhythm and Workbook Series of eight books offers the student a completely unique and effective method for learning to read music. These books combine just the right amount of repetition with a wide variety of activities that direct the eye, the ear and the motor senses towards the act and art of reading piano music.
The activities can be done in the private lesson or in a group class and some of the work can be done at home. Most of the ideas and suggestions are not found in any other method book. The instructions are clear and the gradual presentation of new ideas provides security for the beginning sight-reader. These books stimulate creativity and the desire to read music in different styles on their own.
The philosophy behind this series is that reading music well is more than just identifying the letter name of the note symbol. Rather it requires an organized system of dealing with a new piece. In these books there are step -by-step procedures called “ways to practice” which include counting aloud, playing at different speeds with the metronome and “imagining” how the music will sound before you actually play a note.
The connection between the ear and the eye in sight- reading is made through numerous games, improvisation and “dictation” episodes.
As stated so well in the Preface to the Reading, Writing and Rhythm Books Series: Reading, Writing and Rhythm is a series of books designed as the foundation for understanding the musical score. It is vital that a pianist be able to interpret musical notation accurately, fluently and musically. This series presents numerous opportunities for the student to:
- Relate the physical aspects of performance to the visual and the auditory.
- Observe the details of the score – to get a clear impression by writing what is seen (meaning the score itself) and what is heard
- Know each note individually as well as in groups
- Correlate the staff with the keyboard by learning the precise location of each note
- Ensure equal usage of all fingers
- Develop strong rhythmic reflexes by matching the student’s beat against an accurate, impersonal control – the metronome
- Have sufficient examples to play and write at each level
- Transform the printed page into live music
In RWR 1 – the student gets off to a good start by learning to write musical symbols with an easy method – tracing over and copying. Three note groupings are emphasized: G A B (just above middle C in the treble clef), referred to as the G clef; F G A (just below middle C in the bass clef) referred to as the F clef; and middle C D E in the G clef. All the white keys on the piano are numbered – from A-1 (the lowest note on the left) to C-8 (the highest note on the right). You alternate the hands and the fingering each time you play the piece so you don’t associate a certain finger with a given note on the page. Each piece is played at varying tempos with the metronome.
In WB 1 the principle of “write what you hear” and “copy what you see” is used to reinforce the concepts learned in RWR. Each subsequent book is more expansive than the previous one.
From RWR Book 2 on, there is a section called “Remembering Music” in which the student looks at a couple of measures and then the teacher closes the book and the student tries to replay it exactly as written. If not exact on the first try, then he/she has another chance at it and so on….also in RWR Book 2, sharps and flats are introduced, as well as music in 5/4 and 6/4 time. In this book the new notes brought into play are F-4, B-4, E-3 and D-3.
In RWR Book 3 dynamic markings, staccato/legato signs and tied notes are introduced. Also, “feeling one beat for the whole measure” is presented in uncomplicated ways. Four more “new” notes are added. [Almost all pieces presented in the 8 book series are composed by the authors.]
Often the Workbook introduces something new, not found in the RWR companion book. For instance, in WB 3 a section which might be called, “Singing what you see” is presented. Students really love it once the shock is over.
RWR 4 and WB4 present a fireworks display of new features, such as triplets, dotted rhythms, broken chords, enharmonic writing and different harmonization styles. Students tap the rhythms and count the beats- with each hand having a different rhythm. In a section called Musical Short Hand, the student “plays” with motives – in retrograde, inversion and sequential.
Enthusiastically praised by university pedagogy teachers and appreciated by piano teachers from all over the world, the 8 books in the RWR series are treasures in the Shaak Collection. The students who work through them are secure in their reading skills and can begin to explore the rich reservoir of the piano repertoire.