A place for teachers to discuss issues to do with teaching
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By Carl
Just because it came up elsewhere, I thought I'd get a thread going here...

Many teachers that I have studied under teach solo's by giving them in a particular order, and having you repeat them a certain number of times. There are a lot of good reasons to do this from the teaching point of view.

1) when working with a group, everyone can play the solo at once, and everyone will stay together (you hope) :)

2) you can observe the student playing the techniques a known number of times, so you can see how well they repeat the phrase, and you also know when they are going to transition to a new technique, so you can see how they handle the changes

3) it takes pressure off of the student, since everything is spelled out for them, they do not have to worry about the creative elements of "which order?" and "how many repetitions?"

Another element of repetitions is that it can help students understand "aligning with the dununs". Ideally they should "hear" when to start and stop relative to the dununs, but some people have trouble with that, and this is one way of helping them. (I am thinking particularly about solo techniques that are shorter than the dunun melody)

In the other thread, it was pointed out that this is not how it happens "for real" in the village or even in performance. It is unfortunate that more of the master teachers do not talk about this. I think it is one of those things that they assume that you will work out for yourself with experience.

There are many ways of breaking out of this habit, the one that immediately comes to mind for me is to play for dancers! (though I do wonder if some student dancers would have the same problem? I'm not sure how many dance classes have a set number of repetitions per move? any help from those of you who play for dance classes?)

Personally, I tell people to listen to a lot of recordings. There are very few dance classes in Maine and NH. An important exercise that not enough of my students follow through on is to listen to a recording of the song that they just learned. It is a great exercise to hear how Mamady or Famoudou treat the "traditional" solos on their CDs. (it does help to know a bit about the context of the recording as to how they might be interpreting the solos, "village" recordings are often more clear in their presentation of the traditional "techniques" and the more showy cds tend to stray further from the source (though it is still very cool to hear what they do in that case!))

Any thoughts?
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By the kid
I aggree its a good to teach the solo like this.

Its also good to split the class in 2 and have half the people playing the rhythm and the other half following you with the solo then swap. Its very good to count in the solo too. People will also get used to saying 1234 with the beat and seeing how some parts of the solo say start early on the 4 . If the solo finishes on the 1 then it'll be a 234 count to the next point of entry of the solo.
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By Carl
Agree'd, I find that I often have to help the students "bring things back to the sangba" (a good reason to split the class into dununs and 'solo')

Most students benefit from the counting, a fortunate few get the dunun thing quickly. I like your example of counting when the solo finishes on "1". Most students will count the "234" but once they get that I try to get them to sing the sangba in that place... messes them up big time! :twisted:

Another place where using 4's helps is with dunun variations, I've been working with having the "soloists" playing a solo technique 4 times, offset by calls at either end.

The dununs wait for 2 repetitions of the solo technique, then they play a variation that I've given them for the next 2 repetitions of the solo, then they switch back to their part. So far they are only working on 1 technique at a time, the next thing would be to string two solo techniques together, then have the dununba play a different variation for each solo technique, but only on the last 2 repetitions! (yes, I'm evil, but they know that by now....)

This is all very artificial, but it at least begins to get them thinking about phrasing, and listening to the solo/dununs. I've given myself the goal of helping this group of students to free up their soloing and dunun playing this year (2010). As of the last class of 2009 they are off to a good start!