Why rote learning?
There have been long time arguments about the validity of rote learning, and whether or not it is considered “cheating”. I have no intention of beating around the bush, and due to the fact that I’m writing a resource roundup on this, I will come right out and say that done correctly, rote learning isn’t cheating at all! That would be similar to saying that improvisation is cheating since you never actually write the music down. I’m pretty sure we would all agree that improvisation is not cheating 🙂
What are rote piano pieces?
Rote music is a piece that is built entirely by repeating patterns. It is fairly complicated when reading the music, but much less complicated when learning by ear. When teaching a rote piece, the teacher uses the music while teaching the student to use their ear and repeat the patterns over and over until they can play the song by memory.
Why would we bother to teach rote pieces?
There are so many good reasons! I will list a few here… but I encourage you to check out the accompanying links. Many wise teachers have written great blogs on this!
~ Most students begin playing with an idea of how amazing the instrument can sound. But when they are first learning a few notes at a time, the piano doesn’t sound anything like they’ve envisioned! Rote pieces give the student the ability to play something that sounds really appealing right from the first lesson! And there’s no detailed understanding of musical concepts involved!
~ I don’t know about you, but I have some students who are very unsure as soon as they hear that they’re learning something new. No matter that they’ve learned and conquered all of the previous tasks. They somehow believe there is no way they will conquer this new one. Teaching a rote piece that contains this concept is a fun way to introduce something new without the student even realizing it. Then when it appears in their music, all you have to do is remind them that they already know how to play it! No more fear!
~ Ear training at its finest! Whether your student has a fantastic ear and you want to challenge them, or you have a student who needs a lot of ear training practice, rote music is a great way to involve your student’s ear!
~ Creativity, flexibility, and musicality! With rote pieces, students use more of the keyboard than they can read, pedals they haven’t practiced, and dynamics that help them remember what part of the piece they are playing. Students can spend a lot of time working on (what they believe are) some of the more exciting parts of music when they don’t have to worry about reading the notes!
~ Do you remember the recent article in our Adaptive Piano Lesson Series on the Cognitive domain? I mentioned that students will disabilities can often have trouble processing large amounts of information at one time. Rote pieces can solve some of this problem because there is less information intake at once time. Sounds like a win to me! (Check out the previous article here.)
These are just a few of the way that rote pieces can be a transformative part of your studio!
Check out more reasons and tips for teaching rote pieces on these sites…
Looking for rote pieces to get you started? Check out these great resources!
Piano Safari (called pattern pieces- separate books and included in their method books)
Hopefully this list gets you started with something new in your studio, and inspires you to inspire your students!