Supporting blind children to practise between lessons
Working between lessons
Most of children’s musical learning happens not within music lessons, but between them, when they practise. This is typically an activity that children are expected to do on their own (albeit with the encouragement or insistence of parents), since most parents lack the musical and technical skills or knowledge to help them.
Children are usually guided by written instructions from the teacher and sheet music, which they are expected to be able to read.
Overcoming the challenges that blind children may face
Practising in the absence of vision can present a number of challenges, all of which are surmountable, though, at least in the early stages, they may require some input from parents.
If a child reads and writes braille, or has a recording device, they can make a note themselves during lessons as to what it is you would like them to practise. Alternatively, the parents can take a note of what is needed, or you can email instructions to them after the lesson.
In terms of access to music, if braille is not an option for the child, you can make audio recordings of what is required. In the case of children with perfect pitch, this can comprise a recording of new material, together with spoken fingering, dynamics, articulation and phrase marks that may be in the score. For children who do not have perfect pitch, it may be necessary to indicate which note is being played.
‘Talking scores’ are a further option for children who understand basic music theory. Here, the teacher reads out all the information that the sheet music offers: ‘Right hand, fourth octave A, crotchet; left hand, third octave quaver followed by second octave F quaver’, etc.
Younger children, and those with additional needs, may need help from parents to assemble their instrument, and to ensure it is kept safe and clean. The reeds of some woodwind instruments can be particularly tricky to manage, as can the strings on those instruments that have them. It’s important that wind instruments in particular are cleaned after use and excess moisture removed from inside. Parents may need your help and guidance in learning how to do this.
Children may well need to be reminded of the importance of good posture, holding instruments correctly and other matters of technique. Here, you can help parents with short video clips explaining what is expected.
In Ashleigh’s story, it is noted that her parents record all her music lessons with Adam on an iPad, so that Ashleigh can listen back to them at home. Adam includes instructions in what to do in terms of fingering and technique. Ashleigh's Story @ 07:00
In Nafis’s story, Dave, his teacher, is shown using backing tracks during lessons, particularly when Nafis is working on pieces for his grade exam. These can be downloaded and used for independent practice by students. Nafis's Story @ 01:30