Teaching Theory to Your Bassoon Students

(This post contains affiliate links but is not sponsored by Theory Time or Coursera.)

We can’t leave it up to the piano teachers and public school teachers anymore. We need to be teaching theory to our bassoon students. When students understand the structure and elements of what they are practicing, their practice becomes much more effective. When they can look at a scale and say “Oh, that’s just a B flat harmonic minor scale” instead of “Oh no, I can’t play that,” then we are doing our job.

For the last two years I have been hunting for suitable theory materials. It has been difficult. I have researched printed materials, computer programs, iPad apps, online subscription services…and haven’t found exactly what I am looking for.

As bassoonists, we need some specific things. For example, wouldn’t it be nice to have exercises available in both bass and tenor clef? How about having analysis examples from our own repertoire? I’m afraid that I would have to write my own book in order for it to meet all my criteria. Since I have neither the time nor the inclination, I have settled on a few different options. I have ranked them here in order of the amount of commitment required on the part of the student. (Summaries are provided below—for complete reviews, click on the “full review” link at the end of the summary.)

For Students who Sometimes Remember to do Theory

Theory Time (Reproducible Curriculum) was originally created for band and orchestra teachers. It comes in 5 levels, and each level is divided into an A and a B unit. It starts out with the basics (time signatures, intervals, etc.) and by level 5 students are working on voice leading and 12 tone rows. This has worked out very well for my students (ages 12+). And the best part is, you can use both bass and tenor clefs! For more information on how I use this in my studio (and make it a cost effective choice), read my full review.

For Students who Thrive on Theory

Theory Time offers individual grade level workbooks and accelerated workbooks (the medallion series). The books are packed with information and exercises. As with the reproducible curriculum, the clefs have been left off the exercises so you can assign either bass or tenor clef. Some students find the fun pages confusing, so I often skip those. They are available at Amazon, Sheet Music Plus, or your favorite music retailer.

For the Self-motivated High School Student

I absolutely love the music theory courses offered by coursera.org. All courses can be audited for free and are offered by some of the biggest names in music education. The Berklee School of Music offers a six week course called Developing Your Musicianship that was originally designed for incoming freshmen that have no music theory background. It is great for high school students to take before taking AP Music Theory or before they start college. It is only offered during certain weeks of the year though, so you have to plan ahead. Read my full review.

I hope you are feeling empowered to be more consistent in your approach to teaching theory! Your students will thank you. It’s worth the effort. If you are aware of any theory materials that I have missed, please let me know about them in the comments below!

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