The Power of Three


The experience of teaching percussion in junior schools has made me aware of a new Power of Three to add to the already established writing, marketing and religious practices. This Power of Three is the effectiveness of pupil, pupil with teacher grouping (or teaching in pairs) that can be especially beneficial during the first stages of learning a musical instrument.

As Chi-chi Nwanoku explained in her conversation with Yinka Shonibare on the BBC Radio 4 programme Only Artists: musicians are educated, mainly on a one to one basis, to be soloists yet spend most of their time playing with large groups of people in orchestras. Early development of group performance skills can be beneficial for trouble-free integration into ensemble settings and having groups, bands and ensembles that early stage students can be encouraged to join is a necessity to aide musical and instrumental development.

A paper by Germany academics Allan Duarte Manhas and Olga Chindmes published in 2013 Instrumental lessons in pairs: Learning and/by performing together confirms the positive aspects of learning together. The research considered ‘abilities trained in the observed classes included: listening and reacting to each other, starting and finishing together, mutual musical feeling, critical judgment, playing in (and maintaining) the same tempo, technique, improvisation, prima-vista playing (together), duet playing, and working and finding solutions to different tasks together.’ (Manhas and Chindmes 2013)

They concluded that ‘teaching two (or more) students simultaneously is a very positive pedagogical approach, providing innumerable advantages for both students and teachers.’ (Manhas and Chindmes 2013) More current research is needed about this method of teaching and the results from this study have far more advantages than disadvantages to this method of teaching.

As well as a limited amount of research about the subject there are also limited resources so I set about creating more in two ways. One was composing and collecting music for the Dozens of Duets series of books and the other was to encourage the pupils to work together and compose their own works.

The pupils own works have been collected together and shared with all the others that took part in composing this year, they all now have music to perform at school concerts, and the book ones of the Dozens of Duets series are now starting to be published online.

I composed around one hundred pieces of music for the series and have/am adapting all these to work at the right standard with each instrument, Books 1 & 2 being easy/beginners standard leading eventually to Book 8 which will be advanced. Each collection aims to assist in enhancing listening and developing the empathy needed to perform in ensemble settings on each instrument and are being formatted for both screen and print uses.

The books in the series already published are:

Dozens of Duets for Bassoon Book 1

In US letter format

Dozens of Duets for Bb Clarinet Book 1

In A4 format

In US letter format

Dozens of Duets for Keyboard Percussion Book 1

in A4 format

in US letter format

Please have a look at the music by following the links and coming soon are Dozens of Duets for Trumpet, Cornet, Trombone and Violin, Cello, Bass and Oboe, Alto Saxophone and Flute. A musical resource to grow this Power of Three.

© P. R. Birkby 2017



About derangeddrums

Composer, percussionist, musical director, teacher and educator. My music has been written for audiences in palaces and in the street. Music is my vocation and my passion and I hope you enjoy it too.
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