Charlie was concentrating.
"You play the left hand part, and I'll play the right hand," I said. "I'm not that great at playing quick eighth notes," I fudged. "Please play the quarter notes slow enough to give me a chance, OK?"
She looked skeptical.
"I'll try," she said.
I demonstrated some clunky quarter notes to get them in her ear.
"Now it's your turn," I said, fingers crossed it would work with the craziness of an online lesson.
Charlie played even quarter notes. I played some snappy eighths. She played four more stable quarters. There was a little delay as she finished and I began, yet the delay didn't seem to interfere with her ability to hear my contrasting eighths.
Relief. I'd found a way to teach online that felt normal.
When I first realized I was going to be teaching online, I couldn't imagine how I would use a student's ear to help them. The simplest things weren't going to work. Playing the right hand while they played the left? Nope. Then I remembered that as long as things were alternating, it didn't really matter if there was a small delay. In fact, some kids play with a small delay even when you play with them in person. It is actually the stability of what they hear, not whether or not it begins exactly on time, that gets in their ear.
After we played the first line a few times together, she tried it alone. I held my breath, not sure whether it would have any rhythmic integrity at all.
BAM! She played the entire first line perfectly. No stops, no pauses, eighth notes perfectly timed and quarter notes as stable as my mother's temperament. (It would have been her 100th birthday today. She's on my mind.)
Now the question was, what materials would work with this criteria of alternating phrases? Copy Cats! I'd written two entire books of this exact thing last year! And they were downloadable, so I could send the files to my students and use them immediately.
I'm sending the Copy Cats files today to my younger students. It will make teaching online next week much less stressful. For my students, and for me.
You can find the alternating phrase piece Poultry Prance (and five others) in All Cooped Up, available as an instant download. The two books of Copy Cats are available for download or as hard copies if you prefer to keep one at home as a reference. I hope you'll find them as helpful as I have.