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#2248653 - 03/18/14 10:41 PM Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names
BostonTeacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/14
Posts: 40
Hello,
I am a piano teacher originally from Europe living in the USA. When I started playing piano as a kid I already knew how to read music using solfege notes in the treble clef and this is why the first piano lessons had two staves with treble clefs. I still internally sing my piano pieces as I play them.
Now I have been teaching piano lessons in the USA for about 10 years now and of course I switched to the letter names but I still have no clue how my students can read the music. They don't know all the notes exactly but they can play it so I let them do it. I tried teaching solfege to some students but then the books are all structured around letter names and they get confused between the two ways of reading. I have also tried notespellers so that they become more confident reading notes but they reject them.

I am starting to feel like I should let go. Just let them play, even if they don't know each note name all the time but I really would like to find a more structured way to help them read other than let them figure it out.
what is the point of reading letter names? I imagine you see/hear melodic shapes, memorize hand movements, etc.. Am I missing something?

Thank you so much !

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#2248681 - 03/19/14 12:12 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
I know that I'll mess up with this, but what the heck. I can always say I'm sorry on my next post! grin

You are talking about C D E vs Do Re Mi, right?

So for me, as it stands, and as you present it, it's all the same. It's just a different naming. C for Do and so on.

BUT, there's also the idea of a moveable C (or moveable Do), which is something I never ever knew about, until I started using the pianoworld forums. Apparently this is a method used by Kodaly (??) and other Eastern European traditions, that use the Do, as the tonic in any kind of pitch we're talking about. This is easy to follow and sing along, but my guess is that creates a myriad of other issues (including the fact that my music is too chromatic and atonal in cases, to be held in a moveable Do system).

Next one please! grin
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#2248688 - 03/19/14 12:49 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Registered: 03/18/14
Posts: 40
Thank you Nicokas,
I learned fixed Do solfege as a kid and later in life I took some courses to learn movable do but I still rely more on fixed Do.
The advantage I see between letter names and solfege notes is that you can articulate the later even in fast passages. I remember during my student years playing Chopin etudes really quickly and I still could sing every single note as I played it. To me this is the meaning of reading music., being able to say or sing each note of a score independently of whether you play it not. On the other hand, I recognize it can be a bit pointillist . It wasn't until I let go of the singing a little that I started seeing figures and patterns and motions, so in this sense I think the letter names perhaps allow more freedom. Now I let my students see the variations and the repeats and how the music works in terms of form and that helps them learn a great deal.
So I guess, it depends on how you look at it.
My question is more about the learning process so that I can help my students learn to read using the letter names system because I'm not sure I get it .
So for example they can read the first note of a group and then see if it steps up and if it leaps down a third and then moves back up and it ends on a long note. So they would pay more attention to the first and the last notes of the group and read the notes in the middle in relation ..
Is this the way to read with letter names ?

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#2248709 - 03/19/14 02:38 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5510
Loc: Orange County, CA
What if you get students who can't sing or don't want to sing?
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#2248769 - 03/19/14 08:33 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Registered: 03/18/14
Posts: 40
I don't teach solfege to my students. The lessons are too short , we don't have time. In any case with beginners we usually sing songs if there are lyrics written. If they don't want to sing I don't force them but I sing and sometimes later on they start singing too and sometimes not.

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#2248784 - 03/19/14 09:23 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3214
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher

The advantage I see between letter names and solfege notes is that you can articulate the later even in fast passages.


I think you're limiting your speed if you must articulate with your voice. You need to be able to think much faster than you can sing.

I can think of lots of examples where neither letter names nor solfege syllables would be easy to articulate, for example a trill.
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#2248833 - 03/19/14 11:38 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
ShiverMeTimbres Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/14
Posts: 207
Originally Posted By: TimR
I think you're limiting your speed if you must articulate with your voice. You need to be able to think much faster than you can sing.


I use this technique to unknowingly slow my Daughter down smile She likes to speed up when there's something she wants to watch on TV, so, I make sure she sings.

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#2248864 - 03/19/14 12:33 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
Saranoya Online   content
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Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 631
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Hi BostonTeacher,

First, the standard caveat: I'm not a piano teacher.

I am from Europe, though, and for as long as I have been reading music (about twenty years now, on and -- mostly -- off), I've used fixed Do solfège for naming notes. That said, I use the other system (letter names) without major difficulty whenever that seems more convenient. I may automatically think of the white key in-between the two black ones as re, but it will still sound the same even if I decide to start thinking of it as D.

I think the problem with your students not knowing the name of every single note on a page isn't that using letter names somehow makes it impossible (or even substantially more difficult) for them to "sing" internally. It's just that they choose not to do it -- probably because they just weren't taught that way.

In Belgium (where I'm from), most students taking up a musical education initially learn to read music not through the playing of an instrument, but exclusively through sight-singing. They keep at it for at least a year before they even get to *touch* an instrument. If that was your introduction to music (and I suspect yours must have been something like it), then of course you will tend to keep "singing" every score that's put in front of you, note by note -- and I put "singing" in quotes here because you and I both know, eventually you stop physically singing. You just audiate (hear the score internally), with or without note names.

Now, I'm guessing that for most of your students, learning to read music wasn't like that. Their first introduction to music notation probably went something like this: "This note on the ledger line in the middle of the grand staff is called middle C. Here is how to find middle C on the piano ...".

I think the most important difference between you and most of your students lies not in the way you name the notes, but in the first thing that comes to mind when you look at a note on the page. For you, that's probably a sound. For most of your students, it's probably a location on the keyboard. Now, if the goal is to learn to translate written sheet music into sounds coming out of a piano, which of those do you think is most useful?

I think associating notation with sound can come in very handy for those who play a string or brass instrument, or any other instrument where the musician has direct control over pitch. Often, for those same people, associating notation with some kind of physical action or location will be unhelpful, because string and brass instruments also allow the production of certain pitches in multiple physically different ways.

But for pianists, who basically have no control over pitch, and whose instrument has one and only one key for each of the pitches it can produce, an automatic notation-key association is, IMO, far more directly useful than a notation-sound association. If you associate notation primarily with sound, your reading process at the piano goes something like this: see the note, name/hear/sing/audiate it, and then go find it. Associating notation directly with physical keyboard location gets rid of the intermediary step. In that way, for pianists at least, it represents an efficiency gain.

So do your students need to "sing" internally, the way you were taught to do? I'm not sure. I think that if you teach them to do it, they'll have to "unlearn", to some extent, in order to sight-read as quickly and accurately as they possibly can. And do they need to know the name of every single note on the page? Not sure about that, either. I think the most important thing for a pianist to know is where a note is located on the piano; not what it's called, or what it's going to sound like. Those things are obviously important for reasons of their own, such as clear communication between teacher and student, and error correction while practicing. I'm arguing, though, that they are not priority number one for pianists.

I believe it's for the above reasons, and then a few others, that most teachers here promote intervallic reading (as you alluded to in your own post: this is middle C, and then the music goes a third down from that in one skip, or an octave up from that in a series of steps ... hey, it's a C major scale, I know how to play that!). I don't think the point of intervallic reading is to literally name every note you encounter along the way ... in fact, I'm pretty sure that is very much *not* the point of it. The point of intervallic reading is to see a note (or chord, or sequence of notes, or ...) on the page, and be able to quickly play it, even if you can't name it, or "hear" it.

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#2248984 - 03/19/14 05:30 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 258
Loc: USA
BostonTeacher,

I'm not a teacher, but an adult learner. For what it's worth, here's how I learned to read music in New Jersey:

I did have piano lessons as a child, and that was where I learned to read music. It was much as Saranoya describes:
Originally Posted By: Saranoya

Now, I'm guessing that for most of your students, learning to read music wasn't like that. Their first introduction to music notation probably went something like this: "This note on the ledger line in the middle of the grand staff is called middle C. Here is how to find middle C on the piano ...".

I learned the letter corresponding to each line and space on the staves. I remember being taught this clue: On the top staff the big fancy "G"-looking thing at the beginning of the staff curls around the line for G.

Then I had a cardboard "map" that stood up against the fallboard and had the letters printed on drawings of the keys. You lined middle C on the cardboard map up with middle C on the piano keyboard. So for example, when I saw a middle C note on the page, I looked at the cardboard map and found the key on the piano keyboard.

I don't know how long this process took. A couple of months, maybe? I was about 9.

Certainly I was taught about pitch intervals, octaves, etc. But learning by singing would have been disastrous for me.

For one thing, I sing so poorly that I can't match a pitch to save my soul. For another, after two years on the piano I went on to wind instruments. Singing while playing wouldn't have been possible. I could already read music, but I quickly associated the note (letter) on the staff with a finger combination on the instrument. As on the piano, it was basically "I see D on the page, here's how I get that D out of the instrument."

To be honest, BostonTeacher, I never heard of do-re-mi until I saw The Sound of Music.

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#2249398 - 03/20/14 10:30 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
BostonTeacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/14
Posts: 40
Hi Saratoya,

thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. You have gone to the root of the problem as I see it and it's been really helpful to see what I need to do next.
I have been writing you a long reply but I just lost it. shocked
To summarize, thank you for letting me know that the reading system is in fact intervallic singing, so that I won't be as strict with my students if they don't know the note name of the key they are playing. This is going to be nice for them and for me !
What I also was saying in my response was that i don't think that singing note names slows down the process because you sing internally and anyway you can't possibly sing everything because it's harmonic reading so how do we sing 4 or 5 notes at the same time? We don't do that. It's much more complicated than I initially thought.
Singing enhances the playing experience and expressive power. I think the concept of teaching to sing before to play in Europe comes from the notion that all instruments are an extension of the human voice. If you look at the origins of notated music, you will find it was all sung music . the first ensembles back in the renaissance imitated voice choirs, the instruments were meant to be like human voices or to accompany human voice.


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/20/14 10:37 AM)

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#2249403 - 03/20/14 10:36 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BrainCramp]
BostonTeacher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/14
Posts: 40
Originally Posted By: BrainCramp
BostonTeacher,

I'm not a teacher, but an adult learner. For what it's worth, here's how I learned to read music in New Jersey:

I did have piano lessons as a child, and that was where I learned to read music. It was much as Saranoya describes:
Originally Posted By: Saranoya

Now, I'm guessing that for most of your students, learning to read music wasn't like that. Their first introduction to music notation probably went something like this: "This note on the ledger line in the middle of the grand staff is called middle C. Here is how to find middle C on the piano ...".

I learned the letter corresponding to each line and space on the staves. I remember being taught this clue: On the top staff the big fancy "G"-looking thing at the beginning of the staff curls around the line for G.

Then I had a cardboard "map" that stood up against the fallboard and had the letters printed on drawings of the keys. You lined middle C on the cardboard map up with middle C on the piano keyboard. So for example, when I saw a middle C note on the page, I looked at the cardboard map and found the key on the piano keyboard.

I don't know how long this process took. A couple of months, maybe? I was about 9.

Certainly I was taught about pitch intervals, octaves, etc. But learning by singing would have been disastrous for me.

For one thing, I sing so poorly that I can't match a pitch to save my soul. For another, after two years on the piano I went on to wind instruments. Singing while playing wouldn't have been possible. I could already read music, but I quickly associated the note (letter) on the staff with a finger combination on the instrument. As on the piano, it was basically "I see D on the page, here's how I get that D out of the instrument."

To be honest, BostonTeacher, I never heard of do-re-mi until I saw The Sound of Music.


Thank you for sharing your experience BrainCramp. it is helpful to understand your process as this is what most people do here. I was just missing a part before but know I get it.
I wanted to tell you that it is normal that you didn't know about do-re-mi, because only singers use this system. When I was in college they called it "solfege for singers" I believe it is a requirement if you want to take a music degree, or maybe it is part of Ear Training. I guess it depends on the school.
As Saratoya said before, in Europe children don't start playing an instrument until they have spent at least one year learning to read music. Most schools won't even let them take instrument lessons if they haven't gone through that process. This is not true in the UK though. In the UK they have the same system as in the USA. I don't know about other countries ! It would be interesting to know thumb


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/20/14 10:36 AM)

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#2249446 - 03/20/14 12:07 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
dumdumdiddle Offline
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1265
Loc: California
I teach all of my piano students to read notes in solfege first, then letter names much later. I use a solfege-based method, teach them in groups, and include singing as a key activity. Having taught both letter names and solfege to beginning students since 1980, I prefer solfege. My experience has been that students play more musically and have better developed musical ears because of the solfege base.
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#2249455 - 03/20/14 12:27 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
tedrp Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/26/13
Posts: 17
Pardon my ignorance (I learned music reading using letter names and only know of solfege theoretically) but in countries using fixed do system do people ever refer to titles of works by solfege? Is a piece in C major ever called Do major? I realize that the music publishers, at least in certain countries, do not use such letter names but are solfege names ever used that way in casual conversation?

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#2249474 - 03/20/14 01:17 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: tedrp]
laguna_greg Offline
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Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Ted,

I have friends in France who NEVER refer to their pieces by name. For example, Beethoven's tempest sonata last movement is (sung) "re-fa-mi-re".
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Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2249477 - 03/20/14 01:25 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
laguna_greg Offline
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Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Boston,

I have to agree with you. Hearing/singing also strengthens the learning process so people learn the music more fully, and tend to think of music as a linguistic process rather than an abstract skill.

I take it that what you are really noticing in your students is not that they don't know the pitch names of the the notes they play; most likely they do. Rather they don't hear them in their heads in the same way or to the same level of sophistication or discernment as you do.

I've always thought that early music education was done backwards in this country. When I have beginners, I start them by making them learn pitch names and intervals, doing rhythm exercises, and doing simple sight singing for two or three months before they ever touch an instrument. By the time they get to the piano, their reading is strong enough that they don't usually need much help from me with those things. And they actually have some listening skills which can easily be built on as time goes on.

Saranoya:

"I think the most important thing for a pianist to know is where a note is located on the piano; not what it's called, or what it's going to sound like."

I disagree. That approach will make you into some kind of pianist. But it won't make a musician out of you.


Edited by laguna_greg (03/20/14 01:32 PM)
Edit Reason: thought of something
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2249481 - 03/20/14 01:35 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter namesm [Re: tedrp]
Saranoya Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 631
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Ted,

The answer to your question is yes. When you (people accustomed to the letter naming scheme) say that something is written in C sharp minor, we say it's in the key of do kruis klein. Unlike movable do solfège, fixed do solfège is really just a different naming scheme that otherwise follows all the same rules your letter names do. All it is is translation, where A = la, B = si, C = do, and so on.

Countries where the solfège naming scheme is used do seem to teach music through sight-singing more often, but even that is not absolute. I hear that in the Netherlands, sight singing is taught using the letter names.

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#2249513 - 03/20/14 02:54 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: laguna_greg]
Saranoya Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 631
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg

I take it that what you are really noticing in your students is not that they don't know the pitch names of the the notes they play; most likely they do. Rather they don't hear them in their heads in the same way or to the same level of sophistication or discernment as you do.


Yep. My point exactly.

Originally Posted By: laguna_greg

Saranoya:

"I think the most important thing for a pianist to know is where a note is located on the piano; not what it's called, or what it's going to sound like."

I disagree. That approach will make you into some kind of pianist. But it won't make a musician out of you.


I am not trying to argue that instantly knowing where a given note is on the keyboard is the *only* thing that's important when playing the piano. If you can also "hear" that note internally before you play it, great. But unlike singing, or playing an instrument like the trombone or the violin, playing the piano does not *require* one to "pre-hear" pitches in order to learn to correctly produce them. A piano student can produce the correct pitch every time even without any kind of internal pitch representation, assuming (s)he knows the location of that pitch on the keyboard, and his/her instrument is well-tuned. It may be *nice* to also have some sense of what the music will sound like, and those who do have that will almost certainly make better musicians. But it is not absolutely required. This is why I think that for a piano student, the notation-location association is the *most* important one to be established. Which is not to say that notation-name and notation-sound are not important, too.

Here's where I'm coming from when I argue the above:

I was taught to read music the same way most everyone around here is: by sight-singing for a year before applying my newfound reading skill to actually playing an instrument. Prior to that, I'd had two years of violin and a few scattered piano lessons using the Suzuki method, at an age when I was not yet deemed old enough to read. I'd also learned to play simple folk tunes on recorder and bagpipes by ear, because there wasn't any sheet music for that (why would there have been?). And I'd sang in a few children's choirs where we learned all the songs by imitation.

Because of all of those early experiences, I am (still) a listener much more than I am a reader. But I'm also "blessed" with a complete lack of anything remotely resembling absolute pitch. I can memorise most music I hear without much conscious effort, then sing it (or just a single voice of it) back to you in a completely foreign key, and I won't even know. So when you put me in front of a score and tell me to play it on the piano, I will "hear" the score in my head (because I was taught to sing scores before I was taught to play them). I will, almost unconsciously, memorise that internal sound representation. And when you ask me tomorrow to sing or play it back to you, I will attempt to do so (not looking at the score, but listening to my memories, because I am a listener by nature), but I may do it in the wrong key. This is because when I memorise something, I memorise the overall "sound shape" of it, but not where it is on my instrument, or what the notes it is composed of are called.

I actually think that, for me at least, it would help *a lot* if notation were more "anchored" to keyboard location than it is now. I think I'm getting there, but it's slow going. And if I ever had a child and he or she wanted to learn to play the piano, I think I would insist on them learning that "notation-location" link first, or at the very least, at the same time as everything else. Because I think that'll make reading so much easier for them than it is for me!

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#2249520 - 03/20/14 03:06 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
laguna_greg Offline
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Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Saranoya,

I find that it's a two-edged sword. Pianists are at a distinct disadvantage because they don't "have" to listen to or hear anything. They can just hit a key without any thought or consideration at all. Many do, and it's a serious limitation.

There are shortcomings to either approach. But I vastly prefer to work with students to overcome your problem, as opposed to the way kids are trained in this country. I really do! If kids aren't trained in any listening/hearing skills in some way similar to your own training across the pond, it's very difficult to get them to the point where they can "hear" anything, or really "think" in music. And their music-making and composing very obviously suffers for it.

BTW, I have it on good authority that having absolute pitch is highly overrated. But good relative pitch is a godsend.


Edited by laguna_greg (03/20/14 03:07 PM)
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2249529 - 03/20/14 03:21 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3450
Loc: Western Canada
Well I have found that every student must be doing music "theory" (Mark Sarnecki's Music Rudiments; beginner, intermediate, advanced), along with their music. Working their sight reading with their actually writing the note is what I found to help the most.

Just makes them know their notes that much easier when they have to write the notes on the score and then add good sight reading practices to know if they know their notes or not.
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#2249535 - 03/20/14 03:31 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3450
Loc: Western Canada
I know this is little off topic, but he has a secret to sight reading which I think is absolutely crucial. Best 7 minutes and 42 second I every spend. Take a listen to what he says. Hope you get the "aha" moment I did!

I think we forget what is so important to music lesson!



Check out his other videos at "LivingPianoVideos" on youtube!!!


Edited by Diane... (03/20/14 03:33 PM)
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#2249548 - 03/20/14 04:02 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: laguna_greg]
Saranoya Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 631
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
BTW, I have it on good authority that having absolute pitch is highly overrated. But good relative pitch is a godsend.


I've always maintained that I consider my lack of perfect pitch a reason to be grateful smile. The people I personally know who do have elaborate pitch recognition abilities, seem to consider them a nuisance more than anything else. I've heard of many things that are more challenging than you'd expect for those with perfect pitch, none of which are a problem for me. But then, I also once managed to learn an entire Eric Satie piece in the wrong key. I'd memorised it off the radio, but I couldn't remember what it was called or who had written it. So I didn't realise I was remembering it (and learning it) wrong, until I played it for my teacher.

Let's just say, my trust in my musical memory has been rather shaky since then. I'd really rather learn to religiously adhere to the score while practicing. But listening is *so* much easier than reading for me that it's not even funny. Once I've memorised a score, reading feels like torture, even though I *want* to do it.

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#2249567 - 03/20/14 04:37 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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What did your teacher say? "Wow that's great! What amazing musicianship to be able to do that! Would you like to also learn it in the key Satie wrote it in, or are you happy with it as is?" Or "Lots of work you've done, too bad you made a glaringly awful mistake and it's all in the wrong key. Let's get out the score and learn it the RIGHT way, because nobody could possibly enjoy what you're playing right now."

By your subsequent supreme doubt of your musical abilities, I have to wonder if there were elements of the latter in her response. Or is that an internal script you supply yourself, and could you imagine moving towards the former script?
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#2249592 - 03/20/14 05:28 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: PianoStudent88]
Saranoya Online   content
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Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
What did your teacher say?


The teacher I was with at that point considered me weird from the very beginning. She said she'd been able to play things by ear and from memory when she was younger, but "they had beaten that out of her" as she was going through conservatory. When I met her, she was completely unable to play anything other than short fragments without a score in front of her. But she was also the person everyone called when they needed an accompanist last minute, because *with* the score, she could play nearly anything on the spot.

I was mostly playing very simple things when I was with her: Mikrokosmos volume 2, little minuets from the likes of a five-year-old Mozart, a few random pieces that she reluctantly let me pick out for myself (or which I would just come to class with and tell her: here's something I've been working on), and my first Bach. The fact that I consistently came back playing these things from memory the week after she'd assigned them drove her nuts. She wasn't entirely wrong: I hadn't yet learned, back then, to memorise in a way that would allow me to pick up anywhere in the piece (or at least in more than a couple of utterly logical places) after something went wrong. It forced me to start over from the beginning every time, which ... got old fast, especially for her.

When I played the Satie in the wrong key, her response went along the lines of: "See! That's what you get for insisting on playing without a score."

With my current teacher, I am slowly learning to pick up anywhere in a piece, both with and without use of the score as a memory jogger. For a while now, I've been working on a Chopin Nocturne, the first page or so of which I learned before I'd seen the score. Much like the Satie, I had first heard it on the radio. I didn't know exactly what it was, and for a long time, I couldn't play it well enough for Shazam to recognise it. I also didn't dare go to my teacher with it, because I thought she was going to tell me I was crazy for even attempting that piece at this point. But she didn't.

I enjoy trying to play the various strands of music that are floating around in my head all the time. Sometimes they're things I've heard before, like Chopin and Satie. Occasionally, they constitute "new" music. But I still think it would be easier, and make me a better piano player, if I could just sit down with a score and play whatever's on there.

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#2249762 - 03/20/14 11:12 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: laguna_greg]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Hi Boston,

I have to agree with you. Hearing/singing also strengthens the learning process so people learn the music more fully, and tend to think of music as a linguistic process rather than an abstract skill.

I agree with this. I too think of music as a language. However, I got in trouble in academic circles for saying that. Science has dominated musical academia for the past 50 years at the least.


Originally Posted By: laguna_greg

I take it that what you are really noticing in your students is not that they don't know the pitch names of the the notes they play; most likely they do. Rather they don't hear them in their heads in the same way or to the same level of sophistication or discernment as you do.


No,it's not that. I gave up on teaching to sing a while ago . What I was concerned about is to give them a good reading foundation so that they could be prepared for any musical situation. However, I am now rethinking the whole solfege versus letter names... I think I will reorganize the lessons to teach them to sing after all because I am realizing how important it is to me. If I had kids I would want them to sing too, so now I have to be consequent .

Originally Posted By: laguna_greg

I've always thought that early music education was done backwards in this country. When I have beginners, I start them by making them learn pitch names and intervals, doing rhythm exercises, and doing simple sight singing for two or three months before they ever touch an instrument. By the time they get to the piano, their reading is strong enough that they don't usually need much help from me with those things. And they actually have some listening skills which can easily be built on as time goes on.


Is it difficult to "convince" them or they actually come to you because of your approach?


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/20/14 11:41 PM)

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#2249770 - 03/20/14 11:35 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Saranoya,
You remind me a bit of a new student of mine. He started about 2 months ago, ( he's only aroybd 10 years old) he had taken piano lessons for one year with a couple years break in between. I was teaching him 5 finger melodies in different positions and the other day he says: " I practiced something on my own" and plays me the first page of For Elise. He played it very well by the way. His dad plays it and he picked it up from him. What am I supposed to say? Of course I was thrilled. I encouraged him and told him to continue playing the piece but also to play the homeworks I give him. Going back to the 5 finger melodies felt very strange though but since he needs to improve hand coordination we'll have to stay on it a bit more.
If I were your teacher I would have applauded your Satie even in the wrong the key . A jazz pianist would tell you to transpose it in the 12 keys, lol
What happens with students who have good ears is that they don't have patience to read the scores . I don't know if that's your case but you will see if you take your time you can read most scores. Take small fragments and focus on hand gestures. That's my advice but I don't know you so it's hard to tell.

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#2249772 - 03/20/14 11:37 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
laguna_greg Offline
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Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher

Is it difficult to "convince" them or they actually come to you because of your approach?


The beginners don't know enough to ask any of the right questions, nor do their parents usually if they are young. So I just tell them that this is how it's going to be, take it or leave it. I've had a few people who had some hesitation at the beginning because of lessons they had earlier in their lives with other teachers. If they can hear it, I point out to them that they don't know enough yet to form an opinion, and they'll have to trust me for a little while to see the results. I'm simply not interested in teaching any other method, so they can look for another teacher if they really don't want to do it my way.
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#2249796 - 03/21/14 01:34 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
Saranoya Online   content
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Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher
What happens with students who have good ears is that they don't have patience to read the scores. I don't know if that's your case but you will see if you take your time you can read most scores. Take small fragments and focus on hand gestures. That's my advice but I don't know you so it's hard to tell.


Lack of patience to read scores? Oh yeah, definitely me!

I actually "ran into" a score I could more or less just sit down and play, the other day. It was new music, so I'm pretty sure I'd never heard it anywhere. I told my teacher and she said "yeah, well ... I never thought you really *couldn't* read. You just always pick pieces that are too hard for you to read."

Where by "read", of course, we don't mean just look at a score and get a general idea of what's there. We mean sit down at the piano and play it, while following the score.

You say take small fragments and focus on hand gestures. I'm pretty sure that's not going to teach me to read, because it's what I do now to learn my pieces that are "too hard" to read all at once. And the problem is, if I have to *practice* to be able to play something, then of course I'll have it memorised before I'm even done practicing!

I memorise the more "complicated" stuff by virtue of having to practice to get it right. The stuff that is simple enough for me not to have to practice, I'll have memorised by the end of the first try *because* it is so simple! Neither approach *really* teaches me to read.

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#2249800 - 03/21/14 01:49 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
landorrano Offline
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Good morning. This is such an interesting topic, unfortunately I don't have time this morning to flesh out my thoughts on the matter but I do want to say that I have taken the opposite direction from you, BostonTeacher. I moved to Europe from the US as an adult. Learning solfège has been like a revelation for me, like finally realising what it means to read music. I encourage you to continue as best as you can to relate your teaching in Beantown to your European musical formation, it represents an incredible enrichment for the students who have you as the professeur, they are quite lucky, even if they don't realize it.

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#2249815 - 03/21/14 04:58 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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If solfege is so good and important, then how come voice majors have difficulty in college music theory classes?

Just a personal observation.
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#2249874 - 03/21/14 09:43 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: AZNpiano]
laguna_greg Offline
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Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
If solfege is so good and important, then how come voice majors have difficulty in college music theory classes?

Just a personal observation.


Well AZN, that's because most singers are never taught well by their teachers until they get into a serious college program. Most cannot read and cannot count time before then, and don't think it's terribly important anyway. Their poorly developed technical abilities are a whole other area of contention as well.
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#2249916 - 03/21/14 11:23 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: landorrano]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Originally Posted By: landorrano
Good morning. This is such an interesting topic, unfortunately I don't have time this morning to flesh out my thoughts on the matter but I do want to say that I have taken the opposite direction from you, BostonTeacher. I moved to Europe from the US as an adult. Learning solfège has been like a revelation for me, like finally realising what it means to read music. I encourage you to continue as best as you can to relate your teaching in Beantown to your European musical formation, it represents an incredible enrichment for the students who have you as the professeur, they are quite lucky, even if they don't realize it.


Thank you very much for your encouragement landorrano. The world is so small. Here we are , from all parts of the planet talking about solfege and what it means to us. I don't have much time either but I'l post this quickly.
Thinking about solfege brings back memories from my childhood. I was atypical as a kid because I loved solfege. Most children hated it.Perhaps because it was my father who first taught me I got to spend more time with him doing something special but I'm not sure it was that or that I loved singing. He was a pretty good teacher actually but he didn't teach me the intervals. He played the solfege lessons on the violin and I just followed the melodies by ear. Later though,I started solfege with a teacher and I went through the 5 years. We used Danhauser book and the lessons were a bit boring. I remember when I took the conservatory exams, I was a bit older when I started taking exams, that there were children crying. They were so scared singing in front of what we called the "tribunal" .. I felt bad for them. In any case, I'm told nowadays it has changed a lot. I think if I start teaching solfege it has to be a different method. I would be curious to know what method do you use?


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/21/14 11:23 AM)

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#2249923 - 03/21/14 11:33 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Saranoya,
You remind me of myself when I was in my 6th year of piano. I heard a recording of Horowitz playing Rachmaninoff's prelude in g minor and I loved it so much that I got the score and tried to play it. I could read the notes but I could not play it. ha
Perhaps finding scores that are no too easy nor too difficult would be a good thing for you. Even if you are there mentally your body is telling you "nope" so you have to listen to your body and give it more time, do the steps in between.
It happens to me all the time. I need to be patient and don't give up if something doesn't happen right away. It will eventually happen if we don't give up. There is no other way around it.
I don't have good memory so I need to understand what's happening in the music in order to memorize it. Either this or saying the note names out loud, separate hands. This is what one of my teachers made me to do to memorize pieces and this is why after 10 years I can still sing them by heart. We always go back to the singing. It must be very powerful because they say people with alzheimer loose memory but they can still sing songs by heart.

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#2249953 - 03/21/14 12:47 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
keystring Online   content
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The ability to sing what I saw lost its effectivess when the music became atonal, and when the music consisted primarily of constantly changing chords creating a kaleidoscope of harmony. Otoh, being able to relate a note on the page with a location on the instrument and also a feel in the hands, served me well every time. One of the pieces I work on is Debussy's Feuilles mortes. I can hear it in my head. The chords have a texture because of the combined sound of their notes. I would not be able to sing what I hear, because I cannot create multiple sounds with my voice.

The ability to sing what I saw also left me with a deficit in recognizing register. I could easily play an octave too high or too low and not notice it, because when you sing, you have to shift toward the range of your voice. You learn to discount register so that all C's are the same. But in fact, we must hear the difference and not just the sameness, or at least know how to reach in the right spot.

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#2250037 - 03/21/14 03:54 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
BostonTeacher Offline
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During my bachelors I took a class in atonal solfege and we did sing. Instead of note names we sung "nah-nah" The book is called Modus Novus. I even took a class in microtonal ear training later on. I wasn't very good at it but some classmates could sing microtones very well. In another class, in order to recognize harmony a teacher made us sing each individual note of the chord from bottom to top, left to right. First I thought it was a loss of time but after a while I started noticing how my aural skills started improving considerably. We didn't sing solfege, we sang scale degree numbers. Somehow if you can sing it, you can hear it and the sounds in your mind become more lively. I don't think it is a requirement but I've noticed how singing makes the process of reading, listening, and playing less cerebral and more intuitive which is a good thing in my book.
I'm an ear trainer nerd though. I even have an app in my phone to practice if I'm stuck in traffic. It's called Ear Trainer.
Have a good day. It's Friday already !

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#2250038 - 03/21/14 03:57 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: laguna_greg]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher

Is it difficult to "convince" them or they actually come to you because of your approach?


The beginners don't know enough to ask any of the right questions, nor do their parents usually if they are young. So I just tell them that this is how it's going to be, take it or leave it. I've had a few people who had some hesitation at the beginning because of lessons they had earlier in their lives with other teachers. If they can hear it, I point out to them that they don't know enough yet to form an opinion, and they'll have to trust me for a little while to see the results. I'm simply not interested in teaching any other method, so they can look for another teacher if they really don't want to do it my way.

Yes, that makes sense. So far I have kept my approach neutral when I advertise my lessons in order to reach as many students as possible but I'm starting to realize I don't have to worry about narrowing it down because in the end it all works out. Luckily for us, there is always people interested in learning to play piano. heart


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/21/14 03:59 PM)

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#2250083 - 03/21/14 05:50 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
landorrano Offline
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Good evening Boston Teacher.

Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher
I would be curious to know what method do you use?


I should mention that I am not a music teacher. However, judging by your post, you've been living in the States for quite some time. It seems to me that the teaching of solfège has changed a great deal. In France in fact, at elementary levels they don't say solfège class anymore, they say "Formation musicale", music training, and it appears to me that it is the case in Spain, it Italy as well. There is a great choice of teaching materials, and there is a stream of new things coming out all of the time. I know only a small part of this material, but I am very impressed by the will of music educators to find ways pass their knowledge on to youngsters.

Dannhauser is still there, though. Personally, I love the Solfège des solfèges. I've used it a great deal myself, and I've used it with my kids as a complement to the material that they've been given in their "formation musicale" classes. There can be no doubt, though, that Dannhauser is "old school".

One series that I like a great deal is by Ireneu Segarra, called "Llenguatge Musical", Musical Language. It is written in Catalan and uses a lot of Catalan and Spanish folksongs, but I am sure that you would find it very interesting to see the way he develops things starting from the most elementary level.





Edited by landorrano (03/21/14 05:54 PM)

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#2250146 - 03/21/14 07:59 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: landorrano]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Originally Posted By: landorrano


One series that I like a great deal is by Ireneu Segarra, called "Llenguatge Musical", Musical Language. It is written in Catalan and uses a lot of Catalan and Spanish folksongs, but I am sure that you would find it very interesting to see the way he develops things starting from the most elementary level.




I know this method very well because I used it ! (I'm Catalan of origin) This method is a mixture of Kodaly , Dalcroze, and Orff adapted to the Catalan folk song repertoire.

I have been looking at the Yamaha Piano School . Their teaching integrates singing and solfege.

Rather than solfege, perhaps Kodaly is the best.

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#2250161 - 03/21/14 08:27 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
laguna_greg Offline
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Boston,

Can you get copies of that method here in the US? I'd very much like to read it.
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#2250170 - 03/21/14 08:54 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
riley80 Offline
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I was brought up on the solfege system, starting in first grade.
I started piano lessons 2 years later, and of course, learned the note letters. To this DAY, I still think in movable do - if I hear a tune and need to jot it down real fast, it's
m m m d, r r r t (apologies to Ludwig).

In a choral group, my music is noted with the solfege system on tough passages. If my choir is learning something, I am liable to explain it in solfege terms.

I'd be lost without it the movable do - fixed would slay me.

As a teacher, I think you'd be wise to stick to letter names, and for the sharper student, explain the solfege system too after a year or two.

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#2250316 - 03/22/14 04:06 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
landorrano Offline
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Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher
I'm Catalan of origin




Doncs benviguts al forum, amic meu !!! Veus, la multiplicitat des cultures i llengues es un riquesa a mai desvalorar!

In fact, when you wrote about kids crying during exams, I suspected that there might be something Iberic in your origins ... although I am not so sure that it wasn't similar in France or other countries in those days.

Just to be clear, and in response to a comment in Riley80's post, I am not suggesting that you should make your students do solfège. But I do believe very firmly that the european solfègic formation is a very important musical capital, to be cultivated and passed along as best as one can. This way of bringing everything back to the voice and of considering reading music as a subject in itself is very important, very rich. As I said earlier, it is a great chance for the kids who happen into your studio. Of course you will use this capital in your teaching in Boston in the way that you judge best.

In any case I felicitate you for posing this problem for yourself.

Que vagi bé!

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#2250444 - 03/22/14 11:57 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
dumdumdiddle Offline
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Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher
I have been looking at the Yamaha Piano School . Their teaching integrates singing and solfege.


If you're looking at the Yamaha program, consider also the Harmony Road course.
www.harmonyroadmusic.com

Both programs are group piano-based programs; the curriculum is not designed to be used in private lessons. Lots of singing, rhythm ensembles, ear training, and the parent participates as well. I taught Yamaha in the 80's and now teach HR. There are over 100 locations in the US.
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#2250972 - 03/23/14 01:28 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: laguna_greg]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Boston,

Can you get copies of that method here in the US? I'd very much like to read it.


Hi Greg,
I don't think the book is available through any store because it hasn't been translated. I googled it though and I found it is available in google books:
http://books.google.com/books/about/El_Meu_llibre_de_m%C3%BAsica.html?id=6e4fBPjzgogC

It's in Catalan though !

In the past I have used the two volumes of Kodaly method book called Sound Thinking by Philip Tacka and Micheal Houlahan. It has similar exercises as Ireneu Segarra but the songs are from the North-American popular repertoire. It's very well explained.


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/23/14 01:30 PM)

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#2250983 - 03/23/14 01:40 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: landorrano]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Originally Posted By: landorrano


Just to be clear, and in response to a comment in Riley80's post, I am not suggesting that you should make your students do solfège. But I do believe very firmly that the european solfègic formation is a very important musical capital, to be cultivated and passed along as best as one can. This way of bringing everything back to the voice and of considering reading music as a subject in itself is very important, very rich. As I said earlier, it is a great chance for the kids who happen into your studio. Of course you will use this capital in your teaching in Boston in the way that you judge best.



Beautifully written ! Can I hire you to write my school marketing ? heart

Originally Posted By: landorrano

Doncs benviguts al forum, amic meu !!! Veus, la multiplicitat des cultures i llengues es un riquesa a mai desvalorar!


wow
Em pensava que parlaves frances i no catala !

Originally Posted By: landorrano

In fact, when you wrote about kids crying during exams, I suspected that there might be something Iberic in your origins ... although I am not so sure that it wasn't similar in France or other countries in those days.

This is very funny. I heard all the stereotypes but not this one !


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/23/14 01:57 PM)

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#2250984 - 03/23/14 01:42 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: dumdumdiddle]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher
I have been looking at the Yamaha Piano School . Their teaching integrates singing and solfege.


If you're looking at the Yamaha program, consider also the Harmony Road course.
www.harmonyroadmusic.com

Both programs are group piano-based programs; the curriculum is not designed to be used in private lessons. Lots of singing, rhythm ensembles, ear training, and the parent participates as well. I taught Yamaha in the 80's and now teach HR. There are over 100 locations in the US.


Thank you so much for letting me know. I will definitely look into it !

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#2250996 - 03/23/14 01:58 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: landorrano]
BostonTeacher Offline
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Landorrano,
I thought you would enjoy this quote:
"Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil;instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime. Music must not be approached from its intellectual, rational side, nor should it be conveyed to the child as a system of algebraic symbols, or as the secret writing of a language with which he has no connection...Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a life time. This experience cannot be left to chance, it is the duty of the school to provide it."
Kodaly , Selected Writings.

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#2251008 - 03/23/14 02:38 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: landorrano]
keystring Online   content
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Just a note for accuracy
Originally Posted By: landorrano

But I do believe very firmly that the european solfègic formation is a very important musical capital, to be cultivated and passed along as best as one can.

I do not believe that this is done across all of Europe. I suspect that it's done in some countries in Europe and that there may also be differences. When it's Kodaly, is that still fixed Do, or is that movable Do? In countries that use movable fixed Do because of language (what the notes happen to be called) do all those countries follow that tradition? Etc.


Edited by keystring (03/23/14 05:15 PM)
Edit Reason: fixed error

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#2251090 - 03/23/14 05:53 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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Hi Keystring,
Kodaly method uses movable do but it still uses solfege sillables. Movable do and fixed do use solfege sillables too.
If I want to teach Kodaly I would have to learn it first.
The difference is that if you sing in fixed do if you are in the key of GMajor( sol Major) sol would be tonic in fixed do. In movable do sol would become do because in movable do always the first scale degree is do. This way it's easier to see the tonal tendencies.
If you are trained in fixed do switching to movable do is a headache at the beginning because you have to transpose mentally onthe spot ( you see a sol but you need to sing do ) I know some people who have done the switch and they say its worth it though .
By the way, I'm just sharing my opinions here but I'm really not an expert or I don't hold any academic position anywhere. It's just something that I've worked on in the past and now it's popping up again . I hope it doesn't seem like I'm imposing my views.
I believe that everybody needs to find their own way . This is what I have learned in America. There are many ways of doing things , not just one.

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#2251118 - 03/23/14 07:05 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher
Hi Keystring,
Kodaly method uses movable do but it still uses solfege sillables. Movable do and fixed do use solfege sillables too.
If I want to teach Kodaly I would have to learn it first.

Yes, so I remembered right. Things were starting to be mixed together, as though Europe as a whole taught the same thing, and I saw movable Do systems being mixed together with fixed Do. As long as people are aware that different things are being talked about, it's fine. smile

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#2251304 - 03/24/14 08:37 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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I heard an interesting comment at a panel discussion this weekend. (I just spent three days at a trombone conference watching masterclasses, seminars, and performances).

A university professor talking about auditions for entrance to music programs said he always requires sight reading along with the usual prepared solo. He said sight reading is your true level of performance; that's where your actual level of tone production, rhythmic accuracy, intonation, etc., show.

Of course it's a bit different for a monotonic instrument like low brass, where you play one note at a time and the instrument itself limits what you can do technically. I'm not sure if his comment applies to piano much if at all. But it was a comment that caught my attention.
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#2251436 - 03/24/14 03:17 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
He said sight reading is your true level of performance; that's where your actual level of tone production, rhythmic accuracy, intonation, etc., show.

Amen. It seems he knows what he's talking about.
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#2251453 - 03/24/14 03:43 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
I heard an interesting comment at a panel discussion this weekend. (I just spent three days at a trombone conference watching masterclasses, seminars, and performances).

A university professor talking about auditions for entrance to music programs said he always requires sight reading along with the usual prepared solo. He said sight reading is your true level of performance; that's where your actual level of tone production, rhythmic accuracy, intonation, etc., show.

Of course it's a bit different for a monotonic instrument like low brass, where you play one note at a time and the instrument itself limits what you can do technically. I'm not sure if his comment applies to piano much if at all. But it was a comment that caught my attention.

I think sight-reading says a lot about your performance potential. It also indicates students who have over-prepared on one or two audition pieces, because even if they play very well, they will probably have problems learning new repertoire.
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#2251478 - 03/24/14 04:51 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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There are students who are super fast at sight reading new music, but they lack the discipline and/or desire to polish one or two pieces for performance. All they can do is sight reading.
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#2251500 - 03/24/14 05:17 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
Polyphonist Offline
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I can't fathom a student like that.
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#2251548 - 03/24/14 06:56 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
There are students who are super fast at sight reading new music, but they lack the discipline and/or desire to polish one or two pieces for performance. All they can do is sight reading.

That's a problem, but there are also many different levels of sight-reading.

The really top sight-readers come close to playing a lot of music right before polishing, and they play musically.

So it's not a black and white thing.

If someone has enough talent to play fairly well sight-reading and then won't move to the next step, that's just a kind of laziness that is beyond what we do when we teach.
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#2251780 - 03/25/14 07:24 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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I've only read bits and pieces of this thread, but thought I'd drop in with my own thoughts. I'll be going to France at some point in my life, and will be discussing music at one point or another, so I know the differences and have considered this topic before.

It's quite simple. You teach the method that would be used in that country. So if you're in America/Australia/UK, you use letter names. If you're in France/Spain/elsewhere, use fixed do. That's not to say I wouldn't use solfège at all. I'd probably use moveable do for aural training.

I've learnt a second language, so I'm sure I can translate the different notes into solfège names.
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#2252394 - 03/26/14 12:39 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher
Landorrano,
I thought you would enjoy this quote:
"Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil;instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime. Music must not be approached from its intellectual, rational side, nor should it be conveyed to the child as a system of algebraic symbols, or as the secret writing of a language with which he has no connection...Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a life time. This experience cannot be left to chance, it is the duty of the school to provide it."
Kodaly , Selected Writings.


Definitely an interesting comment. And a most interesting person. Kodaly said, it seems, when asked at what age the musical education of a child should be started, "at nine months before birth"!

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#2252589 - 03/26/14 05:47 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Maechre]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: Maechre
I've only read bits and pieces of this thread, but thought I'd drop in with my own thoughts. I'll be going to France at some point in my life, and will be discussing music at one point or another, so I know the differences and have considered this topic before.

It's quite simple. You teach the method that would be used in that country. So if you're in America/Australia/UK, you use letter names. If you're in France/Spain/elsewhere, use fixed do. That's not to say I wouldn't use solfège at all. I'd probably use moveable do for aural training.

I've learnt a second language, so I'm sure I can translate the different notes into solfège names.

The only way I see a true need for letters vs do re mi is for people who want to get fast at reading letter chord notation.

I don't you are going to see "do7" instead of C7.

Other than that I have NO preference. The syllables seem much better for singing. (I don't sing, never have...)
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#2252602 - 03/26/14 06:07 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: keystring]
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Originally Posted By: keystring
The ability to sing what I saw lost its effectivess when the music became atonal, and when the music consisted primarily of constantly changing chords creating a kaleidoscope of harmony. Otoh, being able to relate a note on the page with a location on the instrument and also a feel in the hands, served me well every time. One of the pieces I work on is Debussy's Feuilles mortes. I can hear it in my head. The chords have a texture because of the combined sound of their notes. I would not be able to sing what I hear, because I cannot create multiple sounds with my voice.

The ability to sing what I saw also left me with a deficit in recognizing register. I could easily play an octave too high or too low and not notice it, because when you sing, you have to shift toward the range of your voice. You learn to discount register so that all C's are the same. But in fact, we must hear the difference and not just the sameness, or at least know how to reach in the right spot.

I do not understand why more people do not mention the "register" problem and keep harping on singing everything when a great deal of what we play on the piano is not singable.

It's just stupid, but no one ever brings up the problem.

The object is to hear things accurately in your mind, not to drive people insane by humming all the time.
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#2252682 - 03/26/14 08:22 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Gary D.]
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The object is to hear things accurately in your mind, not to drive people insane by humming all the time.


I've heard of people who do exactly that: hum constantly as they play. I even saw one perform live, once. But I can't imagine those who do that are anything other than a small minority, especially among those who play a polyphonic instrument with a range that's obviously beyond any singer's.

As you say, the object is to develop a good inner ear. Learning to read through singing rather than playing is a good way to do that, I think, because singing, more than any other way of making music, forces you to hear every note in your mind. If you can't hear it, you can't sing it. You can lack that inner ear entirely, and you'll probably still be able to play the piano passably. Assuming you know basic fingering, you'll even be able to get by, more or less, on strings or brass, although if you can't hear the difference between 440 Hz and 455 Hz (which is somewhere North of A4, but not quite A#) and correct accordingly, a teacher or roommate who does hear that difference may eventually run away screaming.

The idea behind solfège, I think, is just to get people into the habit of hearing notes internally. The singing is just a way go get there. Eventually, the singing stops, or at least it should. For pianists, it should probably stop after the first ten or so pages of the first method book, because no singer, no matter how skilled, can sing harmonies on their own. That doesn't mean it's a useless or stupid way to go about developing the inner ear.

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#2252833 - 03/27/14 03:57 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Learning to read through singing rather than playing is a good way to do that, I think, because singing, more than any other way of making music, forces you to hear every note in your mind. If you can't hear it, you can't sing it.



Edited by johan d (03/27/14 03:58 AM)

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#2252836 - 03/27/14 04:14 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The object is to hear things accurately in your mind, not to drive people insane by humming all the time.


I've heard of people who do exactly that: hum constantly as they play. I even saw one perform live, once. But I can't imagine those who do that are anything other than a small minority, especially among those who play a polyphonic instrument with a range that's obviously beyond any singer's.

But it's not just pianists. It is also conductors. Bernstein was a hummer and sometimes grunter. (And I REALLY enjoyed Berstein as a conductor.)

Years ago I was accompanist for a choir under a VERY fine conductor, someone I also hugely admire. Early in his career he had a habit of tapping his foot, so his podium had something to dampen the sound. (I talked to him a couple years ago, asked him about it, and he said he eventually broke the habit.) I think it was sometimes hard for him not to hum at times.

We all know about Gould and his humming.

As a brass teacher when I wanted to make a point about hearing a line and being able to reproduce it I would play only on a mouth piece.

I still insist that IF you play an instrument that requires intense listening to nail pitches, if you can hear everything you have to play, you don't NEED solfege or anything else. It just gets in the way.

If you sit in on a sight-singing course on a university level, the very WORST are singers. You can depend on it. They don't have anything physical to link to. The exception will be singers who are fine pianists or play something like a wind or stringed instrument. These people generally are the best. For people who only play piano it is very unpredictable. If find that people who do not sing and who ONLY play piano are usually weak - those who are not intensely interested in non-piano music and who stay almost completely within the world of piano music.

It's not about "hearing" or "talent", though those things play a huge role. It's about having the ability to link a note on a page to the exact pitch that belongs to it.

And any way that gets that done is good.
Quote:

As you say, the object is to develop a good inner ear. Learning to read through singing rather than playing is a good way to do that, I think, because singing, more than any other way of making music, forces you to hear every note in your mind.

That's false, or I would be both a lousy sight-singer and would have little ability to audiate. But I CAN sing anything, if I Have to. I do it just humming the notes. It involves lots of falsetto and register changes. I hate doing it because I do not like my voice.

I would wager that if you find 1000 people who auditate amazingly well, some use solfege, some like to sing everything, and some are like me, not doing either.
Quote:

If you can't hear it, you can't sing it. You can lack that inner ear entirely, and you'll probably still be able to play the piano passably.

That's true, the part about not being able to hear sing what you can't hear. But if you are a brass player, you can't PLAY what you don't hear.

And by the way, if you are a singer you obviously can't sing what you can't hear. Any singer who sings in tune has a superb ear. But that alone does not give the ability hear what they seen on a page, so it is common to have a breakdown between notation and realizing the pitches.
Quote:

Assuming you know basic fingering, you'll even be able to get by, more or less, on strings or brass, although if you can't hear the difference between 440 Hz and 455 Hz (which is somewhere North of A4, but not quite A#) and correct accordingly, a teacher or roommate who does hear that difference may eventually run away screaming.

Then "getting by" is pretty awful. If you are supposed to be playing an A, and you are producing a pitch that is 455, you pitch is 60 cents sharp, which is closer to Bb. So you are fully useless to anyone as a musician. (Not "you" but anyone who is this far off.)
Quote:

The idea behind solfège, I think, is just to get people into the habit of hearing notes internally. The singing is just a way go get there. Eventually, the singing stops, or at least it should. For pianists, it should probably stop after the first ten or so pages of the first method book, because no singer, no matter how skilled, can sing harmonies on their own. That doesn't mean it's a useless or stupid way to go about developing the inner ear.

The real problem is that pianists who only play piano don't have to hear what they play. So what they CAN hear is pretty much hit and miss. If that's your point, I agree. And singing everything would certainly help.

But I would argue that playing another instrument, or singing (if the player has the talent and will) will trump any system.

We have one member, here, Morodiene, who may consider voice her first instrument, but she is also a serious pianist and teacher. It is very likely she has exceptional hearing because of that combo.

Then if you take someone like Domingo, who plays piano VERY well and also conducts, there is not going to be any problems hearing. This is obvious.

Such a man (or woman) is going to end up with a superb ear because of huge talent + piano + vocal control.

Solfege is one method of trying to get there. I'n not arguing against it. I'm just saying that there are a lot of people who get to the same place with other things.
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#2252883 - 03/27/14 08:39 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
And by the way, if you are a singer you obviously can't sing what you can't hear. Any singer who sings in tune has a superb ear. But that alone does not give the ability hear what they seen on a page, so it is common to have a breakdown between notation and realizing the pitches.


I agree 100% with everything in your post.

I especially agree with the idea that singers with no other background do not sightsing well. There must be some that do, but I've yet to run into one, including a couple of superb sopranos who sing with us regularly.

They don't hit pitches, which I understand, and they also don't count, which is a completely mystery to me. That should be a teachable skill. Maybe the two are related somehow.

But they can do something I can't do. There seems to be a separate skill that allows a singer to follow in almost real time. I don't understand how this is done. We have a number of people in the church choir who can sing well provided they have a strong leader to follow.
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#2252885 - 03/27/14 08:41 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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Just a thought.

If hearing notes through seeing notation is important to a pianist, might transcribing be a possible path to get there?
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#2253031 - 03/27/14 01:32 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
But they can do something I can't do. There seems to be a separate skill that allows a singer to follow in almost real time. I don't understand how this is done.

You don't understand how a singer follows the choral director?
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#2253054 - 03/27/14 01:57 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Polyphonist]
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Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: TimR
But they can do something I can't do. There seems to be a separate skill that allows a singer to follow in almost real time. I don't understand how this is done.

You don't understand how a singer follows the choral director?

What is it specifically that you would like TimR to understand about this? I am curious myself.

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#2253074 - 03/27/14 02:26 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Polyphonist]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: TimR
But they can do something I can't do. There seems to be a separate skill that allows a singer to follow in almost real time. I don't understand how this is done.

You don't understand how a singer follows the choral director?


I thought I was clear, but perhaps I need to specify.

I do not understand how one singer who does not know the tune can sing along with another singer who does know it (or sightreads it well.)

Following the director can give you the correct speed, should you choose to do so, and provided you are not a soprano. But the director will rarely be able to give you the pitch.

I am well acquainted with following the director. I play or sing in a number of ensembles. I also direct, and can sometimes get them to watch me! I give them the beat, and I give signals for dynamics, sometimes cue an entrance, but I do not give pitches. Normally.
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#2253087 - 03/27/14 02:43 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Gary D.]
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I still insist that IF you play an instrument that requires intense listening to nail pitches, if you can hear everything you have to play, you don't NEED solfege or anything else. It just gets in the way.


If you can already hear everything you have to play, of course you don't need solfège. Solfège is just a way of getting to that point, and I agree it's not the only one.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
If you sit in on a sight-singing course on a university level, the very WORST are singers. You can depend on it.


I'll take your word for it, although I'm having trouble understanding how this can be true. Aren't singers supposed to develop a mental "sound map" that's linked to their use of vocal technique? If they don't have that, how come they can sing in tune at all?

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: Saranoya
As you say, the object is to develop a good inner ear. Learning to read through singing rather than playing is a good way to do that, I think, because singing, more than any other way of making music, forces you to hear every note in your mind.

That's false, or I would be both a lousy sight-singer and would have little ability to audiate. But I CAN sing anything, if I Have to. I do it just humming the notes. It involves lots of falsetto and register changes. I hate doing it because I do not like my voice.


Where did I say that singing is the only way to develop audiation? It's not.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Any singer who sings in tune has a superb ear. But that alone does not give the ability hear what they seen on a page, so it is common to have a breakdown between notation and realizing the pitches.


Really? How does that work? I'm honestly curious.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
If you are supposed to be playing an A, and you are producing a pitch that is 455, you pitch is 60 cents sharp, which is closer to Bb. So you are fully useless to anyone as a musician.


Granted, the numbers are off here. But the question remains: if you start out not hearing when a note you just produced is sharp, flat, or spot-on, then how do you develop that ability? Are people just born with or without it, or can it be taught? If it can be taught (which I know it can), how do you teach it? The answer to that is probably in part: through lots of playing, careful listening, and appropriate feedback on sharpness or flatness and how to correct it. But it can't hurt if you already have a sound map in your head that tells you what to aim for when you see a note on the page. That's what I think you learn through sight-singing, first with accompaniment (for guidance), and later without.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Solfege is one method of trying to get there. I'n not arguing against it. I'm just saying that there are a lot of people who get to the same place with other things.


I agree.

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#2253091 - 03/27/14 02:50 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
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Originally Posted By: TimR
Just a thought.

If hearing notes through seeing notation is important to a pianist, might transcribing be a possible path to get there?


Melodic dictation as we do it in solfège class is like transcription for dummies, and yes, it does help with learning to audiate — at least in my experience.

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#2253101 - 03/27/14 03:10 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
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Originally Posted By: TimR
I give them the beat, and I give signals for dynamics, sometimes cue an entrance, but I do not give pitches. Normally.

There has to be some kind of starting pitch. Either there is accompaniment, where often there is an introductory instrumental part which gives the singers the harmonic context. Barbershop quartets, since they sing a capella, usually have some kind of starting note. So you can't be talking about that.

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#2253121 - 03/27/14 03:36 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: keystring]
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: TimR
I give them the beat, and I give signals for dynamics, sometimes cue an entrance, but I do not give pitches. Normally.

There has to be some kind of starting pitch. Either there is accompaniment, where often there is an introductory instrumental part which gives the singers the harmonic context. Barbershop quartets, since they sing a capella, usually have some kind of starting note. So you can't be talking about that.


I don't think he's talking about singing harmonies "out of the blue" without a starting pitch. I think he's talking about people who will accurately sing a melody they don't know, as long as they have someone else singing alongside them who does know the melody.

I think that's partly about following, and partly about predicting where the music is about to go (which is not exactly rocket science, if you think in functions). But actually, the only thing you really need in order to do this is the ability to match pith in a fraction of a second. I'm not saying that's easy. But I understand how it's done.

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#2253146 - 03/27/14 04:17 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
Just a thought.

If hearing notes through seeing notation is important to a pianist, might transcribing be a possible path to get there?

I think so, Tim. In fact, that's the idea behind "dictation".

There are two things that I know were crucial to how I hear today.

First, I started tuba when I was around 12. (This also strengthened my bass clef reading to the point that it was as fast and accurate as treble clef.) Later I switched to euphonium, which is a bit like a cello in the brass family. Brass makes you hear clearly because there are only 7 fingerings, just as trombone uses 7 positions. We have this in common. If you are aiming for high C on trombone, the best position is normally 1st. But obviously there is also D above and Bb below. You can't GET that C if you can't hear it.

You know all this, but non-brass players do not.

And it gets worse if you are a jazz band player who regularly hits high F, because by that time you have Bb C D *?* F, all with the same position. The "?" refers to a note that is almost exactly half way betwee Eb and E, so now you dealing with the three notes where there is a "wrong" one below F and another *wrong" one above it, now about a "3/4" step just reading to produce two equally ugly "clams".

Who has it worse? A singer, because a singer has an infinite number of possible wrong pitches, and NO physical help. String players can play any pitch, but when they are off, they are still reaching for a physical spot.

This makes singing (or whistling) actually more difficult than playing most instruments. The famous trumpet player, Clark Terry, was not allowed to play trumpet until he FIRST could play any tune on his mouthpiece. That's WAY harder than actually playing on trumpet.

The other thing that strengthened my ear hugely was transcribing things that were not available in score. You just can't listen to something intensely with the intent of either writing it down or memorizing it, never seeing a source.
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#2253155 - 03/27/14 04:35 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Gary D.]
Saranoya Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The famous trumpet player, Clark Terry, was not allowed to play trumpet until he FIRST could play any tune on his mouthpiece. That's WAY harder than actually playing on trumpet.


My brass teacher had me do this too when I first started playing trumpet, though not with everything (not even close). He did make me sing everything before I was even given a mouthpiece. I'm convinced the singing helped me hugely with the mouthpiece playing.

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#2253162 - 03/27/14 04:46 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Originally Posted By: TimR
Just a thought.

If hearing notes through seeing notation is important to a pianist, might transcribing be a possible path to get there?


Melodic dictation as we do it in solfège class is like transcription for dummies, and yes, it does help with learning to audiate — at least in my experience.

What produces the hearing is the success of writing down what you hear. So long as you keep getting better at it, your method does not matter. Anything that helps is good.

For me solfege is absolutely useless because using it means having to remember names that just get in my way. When I hear a pitch it produces in my mind, simultaneously, a picture in my mind of what I have to press to get that note. That means that when I hear middle C, I see that key, on piano. But I also see, a whole step down, Bb, which is what a C is on trumpet. I see both. The fingering "open" exists on the Bb key. Then I know what to write down. C for piano, C also but an octave below for trombone. These things are instance, because I have both played and taught these instruments. Horn is also easy, tuba. Clarinet (Bb) is the same as trumpet. All the concert pitch instruments are automatic. I change registers instinctively.

Sax is harder because I have only accompanied it. Even then you have to hear it, because when helping people you have to hear their parts in order to correct, or even to stay fully synced.

The things that drive me nuts are the instruments that can transpose almost any place, such as the old valveless trumpets that can be in any key with the addition of crooks.
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#2253324 - 03/27/14 10:45 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
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I ran into an unusual transcription example a few years ago.

I sometimes played with a trumpeter who had some good chops but no education or musical background. He was obsessed with Herb Alpert style music and put together his own band, and I played a few gigs with him. To get the music, he transcribed the parts from old LPs. That was quite an achievement for someone with zero theory background and no piano, but he taught himself.

The interesting thing was to see the guitar chords - in Bb treble. He wrote everything transposed one step, because as a trumpeter if it sounded like a Bb he called it a C.
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#2253364 - 03/28/14 02:04 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
I ran into an unusual transcription example a few years ago.

I sometimes played with a trumpeter who had some good chops but no education or musical background. He was obsessed with Herb Alpert style music and put together his own band, and I played a few gigs with him. To get the music, he transcribed the parts from old LPs. That was quite an achievement for someone with zero theory background and no piano, but he taught himself.

The interesting thing was to see the guitar chords - in Bb treble. He wrote everything transposed one step, because as a trumpeter if it sounded like a Bb he called it a C.

Yes. A trumpet player would write a C chord as D F# A.

As a euphonium player I had to learn to read in concert pitch in bass clef but in treble up a step. I mentally transposed for a long time, but in the end it was harder for me to play concert pitch when in treble, because that transposition is so second nature.

I never figured out how trumpet players could just move when they played C trumpet. When I see C, I hear Bb (on trumpet), and that immediately produces the instinct to press no valves. But when I see the same pitch on C trumpet, I miss it every time because out comes a concert C, and my mind tells me that this can't be right - it has to be 13.

That is one of many reasons why I think a very strong absolute pitch sense is a PROBLEM for musicians who continually have to transpose. I have never understood how sax players flip from #b to Bb sax. Bb sax sounds the same as clarinet and trumpet, no problem, but how do people move back and forth when the same fingering change a 4th?
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#2253365 - 03/28/14 02:06 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The famous trumpet player, Clark Terry, was not allowed to play trumpet until he FIRST could play any tune on his mouthpiece. That's WAY harder than actually playing on trumpet.


My brass teacher had me do this too when I first started playing trumpet, though not with everything (not even close). He did make me sing everything before I was even given a mouthpiece. I'm convinced the singing helped me hugely with the mouthpiece playing.

It's a hard thing to do. Terry was amazing at it. I know that's how he was taught because he told me during a break at a local jazz club here. The fact that he took the time during a break to talk to me amazed me. It still does. What a fine gentleman!
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#2253376 - 03/28/14 03:38 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Gary D.]
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
That is one of many reasons why I think a very strong absolute pitch sense is a PROBLEM for musicians who continually have to transpose.


You're not the first person I've heard this from. It's why I'm grateful for not having perfect pitch. I have good ears, in that I can easily sing in tune once I've been given a starting pitch. This holds unless I'm pushed to go out of my range, in which case I can hear myself going out of tune due to technical limitations. I also hear how the notes on the page relate to each other just by looking at them. But ask me to sing a C out of the blue, and you're about as likely to get an F#, A, Bb, or any other note (and all of them might be several cents out of tune) as you are an actual C.

Going from Bb to C trumpet doesn't bother me (although I haven't done it very often), because all the intervals are still the same: C to E, which is actually Bb to D on Bb trumpet, translates to no valves, then 1+2. C to E on C trumpet: same thing. Both are major thirds, so both sound "right" to me. On C trumpet, everything is shifted up by a whole tone, but because pitches have no names in my mental sound map, that's OK. If I'm playing in a band and reading Bb trumpet music, I'll read C, think C and play C (no valves), even though what actually comes out is Bb. If I'm playing piano, I'll read C, think C and play C, and an actual C will come out. But you could theoretically tune my entire piano two whole tones up, and I wouldn't know the difference until I tried to play along with someone else.

If you play me a C, and then an E that's a little flat, I'll tell you you've gone up a major third, and that the second note was flat in relation to the first. But I won't be able to tell you that your second note was an E, unless I know (because you told me) that the first one was a C. I also won't know by how many cents the E was off, but I'll sing you the "correct" E if you ask me to. This is why it bothers me greatly when my piano starts going out of tune unevenly (as it usually does), even though I can't name any note played or sung in isolation.

I once told my solfège teacher that I have "chromatic scales" in my head, and she, having perfect pitch herself, looked at me like I'd grown a pair of antennae. But on a basic level, that's how my inner ear works: I count semi-tones. I can hear major and minor seconds and thirds, perfect fourths, fifths and octaves without "counting" anything, simply because I've had lots of practice identifying (and while reading scores, mentally hearing) those intervals "at a glance". If you play me a major sixth, I'll think: that's a fifth plus two semi-tones, so if the first note was a C, the second must be A. Or a major seventh: that's an octave minus one semi-tone, so the second note must be B. The thing is: if you play a C but call it F, and then ask me what those next notes are, I'll tell you they are D and E, respectively.

I'd wager that's how most people's musical hearing works, although they aren't all equally conscious of it, and therefore not all of them are able to use it very efficiently. But this is trained rather easily. In Belgium, the tools used to train it are solfège (sight-singing) and music dictation. As you've convincingly argued, those are by no means the only useful tools in developing a good inner ear, but they do work. If they didn't, our music schools wouldn't have thousands of kids every year developing the type of inner ear I described above.

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#2253382 - 03/28/14 05:00 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
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Saranoya, your experience is similar to mine (apart from the trumpet bit, which I have no experience with!). I also don't actually count semitones so much as recognise intervals, and, as you say, I can identify a second note if I've been given the name of the first. Even if I was told C is F, I too would then identify D-E as G-A. I can sight sing in any key I choose to read the music in, which has proven useful, probably more useful to me than absolute pitch would have been.
What may be somewhat surprising is that I don't have your background in solfege (fixed do), but a little background of movable do, and lots of time spent singing and messing around on the piano as a child. So I conclude, as both you and Gary have, that there are many ways to the end of hearing what you read.
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#2253384 - 03/28/14 05:17 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Saranoya]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
That is one of many reasons why I think a very strong absolute pitch sense is a PROBLEM for musicians who continually have to transpose.

Originally Posted By: Saranoya

You're not the first person I've heard this from. It's why I'm grateful for not having perfect pitch. I have good ears, in that I can easily sing in tune once I've been given a starting pitch.

I remember sitting next to a girl (long ago) who said the same thing. She said she could not tell a C from an F#. But she had absolutely reliable relative pitch. I don't think I heard differently from her. I think the way I heard was just different.

I don't have that "freak" kind of perfect pitch that is infallable. My relative pitch is very good, and it can slip. I never know when this will happen, but it is always 1/2 step, and it is when I am disoriented by being locked into relative pitch. If, for instance, I hear something before I think about pitch, I can be off 1/2 step. I don't know why. But if I am looking at music, not hearing any pitch first, then my mind will grab onto the pitch very accurately.

It's very strange. The other night I was ready to watch The Daily Show, a popular show here. I had never thought about what key the theme is in. I had not yet turned up the sound, and I had the opening frozen. I started to pre-hear the theme, and if I was off at all, it was a matter of a few cents, at most.

So I pre-hear things every accurately.

If I am thinking of a famous symphony then start a recording, if it is off pitch (1/2 step), it will jolt me. It sounds too high or too low.

Somewhere in YouTube there is a video of Horowitz playing the very famous Chopin Mazurka in A minor. I know it is in A minor. But there were two copies, and one was 1/2 step high, in Bb minor. That jolted me.

But a practical question: if you have to start a performance nailing a high A (12), can you do that without hearing a pitch first? Because if I try to hit a high note like that, I have to hear it. If I heard a G, I would land on G, with 12, which is a harmonic but very flat, and obviously the wrong note. Then there is B right above, normally 2 but playable with 12 (which we use when doing lip slurs and playing through all the harmonics). Since high A, B and C# all play well with 12 (though I would normally use 2 for B and C#, it seems you only have about a one in three chance of hitting the right note if you can't hear it clearly. Do you always get the pitch from a pitch before it, even if it is the first note you play?
Quote:

This holds unless I'm pushed to go out of my range, in which case I can hear myself going out of tune due to technical limitations. I also hear how the notes on the page relate to each other just by looking at them. But ask me to sing a C out of the blue, and you're about as likely to get an F#, A, Bb, or any other note (and all of them might be several cents out of tune) as you are an actual C.

I THINK this is the way trumpet players have to hear who are continually changing instruments. Even if I could physically play an Eb trumpet, I would hit every note wrong because I would grab for the fingering that is right for Bb trumpet. But if I could accept that C is really Bb AND that C is really Eb, depending on the instrument, then I would not have this problem.

If I'm holding a trumpet in my hand, I HAVE to play play C open. I can't put down 13, because I hear Bb when I see it, and that's what open goes to. I understand how it works. I just can't do it.

Most likely the reason is that my instrument was not trumpet. You have to think like a Bb trumpet player, in treble clef, but like a tuba player in bass clef. It's a different kind of flexibility because the same valve is always linked to the same pitch, regardless how it is written.

I tried to play F horn in high school. I could not find the notes. One day someone gave me a double-horn, and then I could instantly play it. The concert pitch links up with the same pitches. Then I memorize the different fingerings for F horn in the small pitch areas where it is used on double-horn.
Quote:

Going from Bb to C trumpet doesn't bother me (although I haven't done it very often), because all the intervals are still the same: C to E, which is actually Bb to D on Bb trumpet, translates to no valves, then 1+2. C to E on C trumpet: same thing. Both are major thirds, so both sound "right" to me. On C trumpet, everything is shifted up by a whole tone, but because pitches have no names in my mental sound map, that's OK. If I'm playing in a band and reading Bb trumpet music, I'll read C, think C and play C (no valves), even though what actually comes out is Bb. If I'm playing piano, I'll read C, think C and play C, and an actual C will come out. But you could theoretically tune my entire piano two whole tones up, and I wouldn't know the difference until I tried to play along with someone else.

I understand what you are saying. In the world of totally relative pitch it all makes sense. Again, I would DISCOURAGE any kind of perfect pitch development for people who play trumpet if they are doing to switch from Bb to C to Eb. (I don't know if it can be suppressed.)
Quote:

If you play me a C, and then an E that's a little flat, I'll tell you you've gone up a major third, and that the second note was flat in relation to the first. But I won't be able to tell you that your second note was an E, unless I know (because you told me) that the first one was a C. I also won't know by how many cents the E was off, but I'll sing you the "correct" E if you ask me to. This is why it bothers me greatly when my piano starts going out of tune unevenly (as it usually does), even though I can't name any note played or sung in isolation.

You are bothered by the out of tuneness of relative pitch on your piano. But if someone tunes it to 438 or 442, both will sound equally correct, right?
Quote:

I once told my solfège teacher that I have "chromatic scales" in my head, and she, having perfect pitch herself, looked at me like I'd grown a pair of antennae. But on a basic level, that's how my inner ear works: I count semi-tones. I can hear major and minor seconds and thirds, perfect fourths, fifths and octaves without "counting" anything, simply because I've had lots of practice identifying (and while reading scores, mentally hearing) those intervals "at a glance". If you play me a major sixth, I'll think: that's a fifth plus two semi-tones, so if the first note was a C, the second must be A. Or a major seventh: that's an octave minus one semi-tone, so the second note must be B. The thing is: if you play a C but call it F, and then ask me what those next notes are, I'll tell you they are D and E, respectively.

I'd wager that's how most people's musical hearing works, although they aren't all equally conscious of it, and therefore not all of them are able to use it very efficiently. But this is trained rather easily. In Belgium, the tools used to train it are solfège (sight-singing) and music dictation. As you've convincingly argued, those are by no means the only useful tools in developing a good inner ear, but they do work. If they didn't, our music schools wouldn't have thousands of kids every year developing the type of inner ear I described above.

Sure, but we have thousands of kids developing the same thing here. Is it from solfege? Maybe. But I think it is more generic.

I would not want to argue about what country has more people who "hear well". I tend to think it is something that is more or less linked to becoming a fine player and using the ear actively rather than passively.

I started transcribing things or simply copying things by ear by high school. I was taught nothing. I simply did it. At first I was slow, then later pretty good, then later very fast.

At first it was hit and miss. I played a little of something, a recording, then imitated what I heard. I could only get a couple notes, memorize those notes, then add to it by listen over and over again. It's mostly practice. I started with the Hadyn trumpet concerto. I had no music to it. I just imitated what I heard, and eventually I nailed it all. I remember thinking it was a piece of cake compared to piano because there was only one line. Later I started hearing melody as a single line, bass line as another, then I picked up chords, not knowing exactly how the notes in the chords were voiced. From that I started to get inner lines, counter-melodies, and it all started to go together.

I can't hear orchestral scores with the same clarity as piano scores. For things like symphonies I have to hear a group of instruments that work together, get another group, catch the melody and strong inner lines, get the bass. Then it comes together for me.

I assume that great conductors look at a full score and just hear the whole thing, instantly. I can't do that at all. I don't know how they do...
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#2253401 - 03/28/14 07:02 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Gary D.]
Saranoya Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
If you have to start a performance nailing a high A (12), can you do that without hearing a pitch first? Because if I try to hit a high note like that, I have to hear it. [...] Do you always get the pitch from a pitch before it, even if it is the first note you play?


Not always, but in the scenario you are describing here: yes. If I have to nail a C (open valves) out of the blue, I won't miss and play G instead, because C and G are sufficiently far apart that I can differentiate between them based on embouchure. But if it starts on high A, I might instead play G with 1 and 2, unless I'm playing with accompaniment. In that case, there will usually have been an intro I can use to orient myself. The intro doesn't need to contain the actual A I'm about to start my performance on, but I do need *something* to help me get a sense of "where the A is".

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Again, I would DISCOURAGE any kind of perfect pitch development for people who play trumpet if they are doing to switch from Bb to C to Eb. (I don't know if it can be suppressed.)


Actually, I think perfect pitch is more of a curse than a blessing to *anyone* who might ever have to play something in a different key than written. I'm thinking pianists accompanying singers, for example: the singer wants to transpose up or down for reasons of vocal range, so the accompanist is asked to go along with that. But (s)he can't (at least not on the spot), because for someone with perfect pitch, it's neigh impossible to read C, but think and play Bb. That person is mentally hearing C, so "must" play C.

Although I have nothing even close to perfect pitch myself, I must conclude that most people who have it would probably be better off without it. But perfect pitch, unlike relative pitch, seems to be something a person is either born with or not, so like you, I'm not sure that it can be suppressed.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.

You are bothered by the out of tuneness of relative pitch on your piano. But if someone tunes it to 438 or 442, both will sound equally correct, right?


Yes.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I would not want to argue about what country has more people who "hear well". I tend to think it is something that is more or less linked to becoming a fine player and using the ear actively rather than passively.


Since I'd be hard-pressed to call myself a "fine player" on any of the instruments I've ever tried, I'd argue that it's more about listening than playing. But you're right: you do have to be active, rather than passive, in that listening.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I started transcribing things or simply copying things by ear by high school. I was taught nothing. I simply did it. At first I was slow, then later pretty good, then later very fast.


I only recently started transcribing things. But I remember having been somewhat famous as a child for my ability to memorise melodies after having heard them only once. I was playing bagpipes at the time, for which there were no formal lessons outside of yearly week-long "summer camps". These were mostly filled with adults who brought tape recorders, got the instructor to play them a bunch of tunes, and then practiced alongside the recording for God knows how many hours. I just sat there, no tape recorder, but I'd still be singing all those melodies to myself days later. And as long as I could sing them, I could figure out how to play them, usually pretty quickly (because playing bagpipes isn't all that challenging in a technical sense).

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
At first it was hit and miss. I played a little of something, a recording, then imitated what I heard. I could only get a couple notes, memorize those notes, then add to it by listen over and over again. It's mostly practice. I started with the Hadyn trumpet concerto. I had no music to it. I just imitated what I heard, and eventually I nailed it all. I remember thinking it was a piece of cake compared to piano because there was only one line.


Well, yeah. That's exactly how I feel about that, too. Monophonic instruments are *so* much easier!

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Later I started hearing melody as a single line, bass line as another, then I picked up chords, not knowing exactly how the notes in the chords were voiced. From that I started to get inner lines, counter-melodies, and it all started to go together.


That's about where I am with piano music now. I can hear and remember a lot, and I can figure out how to play anything I'm able to remember. But it often takes me ages to transfer what's in my head to the piano, because my technical skill is nowhere near as developed as my ability to memorise music. It probably never will be, if only because I'm physically disabled, so there are limits to what I can do. That often makes this a frustrating endeavour.

Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I can't hear orchestral scores with the same clarity as piano scores. For things like symphonies I have to hear a group of instruments that work together, get another group, catch the melody and strong inner lines, get the bass. Then it comes together for me.

I assume that great conductors look at a full score and just hear the whole thing, instantly. I can't do that at all. I don't know how they do...


Practice, practice, practice smile. Alternatively, I know of many conductors (though of course, they are not the "great" ones) who just listen to recordings a lot while following along with the score. In this day and age, they can do that, even (if they really want to) with scores that haven't been recorded yet: just feed it into a music notation program. I don't know how they did it before the recording age.

All of that said: from both your story and mine, it seems that there's still an element of "innate talent" involved. Nobody taught you how to copy or transcribe: you just did it. Nobody taught me how to memorise. I just did it. And I still "just do it". Other students in my solfège class, and other piano students at my school, sometimes ask me to explain to them how I memorise. I can't tell them, because I myself don't know. It's something that "just happens".

The question, then, is how do you develop these abilities in people for whom it doesn't "just happen"? I mean, it probably didn't "just happen" for me either, but I (like you) was somehow always drawn to "exercising that muscle". And for the most part, I did it at a young enough age (starting Suzuki violin at four) that I can't even remember what it took, now.

I think that's a problem for most music teachers: it might be the ability to memorise effortlessly for one, great hearing for another, mad sight-reading skills for a third, and a combination of some or all of the above for a fourth. But probably anyone who makes a decent living as a music teacher will have areas in which their musical "genius" developed spontaneously, or else it happened so early in their lives that they don't remember how. And yet, somehow, they have to transfer these skills to their students.

The interesting question for a teacher's forum is: how do you do that? And maybe that's the appeal of solfège: in countries where it's used extensively, I think its popularity derives in part from the fact that there are published "methods" you can use to teach your students how to read, sing, listen and write through solfège. And then when you're done with the method, those who've made it to the end will be able to identify notes on the page, notes being played to them, and notes in their heads. Or that's the idea, anyway. There are still huge differences in actual ability among even those who went through the entire curriculum. But it's a place to start, for teachers who don't know how else to do it.

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#2253409 - 03/28/14 08:22 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
TimR Offline
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The entire instrument transposition is really a historical artifact that should be abandoned for producing exactly the problems Gary described.

It dates to a time when trumpets and horns used crooks to change keys, and then the saxhorn family was invented and it was convenient to be able to change instruments and not learn a new set of fingerings.

Neither of those is really true today.

As a trombone player I'm expected to be able to read C bass, Bb treble, and tenor clef at least; if orchestral you must add alto and maybe mezzo soprano clef and if jazz you need C treble. For whatever reason, probably partly the way my engineer brain is wired to do math transformations and partly because I've spent a good bit of time working on it, this isn't difficult for me. But some people find it nearly impossible.

(I recently tried to record a choral duet in canon form with two trombones after the choir gave up. The other trombone player was more accomplished than I but he utterly crashed and burned trying to read a C treble part, even though he'd sung it correctly a moment before. The recording was so bad I didn't let him hear it.)

All of this would vanish if all music were written in concert pitch on the great staff. No more ledger lines (well, most of the time), no more switching clefs, no more wrong notes from the last guy who blew the transposition, etc. Need the tuba to cover the oboe cues or vice versa? no problem.

Yeah, people who play multiple instruments need multiple sets of fingerings - but they do anyway. Just ask a recorder player. F, C, German fingering, baroque fingering, trill fingerings, A=420 altos, etc.
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#2253435 - 03/28/14 09:58 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: Polyphonist]
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My question about this didn't get an answer so I am asking again. Polyphonist, I don't think you are asking Tim if he understands - I think you are implying that there is a specific thing you expect him to understand, but that specific thing is not stated.
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: TimR
But they can do something I can't do. There seems to be a separate skill that allows a singer to follow in almost real time. I don't understand how this is done.

You don't understand how a singer follows the choral director?

Some choir experiences:

Ch1 - They sang the same pieces for decades that had been drilled into them. A new piece was learned line by line by imitating the piano, and they associated melody with lyrics. Once it was memorized they could follow the choral director, with instructions repeated, reminders given.

Ch2 - Supposedly you had to read music to be accepted. In my audition they tested if I could imitate a line played on the piano: no score in sight. Rehearsal = imitation again, but more complex music.

In any case, a conductor can only be followed if you can get at the notes you are to sing. There is no use seeing how fast and with what rhythm and dynamics you should sing, if you don't know what to sing. The conductor can't give that part.

When it's brand new music, then being able to sight sing from the score is a great help (I can). But if you live in a practical world, Laguna Greg, you will be facing a choir (or be in one) where almost nobody can read music. That is the world that TimR knows and that I have known.

So are you talking about trained singers who understand enough about music that they can extrapolate and anticipate, as well as being able to sight sing?


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#2253446 - 03/28/14 10:16 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: TimR]
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Originally Posted By: TimR

All of this would vanish if all music were written in concert pitch on the great staff.

What you get at the heart of in music for transposing instruments is two aspects of reading music. In one aspect, you associate a note with a sound and then aim to produce that sound. It's one step away from playing by ear. But another aspect of reading music involves associating a symbol on the page (location of a note on the staff) with an instant reflex that is physical --- do this action, push that piano key, upon stimulus of seeing that written note.

I have a treble and tenor recorder "in C" and an alto recorder "in F". Most scores for alto recorder are written in concert pitch. So if I see C, I have to put down 3 fingers which would give me G on the other recorders, but it will give me C. -- I also have a score for a Haendel sonata for flute or recorder. The alto version is a transposed score. It is written "in F" so that if I use "C fingering" I get the right pitch.

The score-to-physical works better for me than score-to-pitch. Otherwise I have to remember to put down all fingers for C on one instrument, and 3 fingers for C on the other instrument.

In contrast, other instruments like piano and violin are not finger-related. You can play C with any finger, but the location is constant. So in learning to play piano, associating a note with a location seems a very important skill, almost more important than being able to pre-hear.

-------
And how we hear is also not straightforward. A person with "perfect pitch" meaning a person who hears a pitch as a pitch will have a way different perception than someone who is in relative pitch. And then there are associations. Mine was Solfege. What about someone who is entrenched in things like blues scales or the riff-like things in Indian music?

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#2253467 - 03/28/14 11:08 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: keystring]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: TimR

All of this would vanish if all music were written in concert pitch on the great staff.

What you get at the heart of in music for transposing instruments is two aspects of reading music. In one aspect, you associate a note with a sound and then aim to produce that sound. It's one step away from playing by ear. But another aspect of reading music involves associating a symbol on the page (location of a note on the staff) with an instant reflex that is physical --- do this action, push that piano key, upon stimulus of seeing that written note.



Ah. Good insight, I had not thought of that.

On some classes of instrument - piano, guitar, recorder, handbells, etc., the connection is symbol to physical action. As long as you press the right key, you get the right note. It is not necessary to think the note first.

On other types - trombone or any brass instrument, voice, a few others - any given fingering produces many notes. You cannot produce the correct note without a prior mental image of the sound, and in fact if your image is strong enough you can sometimes override the wrong fingering and get the right note anyway.

In my thought process I was not distinguishing between these categories, but you're right it makes a difference.

Ideally we do learn to play by ear, I wonder if the paths to get there are different.
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#2253480 - 03/28/14 11:24 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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In fact, I had to get at the symbol-to-action mentality and it brought my reading of piano music up quite a few notches in accuracy. When I first encountered piano music and a piano as a child, I only had solfege and singing, and so I approached piano as a singer. I'd see a diagonal line of notes, see/hear a scale, have my starting note, and would then play the scale I heard in my head. That was how I "read" piano music. The symbol-to-location way of reading (how most pianists do it or start) was foreign to me.

In piano the trap then arises of symbol-to-finger, where a student has stayed in C position - G position - in 5-finger configuration for a very long time. He then associates the notation showing C to his RH thumb. This also creates a problem. On recorder I may have a single fingering to produce G (3 down + thumb) but I can play G with any finger. The same problem arises in violin for about the same reason. Eventually the student learns to shift. C on the G string, which was finger 3, is now played with finger 1, and it becomes massive confusion.

Quote:
On other types - trombone or any brass instrument, voice, a few others - any given fingering produces many notes. You cannot produce the correct note without a prior mental image of the sound, and in fact if your image is strong enough you can sometimes override the wrong fingering and get the right note anyway.

That is quite interesting. I suspect that by their nature, different instrument groups create a different way of experiencing music and how we relate to notes and notation. If so, then how reading music is approached would have to bear that in mind. Will what is good for singing necessarily apply to piano, for example?

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#2253496 - 03/28/14 11:53 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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If you want to go nuts thinking about what we hear: I ran into this today and have heard of it before

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/tartini-temperament.html#more

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#2253510 - 03/28/14 12:25 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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I have relative pitch too but with the years I have started remembering where the notes are. I guess I've developed a note frequency memory but it's not perfect . Years ago I discovered that if I visualized myself listening to the tuning fork I could internally hear the A=440 and thus singing it back. using that as a reference i can find any note and sing it in tune .


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/28/14 12:47 PM)

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#2253520 - 03/28/14 01:18 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: keystring]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
If you want to go nuts thinking about what we hear: I ran into this today and have heard of it before

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/tartini-temperament.html#more


I do not hear the low buzz of the Tartini note (and I was unaware of the term, thanks for finding that).

But on occasion I do adjust a chord away from Equal Temperament to more pure intervals. If three trombonists are playing a triad, and it's slow enough like in a chorale, one of them will automatically lower the third until the chord sounds good.

I don't have this experience often because players with intonation that good can be hard to find. But when I do, the results are unmistakeable. Your article describes the Tartini tone disappearing, but that's not what I hear (because I don't hear that tone anyway.) I hear a sudden almost 3 dimensional clarity appear in the chord.
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#2253531 - 03/28/14 01:41 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter namesp [Re: keystring]
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Originally Posted By: keystring
In contrast, other instruments like piano and violin are not finger-related. You can play C with any finger, but the location is constant. So in learning to play piano, associating a note with a location seems a very important skill, almost more important than being able to pre-hear.


This! So much!

It took me a while to realize, and then accept, that if I wanted to learn to sight-read at the piano, I had to stop trying to hear and start thinking in terms of physical location. You're the one who first turned on the lights for me in that regard, keystring. So thanks. It seems to be working for me.

But when I said more or less the same thing you just said, earlier in this thread, I sparked a new discussion on what it means to be a musician ...

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#2253576 - 03/28/14 03:46 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: laguna_greg]
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Originally Posted By: Saranoya
But when I said more or less the same thing you just said, earlier in this thread, I sparked a new discussion on what it means to be a musician ...

I just found it and am responding now.

Originally Posted By: laguna_greg

Saranoya:

"I think the most important thing for a pianist to know is where a note is located on the piano; not what it's called, or what it's going to sound like."

I disagree. That approach will make you into some kind of pianist. But it won't make a musician out of you.

The quote is without context and doesn't take into account the whole of what Saranoya took great pains to write. Saranoya did not talk about what "makes a musician". She wrote about the skill of reading music.

We are talking here about the acquisition of basic reading skills. Is that on your mind in your response here? Do you yourself form students from the beginning stages, so that they learn how to read? Do you have thoughts or experiences to share in that respect?

I am with Saranoya on this. I was able to audiate like a singer when I saw written music, and "felt" things. It was not enough. I found it much handier, faster, and accurate to learn to associate a written note with a location on the piano.

If you talk about musicianship itself, this comes from applying skills and knowledge and maybe some degree of a "feel" for music --- but I guarantee that if you don't get those skills you can't do much. It will be amateurish, crude, and full of limitations regardless of how "inspired" you are.

Getting an efficient way of reading music is essential. It doesn't have to be musical or inspiring. Being able to get at the notes is a must. When Shakespeare learned to trace his A, B, C's -- circle stick, circle stick, for "d", there was nothing inspired or artistic about it. But he had to know how to form "d" on paper, and read it.

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#2253616 - 03/28/14 05:09 PM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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Registered: 03/18/14
Posts: 40
Originally Posted By: keystring


I am with Saranoya on this. I was able to audiate like a singer when I saw written music, and "felt" things. It was not enough. I found it much handier, faster, and accurate to learn to associate a written note with a location on the piano.

If you talk about musicianship itself, this comes from applying skills and knowledge and maybe some degree of a "feel" for music --- but I guarantee that if you don't get those skills you can't do much. It will be amateurish, crude, and full of limitations regardless of how "inspired" you are.


Keystring,
I completely agree with you. I was taking it for granted when I asked the solfege question. Of course,we are using many of our senses all at once. Reading, hearing, and then physically playing. What sense would that be?
It can be interesting to think of a score as a map of sounds or as a choreography for your fingers.
Being able to identify each note with a key on the piano without looking comes naturally after you have played a lot, though. Don't you think?


Edited by BostonTeacher (03/28/14 05:11 PM)
Edit Reason: I narrowed the quote to the specific point I was referring to

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#2253812 - 03/29/14 03:48 AM Re: Teaching how to read music- solfege versus letter names [Re: BostonTeacher]
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Originally Posted By: BostonTeacher

Being able to identify each note with a key on the piano without looking comes naturally after you have played a lot, though. Don't you think?

In recent years I have been involved in a teaching approach that aims to give this directly and early, and I'm rather convinced because everything I know and have seen or experienced points to getting this skill as being a good thing - especially for piano which is so "note heavy". I don't know how well developed reading skills truly are among people: do some compensate by memorizing new music early, for example?

But to answer your question, personally what I was able to do caused me to largely bypass the notes, and that connection never really developed until I forced it directly. Since then I've found one or two people with a similar experience, such as Saranoya. I'll try to explain. If you have a good ear and a sense of music, you'll catch on to patterns. Take a piece that is in ABA form, where B is the same as A but in the Dominant key. Let the piece be diatonic and simple. You'll anticipate where the music will go and hear that in your head, then play what you anticipate. If this happens over and over for every piece you encounter, you'll never get at the notes. You also won't know you are not reading notes until you get to music that isn't predictable and suddenly discover you're not really reading.

So the short of it is that you can play many pieces for a long time, with the music in front of you, and yet barely develop an association of note to piano key, or even of individual notes.

I would say that ANY missing basic skill will hamper a musician, and if that basic skill is acquired it will make a difference. This particular one seems to make a difference.


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