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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000315.txt from 2000/04

Subj: Re: [kl] good beginner books
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000 14:23:10 -0400

In a message dated 4/8/00 11:46:16 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

<< These arguments sound a great deal like those that were used to justify the
"whole word" method of teaching reading. "Afterall is the words that have
meanings not the individual letters and sounds." The net results was
students who could not read any word that they had not specifically been
taught. >>

This discussion is very interesting. I think Dee's argument here is more
analogous to learning music "reading" than music "playing," though. I've
long admired the Suzuki approach, because of its emphasis on tone, phrasing,
and expression right from the beginning. This seems to be in line with what
Jim was saying about the need to emphasize air flow and phrasing so the
sounds produced will not be perceived as individual notes strung together,
but as a musical thought. I agree that with this approach the technical
aspects of playing the instrument are mastered because it is necessary to do
so to be able to play expressively. I have to admit, however, that the
criticism often directed at Suzuki students for having poor music reading
skills is not without foundation. They can often play quite difficult music,
but only the pieces they have been taught - they cannot necessarily transfer
those skills to a new piece at sight. In this area, the "whole language"
analogy may be appropriate. Students do need to be taught systematically how
to decode the marks on the page so that they don't have to learn every piece
by rote and by memory. Those "whole language" students who can't read very
well probably CAN communicate very effectively and expressively through
spoken language, though. Spoken language comes before learning to decipher
written language. The Suzuki approach works the same way - the ability to
play musically and with technical facility precedes the ability to read. I
agree that basic mechanical skills of playing an instrument as well as basic
music reading skills have to be mastered, and shortcuts in these areas will
prove detrimental, but there is no need to delay work on things like line and
This sounds like arguments we had in a class called "Aesthetic
Education" with Bennet Reimer. He insisted that the aesthetic experience was
the most important thing and all our teaching should foster that, while we
future band directors argued that there wasn't going to BE any aesthetic
experience until the kid could play the right notes and count. I think now
that we were probably missing the point, and there really shouldn't be any
dichotomy. The simplest music can be played beautifully. Even a beginner
can be taught to play whole notes with an ear toward producing something
lovely. Yes, the basics of playing and reading are necessary, but always in
the service of musical expression. (And, yes, this is the responsibility of
the instructor.)
Susan Schwaegler

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