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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000322.txt from 2000/04

From: "Dee D. Hays" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] good beginner books
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000 19:14:04 -0400

----- Original Message -----
From: "James Pyne" <>
Subject: Re: [kl] good beginner books

> Dee Hayes replied:
> >These arguments sound a great deal like those that were used to justify
> >"whole word" method of teaching reading. "Afterall is the words that
> >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. They could not figure out words that they had not seen before
> >if it was part of their spoken vocabulary. These students had the poorest
> >communication skills ever.
> You imply an analogy that I would not make. First of all musical
> communication is non-verbal and notes are not equivalent to words. Music
> not expected to convey understanding about, for example, "how to install
> your software." Additionally, notes do not contain syllables.

This has been a most stimulating discussion. My statements were intended to
provide thoughts for that discussion not a one to one correspondance.
However, it is my personal belief that an artist in any medium (music, art,
words, whatever) needs to be thoroughly familiar with the tools so that he
can achieve the best results in that medium. Each tool that you cannot use
limits your expressiveness. You are restricted to what you do know.

> Imagine yourself reading a book, where understanding can provide nearly a
> complete appreciation of the author. Now pick up a musical score, even of
> simple work, and read it. The experience will be much less complete.
> verbal communication and music may both rely on sight and sound, music
> relies much more deeply on the actual experience of hearing to be fully
> appreciated. The tools involving sight, though essential in Western Music,
> have much more limited application than would be the case with literature.

Yes the experience is less complete just like reading a play (much better
analogy than the reading a book example) is also an incomplete experience.
To realize the playwrite's vision, the actors not only have to have talent
but need to know how to use their tools. For them, this is a knowledge of
the different ways of delivering a line, puctuating it with appropriate
gestures and body language. The great ones do not focus on a single aspect
of the performer's toolbox but try to be proficient with them all so as to
select the best way to perform the role.

> Also you say:
> >My own feeling is that most people try to progress too rapidly.
> >There is not enough drilling on whole notes to develop the feel of
> >continuous >breath support before moving on to shorter note values.
> When the embouchure has been set correctly and the beginner can sustain an
> open G, interesting left hand note changes can be made while the air
> support is maintained. Printed music, reading of music, need not enter the
> picture at that early stage. I would even suggest that some of these early
> short phrases be improvised by the youngster. Or possibly that the student
> imitate the teacher in a few simple note changes off well sustained tones.
> Downward scales can be accomplished (even into the right hand), simple
> tunes can be attempted, and so forth.

I agree that the instructor has an obligation to make drilling fun. But why
skip the early reading? The approaches that you mention can be part of the
lesson even the major part of the lesson since the initial reading exercise
is easily explained to the beginner. You certainly don't need to spend the
whole lesson on it.

> I did this with both of my daughters, now age 10 and 14 respectively, and
> they picked it up right away. It is fun as well, a bit of a game, and that
> helps with young folks. Nettie, the younger, was able to respond with
> imitations and simple improvs very well starting at age 6 on Eb clarinet.
> When note reading, articulation and register changing were introduced a
> little later (a few weeks) there were no problems.
> I agree that moving to rapidly is not good, but "drilling" does not have
> be perceived as such. After all musical instruments can be fascinating as
> well as technically challenging.
> Finally, Dee, do you play jazz at all? Many excellent jazz players really
> did not learn their instrument reading "note by note." Yet it would be
> difficult to maintain that they have failed to learn the techniques that
> allow them to communicate musically.

It is one of the regrets of my musical development that I do not improvise
or play by ear. I wish that ear training had been included. Perhaps
someday I will block out a schedule to work on correcting this. The only
"jazz" I play are the written arrangements for community band.

Musically they communicate quite effectively. But each tune must be worked
out and memorized possibly even note by note. If the piece was "composed"
some one must take the time to teach it to them. Then these players are
able to work their magic with their improvisation to bring it to life. If
the piece was developed in a jam session, they have to remember what they
did. They can't document their creation except in a recording. While they
can develop their own music, they cannot play another's music if they've
never heard it.

Back in the days before the development of musical notation, that was how
music had to be done. Now we have this tool to use. Now we do have
notation, it should be part of a musician's toolbox.

Both they and I have some musical "handicaps." Just because they are great
and effective doesn't mean they don't have some problems of their own.
However I applaud and celebrate their success.

> Also I note Susan Schwaegler's thoughtful and informative response:
> Susan, my post was not a plea for the complete application of "Suzuki,"
> one that would use elements of that approach to assist in "getting off to
> good start."

I have included some comments relating to this in the response to another
post so I will just summarize here. The Suzuki method is geared around a
learning approach that is appropriate for *young* children such as
pre-schoolers. Learn by hearing and repeating just like our early language
development. However in language we all recognize that at some point,
formal training in reading and writing is needed to master the skill. This
gets overlooked sometimes with the Suzuki. If training in an area starts at
a much later age (and even 10 is late for the learning principals underlying
the Suzuki method), the balance needs to shift more towards starting with
the formal training. This doesn't mean eliminating the learning by
listening and imitation, just shifting the balance.

Dee Hays
Canton, SD

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