College Students Using Muse-eek Books for Courses
College Students Using Muse-eek Books for Courses
Q: I am a professor at a community college and have a few questions concerning your books. I hope that you might have a few moments to read my message and respond with your input. I have been teaching ear training here for the past year and am the designer of our theory and ear training curricula. I originally started out using a combination of dication and solfege, not so much because that is my method of choice but rather because the state colleges our students might wish to transfer to use solfege. However, I found solfege to be very difficult for our students anyway, so I switched over to a scale degree number system, which I believe makes more sense to American students.
While the number system I have used has been more effective than solfege, I am still dissatisfied with the results I am attaining. My students come from diverse backgrounds; some of them have not taken the prerequisite fundamentals class and can not read music at the beginning of the semester. Many of them do not play any instrument proficiently and do not have access to instruments at home. Several of them have never taken a music class before. On the other hand, some have taken Fundamentals, Theory 1, and are instrumentalists.
I realize that I am faced with a huge task trying to create an environment where these students can succeed in a college-level ear training class and actually get something of value out of it, but that is my goal. I was doing some research on textbooks and came across your series of books and was wondering if you would take the time to give me any feedback you might have concerning your ear training and sight singing books.
Do you think that your methods might reach these students, and if so, do you have any suggestions about particular books that we could try using?
A: It sounds like you have a real up hill battle and I salute you for your dedication. As you may have read my Ear Training is not based on the widely accepted interval training but on hearing notes in relationship to a key center. Through repeated listening and singing a student memorizes the sound of these pitches so that they can identify them in tonal situations. I should also mention that I don't believe there is such a thing as atonality so my method would work in all situations. (Hearing how tonality moves in the works of Webern may require many years of work but it DOES move.)
So first the positive stuff. I believe your students would improve immensely with my method and would actually be able to hear music going by in time and correctly identify notes/chords.
Now for the other side of the coin. In my many years of teaching at the college level I've encountered very few students who really improve their ear through interval training. This includes myself when I was a student; the only thing that I have found that really works is contextual ear training based on developing a fine sense of key and identifying notes against this sense. But if your students transfer to another college they will most certainly encounter the interval method so this may be a problem for them and for you.
I also believe that ear training should really be taught in a one on one basis because each student has their own set of preconceptions and perceptions that can really get them off on the wrong footing. Also you probably would get a lot of resistance from your department using a method like mine because it's not what everyone else uses. (Sometimes I feel like everyone is teaching that the world is flat and no one is willing to say it isn't) But anyway this could be a problem so I thought I'd mention it.
So with all that said, yes I have a couple of books that I think would work: Ear Training One Note Complete and Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. I use solfeggio in the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing book but it really wouldn't effect the method if you use degrees. It's not about what you call something; it's actually hearing it. I also have a whole series of rhythm books that I use to develop a student's rhythmic ability.
I wish you the best of luck with your ear training courses. I believe it's the most important thing a student of music can learn. Teaching it is a big responsibility because you directly effect a student's progress in music more than anything else. Looking back I know that if I had had access to this kind of training when I was a budding freshman back at the University of South Dakota my musical journey would have been less of a struggle, and a much speedier path to self expression.
It is also recommended that you read Bruce Arnold's Blog at his artist site. It contains more discussion of the musical topics found in these FAQs as well as other subjects of interest. You will also find the "Music Education Genealogy Chart" located here which shows you the historic significance of the music education products found on the Muse Eek Publishing Company Website.