May 11, 2010

Musical Definitions

As I have been teaching music for over a ¼ century I have often marvelled at the nature of musical definitions. Almost all of them are only understandable if you already know what they are. I guess it is fair to say that music is best experienced verses talked or read about but nonetheless describing a pickup as “One or more notes at the beginning of a strain, before the 1st measure, are referred to as pick-up notes. The rhythm for pick-up notes is taken from the last measure and the beast are counted as such” gets the new music student no closer to playing them correctly.

Two definitions that irk me in particular are ties and accidentals. “A tie is a curved line between 2 notes of the same pitch. The first note is played and held for the time duration of both. The second note is not played”. This one covers it but usually requires further explanation. Unfortunately, in some music method books, they attempt this. Sometimes they ‘add’ the notes together which has students counting to 6 halfway through a bar of common time which is just wrong. Sometimes the phrase “2nd note is not played” is modified to “should not be played” making it less clear. Just like Johnny shouldn’t eat chocolate before supper makes chocolate eating that much more acceptable.

The other musical explanation that drives me coo coo is the way accidentals (sharps, flats and naturals) are explained. Usually something along the lines of “When a sharp is placed in front of a note that note is raised one ½ step” Well I am here to tell you nothing of the sort is happening.

The note, maybe in this case, an F# is not an F that has had something done to it is an entirely different note called F#! The note we knew before was just called F (short for F Natural). But we knew that note so well we are on a 1st name basis.

And don’t get me started on that Ta Ta Ta Tee Ta Ta baby talk way of counting!

Winnipeg Music Lessons