Perfect Pitch: No Measure of Musical Ability

January 7th, 2014|

I once saw a YouTube video of a dog demonstrating perfect pitch.  A lovely Golden Retriever sat at what looked to be a makeshift, paw-friendly piano keyboard . Opposite and off screen, a woman played a penny whistle and addressed the dog in German.  The woman would […]

What is a Tritone? And, What Isn’t It?

November 16th, 2011|

The word tritone is frequently used interchangeably with the terms augmented fourth and diminished fifth.  Let’s see if we can clear that up.

The intervals of the augmented fourth and diminished fifth indeed sound the same when played out of context on a piano, but they are not the same interval, they are not both the same thing as a tritone, and the tritone is not an inversion of itself. […]

Raw Dough and Tea: Diabolical Solfège Songs

November 11th, 2011|

I recently discovered that an old acquaintance of mine is a fellow musicianship teacher and has been writing and recording diabolically clever songs that illustrate musical ear training concepts in a refreshing and fun way.

David Newman is an accomplished baritone soloist and teacher of voice and musicianship at James Madison University, who apparently knows a thing or two about songwriting as well.  His songs are on YouTube and they speak for themselves. If you are at all concerned with getting students to hear harmonic progressions and intervals, you will be thoroughly entertained by these. […]

What Is Musicianship?

December 4th, 2009|

I wonder if, bogged down in the details of teaching those various skills, we've lost track of what musicianship really is.

The Case for Movable “Do” in Classroom Musicianship

February 4th, 2009|

Against my better judgment, I’m jumping into the fray regarding methods used in the teaching of sight singing. Normally I try to stay away from such conflicts, but I can only take so much disparagement of my beloved Movable Do system.  The last straw is the discovery of this web site, which contains misleading information designed to promote the sale of a book.

(Warning: This post is intended for musicianship and theory nerds. If you are not in that category, your eyes will glaze over shortly.) […]

Judging Student Composers

May 11th, 2008|

This evening I had the thoroughly enjoyable experience of sitting on a panel of judges for a competition at the San Francisco Conservatory. These opportunities to judge come up from time to time, and I’m always glad to do it, not just to help the parties involved, but because it forces me to really listen and to think critically, knowing there’s a lot at stake for the person on the other end. It’s definitely not easy! […]

Kodály Speaks

January 9th, 2008|

This may be of interest to very few regulars, but here it is for the future Kodály googler.

More YouTube trolling has turned up this footage of Zoltán Kodály himself interviewed on Hungarian Television in 1953. It was around this time that the ideas about music education he had been putting out in his writings for decades were just starting to be put into practice officially in Hungary’s education system. […]

More on Inversions: Mr. Tambourine Man

November 30th, 2007|

I’ve always liked the song “Mr. Tambourine Man”, but I admit that until recently I was mainly familiar with the version by The Byrds. Having finally taken the time to get to know the Bob Dylan version (as heard on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits) in the past year or so, I find it a lot more beautiful and interesting to listen to. […]

Ukeleles and Inversions

November 30th, 2007|

There was a cute article in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle about an apparent new ukelele fad that’s sweeping the nation. It was interesting to me, because I’d been just starting to take notice of the instrument. It just seems to keep cropping up. I noticed only recently, for example, that it’s buried in the texture of a couple of Burt Bacharach songs, (albeit mostly bad ones).

The main reason the ukelele is on my mind at the moment is the now overexposed Israel Kamakawiwo’ole recording of his “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”/”What a Wonderful World” medley, which I listen to a lot with my son. His playing of the instrument is one of many beautiful things about that recording. […]

Dusting Off My Kodály

August 6th, 2007|

My latent, inner musicianship nerd has resurfaced lately. I am lucky to have had a very high level of musicianship training, largely based on the Kodály Method, which actually is more of a philosophy than a method. It’s mostly associated with the teaching of small children, but I encountered it first as a college freshman. I’ve been trying to rebuild my memories of how I was taught, and how I might use similar techniques as a teacher. […]