Absolute Pitch research, ear training and more
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The Fletcher Music Method Teacher's Handbook. It's only $15!
|Chapter 2: Examination||4|
|Chapter 3: Processes||10|
|Chapter 4: Description of the games||24|
|Chapter 5: The pasting work||31|
|Chapter 6: The pricked cards||32|
|Chapter 8: Reduced notes||34|
|Chapter 9: Keyboard||39|
|Chapter 10: Rhythm||42|
|Chapter 11: Time||45|
|Chapter 12: Technique||52|
|Chapter 13: Technique, continued||56|
|Chapter 14: Technique, continued||59|
|Chapter 15: Scales||63|
|Chapter 16: Scales, continued||67|
|Chapter 17: Ear training||72|
|Chapter 18: Ear training, continued||76|
|Chapter 19: Ear training, continued||78|
|Chapter 20: Musical instruments||88|
|Chapter 21: Musical history||89|
|Chapter 22: Discipline||95|
|Chapter 23: Composition||100|
|Chapter 24: Outline of first lessons||105|
|Chapter 25: Suggested pieces||109|
|Chapter 26: Books||111|
"There is at the surface infinite variety of things; at the center there is simplicity and unity of cause." --Emerson
The aim of the Fletcher Music Method is to reduce the mental strain which the study of music causes to children; to give a fundamental, systematic, logical musical education in a way that shall be thorough, natural, and pleasurable and thus make it possible for music to exercise her threefold power, and develop the child mentally, physically and spiritually.
During the last decade, or say quarter of a century, the child-idea has ruled supreme. It has been justly called the children's age, and the largest hearts and most astute minds have been busy studying the needs of children, and planning to meet these needs. It is therefore remarkable that no childlike-- that is, natural-- system has been developed for teaching the little ones music, one of the most complex subjects a child is allowed to take up. It is strange that the same methods have continued to be employed to teach music to both adults and children, while natural objective methods have been applied to nearly all the arts and sciences in existence, except music.
Let us consider music as a language and recall the manner in which the majority have in the past been taught this language. We were taken to the instrument, and before being conscious of the necessity for the signs or symbols of this language, we were confronted by a mass of signs which could have to us no meaning. Nor were we shown the beautiful thoughts for which these symbols stood. By and by we could express mechanically, with our fingers, thoughts in music that we had never thought, and which in many cases would have been quite unnatural for us, as children, to have thought. When we were able to read music and execute it, we were taught the harmony of music, which, in this comparison, we will regard as the grammar of this language-- music-- and, last of all, if we ever got that far, we were allowed to experiment with composition; in other words, to think our own thoughts in music.
Now I contend, and hope to prove by this method, that had we begun just in the opposite direction, we should be further along the road today, and the power of music in the world would be much greater for good. We would surely not attempt to teach a little child any other language in this ridiculously illogical manner. Think a moment how you would teach your baby the name of anything. As words are only symbols for the thoughts in speech, so signs are only symbols in music for thoughts, and unless the child can think the thought, the music is meaningless, and of as little value as the thoughtless words would be. But how many of us have ever been taught to think in music first? Children are intensely individual; in that they are like nature. Their natural impulse is to work from the within-- to create for themselves. Children are sensitive to law, and need lawful treatment, and it is because of this that they rebel at the unlawful means adopted so often for their musical education; and we find from the outset that a distaste-- amounting in some to positive hate-- is created, or that they are bribed and coaxed into learning what should be learned spontaneously. In this system we arouse the child's interest so that he works spontaneously. His self-activity is called into play constantly-- it is always a thought he can think, or something he can create for himself. We work from the whole to the part, and again from the parts to the whole; from the known to the unknown; from the simple to the complex; from the concrete to the abstract; from the seen to the unseen; and it has been abundantly proved by the Fletcher Method that the study of music, the beginning of which has been considered so difficult for children, is not difficult when we deal with the child in a natural, rational and lawful manner.
Music is, to a certain extent, crippled of her power in the world because the mental and technical difficulties are made so much of that in her threefold capacity she is seldom appreciated. As all true education tends to develop physically, mentally and spiritually, so should music, were the means adopted natural and interesting; and whatever mental and technical freedom we acquire, without the spiritual development we must fail. Nor can we be free in either one of these three phases of development, unless we see in each the value of the other two.
Education is emancipation; but as a rule, a musical education has been anything but emancipation. The little music-loving student has had to realize at every turn how bound he was either mentally or technically; and alas! too often before he becomes mentally and technically free the love of music has been crushed out. Now, without the love of music, it is impossible to become an artist; yet the protection and development of this love has almost entirely been neglected. How many children dread their music lesson! How, then, can the artistic appreciation of music be developing with them?
Let me tell you of one little scene which I think will illustrate the point I am trying to make. While abroad in the spring of 1899, I visited a conservatory to meet an old teacher of mine, and waiting a few minutes for the interview, I roamed about the halls. Presently a young girl entered, accompanied by a servant, who carried her violin. They stood conversing in low tones. The child took the violin, and, nervously strumming on the case, looked anxiously toward a door. The servant seemed to be trying to encourage her, but she looked frightened and unhappy. Very soon the door toward which they had approached was thrown open, and there stood the master, tall, dark, impatient. "Well, well," he cried, "why do you stand foolishly outside, while I wait for you within? Come in, come in." The child entered, and the door slammed. The servant, with a sigh, turned and left the hall. I sighed, too, and thought, "Yes, perhaps you will be able to teach her something, technically or mentally, if you have not made her so frightened that she is almost stupid; but how much of the artistic part-- of the love of music-- are you going to encourage in the child's heart in this half hour?"
For my part, I believe it is our duty to make the childhood of children as happy as possible, for their greatest spiritual, mental and physical growth can go on only under harmonious and happy conditions. The soul of a child is so open to impressions, and we cannot deal with him without influencing him for good or ill; and herein lies our responsibility and our opportunity. More than this, children are so intuitive that the deed and word are not of more importance to them than the thought. To this tremendous power they are instinctively alive. Therefore, how careful should we be of our thought attitude toward the child.
Formerly the child was placed at the piano for his first music lesson, and forced to grasp-- for him-- abstract musical ideas through the eye and the ear, and in a complex form. The result was that whichever sense was keenest did the greater portion of the work; and so we often find children taught in this way playing entirely by ear; others, the sense of sight being keener, use this sense almost exclusively, and the ear is left undeveloped, etc.
In my method the sense of touch is brought in, and the meaning of every sign and symbol carried to the brain, not only through ear and eye, but also through touch. Everything in music that would tend to make it a difficulty to children, such as notation, rhythm, time, technique, ear training, scales, intervals, chords, keyboard, interest in composers and musical instruments-- all these subjects are taught separately, and in a pleasant, interesting manner, the necessity of each subject to music as a whole being made very apparent.
The aim is that the child shall not be technically or mentally hindered in expressing his own ideas of music when he comes to the instrument for the first time. Now, if the system is natural and lawful, it must be pleasurable, and whatever is a pleasure to children at all times tends to develop them in some way or other. And because music is in its nature beautiful, inspiring and uplifting, and because children are responsive to an uplifting influence, we find it very easy to make them happy in the study of music.
From Chapter 10, "Rhythm":
The fate of the child musically depends upon his grasp of rhythm. Sound and time, melody, everything else in music, is as bones and flesh to the human being-- all waiting for the life principle to play through them; and so with music, however perfect the form, however beautiful the melody, without rhythm the composition becomes lifeless and meaningless. As with all great things, this greatest of all things musical is unseen; it is as the law of gravitation, electricity, etc. We have visible symbols for melody and time, hut rhythm cannot be pictured. There is the greatest possible confusion in the general use of the terms time, rhythm and tempo. Time and tempo are subjects for study in the mathematical and physical realm, but rhythm belongs to the realm of the spirit. There is no subject in music training so neglected as this training of rhythm, but this is not to be much wondered at, for it has always been thus in the evolution of the race. Man has gone after material and physical things, even affirming that it was the proof of mental development to do so! Rhythm, then, is the life of music, and we quite simply teach the children to understand it as such and to realize that unless they can feel it they must forever interpret their music without this element which makes the music real.
Rhythm physically expressed is the first manifestation of music among savages. One writer says of music, "Music, as distinguished from the various rude attempts of the past, is only about four hundred years old." Viewed from a mental standpoint, music, as given expression to by the savages, may be no music; but if we can travel to a central spiritual standpoint we may see that it has been music from the first, expressed first on the physical plane, then mental, then, perhaps, emotional; but that its life force is spiritual and emanates from the center, and may manifest itself in all three ways.
So I believe rhythm is the life of music, and, following its natural development in the nation, manifests its existence first in the child by the impulse to stamp and clap to music, hence physically.
Secondly, we gain a mental understanding of rhythm, but the mental knowledge will not insure rhythmical playing of itself, and strict attention to "recurring accent" will not bring it about though all of this is necessary.
On the third plane the executant expresses often the emotions which dominate him. Thus we listen to music which is an emotional expression of fear, nervousness and dread. Some one has said that music is the language of the emotions, therefore it is plain to see that it can be good, bad or indifferent. Just the variety of emotions natural to the man can and will be exhibited in his music, if he is on the emotional plane.
Highest of all, deepest of all, last of all (but we are trying to have this first of all) comes music expressed directly from its spirit origin. When the musician reaches this plane, he can be keenly sympathetic with all the other planes, and now he has perfect control of all emotions and attracts to himself those emotions which are beautiful, such as love, strength, peace, joy, power, etc., but he cuts himself free from the bondage of all emotions which are detrimental to the amount of good he could do-- such as fear.
When music was on the physical plane it did not stand alone; it was the accessory to bodily exercise; we see this even in the classic age. And now we take the children and let music develop and express itself in all three ways-- physical, mental, spiritual-- recognizing that all three manifestations are essential, and trying in each to see the three, and in the three to see the unity.
The little baby often shows the dawning of this impulse toward the rhythmical expression of music by beating when he hears music-- sometimes he coos notes which cannot be located easily on the piano, and by degrees pitch develops, and the little one can keep a tune.
The first talk to the children on rhythm can only he taught by illustration, and it can hardly be understood how interested the children become in it. As a rule, children have a keen appreciation of rhythm, and this is not diminished when we tell them that they have generally come to us with this, their "first music lesson," learned, and we have only to prove it to them. When they understand the name and the meaning, we play some bright easy music and let them clap or march to it. If the child cannot clap the beats, watch closely and see if he is not trying to clap the melody. If this is the case, you can conclude that you have not begun on the lowest rung of the ladder, so play some simple melody, allowing the children to physically illustrate the melody by clapping it. The little melodies used by me for this exercise are particularly interesting, and full of helpful suggestions for the mental melodies which the pupils will soon, if not already, be expressing.
The rhythmical movement of a piece of music may also be expressed physically by the pupil. For example, the swinging, hopping, lightly dropping, stately marching, heavy, clinging, restless, twinkling, swaying rhythms may all be acted in time to the music which expresses them. Sometimes with the older children it is best to illustrate the lack of music without this life-rhythm, by playing something devoid of rhythm, and then showing the contrast by playing it with the rhythm. I am aware of the fact that this mode of procedure may be criticized, and believe, myself, that the wrong way of doing a thing should not be held up to the pupil; but for older children, sometimes already impressed with false ideas of music and especially rhythm, it seems the most impressive way of proving the necessity of study in this direction. So many girls of twelve and thirteen think rhythm and time synonymous. However beautiful a composition may be from a mental and even artistic standpoint, without due appreciation and sympathy with the physical life manifested, it becomes a cold, lifeless thing. Just as a man is not a perfect man unless he is physically, mentally and spiritually developed, so the composition can never be a perfect composition unless it is technically, mentally and spiritually perfect, or, to put this more plainly, unless the technique side through the domination of spirit is perfect, unless the mental side through the domination of spirit is perfect, unless the spirit has a perfect physical and mental instrument.
From Chapter 17, "Ear Training":
"To steer steadily towards an ideal standard is the only means of advancing in life, as in music." --Hiller
There is really no time too soon to begin the training of the child's ear in music; in fact, it is being trained from the beginning, whether the mother is conscious of this fact or not. When we wake up to the importance of "first impressions" on the child's mind we shall be more careful as to the first musical impressions we give our children.
We all know that sound is vibratory, and that we distinguish a musical sound from a noise, because its vibrations are regular and more rapid.
Now, it is wise for us to thoroughly understand what it is that makes it possible to recognize one musical sound from another, so that in our teaching we may select the sounds in the best possible order. We are able to distinguish one musical tone from another, because of the difference in force, pitch and quality. The force is dependent upon the extent of the vibrations-- the greater the extent, the louder the sound. The pitch depends upon the number or rapidity of the vibrations-- the greater the number, the higher the sound will be. We know that the rate of the lowest sound is about sixteen vibrations, and the highest about 38,000 to the second. The quality of the tone which is also often called the timbre or color, is the peculiarity or individuality attached to every tone, which makes it possible for us to recognize the same note sung by different voices or different instruments. This peculiarity arises from the number of overtones or harmonics of the fundamental tone.
We cannot study too deeply into the subject of sound, nor know too much of the aural sense, if we would train the ears of our little pupils intelligently. One thing is certain; that the more we know, the more hopeful we shall be of success in the attainment of "absolute pitch," which is so often the rock on which musicians "split."
There is no doubt that there is a tremendous difference in the ability to hear, and the refining of the ear must come with the spiritualizing of the individual. There are sounds audible to some which are quite inaudible to others. It is advisable to cultivate the aural sense in all directions, not only in the direction of musical sounds.
By absolute pitch some mean the ability to recognize any note heard or to sing the pitch of any note given. Others go further, and claim that you must be able to immediately recognize the slightest difference in the pitch of the same note on different pianos, in different countries, etc. That this ability will be as great a test of acute memory as of the ear, can be readily seen. Others say that an absolute knowledge of the pitch of a note is not necessary, that the relative is all that is necessary. This is equivalent to saying that I need never know that G is the fourth ledger line above the treble staff if I know that the ledger lines above are A-C-E-G; that is all that is necessary, provided that I get some one to give me the first sound-- I can always climb up. Yes, we can all climb the tree if we can get the "boost," but what shall we do if there is no one there to give us this? Surely, the fact that there is an individuality attached to the sound of each note which makes it necessary to the whole, should make it possible for us to recognize it absolutely, if attention enough were paid to its voice-- especially in the beginning.
When we think of our ability to recognize the tiniest differences in words, or in the pronunciation of the same word, it seems strange that there should be so many musicians who cannot at all distinguish any one tone of the scale absolutely. The recognizing of a tone relatively is more a mental process than an aural-- for much depends upon the memory and upon the mind, to reason from one sound to another.
There are many people who are said to have "no ear": they do not distinguish sounds, and this defect is put down to the one cause, "no ear," when perhaps it is due to several. It may be due to the inability to quickly interpret sounds; this is a mental condition and may be traced to memory. Failure of memory is often the cause of many an old person's apparent lack of ear. Many children have been said to have no ear, and the cause has been traced to inability to locate sounds with their own voices; but they have proved that aurally they were not lacking, by their ability to catch the accent and speak foreign languages, or to tell immediately if some one else sang out of tune or played a wrong note.
Fear and inattention (and the latter is traceable to lack of interest) are to blame for many cases of apparent aural deficiency. Attention is the greatest aid to the ear, and often by intense interest we can concentrate our minds, and thus be able to hear sounds which, without this concentration, would be perfectly inaudible. After all, what can the ear do without the mind? Can the ear hear anything alone? Unless the mind is attached to this organ, it hears nothing; it may not be consciously attached, but unconsciously nevertheless, and then we do hear; but if the mind is completely absorbed in some other direction-- for example, in carrying ideas to the brain through the eye-- the ear hears nothing. Some people never can concentrate their minds so completely, and they will be likely to criticize this.
Now comes a very important point. We wish our pupils to learn so to control their minds that they may concentrate absolutely on this sense of hearing, but this power of control must be voluntary on the part of each child. In order to have the child concentrate his mind voluntarily we must make these exercises interesting to him. To do this, we begin by training him to recognize sounds which are associable with objects in which he is already interested-- for example, the jingling of keys, ringing of different bells, etc. In doing this, we are training also his memory through the aural sense. Then we teach him to locate sounds, and this ability has as much to do with the mind and memory as the ear, for the mind is called upon to judge of the sound and reason of its locality, recalling past experiences to contrast with the present one, and help decide upon the locality.
Thirdly, let the children, under the teacher's direction, have all sorts of experiments with making sounds-- with glasses, bells, metals, different voices and different instruments. It is quite impossible to give any idea of these experiments, which with all the ear training exercises, are illustrated in the lectures. Little games to make the concentration of the mind upon sounds interesting are given, such as, "What my ear tells me," "Where am I?" etc.
The children sit with closed eyes and a pad and pencil, and listen. They write down everything they hear in the street or in the room-- for example, doorbell, horse trotting, heavy cart, trolley, some one tapping, rustle of the teacher's dress, a key struck on the piano (later on they may have many, and tell their names), etc. The child having heard the most correctly, of course, wins the game. Later on, this game is played in a variety of ways-- the children writing down all the things they notice in a piece of music; for example, staccatoed notes, crescendos, ff, etc.
The children sit as before, but the little ones need not write the locality of the sound, which may be the dropping of a rubber ball, which is supposed to say, "Where am I?" and the little ones point in the direction. This is for locating sounds. Sometimes let the teacher touch with her pointer one of the children, who may then say, "Who am I?" and the rest of the class may then say who it is. If the child likes, she may try to disguise her voice.
The children try not only to locate and distinguish sounds, but to discriminate between sounds, trying to discover wherein the difference lies-- whether in pitch, force or quality, or in all three.
The ear may be very readily trained, perhaps more easily than any other sense. The blind, who are dependent upon it to such an extent, prove to us how it may develop with training, and give us some idea of its possibilities. There is, however, no need for us to lose our good friend, sight, in order to learn to appreciate our ears. I do not at all believe that the Creator "makes up" to the blind by giving them better ears than He gives us. If we would learn to concentrate all our attention upon the subject of ear training, while we are attempting any exercises in this direction, I believe we could readily accomplish as much as they.
That we have very much neglected this wonderful faculty is sadly in evidence. That it is the most natural road along which knowledge may travel to our minds is also a fact, and perhaps some time we shall wake up to the advisability of training children musically entirely through this sense at first, as we do in language.
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