Musical Literacy System as a Whole:
From General to Specific Structure in Music Education
Don’t miss the forest for the trees.
There are general and specific features that we should consider when teaching any subject.
General features are the foundation that form the entire structure of any subject. The alphabet in reading, the multiplication table in math, the globe in geography, the table of chemical elements in chemistry are examples of the general systems that unite more specific elements of each subject: letters, numbers, continents or chemical elements.
In music education, general and specific are mixed. Some essential pieces of the puzzle are simply lost. To avoid a further decline in music literacy and appreciation, we must completely reconstruct the system of music education.
The following general features are fundamental for creating a whole system for music literacy:
I. Generally Piano Keys and Grand Staff are a single unit:
The keys are the lines and spaces, and the lines and spaces are the keys. They are a whole.
To learn the keys and lines and spaces separately is more specific.
Octaves in music notation (the piano’s geography) are subtitles. They have to follow the introduction to the entire unit.II. Pitch and placement on the Grand Staff are General - Timbres are specific.
All music sounds have concrete pitch and concrete placement on the Grand Staff.
Pitch and placement generally unite sounds regardless of their timbre.
On the other hand, the timbres of music sounds are specific for each group of instruments and have no relevance to the musical grammar.
Therefore, we have to start music lessons with piano keys and the Grand Staff to first present the music system as a whole.
III. The Grand Staff is General–Treble, Bass and other clefs are specific.
Treble and Bass clefs are NOT two separate systems, but rather two parts of one system that mirror each other.
With this idea in mind, it makes more sense to count the lines of Treble and Bass from Middle C, which acts like the 0 on a thermometer--with degrees going higher (to the right) and lower (to the left).
Based on this fact, we have to count the lines of the Bass Clef not from the bottom up, but from top to bottom.
If your music textbook says otherwise, update this information.
The Grand Staff is the general system of music literacy. We have to present it as a whole from the very beginning to avoid any confusion in the future.
Learning different clefs for different instruments is more specific. They can be introduced later after first understanding the major concept.
IV. The duration of music notes is not a static form – it is a timing process.
The general feature of the process is that every sound has a beginning, a development and an end.
In this regard, the graphic representation of each note’s duration is a more specific element.
Only interactive computer technology is capable of adequately communicating the beginning, the development and the end of the physical music sound in real time.
For example, the touch of a key and a sound can be presented as an animated flower (for the beginning and the development) and a butterfly (the end that marks the necessity to move on)
Here is an illustration:
A sound’s beginning
V. The time as a line.
One single line generally presents the moment of real sounding. It unites all sounds with no regard to their beginning, development or ending stage. Such a line also unites all common elements of music -- the pitch, the lines and spaces (notes) and the keys.
Conclusion: the whole system of all music elements that received the name "Soft Way to Mozart" combines different forms of spatial expression of music into a single whole and in fact is an essential component for music education worldwide.
“Soft Way to Mozart” is a general system upon which music education should be based.
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