Evaluation: Tuvan Throat Singing Dictation

This reflection is an evaluation of the activity I planned/described in this post and implemented in three consecutive classes today.  I was happy with how it went and will describe the strengths, weaknesses, and stuff I might tweak next time I teach this class.

We are closing up our third week of the 14-week semester.  Yesterday, I met with each student one-on-one for 15 minutes (36 students), and we devised some personalized goals for them (described here).  I think partially as a result of that goal setting, they arrived at today’s class super engaged and willing to take risks.

There were really only two weaknesses that I recognized today. Perhaps the biggest weakness of this activity was that the melody was too simple for many students.  Especially given that this was a day when they arrived really ready to meet challenges head on.  The only other weakness I discovered in the activity is the way the tune begins on the recording.  I can’t quite hear it in terms of the overtones used (and neither could the students), so we were unable to dictate it.

The strengths were numerous.  I don’t think anyone was left behind. The stronger students had something new to think about (the act of throat singing) and the experience of hearing something different.  I broke the tune into three segments, which worked well for memorization.  And, it had the added bonus of having students listen for the order in which the three segments occurred in the song (A-B-A-C).  I played the recording once at the beginning of the activity, sang the tune myself for the process of memorizing the segments, and played the recording two times at the end to figure out the segment order and enjoy the complete song.

I appreciated having the information in the book at my fingertips.  Especially helpful were the instructions on how to pronounce the words, kargyra khoomi, that describe the style of throat singing in this example.

30 minutes was about right for the entire process (described below).  The work on this tune took about 15 minutes.  The only thing I might tweak is the process of having students transfer their scale-degree notation into pitch notation, which was the least important and most time consuming part of the activity.  Perhaps next time, we’ll transfer one segment to with staff notation, and I’ll have a copy to pass out at the end of class for them to see what it looks like in common-practice notation.

  1. Practice tonic-triad leaps by pointing to scale degrees written on the board and on their handout.
  2. Identify/sing the intervals between chord members (including the M6, m6, and P5 from the larger jumps).
  3. In small groups, students “composed” three five-to-seven-note tonic triad patterns (writing down scale degrees) and practiced them.
  4. Each group sang one pattern on “la” (or another ad lib syllable).  The class contoured while the group sang, contoured an silent echo of the pattern, then sang the pattern back on numbers.
  5. Groups then wrote their patterns in standard notation in a “horrid” key such as C# major; they compared what they had written with each other.
  6. I played the throat singing example, and we digested the different timbre.
  7. I guided them through a scale-degree-only dictation of three segments from the tune.  I also introduced using a horizontal line over the scale degrees to connect pairs of “eighth” notes and using a vertical line to delineate the patterns of strong and weak beats.
  8. We listened to the recording and identified the order of the segments.
  9. We wrote down the tune in staff notation (not every student finished this task) and sang it on scale degrees.

2 thoughts on “Evaluation: Tuvan Throat Singing Dictation

  1. Sounds like a lot of activity in 30 minutes. How many students in the course? How big were the groups?

    Also, would like to hear more about individual goal planning with the students.

    • Yup. We were very active. It didn’t feel rushed. Perhaps it felt ok because I don’t talk much? There’s a lot of doing, and a lot of “once you figure out what I’m showing with my actions, join in.” The groups were 2-3 people, there are 11-13 people in each class. The individual goal planning is described in a previous post about what I learned from H’s kindergarten teacher. I’ll definitely be reflecting on it more–I was very happy with the activity and am curious how long I can reap the good rewards for.

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