“Soon or Never,” Punch Brothers: small dictation for exam practice

So, we have one more class before their first high-stakes listening ==> processing ==> writing exam. I wanted a very short excerpt to include on Monday’s class (intended to specifically prepare them for a written exam). I’m obsessed with The Punch Brothers’ newest album, Who’s Feeling Young Now? and had no problems finding a good example (55 seconds into the track).  I like this example because the basic melody is … basic, yet has one challenging moment (a leap down to ^6) that makes it non-trivial.  It also has harmony above the tune that some students can focus on figuring out. So, there’s ways to keep the quicker students challenged.

I feel that my love affair with this album is totally validated by Chris Thile‘s receipt of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. This guy is incredible…


Post-Class Update (reflection)

This excerpt was fine.  No one really had time to process the extra harmonies because we were so busy.


  • Leap down to ^6 was a great moment.  We also could talk about the “wistfulness” of ^6 (having also just reviewed the famous theme from Dvorak’s New World Symphony and its lovely use of ^6).
  • Great text for this point of the semester…
  • Interesting texture


  • It would not be a good exam example because the texture is so beautifully distracting.
  • Many students had trouble figuring out which voice carried the melody when given only a few hearings.  I got to sing along with the recording to help them identify the melody, which was not the highest line.
  • There is a lot of emphasis on ^5 in the tune and the texture. Some students misinterpreted this as ^1 (and had a dictation that started on ^4…  I teased them about how that really doesn’t fit in with what we’re doing in class).  A good warm up in the key (E Major) is helpful before playing the excerpt to ground them in the pitch level for ^1.

Here is an excerpt of my handout–this is what I gave them.  This exercise had them apply scale degrees to given rhythm.

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