Peter Tosh performs “Get Up, Stand Up”: IDing which version of ^6 and ^7 occurs

On this second day of exploring the minor mode, the skill I want to tackle is being able to identify which version of scale degrees 6 and 7 a composer uses. This song, an example of early reggae written by Bob Marley, has limited pitch material. It’s also highly repetitive. These two factors combine to make it a good teaching example.  Here’s my plan: Continue reading

“Sakura”: Introducing the minor mode

We are now returning from Fall break, and we are ready to start tackling the minor mode. This simple tune is easy to teach by ear and nicely emphasizes the minor mode’s characteristics: ^3 and ^6.  I also have a personal connection to it, as it seems to be the one Japanese tune that my parents taught me as a kid (and that gets taught in elementary schools). Here is my plan: Continue reading

“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. Continue reading

Bai Tango Cho Em (“A Tango For You,” Vietnamese Karaoke Song) [small dictation exercise]

Ok, so it’s really a appropriation of Liszt’s “Liebestraum” No. 3 into 4/4 time and an (even) smaltzier setting.  I would love to work on the vocals, which break away from Liszt’s beautiful melody, but given my time constraints, I’m going to stick with the violin solo that frames the duet. I do hope to take 30 seconds to set up the context for this example, and I’m so very grateful to my Soundscapes book for providing that to me.  Here are some strengths of the example:

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The Thrill is Gone: A strategy for hearing bass and harmony

I just finished reading through some brief reflections (from students) about what’s hardest for them in the process of hearing ==> processing ==> dictating. While I didn’t learn about any new problems, a strategy for dealing with them did emerge. Many reflected that grabbing onto a note and trying to work out possible harmonies kind of worked for them.  I want to refine that strategy with this activity. Continue reading

Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (leaps in I and V)

Tomorrow’s activity will work with Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” a tune I love because of the meter switches, timbres, and the way he makes fire and higher rhyme.

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Bagpipes, Leaps in V (new activity)

Goal: Process and transcribe leaps within the dominant triad.
Smaller goal: Some students are bored; the content is too easy for the skills they already have. This music has lots of extra nuance that they can work towards processing, but I have to set it up in such a way that students with weaker skills don’t try to do too much. The set-up I do will end up introducing the idea of skeletal melody (one with no embellishments).

Musical example: Queen of the Rushes (Irish jig, played on the uilleann pipes by Máire Ní Ghráda) Continue reading

Exploring the Middle Ground

No, [for you music theorists] this is not a post about Schenkerian analysis.  This is a post about an exciting opportunity I’m exploring with my Form and Analysis class next week.  We are going to our campus’s extraordinary art museum for our first of a series of three classes (spread out over the semester).

What has captured my pedagogical imagination the most is engaging with the idea of middle ground. I was introduced to this concept two weeks ago during a workshop about using our wonderfully equipped and staffed teaching museum.  It comes, as far as I can tell, from Richard White’s book, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815Led by a history professor, the workshop I attended touched on the change in power structure that occurs when I take my class to the museum. I am no longer an expert learner; I am now on the similar footing to my students. What a treat for me! I have been fascinated by the implications and simplicity of the idea for two weeks now and am excited about our first trip to the museum next Wednesday.

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Pearl, Pearl, Pearl… (new activity)

Inspired by the Punch Brothers concert I went to last night, I decided to look through some Earl Scruggs classics for tomorrow’s (quick) teaching example.  I’m planning a 7-minute activity on his (and Lester Flatt’s) song, Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, which makes me smile.

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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. Continue reading