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Student moving to France #1800183 12/03/11 08:20 PM
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I have a student who will be relocating to France next year. (The family is originally from France but has been living abroad for years.) I have had him participate in the U.S. branch of the Canadian RCM Examinations. Last year he completed Grade 1.

Is there anything in particular that would help him transition to studying piano in France?


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1800517 12/04/11 05:34 PM
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Hi. I suppose that you are talking about a little fella. What is his age ? Is it the parents who have raised this question ?

It appears to me that in general kids in France read music at a more advanced level than American kids, but that is a generality. If there is any risk of difficulty, it would only be in this direction, if he is less prepared than is expected of a child his age.

Otherwise kids have no trouble adapting.

Where in France do they live ? In many small towns there are very, very good music schools, often with extremely good teachers and a great learning atmosphere. This is also true in suburban towns near the big cities.

He may be interested to learn what an important country France is, for the piano in particular and in the history of classical music in general. It is true that this is one of the many fascinating aspects of Frogland.

Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1800567 12/04/11 08:05 PM
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Teach him the names of the notes in Do Re Mi format if he knows them as C D E..

Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1800595 12/04/11 09:18 PM
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He may very well be behind others his age. He is in 7th grade this year (about 13 years old). He has a very good touch on the piano and can play musically, but his reading was delayed due to an excellent memory. He would remember what we did in lesson and never try to read the page. We have overcome most of that, however.

Do students in France usually take exams of some kind or follow any certain system?

(We have talked about the fixed-do system, and he is comfortable with that.)


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1800836 12/05/11 01:38 PM
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I am not sure what you mean by following a certain system. If you can explain I will try to answer.

As for exams, there is no system of exams that serve to establish the level of a student.

The scene is quite diverse. The hub of music education is the conservatory, but at 13 years old your guy would have to be really, really good to get accepted in a major conservatory. But then, as I mentioned, there are very good municipal music schools in most small towns and suburban towns. There are also private music schools and studios. It depends on what he and his parents are looking for.

On the other hand, solfège classes at the conservatories and municipal music schools are open to all. These classes regroup students of different instruments, often of different ages and instrumental levels. The level of a student is determined by a test in which the student is "solfègically" interviewed, usually by two teachers. He is given simple material and asked to read the notes and/or the rhythm and/or to sing it with accompaniment. If the student does OK they pass to a more advanced level, and so on until it becomes too difficult.

These classes are very enriching.

In answer to your earlier question, it may be that the best way to prepare your guy is to familiarise him with solfège.

Re: Student moving to France [Re: landorrano] #1801282 12/06/11 10:01 AM
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Thank you! That does help. One more question: Would this solfege training be with a moveable do then? Or do they sing using fixed do?


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1801515 12/06/11 04:29 PM
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France uses fixed do -- although I don't know whether landorrano has fixed or movable in mind for these tests.


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1801568 12/06/11 05:31 PM
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Moveable do ? What the heck is that ? Playdoh ?

No, just kidding. But yes, in France fixed-do is the way to go ! But then, I think that one adapts his knowledge and experience, especially kids, and that it is best to have a firm grounding in whatever you do.

I clicked on PianoStudent88's "fixed do" link. The following phrase caught my attention:

"solfège (French pronunciation: [sɔl.fɛʒ], also called solfeggio, sol-fa or solfa) is a pedagogical solmization technique for the teaching of sight-singing"

I would say that this statement is incorrect as far as fixed-do solfège is concerned. While singing is at the heart of solfège, here it is considered a pedagogical technique for the teaching of reading, which then is applicable to any instrument, which could be the voice, of course. Or conducting. Or no instrument at all.

Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803363 12/09/11 05:10 PM
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Playdoh is certainly movable, until it dries, and then it is fixed. wink


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803501 12/09/11 10:38 PM
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Ha ha! I deserved that. But I could use some help understanding: What is taught in solfège class? Basic note reading? Is theory taught? Is the primary activity singing?

I'm sorry to sound ignorant, but I've never studied outside the U.S.


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803867 12/10/11 05:24 PM
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I have only good to say about the solfège pedagogic approach to reading music, but I don't mean to suggest that there is a need for you to try to give a special preparation to your student, especially if it means trying to teach him things that are foreign to you. But I am happy to try to answer your question.

The basic activity in a solfège class is singing from a score, that is to say: reading out loud. Perhaps one might say intonating the name of each note while respecting its rhythmic value.

This may be in G-clef, in F-clef, on the grand staff, on other clefs, depending on the level of the class.

Of course, in France this is using the names do, ré, mi and so on. So Frère Jacques wil be

do ré mi do
do ré mi do
mi fa sooool
mi fa sooool

There are many activities aimed at one or another aspect of reading. Like rhythm, or note names, intervals. A major aspect is always dictations: melodic or rhythmic or both.

One begins in the key of C-major, and then the relative minor, and then develops through the circle of fifths over the course of several years. Theory is part of a solfège class, as grammar is part of an English class. A solfège class is basically a reading class, where reading means being able to understand in your mind's ear what is written on a score.

An elementary solfège exercise has the student standing next to the piano, beating out the measure with the hand in the manner of a conductor, and singing the C-scale from a score while you, the teacher, play a pretty accompaniment. In 4/4 time, each note a whole note, the hand beating out 1-2-3-4 ... It is important that he is reading from the score, even if he knows by heart the scale; this is just the beginning.

From there, you go on to half notes, quarter notes etc, the corresponding rests, different combinations and so on. Of course all of this sort of thing is at an elementary level. These are the basics. It becomes increasingly complex, going on to modulations, two or more voices. Exercises based on scales and childrens' songs are abandoned and the repertoire serves as source for material.

But it can be surprising how useful it is for a student who is relatively advanced on his instrument to read out loud even very simple exercises. It obliges him to grasp what is written in a more conscious way.


Last edited by landorrano; 12/10/11 05:29 PM.
Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803876 12/10/11 05:46 PM
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Clarification in case it's needed, since we've discussed this before:

Quote
Of course, in France this is using the names do, ré, mi and so on. So Frère Jacques wil be

do ré mi do
do ré mi do
mi fa sooool
mi fa sooool


Am I correct that if Frère Jacques were in the key of G that would be

so la ti so
so la ti so
ti do reeeeee
ti do reeeeee

and in the key of F it would be

fa so la fa
fa so la fa
la ti dooooo
la ti dooooo

where accidentals are not named, so the Bb in F would be given the same name as B or B#

Is that correct?

I forget whether you call B ti, or si, or something else.

Are the details you describe homogenous to all of France (is there a central curriculum as it were?) or can this change from institution to institution? I would expect all of them to use fixed Do for note names, however.

Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803892 12/10/11 06:20 PM
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Or do they use chromatic solfège names, so Bb (si bémol) gets its own syllable?


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803902 12/10/11 06:49 PM
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Frère Jacques in the key of G is

sol la si sol
sol la si sol
si do réeeeee
si do réeeeee

In key of F

fa sol la fa
fa sol la fa
la si dooooo
la si dooooo

In the key of G, there is no alteration of a note of Frère Jacques.

In the key of F, the B is of course B-flat, which is called Si-bémol. However as you point out Keystring, in solfège one does not alter the pronounciation of this note. While singing the flattened tone, one pronounces "Si". This is equally true when one encounters accidentals. This is an important part of fixed-do solfège, putting the emphasis on placing each note in the framework of a tonality.

What I describe aren't details, really. It is an explanation of the approach to reading through solfège. The way that it is taught can vary, for example it can be more or less ludic. However, in one form or another it is universal from the moment that you are talking about teaching the playing of music from a score. That is to say, this emphasis on reading, on the teaching of reading music. Students typically have at least two times more time in their solfège class than with their instrumental teacher.

Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803912 12/10/11 07:25 PM
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Actually what you describe is detailed. I understand that this is how you are learning as a student, but we can't know whether it is so throughout France regardless of private teacher and other factors. That is why I asked.

In regards to the relationship to instruments: I understand that to a degree since my own reading evolved from hearing what I saw on the score and then bringing that into my playing, though this was with movable. However, for me that breaks apart once you get into chords. Yes, if you have a C7 chord you can sing in your head "do mi so si" and then if you have a Cmaj7 chord you will still sing "do mi so si" as per the system you described. But you cannot sing all four notes at the same time. You cannot hear the chord as a whole with its quality in singing, and thus play the chord as a whole from that sound. Do you have a system for chords that are heard as a block together with their quality?

How do you handle scales such as blues or whole tone scales? What would you sing for either if starting on C?

Re: Student moving to France [Re: Karisofia] #1803917 12/10/11 07:34 PM
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landorrano, thank you for the explanation. That is very different from movable do, where for example I can rely on the interval do-sol always sounding the same (except for pitch). If I were singing in the key of D, then in fixed do do-sol would become a tritone. Whereas in movable do that same interval C#-G would be ti-fa, which would always be a tritone and do-sol would be a perfect fifth as usual: D-A.

Regardless of system, I'm sure that having that much sight-singing and ear-training must be wonderful for French music students. I wish I'd had something like that.


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Re: Student moving to France [Re: PianoStudent88] #1804109 12/11/11 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88


Regardless of system, I'm sure that having that much sight-singing and ear-training must be wonderful for French music students. I wish I'd had something like that.


Me too, I wish that you had had something like that ! It is marvelous !

Re: Student moving to France [Re: keystring] #1804118 12/11/11 04:26 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
but we can't know whether it is so throughout France regardless of private teacher and other factors


Who is "we" ? France isn't a country hidden in a shroud of mystery. In France one studies French for reading literature and one studies solfège for reading music.

Sure there are people who have not followed the solfège route, who play jazz for example. But jazz is not a naive art, and nearly all jazz players today can read music and here they have followed the solfège route. And they are not the worse for it, in my opinion.

As for private teachers, students generally end up following a solfège course in parallel with their private lessons. For what it is worth, and on the other hand, many students in the conservatories have supplementary instrumental lessons with a private teacher. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the scene is quite diverse and any kid can find what suits him; Karisofia has no reason to be anguished about the future of her future-ex-student. However solfège rests as a pillar of music education throughout the different situations. There can be no doubt as to whether it is a the general characteristic of music education in France, as well as in a number of other countries.

I repeat: solfège means above all that reading is placed in the forefront.

I really didn't want to go too much into all of this, I just wanted to give Karisofia a general idea of the solfège pedagogic approach ( because she has such a pretty name! ).

One mustn't lose sight of the fact that France is part of Europe, and as such is one of the countries where classical music has been cradled and raised. Guido d'Arrezo was himself, I believe, French. There is a feeling that this culture is our culture, a living culture at that. The teaching of the elements of this culture is not viewed as an exercise in torture or as a desperate attempt to keep alive something form the past.

Anecdotally, a few years ago I went to a dinner-cabaret in a restaurant in Paris with the traveling sales staff of a company that manufactures ovens for professional kitchens. The end of year dinner, organized by the directors of the company. This wasn't a particularly cultivated lot. The show was the cook, who made the salads and pizzas in a dramatic accompanyment to opera arias. I was astounded that my colleagues as well as everybody in the restaurant knew all of the arias and sung them while laughing hilariously at the antics of the pizza cook ! They sung in Italian and French ... and I don't believe that any one of them could hold a conversation in Italian.

Re: Student moving to France [Re: landorrano] #1804348 12/11/11 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by landorrano
[quote=keystring]but we can't know whether it is so throughout France regardless of private teacher and other factors
Quote

Who is "we" ? France isn't a country hidden in a shroud of mystery.

You described lessons which include sight singing using solfege names, where accidentals are not included in the naming, over years working through the keys per the circle of fifths, singing while beating out time and note values, continuing with modulations and music having several voices, and this being applied to instrumental music. This thread is in the context of a student moving to somewhere in France, and trying to know what is done there. So I asked whether that picture is how "classical" music is taught throughout France - whether it is homogenous. The fact that Solfege names are used instead of letter names in Latin countries is not a mystery as you say, but my question went beyond that.

As an example, someone whose student is moving to Canada might want to know that many teachers teach toward the RCM exams, and the results are recognized in school records. This gives a certain standardizing of technical skills, genre of repertoire, ear training and music theory that a large proportion of students across the country tend to have. A teacher may want to know this. Otoh, if small pockets of teachers within Canada have adopted some approach, that is only pertinent if the student will be going on to that system. This was the gist of my question.

Quote

In France one studies French for reading literature and one studies solfège for reading music.

Apples and oranges as pertains to my question. Using solfege names instead of letter names is like reading things in French rather than in English. But approach is like teaching via phonics, whole language approach or some other system. If a system is prevalent throughout the country with standardization - or not - is not something we can be expected to know. The sarcasm about mystery is misplaced. Perhaps you misunderstood the gist of my question.

Quote
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the scene is quite diverse and any kid can find what suits him; Karisofia has no reason to be anguished about the future of her future-ex-student.

I read no anguish. When we teach, we teach toward things and try to prepare our students for them. As an example, a private student of mine had been accepted to a Swiss private school. Knowing that she would be studying in a bilingual French/German environment, the nature of our language lessons changed to a more practical application and with greater weight on the oral component. My first job as teacher was to understand what her future environment would be like, and what demands would be placed on her. That is how I understood Karisofia's question. And yes, it is a pretty name. smile

Re: Student moving to France [Re: landorrano] #1804408 12/11/11 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by landorrano

However as you point out Keystring, in solfège one does not alter the pronounciation of this note. While singing the flattened tone, one pronounces "Si".

But the logical extension of that is that B, Bb, Bbb and B# will all have the same syllable: si.

Then A, Ab, Abb, A# and A double sharp will all be "la".

What is it here I am missing? All I can see is a system that eventually teaches people NOT to hear...

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