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#960692 - 09/27/08 04:29 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Chris H.:
It is a difficult question to answer because we all seem to have different views of what exactly music theory is.

One definition might be understanding the way that music is written down, all the terms and signs etc. In other words what you might call the rudiments of music theory. Is that what you mean Lana?

Others will think of theory as the way things are applied in a piece of music. This is why there has been some confusion over the diminished 7th chords. AZN was thinking about how to work out the chord but KBK was thinking about their functionality.
To answer your question, Chris, my purpose in teaching theory is more like the latter definition. I want my students to be able to recognize the chords and structure in music so they can become good sightreaders and improvisors. I want them to see music as a "language" so it can be applied to anything they pursue, whether it's piano, violin, singing, etc.

I love it when a student gets a new piece of music and starts seeing what it is made of. The building blocks, if you will. It makes them feel much less intimidated when they are familiar with them.


part-time piano teacher for 1.5 years
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#960693 - 09/27/08 04:40 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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My point is you don't need to understand Chopin's harmony for a successful performance. You do with Bach. Bach, to a great extent, was a musical scientist.
But can some of that harmony also be understood at a subconscious level or visceral or instinctive level, given the nature of harmony? And turned around, is it possible that someone who has turned off all feeling of music will not perform Bach as he was meant to be played, even though he has this intellectual understanding?

#960694 - 09/27/08 05:11 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
My point is you don't need to understand Chopin's harmony for a successful performance. You do with Bach. Bach, to a great extent, was a musical scientist. [/QB]
You absolutely do need harmonic understanding to play Bach. Anytime somebody says "Bach is boring", they are listening to a performer who is not harmonically or structurally aware.

I see what you are saying about Chopin, in that his harmony (in many cases) is easily accessible to the ear and intuitive, as to meaning and tone. But Harmonic knowledge is just so important even in romantic era music because so many important things can slip under the radar. Even simple things like a deceptive cadence (Chopin's b- prelude), or insistent appogiaturas (Brahms' 118-2), may fall through the cracks if one does not perform a complete harmonic analysis of every single note in the performance.

Historically significant harmonic gestures like Modal mixture\alteration can be invoked more prominently by performers.

It is so much more inspiring to understand every single note in the composition than to just say "that sounds cool"


Music is the surest path to excellence

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#960695 - 09/27/08 05:14 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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I should also mention that the act of analyzing each note in a performance is also an art in that one often sees what they are looking for...Two artists will name a harmony two different ways, and there may be disagreement on which chord is used as a pivot into the next key.

All of these varied interpretations will change the final performance.


Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
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#960696 - 09/27/08 05:17 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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KS, tension and release are visceral. You're welcome to approach Bach as a 'naive'. It's not what he's about though. Bach, in his time, was as high as culture gets.


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#960697 - 09/27/08 05:20 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
But can some of that harmony also be understood at a subconscious level or visceral or instinctive level, given the nature of harmony? And turned around, is it possible that someone who has turned off all feeling of music will not perform Bach as he was meant to be played, even though he has this intellectual understanding?
Sure...But what are you saying?

Music has aspects of academy and artistry. If you are turning off all feeling of music then you have greater problems as a performer.


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#960698 - 09/27/08 05:38 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Jeremy, kbk had written that one cannot play Bach at all if one has not studied theory formally. I certainly intend to study theory, am in the process, and can see how it helps in interpreting and understanding music. But I wondered about the absolute nature of this statement. In particular I wondered about my own experience. Before I studied theory I was led to play music a certain way, and later I discovered that I had been sensitive to the compositional structures of music and so in a sense had some internalized "sense of theory". My playing would have obeyed at least some of the rules of theory, but it was not intellectualy acquired at that point. It seemed possibly that the absolute "not at all" part of playing Bach without having book-learned theory might not always be the case. One can be sensitive to the structures of music - that is not the same as "playing with feeling" - and bring that into one's playing. One can do a lot more when one has the actual theoretical knowledge. There is so much more clarity.

It was supposed to be a small question, which has somehow managed to take on a life of its own. I didn't mean to hijack the thread.

#960699 - 09/27/08 05:48 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Jeremy, kbk had written that one cannot play Bach at all if one has not studied theory formally. I certainly intend to study theory, am in the process, and can see how it helps in interpreting and understanding music. But I wondered about the absolute nature of this statement. In particular I wondered about my own experience. Before I studied theory I was led to play music a certain way, and later I discovered that I had been sensitive to the compositional structures of music and so in a sense had some internalized "sense of theory". My playing would have obeyed at least some of the rules of theory, but it was not intellectualy acquired at that point. It seemed possibly that the absolute "not at all" part of playing Bach without having book-learned theory might not always be the case. One can be sensitive to the structures of music - that is not the same as "playing with feeling" - and bring that into one's playing. One can do a lot more when one has the actual theoretical knowledge. There is so much more clarity.

It was supposed to be a small question, which has somehow managed to take on a life of its own. I didn't mean to hijack the thread.
There is a huge difference between playing with feeling and playing with expression.

One of them involves the intellectual and technical components as well as artistry.

P.S. I do see what you were saying then.


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#960700 - 09/27/08 05:51 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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And I follow what you are saying about feeling vs. expression. It's good to see it in words. smile

#960701 - 09/27/08 07:59 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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A bit late to the discussion, but you can find WTC books I and II here . (Scroll down and look under "W" smile )


Du holde Kunst...
#960702 - 09/27/08 08:39 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Found it, Currawong - thanks. Would it make sense to listen to the right person playing it in order to understand this from that angle? If so, who?

Sorry for the digression (is it one?)

KS

#960703 - 09/27/08 10:24 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Found it, Currawong - thanks. Would it make sense to listen to the right person playing it in order to understand this from that angle? If so, who?
keyboardklutz perhaps laugh


Du holde Kunst...
#960704 - 09/27/08 10:50 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
My point is you don't need to understand Chopin's harmony for a successful performance. You do with Bach. Bach, to a great extent, was a musical scientist.
I agree that a great deal of study is necessary to play Bach well. I think you are over-emphasizing "harmony", though that may just be a poor choice of words.

If you talked about the study of ornamentation, there I would agree with you in a heartbeat.

And there is also the huge matter of almost no performance indications, which is the thing I love most about Bach. He expected the people who played his music to be excellent musicians, capable of making intelligent decisions.


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#960705 - 09/27/08 10:58 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
But Harmonic knowledge is just so important even in romantic era music because so many important things can slip under the radar.
Excellent point.


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#960706 - 09/28/08 01:32 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Jeremy, kbk had written that one cannot play Bach at all if one has not studied theory formally.
You'll have to point out to me where the "...at all" comes from or the "formally". As stated in my last post, you're free to approach him naively.
Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Found it, Currawong - thanks. Would it make sense to listen to the right person playing it in order to understand this from that angle? If so, who?
I could spell that out for you.


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#960707 - 09/28/08 01:50 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Getting late here, but wanted to post a quick suggestion. I teach theory to all of my private students. It's an integral part of every lesson - in sight reading, analysis, technique ... and it can be fun!

I am surprised that there was no mention of the Internet, nor other computer-related resources for teaching theory. My students, "little" and "big" ones alike, as well as adults are all very well heeled in theory. And they all love web and/or computer based support activities.

For the kids, Music Ace Deluxe is invaluable! They love to do it, it's like a game, and parents report that they spend an hour easily playing with it - some bring laptop to the piano and compare, try to imitate the game on the piano. Before you can say "an ashtray on a motorcycle" they improve their reading and performing skills incredibly. Transitioning from there into a more involved and deeper theory is a breeze and by then they LOVE it! And they love it because they feel empowered - the sense of accomplishment is a great motivator!

On the web:
www.musictheory.net - it can also be downloaded so you don't have to be on the Internet, and
www.teoria.com

Adults love both sites. I like them both, although they are somewhat different in functionality.

I also use them in the Advanced Theory group class I teach at the ASU Piano Prep/Conservatory Program (http://music.asu.edu/community/pianoprep/). I alternate classes in the group piano room and in the media room in the library. Kids love it!

As for other materials, I stick to the RCMT/NMCP program and books. They are the foundation, and the electronic resources are the enrichment part.

OK, really late now. Hope this gave you some new ideas. Good night musical folks! smile smile


Musically yours,
Dr. Jelena Vladikovic
Adj. Professor, Grand Canyon University, College of Fine Arts & Production
Founding Teacher, Royal Conservatory Music Development Program
Member, College of Examiners: RCM/Royal Conservatory MDP
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#960708 - 09/28/08 05:30 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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You'll have to point out to me where the "...at all" comes from or the "formally". As stated in my last post, you're free to approach him naively.
In the part of your post which you have now deleted, there was something like "impossible" or "cannot". That seemed absolute, and it is the part that I sought to understand better. It is a matter of placing one's own experiences and gaining new perspectives.

Kbk, perhaps you are accustomed to argument from students. But that is not my purpose. I seek clarification if I'm not sure I understand something because I'm trying to learn and expand beyond what I know. You have a tendency to be terse so that your posts can resemble a Rubric's cube - of interest once the pieces are reassembled.

I do believe I understand what you are saying from some simpler things that I studied. There I could hear when people included these elements in their interpretation, and how empty if not included, even when the latter was played correctly and even dynamically otherwise.

My example is from something I know. It doesn't address what you wrote, which is still unfamiliar to me. But I have seen how theoretical knowledge will add to the interpretation of a piece and substantially improve it.

This is definitely a hijacking of this thread so I'll stop my part in this particular side story. It does highlight the importance of theory beyond the simplest most necessary things.

#960709 - 09/28/08 05:35 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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I could spell that out for you.
If it wouldn't be too much trouble. smile

#960710 - 09/28/08 05:39 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Jelena, thank you so much for those links. They are invaluable. I was not aware of teoria before. smile

KS

#960711 - 09/28/08 05:59 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
You'll have to point out to me where the "...at all" comes from or the "formally". As stated in my last post, you're free to approach him naively.
In the part of your post which you have now deleted, there was something like "impossible" or "cannot".
I have edited ONE post in this thread - to add Hugo Riemann's name. Please do not put words into my posts!
Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:

Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Found it, Currawong - thanks. Would it make sense to listen to the right person playing it in order to understand this from that angle? If so, who?
I could spell that out for you.
Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
If it wouldn't be too much trouble. smile
Y-O-U-R -S-E-L-F


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#960712 - 09/28/08 06:40 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:

Kbk, perhaps you are accustomed to argument from students.
That would make me a pretty poor teacher - I take it that's what you intimate?


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#960713 - 09/28/08 07:39 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
[b]
Kbk, perhaps you are accustomed to argument from students.
That would make me a pretty poor teacher - I take it that's what you intimate? [/b]
Actually I think that you care very much about what you teach. Sometimes I don't know what to make of your responses to PW queries and it feels as though you are seeing argument - mostly I'm confused, often quite literally. Essentially I was trying to stress that my questions were not argumentative, but a sincere attempt to understand.

Student obstinacy can have nothing to do with the quality of a teacher. I taught in a public school that required a full time psychologist on staff, though he was meant to rotate among five schools originally. You mentioned once that at your school, teaching was described as pushing sh* up a hill, so I extrapolated that your situation might be similar to my old school. I did not mean to imply anything about your teaching ability, and if it came across that way, please accept my apologies.

#960714 - 09/28/08 07:54 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Where Jelena left off late at night....I am posting at what is early in the morning...4:31 AM. It's ironic that I am going to start a topic called "Sleep" after I'm done here.

To give an idea of how to teach theory:
I try to make sure everything we learned continues to be connected to another thing.

Ex: When you have learned (12) 5 Finger Positions, you can teach root chords, then arpeggios (short/long)from the same information.

When you know 5 Finger Positions, you can teach intervals 1-5 easily, then add 6th, 7th, 8th, by separating the 1st and 2nd fingers (RH) away from each other, by one more note at a time (expansion).

Ex:
C D E F G (A B C) (alphabet name)
1 2 3 4 5 (6 7 8) (degree of scale name)

C E F G A (span of a 6th) (Drops D)
1 2 3 4 5

C F G A B (span of a 7th) (Drops D E)
1 2 3 4 5

C G A B C (span of an 8th)(Drops D E F)
1 2 3 4 5

I teach this like a Hanon exercise (the LH is creating the expansion at 5 and 4. It's kind of fun, and the student creates their own exercise. (It is not written, it is demonstrated, discussed, and then played by the student.)

C D E F G F E D,C E F G A G F E, C F G A B A G F, C G A B C.

To create another Hanon type exercise after #1 in a similar way (Use hands together - parallel motion. (The expansions are 5th and 6ths only).

C D E F G F E D, C E F G A G F E
D E F G A G F E, D F E G A G
E F G A B A G F, E G A B C B A G
F G A B C B A G, F A B C D C B A G
G etc.
A etc.
B etc.
C etc.

Hanon is good for audiation awareness, predicting the sound of the interval expected.

A giveaway is the fingering and pattern in the first measure!

Students as young as 7 can do some of the Hanons, and if they can do it from their own calculations, they go "Whoa!" about their discovery!

Learning how to analyze the content of a piece of music, can start this early. There is always something that can be said about each piece to show it's structure.

It can begin with a simple question looking at the page of music, before the hands touch the keyboard (visual perceptions): "What do you notice about this piece?"

Have fun!

Betty

#960715 - 09/29/08 09:44 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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ChrisH rightly points out our vague definitions of theory.

As piano teachers we all see it so variously as:

1. What we all come to teach at piano lessons
2. A distant understanding of the role of the diminished 7th chord
3. A necessary "accumulation of wisdom" to play Bach
4. Blind belief that "Theory is Imperative" ... no matter what!
5. "The building blocks, if you will"
6. Harmonizing analysis (not forgetting the deceptive cadence)
7. Music Ace Deluxe game
8. The roles of I, IV and V etc..

But after the theory dust has settled:

a) there is still no clarity as to what the heck is potting
b) none of the piano teachers likes the subject of theory ... or expresses the vaguest confidence in discovering anything of substance in further study.
c) Most (both teachers and pupils) "hate" theory
d) After 1.5 years as novice piano teacher, the author of the thread must be blown away (discombobulated) by the seeming wacky takes of peers.

The anomaly of top student performers (without a clue of theory) and musicologist-bummers who couldn’t play the piano for toffee adds focus
to the rot attached to the vaguest understanding of theory.

It would appear that the legacy of JJ Fux (curse his eyeballs) has much to do with the misleading conclusions on harmonies still with us ... the
arid do’s and don’ts dripping from today’s books on Harmony bear testimony.

Nobody who masters the so called "rules" ever composed a quality piece of music ... but then rules are ropey ... the dreary compilation of dusty musicologist hacks.

What then is theory if it isn’t all the basics which piano teachers put over at their piano lessons? ... including all that gas about triads, arpeggios, grace notes ... the bleeding lot.

IMHO Theory is an appreciation (through analysis) of the balanced structure of music ... an awareness of acoustic harmonies goes without
saying ... but it is the articulation of the note patterns (the placing of these shapes on the canvas) which sorts out the men from the boys.

The great Masters obviously pave the way ... but if anybody puts a finger on the potted formula of Bach or Mozart genius ... please tell us ...
it’ll save trudging through another jumped-up book on theory.

#960716 - 09/30/08 08:06 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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I use various theory books, and the book I use depends on the age and intellectual maturity of the student. With most students I take 10-15 minutes at the start or middle of a lesson (depends on the student) to do theory (sometimes using flashcards, sometimes the computer, sometimes written exercises, again depending on the student). There are three books that I essentially use: Mark Sarnecki (most students), Theory for Young Children, Dr. Mozart (for the really young students, or students who generally struggle with written work) or Alfred's Essential Theory. (the last I'm using with a learning challenged teen student, who's clearly experienced success!)

Meri


Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com
#960717 - 10/03/08 03:42 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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I have had formal music lessons at home and at school for a dozen years. Now the only theory I know is how to decipher what key the music is in - which is about all I need to learn to play. Other than music analysis, what is the need?


Steinway M & Yamaha P120
#960718 - 10/03/08 08:58 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
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Verania5,

Music theory is the most fun going!

You learn to recognize all kinds of things, build vocabulary words for them, train fingers to run around the keyboard and know what they are doing and why they are doing it.

It is not incidental or optional in my mind at all.

If the teacher teaches theory in support of the music that is being learned, it makes incredible sense because the theory and the music go hand in hand.

If you have been taught theory separately - with no musical examples to associate it with - you don't understand the joy of knowing how both things, and add technique to that, support the music.

Without them as subjects connected to the whole, you are not aware of their "magic glue" enhancements that make music making far more enjoyable and even easier to do. It's like getting "the big picture"!

Deciphering the key of the music is a useful skill, there would be a lot of confusion if one could not, and attempted to play demanding literature.

Would you be interested in putting all these things together with a theory/pedagogy type of teacher?

Or, perhaps you are satisfied with where you are and don't really see the desire to see the benefits of theory, technique to support the piano literature.

Perhaps you are saying you know a lot of theory from lessons, and you don't see the need to use it when you are sightreading or studying new music. If this is the case, I bet you are using lots more of your theory training than you realize, and the theory has become subconscious for you and you don't notice it happening.

I don't want to misunderstand your posting.

Betty

#960719 - 10/05/08 07:06 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 386
verania5 Offline
Full Member
verania5  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 386
Michigan
Hi Betty,

I enjoy reading your posts, you have a lot of insight to share.

I learned most of my theory through school music classes, which were a bore unfortunately. I remember simple things what you would teach to beginners, but not much more than that. My teacher teaches it in passing, when he sees chord inversions as arpeggios, etc. but we don't really devote time to it exclusively. This is how it has always been for me.

I intuit patterns as I see them, most often without knowing anything other than "it is repeating again in a slightly different key" or "hey the melody has shifted to the left hand". Pretty unsophisticated stuff probably a child can pick out. My teacher actually teaches a theory course, I might look into it. Maybe I am missing the forest for the trees.

smile


Steinway M & Yamaha P120
#960720 - 10/05/08 09:27 PM Re: How do you teach theory?  
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 4,896
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member
Betty Patnude  Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 4,896
Puyallup, Washington
I can empathize, verania5,

I took a one year theory 1 class given by the band director at the high school and I read, and studied, etc., but I don't every remember him making a relationship to the piano which was my main instrument (with a little viola knowledge).

It was one tough course, although I thought I would ace it, it didn't equate to the instrument I understood (and the instruments upon which theory makes the most sense in completely understanding theory).

Well, I was in tears trying to get this every day in class and then at home doing homework and reading, studying, reading, trying to make sense of it.

Later, it made sense when I was long gone from that class, pulling the book out again and reworking what had been taught using the piano to understand. A piano sales man demonstrating a piano in a store in the mall, was just incredible at what he was playing - and after talking a bit, he said a few things about how he was doing what he was doing and I thought - he just said in 2 sentences what I still haven't learned to do quickly after that class, and from self teaching.

He was forming a triad (3 tone chord). He said:
Major is 1-2-3-4/123
minor is 1-2-3/1234
diminished is 1-2-3/123
He was speaking in half steps from any tonic.

And, I had taken the long way around with diatonic scales, reading "charts", doing listening, knowing key signatures, degrees of scales, lots of info - which you DO need to know and be able to do - but so much theory can be expressed very, very simply. So simple it's elusive.

I had felt so dumb in that class, but I'm sure everyone felt dumb with the way the book was written, and the way the teacher (what a nice man he was always smiling) taught.

I finally learned that theory makes sense in hindsight - and that it helps to be able to do what you are talking about before you approach the rules, and the definition, of what it all means. Working backwards so to speak.

What came first the chicken or the egg?

Thank you very much for your compliment about being insightful and sharing!

Good luck!

Betty

#960721 - 10/06/08 06:43 AM Re: How do you teach theory?  
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,919
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Chris H.  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,919
UK.
So did we ever come up with a definition for the words 'music theory'?

Could it be that theory covers everything which is not practical music making (performing or composing)?

I don't like the word 'theory' because it implies that you study it without actually making music. Therefore it doesn't relate to musical activity unless you already have practical experience.


Pianist and piano teacher.
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