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Re: [bbshop] Seeking input on a survey about reading music and barbershopping...

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  • Alan LeVezu
    Hi Tom You wanted to open a discussion on this subject... People who know me know that it s impossible for me to write short responses to comments - and this
    Message 1 of 6 , May 3, 2009
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      Hi Tom

      You wanted to open a discussion on this subject... People who know me
      know that it's impossible for me to write short responses to comments
      - and this is another "not short" response. I apologize in advance for
      it's length - but this IS an important subject... Here's my thoughts
      - some are sequenced well, some are just stuck there in the middle of
      it all.

      First - Your survey is interesting, but I'm not sure what you are
      trying to learn from it? It looks like you're aiming it at people that
      already read, or people who already believe that it is important...
      or...

      Second - Reading music is important, there's no question about it...
      it's just not "essential" for ALL barbershoppers to do so.

      Third - The following two paragraphs describe my opinion on reading
      music (by the way, I do read, and would put myself in category 4 of
      your 5 for ability on the survey).

      Unlike most musical instruments, singing (voice) is controlled
      entirely by "feel". There's no way for someone to tell you exactly how
      to raise or lower the pitch of your voice - you have to just do it
      (then you have to learn to control it). Even on a trombone, you can
      be told to slide in or out a bit to get to the right pitch. Thus, by
      it's very nature, more than any other, your voice is a "by ear"
      instrument.

      That being said, what you do to learn to read music for a vocalist
      seems to me to be a different learning experience than for an
      instrumentalist. When I play piano, I know that to play a Bb means I
      must put one of my fingers on the black key directly to the left of a
      "C" key. I know that to play an "E" on the guitar means that I need to
      pluck the open 1st string, or the second string pressed at the 5th
      fret. But, I don't have perfect pitch. When I SING a Bb, it is always
      relative to something ELSE I've heard. That very difference is the
      reason (to me) that reading music is less important to us than to
      others.

      Fourth - So... what does all that have to do with your survey? Well,
      it re-brings up the question of what you are trying to get out of it!
      I always take surveys with the idea that I'm trying to figure out the
      "hidden agenda" behind them. In your case, my gut feel is that you are
      selling a sight-reading teaching system. (I have no idea if this is
      the case... that's just my take based on the questions).

      Perhaps the survey should have a different focus, or should be bigger
      with a multiple focus? For instance, you haven't asked questions about
      the difficulty or time requirement vs the perceived benefit for the
      individual. This actually may be more important than finding out about
      current knowledge. Or perhaps you could focus on desire to learn -
      what would be the reasons that someone might want to learn to read
      more. Or you might also ask questions that will inform you more about
      the people that DON'T want to read (the questions you are asking seem
      to be aimed at the opposite).

      Fifth - That all being said here's some specifics about your questions
      so far:

      Some of the questions you ask are going to provide really obvious
      correlations (e.g. the more competitive you are, the more likely it is
      that you will read music). There seems to be no reason to have those
      in there without a bunch more information as well (e.g. how big is
      your chorus, where is your chorus, what part(s) do you sing, etc.

      Some of the questions you ask are limiting (e.g. question 1.4 says you
      either are heavily involved, or you're out completely... there's no
      possible answer for a regular attending member, or for a transient
      member, etc). Question 2.1 misses a bunch of options "read the music
      with three others in a quartet finding the notes as we go along"
      "Quartet teaching method at chorus rehearsal", "plunking it out on the
      piano", "multiple combinations of above". etc.

      You label page 4 "your beliefs" - by doing so you are automatically
      asking for an argumentative response... if that's your goal, great...
      but most people get automatically defensive about "beliefs". You might
      want to change either the title of that page, or not have titled pages
      at all... Additionally, the questions on page 4 have SHOUTS in them
      that automatically make them seem more intimidating... is that really
      what you want?

      There are some obvious questions that indirectly will tell you about
      the beliefs on sight reading: What requirement is there for having the
      sheet music available during each of the stages of learning a song
      (initial read through, learning process, "off the paper", "tweaking")?
      What requirement is there for having the "words only" during the same
      stages?

      Hope that gets more discussion started for you!

      Alan LeVezu


      On May 2, 2009, at 5:17 PM, tomgoldie wrote:

      > I have brought up the subject of reading music and barbershop
      > education before on the Harmonet, but I guess am too stupid to take
      > absolute silence as "we're not interested in the subject". I
      > BELIEVE it is an important subject for barbershoppers -- and
      > probably THE key subject -- yet it seems that no one cares to talk
      > about it in the open Maybe it is a type of "caste" system that
      > barbershoppers don't want to acknowledge, or it's out of keeping
      > with our "barbershopping is for the average person" advertising, or
      > perhaps because it REALLY doesn't matter.
      >
      > Well, I'm trying to get some answers one way or another. And if YOU
      > are interested in the topic, please suggest changes to the following
      > survey. If I can get it acceptable to those who have a similar
      > interest, then I'll make the survey available to anyone in
      > barbershop with internet access.
      >
      > Thanks!
      >
      >
      > Survey follows:
      >
      >
      > Page 1: Your experience
      >
      >
      > 1. What is your association with barbershop?
      >
      > Member of a barbershop organization (BHS, SAI, HI, other)
      > Independent barbershop singer
      > Other singer who likes barbershop (vocal jazz group, church choir
      > member, etc.)
      >
      >
      > 2. What is the highest level of QUARTET PERFORMANCE you have reached?
      >
      > I rarely sing in a quartet.
      > I sing comfortably in chapter meetings in pick-up quartets.
      > I have sung in a pick-up quartet in a chapter show or other public
      > performance.
      > I have competed as part of a quartet in some sort of quartet
      > competition.
      > I have never sung in a quartet.
      >
      >
      >
      > 3. What is the highest level of CHORUS PERFORMANCE you have reached?
      >
      > I have sung with a chorus but not for the public or competitively.
      > I have sung with a chorus for the public and at shows.
      > I have sung with a chorus competitively.
      > I have not sung with a chorus.
      >
      >
      > 4. What positions have you held in any singing organization of which
      > you are or have been part?
      >
      > Section member.
      > Section leader.
      > Assistant director.
      > Director.
      > I have not been part of a singing organization.
      >
      >
      > Page 2: How You Learn Music
      >
      > 1. For music which you have had to MEMORIZE for performance, rate
      > the methods you have used for their effectiveness choosing from the
      > following responses -- Never used this method, Ineffective, Neutral,
      > Effective
      >
      > Singing along with others who know the music
      > Recording rehearsals and playing back later
      > Learning tracks -- vocal or tonal
      > Reading the sheet music while listening to learning tracks
      > Reading the sheet music only
      > Recording my own singing and comparing to written music to check for
      > errors in words or notes
      > Recording my own singing for accuracy review by another (director,
      > section leader, etc.)
      >
      > Page 3: Your Music Education Background
      >
      > 1. I have had the following music education experiences -- take
      > "classes" to mean "performance" and "theory" classes, but NOT
      > "appreciation" classes:
      >
      > Music classes in elementary school.
      > Music classes in junior high/middle school.
      > Music classes in high school.
      > Music classes in college.
      >
      >
      >
      > 2. Choose any of the following which describe you:
      >
      > I can play a musical instrument.
      > I have played in an instrument in an ensemble for the public.
      > I have been involved in a competition as a band member.
      >
      >
      >
      > 3. Which of the following best describes your ability to READ music?
      >
      > I cannot read music at all.
      > I can read music a little, but cannot figure out my complete part by
      > reading the sheet music.
      > I can read music well enough to figure out my part from looking at
      > sheet music.
      > I can sight read well enough that only the toughest passages require
      > extra study or practice.
      > I can sight read most any part from the sheet music "on the fly".
      >
      >
      >
      > Page 4: Your Beliefs:
      >
      > 1. In your opinion, the following is true:
      >
      > Reading music is NOT important to being a good barbershopper.
      > Reading music is only really necessary for barbershop directors.
      > Reading music on ONE factor among many that helps make a good
      > barbershopper.
      > Reading music is the key difference between a good and GREAT
      > barbershopper.
      > Reading music is DETRIMENTAL to being a good barbershopper
      >
      > 2. IF reading music is an important skill for barbershop singers:
      >
      > There are proven methods I KNOW OF which work for adult learners,
      > and they ARE being widely used.
      > There are proven methods I KNOW OF which work for adult learners,
      > but they are not being widely used.
      > Reading music is an individual thing, so everyone must find their
      > own way -- finding a system that works for a large majority of
      > adults is futile.
      > There is a NEED for proven methods that work for adult learners.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > ------------------------------------
      >
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      >
      >
    • Leaderman
      I have always said that most barbershoppers read music. If you don t believe it, watch them when they sing. Their head will go up and down just like the notes
      Message 2 of 6 , May 3, 2009
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        I have always said that most barbershoppers read music. If you don't
        believe it, watch them when they sing. Their head will go up and down
        just like the notes do. And really, that's what music reading is -
        following the notes up and down.

        Now before the flames start, I realize there is much more to it than
        that for serious note readers. I have been a music educator and church
        musician, along with many other forms of music all my life, including
        instrumental music.

        What we as vocalists do is, as Alan points out, ear singing. Therefore
        music reading for vocalists is really about ear training more than
        knowing what the note name is or the key signature. My wife is a prime
        example of that. She is a fine pianist, a flautist and singer. She can
        sight-read 95% of the people under the table. However, she can't tell
        you what a key signature really means. She can hear all parts of a Bach
        Passion in her head at all times when singing, but doesn't know what key
        something is written in. Does she read music? You bet (better than I in
        many ways).

        I agree with Alan that reading music in the strict sense of the word,
        like instrumentalists, is much less important than some of us think. Ear
        training, however, is much more important.

        --
        Sing-cerely & Humm-bly,

        John Elving
        VP Mus. & Perf.
        Editor-in-Cheap, First Place 2008 Online Bulletin
        Shrine of Democracy Chorus
        2007 & 2008 BOTY
        RMD CDD VP
        PROBE VP- Bulletin Editors
        Outstanding In Front - Certified Trainer
        Certified Standing Ovation Trainer & Reviewer
        Rapid City, SD
        Email: leaderman@...




        Alan LeVezu wrote:
        >
        > Unlike most musical instruments, singing (voice) is controlled
        > entirely by "feel". There's no way for someone to tell you exactly how
        > to raise or lower the pitch of your voice - you have to just do it
        > (then you have to learn to control it). Even on a trombone, you can
        > be told to slide in or out a bit to get to the right pitch. Thus, by
        > it's very nature, more than any other, your voice is a "by ear"
        > instrument.
        >
        > That being said, what you do to learn to read music for a vocalist
        > seems to me to be a different learning experience than for an
        > instrumentalist. When I play piano, I know that to play a Bb means I
        > must put one of my fingers on the black key directly to the left of a
        > "C" key. I know that to play an "E" on the guitar means that I need to
        > pluck the open 1st string, or the second string pressed at the 5th
        > fret. But, I don't have perfect pitch. When I SING a Bb, it is always
        > relative to something ELSE I've heard. That very difference is the
        > reason (to me) that reading music is less important to us than to
        > others.
        >
      • Tom Goldie
        Whoa! I am not disagreeing that ear training is important -- it is very important in barbershop, so one can tell when they re that 0.1 cents flat or sharp --
        Message 3 of 6 , May 3, 2009
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          Whoa! I am not disagreeing that ear training is important -- it is very
          important in barbershop, so one can tell when they're that 0.1 cents
          flat or sharp -- I don't think it changes my hypothesis:

          Sight readers (those who can discern their part from written music) have
          a great advantage in barbershop, and imparting that skill can change for
          the better how far a barbershopper progresses.

          I do not think this is a "one or the other" proposition: I would argue
          that written music is a language that expresses the concepts necessary
          for a large part of ear training, though it may not be necessary or
          sufficient. I think you'll also find that any method of teaching ear
          singing will incorporate concepts that are the basics of sight reading.
          Because an ear singer will eventually have to learn some music, they are
          best and most successfully taught together in harmony :-)

          If you mean to say that an ear-singing program would be of more benefit
          to the society, then I'd say rehearsal IS that program. And I believe
          the survey -- if widely distributed and thoughtfully responded to --
          will demonstrate that sight readers (as defined above) benefit the most
          from that program. Ear training/rehearsal is important. But I believe
          the average person, to get the most from that program and to excel in
          it, could use something more.

          So you know, I believe "melodic memory" is also an important skill, and
          tags are ONE method of teaching the fundamentals of it, then polecats
          extend that, and so on. So whether we know it or not, we DO have a
          program to teach that!

          Leaderman wrote:
          > I have always said that most barbershoppers read music. If you don't
          > believe it, watch them when they sing. Their head will go up and down
          > just like the notes do. And really, that's what music reading is -
          > following the notes up and down.
          >
          > Now before the flames start, I realize there is much more to it than
          > that for serious note readers. I have been a music educator and church
          > musician, along with many other forms of music all my life, including
          > instrumental music.
          >
          > What we as vocalists do is, as Alan points out, ear singing. Therefore
          > music reading for vocalists is really about ear training more than
          > knowing what the note name is or the key signature. My wife is a prime
          > example of that. She is a fine pianist, a flautist and singer. She can
          > sight-read 95% of the people under the table. However, she can't tell
          > you what a key signature really means. She can hear all parts of a
          > Bach Passion in her head at all times when singing, but doesn't know
          > what key something is written in. Does she read music? You bet (better
          > than I in many ways).
          >
          > I agree with Alan that reading music in the strict sense of the word,
          > like instrumentalists, is much less important than some of us think.
          > Ear training, however, is much more important.
          >
        • Bill Byrd
          I tell folks learning,how to sing barbershop, and Joining my groups, that it is not important if you can read music. What is important is that you want to
          Message 4 of 6 , May 3, 2009
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            I tell folks learning,how to sing barbershop, and Joining my groups, that it
            is not important if you can read music. What is important is that you want
            to sing. Can match pitches, and can hear when you are wrong. I can teach you
            how to read music. I would submit that anyone who stands on the risers for a
            while, (a year or so), learns some fundamentals of music reading, They are
            like tourists that can read street signs. It takes more study to really know
            the language.
            BTW, in my home chapter, Norfolk VA, we have an average active membership
            around 30. Except for the two newest members, everyone active in the
            chapter, and most of the 25 non chorus singers in our ranks (think of as non
            active members that keep renewing) hava performed in public in a quartet. We
            are very proud of that. We are a little down right now, and have a new
            director, (thank you Susan Ayers) and are rebuilding, We expect to sing
            around a 65 in our division contest with 17 guys on the risers.
            Bill Byrd


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          • Ed McKenzie
            Tom - My response will be much shorter than that of Alan Le Vezu, who obviously gave his a lot of thought. As an aside, I would agreed with everything Alan
            Message 5 of 6 , May 4, 2009
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              Tom -

              My response will be much shorter than that of Alan Le Vezu, who obviously
              gave his a lot of thought. As an aside, I would agreed with everything Alan
              said with one exception. I don't typically look for a hidden agend in a
              survey (probably my shortcoming). Thus, I would look at the survey as an
              effort to help solve a perceived problem that is really bothering you in
              your barbershop group and you don't necessarily have a plan (a product to
              offer) but a goal (how can I get more guys able to read music).

              I have done this same sort of thing and I didn't have a product to peddle.
              I was trying to get a judge in my chapter to either produce or promote the
              society to produce part specific warm up tapes that chorus and quartet
              members can listen to and vocalize with on the way to meetings.

              My only comment was on question 3.1, talking about music education
              experiences. You will miss answers (and generate some degree of contempt
              that you didn't think it important enough) from singers who have attended
              Harmony College, Harmony University, any number of district HEP-type
              schools, or gotten coaching on an occasional or regular basis as a quartet
              or chorus member. Echoing Alan on that specific question, I'm not sure what
              that information will tell you regarding being able to read music.

              Moreover, I would have also to echo Alan's general theme that it's not clear
              what the answers to the questions will tell you that aren't obvious to the
              singer interested enough to take the survey in the first place.

              - Ed McKenzie

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