Re: [bbshop] Seeking input on a survey about reading music and barbershopping...
- 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
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...
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"
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
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
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
Hope that gets more discussion started for you!
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.
> 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
> I have competed as part of a quartet in some sort of quartet
> 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.
> 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,
> 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
> Reading music is the key difference between a good and GREAT
> 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
- 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
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
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,
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
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"
> 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
- 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!
> 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.
- 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
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.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- 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
Disclaimer - This email message is composed of 100% recycled words. All the
words were drafted in the past, have been used before, and consist of 100%
post-creative content. No animals, plants, minerals, legal aliens or
illegal aliens were in any way harmed in the production of these words, in
spell checking them, in formatting them, or in their use or reuse. Each
word and each reproduction thereof is environmentally conscious, socially
responsible, non-labor union typed and formatted, gender neutral (except and
only where the context requires otherwise), non-addictive, non-alcoholic,
low stress, non-organically grown, genetically unaltered, carbon footprint
neutral, fat-free, cholesterol-free, sugar-free, carbohydrate-free,
protein-free, lactose-free, PVC-free, calcium-free, steroid-free, salt-free,
PCB-free, nutrition-free, flavor-free, and otherwise content-free.
If you are reading this email on a video display, all the electrons therein
that have been excited to contribute to the image so displayed have been
recycled from among electrons that have been previously so excited, and each
may be further recycled for re-excitation in future emails or other video
imaging processes. They neither have suffered nor will they suffer any
measurable harm in the process.
If you are reading this email on a printed page, whether from a dot-matrix
printer, ink-jet printer, or laser printer, and whether printed in black or
in color ink - then shame on you, wastrel! Regardless, the paper on which
this email was printed either was or should have been processed in a
carbon-neutral, environmentally sensitive manner from 100% natural cellulose
material, commonly known as trees, that were planted, grown, organically
fertilized, harvested, transported, and otherwise processed for this express
purpose. Trees are a natural, renewable resource, a non-genetically
modified, organically grown crop, as are, say, Aunt Emilys carrots. While
there is a longer time interval between planting and harvest, and greater
use of increasingly scarce, valuable natural inputs, such as soil and its
constituent minerals, sunlight, naturally-occurring rain water, and
wind-generated fertilization and its consequent naturally-randomized
germination processes, for trees as compared to carrots, each tree does
yield significantly more usable product than does each carrot plant.
Nonetheless, we strongly recommend that if you must print out emails
(wastrel!), that you do so utilizing carrots, as they are grown by quicker,
less intensive, and more efficient and sustainable, agricultural processes
than are trees. Additionally, should it prove necessary or advisable, you
can more palatably eat your own words, preferably with a vegan, organically
grown dressing of choice than if you choose to print the email (wastrel!) on
a processed tree.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]