Last week I looked at what music notation is for and if you need it to sing.
This week I’d like to lay out what I think are the benefits and shortfalls of using sheet music to teach and learn songs.
advantages of teaching by ear
- no looking at pieces of paper – singers can focus properly on their director (and it’s not a problem when they forget to bring their music with them!)
- no need to photocopy – or buy lots of copies of the music (cheaper and less hassle)
- complex rhythms will be learnt through the body – and not intellectually on the page
- emphasis on ears and not eyes – it is, after all, an aural and oral medium
- easier to add clapping, dance steps, etc. – without bits of paper getting lost or books being dropped
- no ‘perfect’ rendition to aim for – the singers won’t have the constant reminder of an ‘ideal’ version of the music staring at them
- no possibility of reading ahead – seeing the whole score at once can seem daunting, also if the song is taught and built up in segments, it can often be learnt better
- learning together creates a sense of community – people are able to look at and listen to each other and feel they are all part of one whole
- complex rhythms often look very difficult when written down – whereas if you just teach it by engaging the body and getting everyone moving together, it can be much easier
advantages of using sheet music
- can teach very complex songs – especially very long or structurally difficult ones
- helps visual learners – although it’s good to exercise ears more than eyes
- have a back up – the written music can remind us of our parts and/ or we can rehearse on our own at home
- egalitarian – musical director doesn’t have all the power or act as gatekeeper, everyone is in the same position with the music in front of them
- easy to disseminate music (but we now have recording devices, so not so relevant)
- creates ‘product’ – a composition or arrangement that can be sold
Is there anything I’ve left out? Do leave a comment. If you’re reading this by email or in an RSS reader, you should find a ‘comment’ link at the bottom that you can click on.
Chris Rowbury's website: chrisrowbury.com