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Why aren't 14 year olds able to read music?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Phantom of the Opera, Jun 20, 2007.

  1. gilly33

    gilly33 New commenter

    As a mother of a talented musician, aged 10, the problem.

    Whenever I went into a secondary school music dept , for our older sons, I was greeted by a self made poster stating crochet counts one, minim counts two, semi breve 4 and wait for it dotted crochet counts 1.5.

    Our LEA ensembles give choirs and groups CD's for practice. How the hell are they supposed to learn to read music let alone sight read? They learn songs in choirs from a sheet of lyrics, no music.

    My daughter knew more than her primary teacher when she was at school, and I know this to be the case at many secondary schools. Ok, I know she is the exception but the system is really failing in the provision of music.

    I know many of you do the best with what you have and my main gripe isn't with you. Well apart from the counting of notes bit. Children learn fractions at an early age and can understand whole note, half note, quarter, eighth etc.
  2. That's the American system.

    Over here, we use "crotchet", "minim", "quaver" etc. right up to graduate level.

    I'm sure you wouldn't want your child to be taught the American way of spelling certain words, even if they might appear easier and more logical.
  3. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Mind you, even the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music uses American time names alongside British ones in its theory papers.
  4. FCarpenter

    FCarpenter New commenter

    I'm delighted notation is firmly in the KS2 curriculum. It's an important part of music at any level, in my opinion. And besides, once they start to crack it, which isn't long if taught the right way, children love to be able to read it and write it. It's like a new language they are suddenly awakened to. Good old Gove, on this one. Best to be an all round musician, creative but with firm skills and knowledge backing the creativity.
  5. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    The thing is, despite the American system, crotchets aren't always 'quarter notes'. E.g. in 3/4 time a crotchet would not be a quarter of a bar; quavers are not eighths etc. So the poster you're talking about, actually makes more sense.

    I'm not sure how you "know it [pupils knowing more than music teachers] to be the case at many secondary schools".
  6. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    To get good at reading music you have to do it very regularly. Certainly, a 1 hour lesson per week is not going to be sufficient, even with homework. And that of course assumes that all of the lesson is devoted to improving music reading - every lesson!

    The ones who play instruments that rely on reading (e.g. trumpet) get good at reading music.

    The ones who play instruments that don't necessarily* rely on reading music (e.g. guitar, vocals, drum kit) can get good at reading music but must go out of their way a little more if they want to improve at it.

    The ones who just attend the 1 hour a week KS3 music lessons (or even less frequently at KS2) do not get good at reading music.

    It's that simple.

    *"necessarily", as in, there is of course loads of written guitar, vocal and drum kit music but it's possible to be a good player without being able to read. This is less likely on trumpet/clarinet/oboe where they're looking at music all the time. I'm afraid I'll have to ignore any poster who now shares anecdotes about brilliant rock guitarists who can read music well, as if that disproves my point, because I've already acknowledged that.
  7. FCarpenter

    FCarpenter New commenter

    I agree, YesMrBronson, you have to practise notation to get good at it, but in a few lessons, using Kodaly, for example, (but not exclusively, I use the best bits as I see them) children can learn to grasp what notation is about, and see how it works. Like decoding reading. Even if they don't use the knowledge very often, it is not then a complete mystery to them as they get older, and may well inspire some to want to learn more. That's how I see it. I've always taught the basics at KS1/2. Rhythmic notation, pitch notation C to C, playing percussion from very simple tunes. Just a taster, really. And I call a crotchet a 1 beat note, quavers half a beat long, crotchet rest, minim etc. And make sure they know the names. They love to know them and can remember them if you do it enough and make games of it, very young indeed. Right down to reception. (As well as all the other 'creative' music activities. Although you can make learning notation very creative too.)
  8. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    If I remember correctly (and it is a very long time ago!) I first learnt to read music through singing in the classroom. Our books contained the melody line, in standard staff notation, and although the only notation we were taught consisted of the still inexplicable "French" time names (ta-fa-te-fe etc), it soon became obvious, from following the shapes of the notes on the stave as the teacher outlined each phrase, how notation worked.
  9. Basso_Profundo

    Basso_Profundo New commenter


    That's the American system.

    Over here, we use "crotchet", "minim", "quaver" etc. right up to graduate level.

    I'm sure you wouldn't want your child to be taught the American way of spelling certain words, even if they might appear easier and more logical.

    Precisely, apart from which, either there is a note (sound) or there's silence (rest).

    We don't say a child is a quarter-person, half person ... Either there is a person, or there isn't. We don't categorise by height or weight.

    Whilst there is some logic to the American system, it is still flawed, in my opinion.

    For example, if you use the fraction system logically, them whet you term a "whole note" should depend on the time signature. For example in 3/4 or $/4 time, a crotchet should count as a "whole note" (1 beat); whereas in 6/8 or 7/8 time, a quaver becomes the whole note; conversely, in 3/2 time, the minim is the point of reference.

    Since this becomes very confusing, much better simply to have names for each note duration, in the same way we identify each pupil in a class by name.

    Etta James : Minim C

    Karl Stockhausen : Quaver Bb

    Wolfgang Mozart : Crotchet G

    so Leopold Mozrt might be Minim G

    and John Cage : (protracted) Semibreve Rest ...


    PS Ironic that browser spell-check wants me to spell categorize the American way!
  10. Basso_Profundo

    Basso_Profundo New commenter

    ... and yes, of course, the ability to read a score is not the make or break of a successful musician - Sir Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton are living millionaire proof of that.

    But, in addition, we shouldn't overlook the validity of alternate forms of notation. Especially when dealing with newer (post WW2 and computer) technologies, the five-line stave alone is sometimes insufficient.

    Witness some of the examples here, or some of the examples illustrated by Stuckenschmindt (Twentieth Century Music) and later authors.
  11. notable

    notable New commenter

    It certainly can in my experience. I taught whole class music to KS2/3/4 for many years. I would introduce one new concept in rhythm, eg; a pair of quavers and do some class games with it, followed by a class activity in small groups, eg: make up your own 4 bar rhythm including at least one pair of quavers. Each group would perform their "composition". Then they would swap and perform each other's. Homework would be based on this activity with chance to perform and give peer evaluation during the next lesson. This kind of "ownership" of the music worked wonders in terms of ability and enjoyment. I also introduced one pitch concept each week, eg a fifth which we would sing using a short given lyric, then their choice of a pop lyric they already know or compose one themselves. HMK would include this interval plus the quaver pair. It was a slow cumulative process, but it worked.
  12. notable

    notable New commenter

    I quite agree. You don't learn to read by studying individual letters and syllables for an hour a week. You don't learn he relationship between numbers by counting digits for an hour a week. Yet that's how so many pupils view reading music. Odd isn't it? I always find engagement with the process is key to progress. If the students feel some sense of ownership of the music their enthusiasm for mastering reading and playing skills tends to carry longer through the week as they are eager to "perform" at the next lesson.
  13. sparklepig2002

    sparklepig2002 Star commenter

    Well said Fran-see her posts above.

    I agree with what she says.We are expected to teach notation in KS2. In my opinion notation should be taught practically-the trouble in primary school is the lack or resources. I have taught simple notation to year 2/3 through weekly recorder lessons. We use also use xylophones and glockenspiels as I don't have any keyboards-hence I only teach right hand notes. We have a giant floor stave and we play games and do activities that get the children up and moving on the stave. We have a set of djembe drums, so the length of notes can be easily taught through drumming activities. The curriculum states that by the time the children leave year 6 they should be able to read notation-but there is no guidance as to how far to go or what should be taught. It would have been more useful to state something like "By the time the children in year 6 leave school they should be able to read the lines and spaces. know about crotchets, minins etc". By doing that, at least the year 7 teachers would know what to expect from the children starting at secondary school and there would be a baseline on which to build.
  14. When a child learns a language, do they read and write first or speak first?

    Music is a language.

    For musically gifted children to get to grade 8 Theory it can just be a paper exercise that takes 3-4 years when an 8 year old is pushed.

    What is the point?

    Time in music lessons is very limited. A few notions about the writing of music can help a child but it is not going to get them fluent, no more than a few lessons of French is going to make a child bilingual. It is about deciding what you are not going to teach them.

    If music programmes in UK were exclusively about European Music then there would be more logic to do only standard notation; however Indian music can have 20-25 notes in an octave so how is a student meant understand standard notation in the context of Indian music?..
  15. Ah but in France

    Ut Ré Mi Fa Sol..

    In Swiss French, China, Japan...

    Do Ré Mi Fa

    For the notes C D E F G A.

    French people use noire (= crotchet) croche (=quaver) and all kinds of words for the other lengths.

    Ta fa te is a unique part of the Primary school experience in England not 'French'.
  16. mzuzu

    mzuzu New commenter

    We, in France, don't use UT much anymore, Do is more common. (Before anyone makes their world music language poster!)
  17. New to this forum but had to comment after reading this. The American system is just a system but being American it makes sense to me because when we were taught the names of the notes, quarter and so on it was made clear that in 4/4 time these notes would be called quarter, eight, whole, half, etc.. It's all based on common time or 4/4. now in 3/4 time we know there are 3 beats in the bar and a dotted half note would be used. So the names are given to the notes based on a 4/4 time signature but used in all time signatures. Learning the British system was not that big a deal it is just a different name of the notes. Now the counting system I use may start another debate/forum. (1e&da 2e&da.....)
  18. 25975

    25975 New commenter

    I think it is down to the lack of instrumental lessons now happening in the state sector along with less time for choral work.

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