Dojo Method


How do you acquire musical fluency? This is the topic for this page. If you're going to build, you need a good foundation. the existing musical system provides a very poor foundation. In this page I will show the need for a new foundation, which I am providing.

The Fletcher Music Method


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I am building on the pioneering work of Evelyn Fletcher-Copp, who pioneered a radical musical teaching method 100 years ago. She was, in the midst of a religiously fearful and straightlaced Victorian society, having the children run around the piano playing notes, dropping the piano keys on the ground and having them fit them back into the piano, stretching string across the room as staves and having the children clip notes to them, teaching the children (with consistent success) to be able to sing or identify any note on demand (a skill many people even today do not believe a typical child is capable of acquiring). More than this, she was working with the children holistically, paying attention to their spiritual development, to their psychology, to their overall behaviour and mental development. If you are interested, follow the link and get the book. You will not regret it!

However, I am going to take her work one step forwards. While being radical and revolutionary, she stopped short of completely reworking the entire musical system. This is the work I'm undertaking. This is well motivated work. You are invited to throw your best shot, if I'm still standing then you may know the truth of this.

Principles

These principles are basic common sense.

1. Start with the voice

" if you wish to play, you must first learn to sing " ... Chopin

How many people have attempted to learn a musical instrument without first acquiring some confidence with their own inbuilt musical instrument (ie their voice). Most people believe that it is impossible for an ordinary person to acquire perfect pitch, but it has been proven that this can be taught just like any other skill. Take a moment to realise the madness of this.
  • You should be aware of all of the notes that lie within your singing range and able to produce any of these upon demand
  • Then you should work on being able to recognise any piano note

2. Learn music through music

How many people attempt to learn music from musical theory? Now a child does not learn his mother tongue by studying grammar books, yet he is fluent. And a professor of languages who studies grammar will never have that same fluency. This principle has started to be understood for language teaching (eg TEFL). but it has not been widely adopted in the teaching of the language of music. Again, please take a moment to consider the madness of this.

We do not teach a baby to memorise Shakespeare sonnets, and then expect him to be fluent in English. No, once the baby grasps even a basic concept, she is already playing with it in every possible way, turning it upside down, trying it out in every combination. If we are to be fluent musically, we must let go of these ' Shakespeare sonnets ' and regress all the way back to something we can get a handle on, even if it is ' three blind mice ', even further.

'It is more what you unlearn.' ... Naran

3. Use an intelligent system of representation

The piano keyboard is the most universal piece of musical apparatus after our voice. And where our voice finds infinitely many pitches, the piano keyboard resolves to 12 classes of note.

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Why do we start on C? And why do the white notes have a unique symbol, whereas the black ones do not? Most people are content to think that there is a very good reason for this, and it is beyond their intellect, so they will take it on trust. However, if you look to the core, you will find that the whole foundation upon which our system of musical representation is based is unintelligent! This notation is based on the diatonic (7 note) C Major scale. while it was perfect for playing early church music,

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look at the amount of botching that is required to represent more modern music.
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In order to fully comprehend the extent of the mess we are in, read this page.

Now, the piano is capable of expressing pretty much any music we wish to express. It may not express it perfectly, but it gives all the necessary information to reconstruct the original musical idea. let me give you an example, take for example Beethoven's violin Concerto. this beautiful piece of music will not transfer very elegantly to the piano. All of the intervals will be slightly off, because a piano is confined to its set of pitches. It is, unlike the violin, a fixed pitch instrument. However, a skilled violinist will be able to listen to the piano rendition and perfectly reproduce the original.

Therefore, the 12 classes of note present on a modern piano are sufficient for expressing any musical idea well enough for it to be recognised and reconstructed by a skilled musician. Just as a photograph of a sunset does not capture the majesty of the sunset, yet it is enough to communicate the idea.

Can you see? Since the dawn of time we have been working around a system of 7 notes, for our systems of musical representation.

My system works around 12 notes. this is a radical shift.

With seven notes, infinitely many notes get generated as we move musically, a complex theory emerges. but using a system of 12, we never move outside the system of 12. by closing the circle, we have reduced an infinite basis to a basis of 12 elements. this will be far easier to study, contemplate, assimilate, comprehend, notate.

If you are astute you may be thinking ' but this new representation is not truly representing the notes, it is a fudge. '

This is a brilliant question! I wonder if anyone has pre-empted it. The answer is even more illuminating.

The answer is that the existing system is a fudge! Don't think the existing system is an accurate representation! When we modulate from C -> G, look at what happens to the note D. This note is actually at a different pitch if a trained singer is performing. The piano cannot find this pitch, it has only one key for D. But a singer or a violinist can find a subtle difference. Conventional musical notation totally fails to elucidate this. It successfully notates F# as distinct from Gb, but it fails to notate D (C Major) as distinct from D (G Major). It is a complete failing of the system.

In contrast my system of 12 is honest and fair. Every key is treated equivalently.

The existing system has C Major in the middle, and every other key spirals outwards from this centre. My system has an empty centre. The 12 keys are spaced around the circle, with nothing in the centre.

Can you see yet? Can you see the benefit of a basis of 12 instead of a basis of 7?

Remember that musical theory not something fundamental to music. It is just a theory of the representation. A musician doesn't need this theory any more than a cat requires quantum physics to catch a mouse. Isaac Newton with his theory of gravity will never understand existence the way Buddha understands existence. Observe the blind three-year-old, she is already musically fluent -- she will never need musical theory.