Musical Literacy and Literature in Strings Education

Musical Literacy and Literature in Strings Education

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3359-8.ch003


Chapter 3 seeks a meaningful way of acquiring musical literacy and literature through learning the string instruments. In this section, the book offers actual musical examples for the learners. The chapter also introduces practical strategies on when and how to teach musical notation to early strings learners. The author expands the discussion on music reading and shares teaching examples with a special emphasis on acquiring musical literature and literacy as the students perceive more enjoyment as they read music of various kinds. The author also includes an adaptation of Dalcroze methods, choral methods, and composition methods to the violin teaching and learning with more specific musical examples on reading.
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This chapter deals with the critical issues of musical literacy and musical literature for beginner strings learners. In general, in our contemporary society, not only in the field of music education, there is an obvious force and direction for every child to acquire literacy. For example, in the U.S., Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the concomitant academic discourse illustrate to ensure that all of our students are literate in the 21st century. In the realm of music education, in the U.S., the National Standards for Music Education indicates reading and notating music as one of the standards for K-12 music education. The U.S. Standards specifically mention the use of various systems that are, syllables, numbers, or letters to read simple pitch notation in the treble clef in major keys for K-4 Grade children. For the children in Grade 5-8, the Standards illustrated reading simple melodies at sight in both the treble and bass clefs. In Japan, there is no mention of teaching musical literacy in Japanese Course of Kindergarten. For elementary and upper grades, there is mention for students becoming able to read music in Japanese Course of Music. In Suzuki Method, Suzuki himself mentions that “reading should be taught as the child reaches the Vivaldi A Minor Concerto, depending on the child’s age” (Starr, 2000, p.159). Starr (2000) points out that children especially in youth orchestras or school orchestral classes should maintain sight reading skills. The book provides practical ways for readers to allow children to enjoy reading, and expand their repertoire.

When we consider literacy and literature particularly in music, we need to pay special attention. First, young children and/ or novice learners of music without sufficient knowledge of musical literacy can perceive and understand musical literature and enjoy them. In fact, even very young children could listen to and enjoy the music of Beethoven without reading musical notation or understand structures, etc. This is a crucial point that even very young children can understand musical composition composed by master composers without specific musical knowledge, but perceive them simply by listening. Another case in point, a great Russian composer Igor Stravinsky said in 1961, “My music is best understood by animals and children.” Children explore a wide range of musical literature followed by acquiring musical literacy. In terms of flow research in mind, even young children ages under 2 listen to music and experience flow. The flow indicator would be a serious eye gaze at the performer or to move their body by responding to music (Akutsu, 2018).

Second, children master musical literacy in various different ways based on their music education in schools, community and cultural practices. In some cases, reading of music expand students’ possibility of acquiring musical literature and enjoy them more. In the happy case, students usually request the teacher for more music to play, and enjoys some higher challenge to read music. Nevertheless, in some other cases, music reading itself diminishes students’ motivation toward music learning because they simply feel that they are not good at music due to a lack of sufficient musical literacy skills. Therefore, with flow theory based approach, it is a good idea for teachers to prepare several different ways and approaches to teach musical literacy, and offer musical instruction to experience musical literacy without mush struggle of the students. Using flow indicators helps for teacher to find the most suitable method of music reading in each moment of learning.

It is also good to know that there are various different approaches to read music. When I lived in the US as a violinist and a violin teacher, I noticed that some young children sing songs by using C-D-E (note names) instead of syllables. I am wondering if American children use either note name or syllables in a moveable sense. The following are a few responses from my U.S. colleagues professional musicians and teachers, on how they learned syllables:

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