MusicStrategy: an experiment that is not primarily solfege
Written by: Csaba Tőri
June 26, 2020
Let me start by quoting the most common question asked by almost all my inquiring acquaintances: “Now isn’t this just solfege?”
I thought it would be worthwhile to dedicate an article to illuminate from three perspectives how the MusicStrategy differs from a classic solfege class.
I will quickly point out that it naturally contains elements of solfege, and even elements of music theory – if I look at its professional side, I have taken especially a lot of advantage of working as a solfege teacher while constructing it.
At the same time, the goal was to approach the topic from a new perspective: to finally come up with a training that focuses on the knowledge that an amateur musician, let be it a choir singer or an instrumental player, really needs.
So, the first point of view is: what do we really use regularly in our daily tasks? (And how can these be well separated into levels?)
Our goal is to really teach what our students want to use later – and all this so that they can experience spectacular development quickly, within only 2-3 months. Therefore, I have been looking for solutions for the typical problems that have arisen over the last 10-12 years, to prevent being too dry and unpredictable for any amateur.
Courses at each level consist of 10 occasions, and the course titles exactly symbolize the level they can achieve. We explicitly include in the syllabus that the abstraction abilities of the adult age group are much better than those of the children – that is, it is also much easier to achieve that, contrary to beliefs, it does not take more than 2-3 months to reach an assessable level of knowledge.
The other thing that we also implement in it that someone regularly plays music on another area too, he or she can practice certain elements with his or her group even during the rehearsals.
No prior knowledge is required for the Intro groups, and the tasks are arranged in such a way that no complicated skills are required – at the same time, by the end of the 10 weeks together, there is a stable orientation between tones, major rhythms and easier intervals.
At the end of the Overview Groups, I sincerely believe that you, in case you review the intermediate tasks (up to 40-50 minutes per week), will learn all the information that an amateur musician encounters with. So far, we also read sheet music in a relatively stable way – even with slightly modified sounds – and the independent knowledge is emphasized: how to adjust among complex tones, complex melodies.
The next two levels, the Getting Deeper and Almost Professionals courses, are for those who want to learn more, deeper and more exciting – and they would have had a chance to do so at most if they had been approved at the conservatory long time ago. We are working here to launch the team in the direction of a much deeper understanding during the ten sessions.
The second point of view already comes as a consequence of this: The time that can be taken.
I regularly hear that as an adult, many people do not get into learning to read music, because they do not have time for it. Or because they have heard enough times about that how dry and boring solfege is. And the worst part is that I have never understood why it is so dry for many. I had a teacher who ran a lot of good games – and although we spent a lot of time with this in class or over the years, but mainly because we had the opportunity and time as a child – and playing music together developed us in other issues as well.
So, our goal is to give a real leap improvement in 10 weeks, dedicating 90-100 minutes a week – and it is good to see that in the groups we’ve already achieved this, we’ve done quite well.
Finally: the quality of understanding.
As a child, one’s way of thinking works completely differently, as we learn to write, count, draw – even sing, and build friendships at the same time. As adults, however, we are already familiar with interconnected systems, we see structures that a child does not necessarily need to know yet, much easier.
Therefore, the whole training can be reversed: many times we get to the elements from the whole, as almost everyone has more or less an experience of what the points in question are – and this allows us to present the full chord and melodic thinking based on these topics – always adapted to the difficulty requirements of the group.
The first element of the experiment is over: what has been a strong dilemma for me so far, I can see now that it has already worked for a couple of people – in 10 weeks they were built in a lot of contexts that I sometimes didn’t even hope for. Of course, every team will be different – that is why I am happy, because every process will be a new challenge for me too.
However, I am now reassured and I would like as many people as possible to know: it is not really “just” solfege – and I feel we have managed to come up with a method for that I have longed for ages: a predictable, just 2-3 months long, really efficient course you don’t have to spend an incredible amount of time, yet whoever comes with us will leave with stable knowledge.
If you feel like, you can read about it more: