Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Music: A World of Opportunities for Sightless Students Part 2 of 2: Memory Is the Key

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Music: A World of Opportunities for Sightless Students Part 2 of 2: Memory Is the Key

Article excerpt

The ability to memorize music is essential for a sightless student to learn and perform music. The only exception may be a vocalist who can choose to use Braille materials when performing. This column will give three practical methods by which a musician without vision may gradually learn and then completely know a musical selection from memory. Effective techniques include learning by rote, reading/using Music Braille copies of scores, and listening to pieces from recordings. The suggested strategies are based on the author's personal experience as a music learner.

First, learning by rote involves assistance from a sighted or sightless music teacher. Rote learning includes verbal dictation techniques and practical demonstrations of a piece by the educator. Initially, oral dictation involves the teacher describing the following: vocal warmups to use; lyrics and vowels to sing; melodic parts to hear; finger placements on the instrument; notation signs to be played and opportunities for the learner to then play or sing a short passage that has been explained. Next, the educator corrects any mistakes that are heard and encourages the student to try again. This strategy may also involve having the instructor count the beats as the sightless musician repeats the brief musical passage. Once the student feels confident, this method may be repeated for another short musical passage. Practical demonstrations include having the teacher perform small sections of the piece - that is, playing or singing a few bars - for the learner to hear. The student then copies what has just been played or sung while a metronome or the instructor's voice is used to keep the time. This strategy continues until the learner is sure that he/she is playing/singing the section correctly. Using a recorded piece, made by the teacher, will help the student during practice sessions away from the lesson. This assists in memory recall, the genre, period, tempo, dynamics, and rhythmic patterns of the music. It is important, however, to encourage the student to play or sing with his or her own expressiveness.

The second memorization method involves the reading of Music Braille. One vital need is to learn, practice and master the Music Braille Code which differs from the English Braille code. For example, the Music Braille note C is represented by the alphabetical letter D. Using Music Braille copies of repertoire, and committing the scores to memory in a stepwise pattern is another beneficial technique by which a sightless student may memorize pieces. After the student has studied a measure or short section of the score using a Music Braille copy of the repertoire, committing the notes and rhythms to memory is the next step. Once a whole piece is learned in this way, the dynamic and expressive markings may be added, studied, practiced, and memorized. The individual then needs to play or sing during rehearsals and performances without relying on a Music Braille score; this is especially important for instrumentalists. Vocalists, however, do have the option to practice and perform using Braille lyrics or entire Music Braille scores. Teachers must be aware that there may be problems encountered, such as faded scores and old editions which use antiquated transcription styles

Third, listening to a previously recorded copy of a piece may be helpful, as it will provide auditory information for the student to compare. …

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