Tuesday, May 18, 2010

La Musica

I love music theory. Just love it! It's so mathematical at its core - and there aren't all that many exceptions. It's all just numbers & letters, and whole steps & half steps, all perfectly aligned EVERY TIME.

A work friend of mine is taking piano lessons, and I have to say, I'm not 100% happy with the route his teacher is taking. It's a group class, and I guess the premise is for the students to be able to play watered-down versions of popular songs by the end. He told me today that he's "mastered" Ode to Joy. Which is fair enough - that's definitely one of the first songs everyone learns. But then he asked me what a "sixteenth note" is.

What?

So he can "play" a song - but he doesn't yet know all the basic measures of rhythm? Something's not quite right. Then he told me he doesn't yet know all the notes of the staff, his class is only working with C through G on the treble clef.

What?

I'm assuming, then, that his teacher is just showing them what notes to hit so they can "play" the songs. Not. Cool. Because this guy isn't going to learn anything if they aren't covering the foundations.

In third grade, I first started my piano lessons. And I had a half hour lesson each week for a year. And while I could "play" a lot of songs, I didn't understand any of it. There was a lot of trial & error (ie, hitting a note in a song, and if it sounded bad, hitting around until I found the right one, & then memorizing which one it was).

I switched teachers after that year and my new teacher (and new hour per week lesson) started me at square one. Literally. But I needed that, because then I learned it all as we went. And we studied chord progressions. And key signatures. And weird rhythms. And the circle of fifths. And I was able to get better & better & better at piano because I was learning new info on top of understanding all the old info.

My favorite part of music theory is the acronyms. So Many! And yet, I still remember what all of them mean and stand for...

Every Good Boy Does Fine
All Cows Eat Grass
Great Big Dogs Fight Animals
Good Boys Do Fine Always
FACE
BEAD Greatest Common Factor
Fat Cops Get Donuts At Ed's Bakery

It's all so funny and random. But I promise I could never remember the order of sharps in key signatures if I didn't know the dumb little sentence.

I might need to play a little piano when I get home from work tonight...

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