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Anyone read Lies My Music Teacher Told Me by Gerald Eskelin (Read 520 times)

Offline Bob

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Anyone read Lies My Music Teacher Told Me by Gerald Eskelin
« on: December 29, 2018, 11:02:33 AM »
I'm looking through it.  I'm less impressed with it than I expected.  It sounding more like an old grump.  The things he's complaining about sound like it's just from his experience (scales being "lines of eggs," perfect vs. relative pitch with movable Do).  And in reality, for a teacher, you've usually have less than five minute to explain a concept, so simple (and a little wrong) is ok.  More details can come later.  Moving on to actually producing a sound and getting the student active is a goal.  And having them understand theoretically what happens probably won't help.  A student isn't going to be so precise in something like pitch that they need to know just vs. equal-temperament right away.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."


Offline keypeg

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Re: Anyone read Lies My Music Teacher Told Me by Gerald Eskelin
«Reply #2 on: December 29, 2018, 10:50:04 PM »
I skimmed through it yesterday to get the gist.  The title was off-putting --- it is a marketing gimmick that is supposed to sell things with variants like "Your doctor will be angry (at the miracle product we found", and "Everything your teacher told you is wrong" -- there is the risk that a writer has interesting things to say, that will never be read (by me) or watched, due to those titles. But then, if he had called it "An alternate view to theory we take for granted" would anyone read it - would it sell?

In actual fact he is giving new views to things that tend to be taught.  A number of things in there have been the object of discussion with my own teacher, extensively.  For example, the "minor key" being defined via the "relative major".  This is actually only a device for main key signatures, and music doesn't stay that rigidly formulaic.  I did a huge transition a few years ago, where the minor scale became a manner of lowering the 3rd, with the 6th & 7th degree in varying flux, but sort of coming out of the major.  We renamed the  "ascending melodic minor" (as it is taught) as "simple minor" as it is the same as the major with a minor 3rd, and keeps the function of the V7 and the tritone (stressed by the writer).

The "three minor scales" - esp. the "melodic minor" up one way, down the other, like what?  In actual fact, the pattern we tended to learn occurs in one period of music, and less so in another, and the bottom line is that it depends on the harmonies and other things going on.  So WHY are students of any instrument induced to play what we call the "melodic minor"?  I've discussed this in my lessons, and the author makes this point.

I think he is trying to move from a horizontal (melodic) mindset to a vertical (harmonic) mindset - so if music (in teaching) tends to to be defined via the horizontal scale, he wants to shift the balance to the harmonic side.  In actual fact the two sides constantly interact and it's sort of chicken-egg.  Since he has switched to jazz, he has also moved toward these sensibilities.

Intervals: For reading notation we need, at some point, to be able to recognize a "third" "fourth" etc., and on the keyboard it is handy to see that notes on two adjacent lines are a third, and dash our fingers into it, adjusting to the left or right per sharps or flats.   The aug2 and m3 look and sound the same on the piano, but different in notation.  We just have to know that.  If we go by ear, not.  If I return to violin, awareness of 5ths & 4ths may be very useful, given the tuning of the violin, and the fact of 4 fingers. ;) ...... In intervals we have a dichotomy: the "what it is" as sound, sound quality etc. -- and "how it's written and thus named, for written music.

I don't know about singers tuning themselves to a piano's equal temperament.   I compared my singing to the piano when I was in my 50's; thought I was wrong because my Ti, and Mi Fa, were "off" - in fact my ear went to just intonation.  I had learned movable Do solfege, and absorbed the flavours ... which also had a feel of harmony to them (I discovered).  Violin students - at least some of them - do not go by the piano's tuning.  Here he is reflecting his own experiences.

I would NOT want to throw out Tone & Semitone for scales.  They have their use.  But supplement, yes.

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As a general comment: A while back I coined the image of parents who decide their children will only learn primary colours for their first years.  Everything in the house is blue, red, yellow, and maybe black and white.  What they are exposed to matches what they are taught.  Were they to see green grass, it would cause massive confusion.  Were they to ever mix yellow and blue, maybe they'd call that weird colour yellow-blue, not comprehending that "green" exists. (Why is "light red" called pink, btw.?)  When I look back at the formal RCM material I first had, it is like that house.   You get taught certain kinds of scales, key signatures, mainly diatonic things, time signatures ..... the pieces you get to play, the etudes you work on, everything fits your blue-yellow-red world.  You are not allowed to go outside and see green grass.  No Debussy.  No jazz.  Or carefully brought in a little bit later, with explanations about the colour blue-yellow ..... "green" will also be a difficult idea because of your early isolation.

This ramble is the best I can do.

Offline Bob

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Re: Anyone read Lies My Music Teacher Told Me by Gerald Eskelin
«Reply #3 on: January 01, 2019, 12:19:03 PM »
I'm still working through it.

Reminds me of a forum post.

Kind of has a, "This is what I see/saw around me or this is what I experienced, so it's that way for everyone, and that's wrong."

Still interesting in having something to say but the tone is off. 

I wonder about some things.  I'm on chapter three.  He's mentioning people starting off with melodies that are too complicated.  He's mentioning everyone around the world.  But non-Western countries might not be using a tonal system....  And he mentions the need for starting to sing simple melodies, but... That's exactly what nursery songs, elementary/general/early music classes do...  Simple, tonal, reinforces Do....

The writing style is really informal.  It looks like a forum post that way too. 

it would be interesting to see it simplified down to the arguments.  It looks like would do doable.  I'm not going to but it looks like nice material that could be reduced down that way.  I found myself thinking, "I don't know if I agree with that. What about this? .... Well, if I don't agree with the first thing, I'm not sure for sure that I agree with the second thing he's building on here."
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline keypeg

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Re: Anyone read Lies My Music Teacher Told Me by Gerald Eskelin
«Reply #4 on: January 01, 2019, 11:25:49 PM »
I guess that chapter 3 is "Lie number 3".  TBH some of it is irritating and you have already pointed out a few reasons why.  Above all, he seems locked into what he himself experienced and seems to think everyone is in the same place.  If, instead, he were to  simply present some alternate ways of seeing elements of music, it would be a different book.

In the chapter you indicated: I learned from melody and ended up doing so from movable Do solfege because a primary grade teacher decided to teach it.  I tend to mention the drawbacks of that, but I also got a lot of advantages.  I certainly did not have the difficulties that he thinks a child would have.  And it did not feel "complicated".  Meanwhile ..... start with harmony as in 2-3 notes played together?  Try that if you don't have a piano!!!  And if you do have a piano, then how do you contend with the results due to equal temperament if you're actually trying to develop the ear?  When I went from violin back to piano I had to turn off my ear to some extent because it's disturbing.

I have to think about it some more.

Offline Bob

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Re: Anyone read Lies My Music Teacher Told Me by Gerald Eskelin
«Reply #5 on: January 02, 2019, 08:38:20 AM »
I agree with the piano dulling the ear a bit, esp. with an out of tune piano.  He makes it sound like everyone is a precise robot though -- If you hear a piano, you'll start singing and hearing everything with equal temperament.  I don't really think that's true.  From everything I've heard and experienced, I think people generally tend to put intervals in tune as much as they can.  If you've got a chord with a major, people will aim for putting that in tune (just intonation), not follow equal temperament and have it out of tune.  Plus, people just adjust.  Somewhere tuning would be off between pitches, but if they're listening, they'd try to tune the harmonic intervals.  And that's if they've listening, can hear tuning/beats when out of tune, can hold a steady pitch, etc.  He mentioned working with high school kids on that, but that's the time when it starts to make more sense.

Although I would agree that just following a piano can hold back developing the ear.  If you always use a piano, you don't have to think in pitches so much for singing/internally hearing a melody.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."