Musing About Music (the printed kind)
We had an interesting debate at our last meeting because one of our singers had asked for more help finding their way around the printed music.
I need a printed score for the songs I teach to make sure I sing them the same way every time. I know for a fact that if I just taught them from memory the rhythms would slip, maybe one note would go down instead of up – and before long we would have a new version of a song. Some songs, in folk and jazz particularly, do evolve with different singers over time – but for a choir there has to be one version that everybody sings. If I taught “Gaudete” slightly differently every Christmas because I didn’t have it written down the singers would soon feel insecure about what they were supposed to be singing.
I don’t subscribe to the ethos of not sharing the printed music with my singers. Even if you don’t read music I think the score shows you how your part fits together with the whole, better than words alone. I don’t like the implication, when you don’t share it, that the written music is a special secret that only extraordinary people can read. One of my missions is to persuade musicians* that reading and writing musical notation is a) helpful and b) not rocket science.
So, for most songs, I give the singers the score. Not if they are very short (the songs, not the singers!) and can be learnt and remembered in a few minutes.
We decided to take two practical steps – one, to have a stock of highlighters so that each singer can mark the line they sing on the music; and two, that I will do a very very short mini-teacher-feature every week on a feature of printed music.
Rather than starting with the note names and the way different rhythms are shown, I am going to concentrate on the signs and symbols that tell you how to navigate around a song.
I’ll be publishing these little segments on a separate page here – let me know if they are at all helpful.
*Musicians – people who make music