The University of Stavanger (UiS) is located in Stavanger, Norway and has about 8,500 students and 1200 administration, faculty and service staff. "New research shows that literacy learning methods may help beginners to read music" inform Elin Nyberg, Journalist, Universitetet i Stavanger.
Many music students find it difficult to learn to play an instrument, and struggle with music reading. Even after long practice, few children are able to sight read music off the page in the same way they read a book.
“Can this be explained by differences in how they learn to read text and music?” Katarzyna Julia Leikvoll wondered. In March 2017, she defended her PhD thesis in Literacy Studies at the University of Stavanger.
Her thesis focuses on how writing, visual recognition and understanding may provide a more efficient way of learning to read and play music.
Leikvoll examined how beginner piano students learn to read music in the Norwegian extra-curricular music schools. She then compared this to how reading and writing is taught in primary schools.
The researcher points out that text reading and music reading have many similarities...
Learning to read music
The most popular piano methods for beginners are on the other hand usually based on using single notes as commands to the fingers on which keys to press.
“Piano teachers explain music reading to beginners by pointing to the sheet music saying ‘This is note C, D, E. Here are the C, D and E keys. Now play!’ No child is taught how to read by being told ‘This is the letter A. This is B. This is C. Now read!’, ” Leikvoll points out.
“Furthermore, there are no exercises for writing music and no information as to what is important to look for in an unfamiliar sheet of music. Notes are not explained as visual symbols representing particular sounds, but as commands on which keys to press,” she continues.
Lack of writing and understanding
Leikvoll calls for exercises in music writing and focus on understanding how harmonic relationships between groups of notes form a kind of scaffold which the piano piece is built upon. Then harmonic structures can be recognised as meaningful units when you read and play unfamiliar music.
Katarzyna Julia Leikvoll: Listen, write, play: About music reading skills of piano pupils at the beginner level). Doctoral thesis, Department of Music and Dance, University of Stavanger. (2017)
Katarzyna Julia Leikvoll: Maurizio i Pianodalen. Piano lesson book based on «Listen, write, play». Musikk-husets forlag. (2018)