Robert Pace - National Conference On Piano Pedagogy
2 - Comprehensive Musicianship

Unfortunately in music study, students frequently memorize, yet learn very little. They memorize a piece by playing it over and over much as they might memorize a phone number. And in both instances, that which was memorized will be quickly lost when repetition ceases. Perhaps a distinction should be made between short term and long term memory. Short term memory might be considered as a "filtering system" and is useful when one is not interested in retaining information for a long period of time. Long term memory, however, serves more as a mental filing system through various conceptualizations and associations. Information is stored in logical ways for later retrieval and use. Herein lies one of the key points of my approach. Both the scope of materials to be used and the sequence, or order of presentation are crucial to the success of the student at each stage of development. Students should understand so clearly what they are doing during the lesson that they can literally teach themselves for the rest of the week. With this in mind, let us examine some of the identifying characteristics of this method.

This approach to music learning is based on Comprehensive Musicianship. This term has taken on certain specific meanings in recent years because of its use in identifying various music projects throughout the country. For our discussion, however, it means an inter-relate and carefully sequenced program of rudiments, harmony, ear training, sight-reading, dictation and improvisation as applied to, and found in, music literature from the Baroque to the present time, with appropriate technical application for performance. The scope of the program form the beginning provides a balance of the various musical systems of Western music, including diatonic, chromatic, bi-tonal, modal, twelve-tone and quartal in polyphonic and homophonic settings. The materials are sequentially organized in both an upward and outward spiral so that students advance upward in difficulty of repertoire as they simultaneously broaden their musical understanding at each level. This is in sharp contrast to approaches which center almost exclusively from the beginning on repertoire and technique, with exposure to music fundamentals being delayed until the college level.

Educational theorist Jerome Bruner has stressed the importance of structure in learning, since there always seem to be certain prerequisites for subsequent learning. When these prerequisites are encountered in an appropriate sequence, students not only solve the immediate problem, but they learn how to go on their own more easily in the future. An application of Bruner's concept can be found in the way basic harmony is taught in the Robert Pace Series. First, the students play melodies to be harmonized with the I and V7 chords. This is a prerequisite for learning to use the IV chord in slightly more complex materials. This in turn would be followed by the ii chord, etc. These chords exist in the pieces students are learning and the materials have been carefully selected to avoid problems more complex than they are prepared to meet at the moment. This same concept of organization applied to the learning of rhythms, melodic designs, and the various musical forms.

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