Teaching students music notation software

December 16, 2006


I have incorporated teaching the music notation software, Sibelius, into my first year music theory class. I gave one two-hour lecture on the basics. I then had a two-hour workshop where different students came up and used the software in front of the others, copying an assigned passage while the others watched on the screen. Their assignment was to copy a portion of whatever piece they are playing or composing at the moment. They were to then photocopy or scan the original, and email me Sibelius or Finale document. I am amazed at their ability to pick up this software and make it work so quickly. The music they copies was not “Come to Jesus” in whole notes, but complicated notational stuff. I didn’t have one question or student visit during an office hour. Somehow, they all learned it and did it.

I should point out that for the first nine weeks, I insisted that everything be notated by hand, and I insisted on excellent notational skills: half notes had to be the right angle, stems the appropriate length, dynamics expression markings all in the right places, and so on.

I am more and more finding the term “music theory” an unsatisfactory name for what I think need be taught to young music majors. Perhaps “music materials and literature” would suffice. But theory? Let’s come up with a new paradigm.


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