Modes of teaching music theory

April 17, 2007

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Those of you who teach music theory have likely been through the following dilemma: do you offer it where all the components are taught and coordinated in one “super class” or do you break it down into modules? The module approach will offer a class or two in harmony, one or two in counterpoint, a series of classes in music analysis, and a gradated series of musicianship classes that teach sight-singing, rhythm exercises, melodic and harmonic dictation, and keyboard harmony (sometimes with actual piano literature to learn). For the past 20 years, we have used the super class model, but it is breaking down. Students with great ears are bored witless with classmates who are struggling. Some have a native understanding of how harmony works and others seem doomed to never understand it. Dictation skills are all over the place.

We are considering returning to the modular model in the interest of enrolling students in classes that they really need, and not just because “everyone” is required to take them, or because students need so many lower or upper division units.

Any thoughts on this will be appreciated.

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