From Sound to Sign

Gary E. McPherson and Alf Gabrielsson

in The Science & Psychology of Music Performance

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195138108
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849291 | DOI:
From Sound to Sign

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One of the most contentious issues in music pedagogy concerns when and how to introduce notation to a beginning instrumentalist. Most current teaching introduces musical notation very early in the process, perhaps because many teachers believe that beginners who are taught by ear will never reach the same level of reading proficiency as children who are introduced to notation from their earliest lessons. In contrast, proponents of the sound before sign approach argue that children will have difficulty learning to read notation unless their musical knowledge is sufficiently developed for them to be able to relate the sound of what they can already play with the symbols used to represent them. This chapter presents a review of literature resulting in the identification of six principles that can be used to develop the complex range of skills needed for a child to become musically literate. It argues that emphasizing notational skills too early can lead to a decreased sensitivity to the unified patterns that children spontaneously observe when listening to music. Stressing notation, with few opportunities to perform music by ear, or rote learning, with equally few opportunities to develop reading fluency, restricts overall musicianship and the types of skills needed for a musician to succeed long-term.

Keywords: music pedagogy; musicianship; music education; notational skills

Chapter.  7895 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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