Having “good ears” is one of the most important skills a musician can develop. Every music department at the university level has several courses that help students work on their aural skills. While there are various skill subsets incorporated into aural training, one of the most difficult yet essential is that of taking dictation, or writing down by ear in musical notation a piece of music that you are listening to.
Conceptually this is exactly the same process as oral dictation where one listens to a lecture and can write down the words the professor is speaking. However, unlike oral dictation, most students, even accomplished performers, have little if no experience with musical dictation. The challenge is to create a pedagogical model in which this lack of experience can be dealt with through a differentiated and interactive framework.
Description of Program
As a solution, with the help of several students, we have sketched out a web-based app that would allow learners to acquire dictation skills in a responsive environment in which the music has a conversation with the student much as if they were learning a foreign language from a native speaker. This premise is based on an experiential model in which the learner develops skills and is empowered by making and interacting with their mistakes.
Upon logging in a student will be provided with a musical audio file, such as a duet, and an empty score. They can then choose which access points they wish to notate from the music (melody, rhythm, harmony, treble voice, bass voice, inner voices). As a student inputs what they hear, or think they hear, into the program they would be able to do the following:
- Choose what musical dimension they wish to focus on: rhythm, harmony, melody and/or different melodic lines (soprano or bass for example).
- Input their answers as solfege (do, re, mi) and have it appear as standard notation on the staff.
- Get immediate feedback as to whether their input is correct and have a chance to hear what they inputted and compare it to the audio example multiple times before re-inputting any corrections.
- Be able to input an unlimited number of times and receive feedback that then assists them in understanding and learning from their mistakes so that they can grow towards the correct answer.
In other words, learners are building patterns of musical vocabulary and grammar through an immediate and continuous feedback loop.
From a teacher perspective this program would also generate statistics on such details as what elements were missed most often, including the most common incorrect input, time it took to finish the assignment etc. in order to inform future lessons and assessments.
- Provide open-sourced interactive technology for the community of music educators that creates a robust and responsive learning environment for diverse learners.
- Provide a vehicle for stimulating collaboration and dialogue amongst aural-skills teachers globally in order to develop best practices in teaching.
- Generate a deep set of student learning data to inform instruction.
- Use the concepts from this web app for further ideas on creating a platform that uses technology and cognition to enhance teaching in other content areas.
What your support will do
A preliminary version of this web app was created by MIT students. However, the coding was much more complex and time-consuming then initially realized. Your support will enable us to hire a professional programmer to create this web app. In addition, for future development the programmer will make sure that the source code is easily accessible and the web service and code is able to be maintained by an upper-level undergrad.
My ultimate goal is that this project will be the seed for an open-source platform of innovative aural skills technology that can be developed and shared freely by music educators everywhere. Your support will ensure that this idea becomes a reality!
**Please note that if the goal is not reached then alternative methods of funding will be sought to fill the gap. Gifts to this project will not be reallocated and will only be used once enough is raised to program this web application**