Pedagogy questions

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Some questions to consider as input to thinking about microtonal pedagogy. Contributions from people with experience are welcome.

What considerations does the particular question of a microtonal pedagogy warrant?

What does one consider when endeavoring to write pieces of microtonal music that also teach the microtones that they use?

When is learning a microtonal system of pitches harder than learning the 12-equal system? When is it easier?

x31eq's answer

This is a first draft. If you think I'm wrong, edit the page to say why.

Learning a microtonal system is harder than 12-equal where it's more complex and the harmonic context is not intuitively apparent. Which is most of the time (and sometimes so by definiton).

However, systems that are microtonal relative to 12-equal may be easier to learn in several ways:

  • The have fewer notes. For example, slendro, pelog, various other diatonics.
  • They are closer to natural harmonies: just intonation, microtemperament, and equivalents in alternative timbres.
  • They resonate more with the subject's culture than the western chromatic; depends on context, and becoming less likely.

When does experience in 12 help in learning non-12? When does it hinder?

x31eq's answer

Microtonality shouldn't be thought of as a practice distinct from music making. Experience of learning music will naturally translate into learning music in other tunings. In many cases experience of traditional music may not really be in 12-equal at all. However, the question's framed in terms of a dichotomy, so let's answer it that way.

Mostly it depends on the nature of the experience, and how non-12 is being learned. Making this a useful topic for microtonal pedagogy of course.

If the musician has experience of tonal music with correct spelling, a transition to extended Meantone is natural. Early pieces should enforce the 5-limit diatonic framework and move gradually to more remote notes and harmonies. A theoretical knowledge of harmony also helps because many of those rules were laid down in a meantone context.

If the musician thinks in terms of enharmonic equivalences, a procedure of dividing the equal tempered semitone is most productive. This leads first to quartertones (24edo), but also to 72edo, where they can learn 11-limit harmonies.

Musicians with a Pythagorean mindset (most likely string players) may take to schismatic temperament (see Regular Temperaments) or divisions of the semitone (above). They will have much more trouble with extended meantone (also above).

Experience may hinder when it conflicts with the new system being learned. Paradoxically, the most accomplished musicians will have the most difficulty because their habits are the most ingrained.

When does experience in non-12 help in learning 12? When does it hinder?

To what degree can the need for a microtonal pedagogy address a general problem of missing language in speaking microtonality?

In whose interest is it to sequester off learning/education/pedagogy into a separate page, as if learning only happens in schools/when you want it to?

What method books and teaching tools do you recommend for the microtonal student?

See Method books teaching tools