While in some educational systems solfège is taught systematically from a young age (whether in specialized music schools or in classroom music), in other countries it is a compulsory discipline only in professional education. In the latter case, students start learning solfège as teenagers or young adults but by that time they have already developed some of the solfège skills through years of playing an instrument. What these skills exactly are, and what overall musical knowledge students already have, differs from one student to another. Some are already familiar with certain chord progressions, some have general knowledge about keys and intervals, some have never sung before, and some can already play by ear on their instrument. Students themselves are not always aware of the level of their skills or may have the wrong impression about them. Teachers need time to obtain an objective picture of each student’s abilities. If the teacher wants to build on the students’ pre-knowledge, it can be difficult to decide exactly where to start and which route to take towards the goal. Starting at the level of basic skills makes this much longer and might demotivate students; starting at too high a level will unavoidably leave gaps in knowledge. Many music theory pedagogues choose to start “half way,” after first having systematized all the knowledge and skills that should already have been developed—which might turn out to be both too low and too high at the same time.
While there is much research in the domain of solfège issues in music psychology and there are many publications concerning classroom music, almost the only sources of information about solfège methodology for college-level students are solfège method books and textbooks. Conservatory students without previous solfège training are not problematized as a specific group of solfège-learners. In this article I am proposing that conservatory beginners are seen as a specific group of learners who are experienced and novice at the same time. I will point out and discuss several issues that are relevant to the design of the solfège method for this group, especially concerning the first months of learning where the foundation is being built. I will argue that learning solfège in general is a process with its own particularities, and that the awareness of these should be the starting point for the planning of the learning sequence. A solid foundation is seen as the requirement for any further learning, and the role of the teacher is crucial in developing or strengthening it in students. In this context the concepts such as preparation, readiness for learning, repetition, routine, challenge and independent learning are discussed.
Through a comparison of methods for children and adult beginners, I aim to explain some of the problems that are encountered in the solfège pedagogy.
Pedal points and drones are present in almost all musical genres and styles. Although they appear in a whole variety of ways, and can have very diverse effects, music analysis rarely pays attention to these differences. The reason is, perhaps, that there are no defined concepts that would provide vocabulary to both describe and understand the power of sustained notes. My first research question addresses the ‘working’ of pedals and drones:
How can we explain the perceptual difference among instances of pedal tones and drones?
In searching for the right perspective to tackle this question I have come to two concepts that inspired the further research. The first is the concept of expectation. It is mostly promoted by the writings of Leonard B. Meyer (in the more recent time it is researched and developed by others), which I take as conceptual frame. The second is the concept of interactions that defines and organizes the musical events. The inspiration for the latter came from the social studies. The two concepts are interrelated: the expectation is a product of interactions of musical elements, and the expectations are also involved in interactions, thereby influencing the perception and understanding of a musical piece. My following research questions are:
Could the concept of musical expectation and the concept of interaction help explain the power of long notes? If yes, in which ways can these processes influence the perception of pedals and drones?
In the process of research, I have concluded that there are several categories of pedals/drones that are not labeled in music theory but are recognizable by many music theorists and musicians. Pointing at these categories and defining them could provide us with more words in pedal/drone-vocabulary. On the other hand, in case these models are recognizable as such, they have the potential to engage in various interactions with the other musical events in the piece, influencing the listener’s understanding of it. From this perspective, it is relevant to examine them. The current research aims at pointing at a number of such models. To define them, I have used the concepts of expectations and interactions. Music analysis of the chosen models and a number of musical fragments are so presenting the practical application of my theoretical research.