[Smt-talk] Dylexia and music theory/aural skills

Finn Upham finn.upham at gmail.com
Mon Oct 17 07:52:41 PDT 2011


As a dyslexic who was made to do (fixed do) solfege for years, it never became a useful exercise. For prepared tests, I would deduce the pitches and the solfege names separately and try to remembered both sequences correctly at the same time. With different staffs and the effect of key signatures thrown in the mix, on the spot sight reading ended up being guesswork. I was lucky to have sympathetic teachers who recognized that I was musically capable despite these particular performances. If only the people running auditions were always so sympathetic...

This problem was extremely frustrating. At the time, I was a very good sight reader when in a choral context and could even correct my professional section lead a few times per rehearsal. But that experience did not help when staring at new sheet music while someone played a starting pitch. It also did not appear to relate much with my sight-reading (frustrations) on piano or bassoon.

I don't know if this would help your student, but tonal sight reading was sometimes made easier with little more context, such as a short cadential progression. And for those situations where sight reading mattered (i.e. outside of the class room,) singing in a church choir for a year was a much more constructive (and comfortable) preparation than struggling with the extra cognitive load of solfege names. 

I'm not the only student who, at the end of four years' training, could not find solfege helpful. The names were never more than a distraction to the task of getting the intended notes off of the page and into my ear. For her sake, I hope you consider letting her sing on 'la'; it sounds like she has enough challenges to face already.

Finn Upham,
PhD student, Music Technology, NYU
(B. Mus, Music theory, McGill University)

On 11-Oct-16, at 9:05 PM, smt-talk-request at lists.societymusictheory.org wrote:

> The biggest question I'm dealing with right now is whether solfege is the best way for her to learn this material, and how to teach it to her in a way that she can learn and that will be effective in learning the concepts. We're experimenting with colored staves and off-white paper for the time being, to see if that helps some of the reading/analysis/writing issues. But solfege is the big difficulty for her that I haven't found literature on yet. Does anyone have any experience working with that?
> Kris Shaffer
> Assistant Professor of Music Theory
> Charleston Southern University
> http://kris.shaffermusic.com
> Prof. Kris Shaffer
> Charleston Southern University
> Horton School of Music
> 9200 University Boulevard
> P.O. Box 118087
> Charleston, SC 29423-8087
> (843) 863-7964
> kshaffer at csuniv.edu

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