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

Ann K. Blombach ann at macgamut.com
Tue Oct 18 08:32:12 PDT 2011

Hi Kris,


I found your post particularly interesting because I "diagnosed" several
dyslexic students in my aural training courses over the years.  I sent each
of them to the appropriate Ohio State office for official testing, and then
did whatever I was told to do (individual testing, longer time for tests,
etc.) once the diagnosis was confirmed.  I remember working with some of
these students individually too, but no more than I worked with any other
student who was struggling in the course.  The bulk of the work with the
students was handled by the experts who regularly worked with dyslexic
students from all areas of the university.  After all, especially for a
college student who is being diagnosed with dyslexia for the first time, the
work they have to do is not just limited to music courses.  Also, at Ohio
State, individual instructors could only make the specific course changes
the official office allowed, so for instance, if the course required the
students to use solfege, as mine did, the dyslexic students were also
required to use it.  The diagnosis is scary at first, but in every case, the
students were relieved to find out why they had always had more difficulty
in school than it seemed like they should have, and that there was something
they could do about it.  That's not to say life suddenly became easy for
them, but it's a wonderful thing to find out there's a good reason you
seemed to be an under-achiever in your school work, and to know that your
full potential is likely much greater than most people-including you-thought
it could possibly be.  


But the real reason I'm writing is that for many years, I have worked
closely with a very successful musician and teacher (master's degree in
music theory, ABD in Music Education, and has taught both at the university
level) who is dyslexic.  Her 16-year-old daughter, who is also an excellent
musician (singer and viola player) is also dyslexic.  I asked my friend for
input from a firsthand, personal perspective, and here is her response:


I was/am a big fan of solfege in the wide word of aural training/sight
singing.  Also used Curwen/Kodaly hand signs, and used to practice singing
intervals, with hand signs showing the direction.  The physical movement
helped me to get a feel for the up and down direction of the sounds.  Also
needed to have the ability to fully concentrate, so a distraction-free zone
to practice and test.

My daughter has very good ears and relies on those when she gets tripped up
in the music reading world.  She is also a big fan of repetition.

We have both used the little strips with colored film when reading
The more expensive version of figuring out which you liked (which helped me
pick blue) is
cks.  Went to a workshop about this as well.

Oh and tell the student to get a Yoda statue--he is our patron saint, "Read,
you will!"

Hope this helps.  And I hope you have experts at your university who can
work the miracles our Ohio State folks always did.


All the best,



Ann K. Blombach
ann at macgamut.com
MacGAMUT Music Software, Inc.

Visit us on the web at www.macgamut.com <http://www.macgamut.com/> 
Toll-free Phone (US and Canada):  1-800-305-8731
Toll-free Fax (US and Canada):  1-877-370-1074



From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org
[mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Kris
Sent: Friday, October 14, 2011 6:50 AM
To: Discussion SMT
Subject: [Smt-talk] Dylexia and music theory/aural skills


Dear Colleagues,

I have a freshman music theory and aural skills student who is demonstrating
signs of dyslexia. While she is pursuing testing and an official diagnosis,
I'm searching for ways to help her through some of her specific struggles.
So far I've found some helpful lists of musical problems often associated
with dyslexia, many of which are true for this student, but nothing in terms
of helping an adult learn music theory, dictation, or sight singing. Do any
of you know of specific resources for music theory instructors in this
regard? Or have you found types of practice techniques, assignments,
accommodations that were helpful for a dyslexic student in your charge?
Until we have an official diagnosis, we can't make any testing
accommodations, but I'd like to start tutoring as soon as possible (she
needs tutoring help whether dyslexic or not!), or she may fail the course.
So I'd really appreciate any suggestions for training/practice techniques
that we can try right away.


She is currently in the first semester of theory (finishing up 2-voice
species counterpoint in a week or so and moving on to basic chord
structures) and aural skills (just started a unit with first substantial
focus on melodic dictation, using Karpinski's
protonotation-to-musical-notation method). Any suggestions specific to that
would be amazing. But anything relating to dyslexia and musical notation,
musical instruction, solfege, dictation, etc. would be a big help. And if
any of you with insights want to talk over coffee at SMT, that would be




Kris Shaffer
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
Charleston Southern University

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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