Da Musically Inclined Bomb

DePauw University's First Year Seminar on Writing about Music

Sunday, October 22, 2006

my texty books

pretty much, the only text books i have are my theory and musicianship books. i have already noticed many differences between them, and have come to like on more than the other. they are both written by the same people, published by the same company, and you all know you have to buy them together, for a hefty price.

my theory book bundle is really not too bad. i think the book really explains things thoroughly and has good examples. it comes with a cd for listening along with examples in the book. te work book and actual text book make a really great teaching pair.

the musicianship book package has proven to be less useful. i seem to always get frustrated with the examples because of the order they work things. for instance, i hate how the book will ask you to notate the pitches of a melody, then the rhythm, and the the pitches with the rhythm. i couldl save time by just writing out everything the first time, and maybe doing the other steps only if i needed to, for re-enforcement. i just don't get as good of a vibe from this book as the other.

so, for all their similarities, they are two quite different books.

and remember, a good text book is no substitute for a great teacher.

-dennis f

Though I rarely use these textbooks...

When I thought of which textbooks to use as my examples, french came as an obvious choice, as it is my only non-music class. Then I thought about my music theory textbook. This is a rather standart choice, since it encompasses all music students' duties to music.
My french textbook, Quant a Moi, is a thinnish book. Soft-back and costing almost $90, it is a dry, predictable book that leaves the palate desiring more. This is really what I expected my french textbook to be. Though it has good examples for understanding what to do in Cameroun, such as restaurant questions and simplistic things as such, there is no meat on the bone, only pedantic questions that serve little else than to annoy the reading student. The teacher refers to the book only rarely, so I don't have to regularly endure the pain inflicted by this book. There are three cd's that go along with this book that feature a whiny-sounding man. There are no examples in the book that go along with any of the cd's. Yet, this is still a good book.
The music theory book is fat and very heavy, as it is a hardback. It is very well done, with many different examples of each thing the book is trying to teach. Everything flows in a logical order, and, reading the text, almost all questions that might arise are answered. The only conceivable problem with this book is the price, but then again, since this is spanned over four semesters, I suppose that it is a good deal.
Of the two classes, it's actually very hard to decide which teaching style I like better, but I would lean towards music theory, because of it's logistics.

I really am not a fan of textbooks in general, however...

This blog post is one which initially posed more difficulty for me, because the only class I really have a textbook for is Theory. My French History class mostly studies books of texts, or histories, rather than textbooks. By this I mean we mainly study primary documents, and while we also study books by historians, they are more for the historiography aspect – the professor helps us to identify the type of historian writing the book, so that we better understand its bias. Then I remembered we did have one book that seems more “textbook-ish” in its voice, subject matter and – well, it’s part of a series. So, without further ado…

Daily Life in the Age of Charlemagne, by John J. Butt (I kid you not) is one of the required texts for my French History course. Because of its third-person omniscient voice, broad range of subject matter and the fact that it’s part of the “Daily Life…” series, it qualifies as a textbook. Complete with a table of contents, glossary, index, and even a chronology, the book’s reference section still leaves something to be desired. There is a list of sources, under the misleading heading “For Further Reading”, but nowhere can one find direct references in the text to source material (you tell me, Dr. Spiegelberg, is this plagiarism?). Many generalizations are made about life during the period, which leads the critical student to wonder if the author is speculating, or has hard (undocumented) facts about an age that has few primary sources to learn from. The tone of the book, stereotypically dry and unappealing, doesn’t really add to the overall image. The content is good, however, and does cover many important aspects – the church, the economy, the language, the culture, etc. – of Charlemagne’s rule. It also goes into specifics on certain subjects – for example, the development of techniques to create alloys of certain metals used in currency production – that are at once helpful and headache-inducing.

Our Theory textbook, however, is more helpful and generally more appealing. It features chapter by chapter progression from one facet of music to another, an extensive reference section, numerous examples of score material to reinforce written information, and a “Credits” section, linking sources to text, chapter by chapter. Its explanations are, though a tad music-jargon heavy, not unreadable, and generally rather reference-able. “Key Concept” boxes and “Try It” examples increase readability and learning confidence. As much as I dislike textbooks, I must admit that the Theory textbook far outshines my French History one.

text about textbooks

Du tac au tac
Jeannette D. Bragger
Donald B. Rice

My French book, Du tac au tac, helps provide students with the communication strategies needed to become a good conversationalist in French. By this point in the course, we are expected to be fairly adept with French verbs and vocabulary. This course is meant to teach us to sound good even if our French is still a bit shaky.
Du tac au tac is set up in 8 chapters that each deal with a specific conversation category. Chapter subjects include, “Asking for Help,” “Asking for and Giving Advice,”
“Organizing a Trip,”Expressing Opinions,” “Recalling the Past,” “Speaking of Literature,” and “Talking about Current Events.” The beginning of each chapter asks us questions involving the subject material so write down everything we can remember about the subject. Usually, this involves suggesting useful expressions for various situations.
The textbook comes with a CD, containing conversations between French speakers. Before listening to each conversation, there are Pre-Listening questions. The book provides us with a few vocabulary words or slang phrases we may not already know. I found the list of “Expressions to gain time,” (well, so, ummm, let’s see, you know) and “Expressions to enter into a conversation” (But, Exactly, not at all, wait a second, I understand, but, Listen, I think that) to be particularly helpful because they help me to sound more conversational and to sound French while stalling during a conversation rather than standing there like a stupid American saying, “Umm.”
Since the class is about conversation, focusing on typical, informal conversation, the language used is also informal. Demands are given succinctly but not formally. The book even starts sentences with “And” and uses contractions. This book is very encouraging. Much of the strategies explained reflect back to the “conversation is like throwing a ball back and forth” analogy.


“To be an effective conversational partly, it’s not enough to catch the ball. It’s just as important to know how to throw the ball back so that the conversation remains interactive rather than turning into a monologue.”
The authors make conversing in French sound easy, by using words like “just”: “If you want to interject something into a conversation, just look at the previous speaker and use a starter to attract his or her attention and, possibly, to interrupt.”

This book teaches fundamentals about conversation that makes the difference between a good and bad conversationalist, regardless of the language. For example, “When you’ve taken your turn in a conversation, throw the ball back to the listener by adding a word or expression that requires a response.”
Sometimes in a foreign language, it is easy to get tongue tied and stuck with words. This book is helpful because it is teaching me to think, “What point do I need to get across now?” We are so accustomed to English at this point, it is easy to talk without thinking. This textbook helps us to build on what others have said, buy time, and find alternative ways of saying things. This way, we can make good use of what we know, even if we don’t know much.

The book only uses english for a couple of paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter, to explain concepts (such as the ones in examples I have given) that would be hard for the student to understand in french. Otherwise, all directions etc are given in french. I find this hellful because with my abilities in french thus far, I can only read for the general idea- I'm glad the authors understand this and explain the important things in english.

The Musicians Guide to Theory and Analysis
Jane Piper Clendinning

Elizabeth West Marvin

All of us are familiar with the Theory textbook. It is organized into chapters such as “Metric Organization” and “Parts of the Basic Phrase.” The first page of each chapter includes an Outline of topics covered, a couple sentence chapter Overview, and Repertoire (tracks used on the CDs). Large blue headlines announce larger topics within the chapter. For example Chapter Six, Pitch Intervals, has the topics, “Combining Pitches,” “Pitch-Inverval Qualities,” “The Relative Consonance and Dissonance of Intervals,” and “The Inversion of Intervals” highlighted in blue. Each of these topics includes bolded subtopics, and a “Key Concept” announced in a large blue box. Examples are offered with music from the textbook CD and each example is followed by a “Try it.” “Try it” sections are basically homework questions in the textbook, placed right after the explanation so we can try the concept right after learning about it.
I find the occaisional “Another Way” sections helpful. Sometimes one way of explaining something is just not enough, but an alternative way it clicks. I appreciate that this textbook accepts different ways of explaining things rather than insisting on one way.
The writing in our Theory textbook feels much more like classic textbook style writing than my French book did. This is necessary because the subject is mathematical and not open to much interpretation, so instruction and explanation needs to be clear. The French class on the other hand, was about teaching to be conversational, so the writing needed to be conversational in its own way to reflect that concept.
Other than the fact that the writing is pretty clear, I find the organization of the Theory textbook to be most helpful, because it is easy for me to find key points if I can’t remember them. I also like that many of the musical excerpts used are familiar pieces, and span the genres of music. This helps the students to connect to the expamles. Since we can relate them to an excerpt of music we know, classical or popular, it helps us to understand how theory is relevant in music and in our education. Since, for some students, theory can feel like a drag, understanding the relevancy of a subject by the inclusion of familiar excerpts is a significant part of the book.

The Textbook. It's like a teacher, but in book form

When I first started to think about textbooks, I tried to think of how they appeal to students and teachers. I immediately compared my Musicianship book to my Italian Diction for Singers book. The too seem to be polar opposites in their look and the approach to teaching. However, the core of what they are trying to teach, meaning training the ear, is the same.
The Musician's Guide to Aural Skills Volume I is a very fat, soft, and hearty textbook. It's pages can be folded over making it a perfect for highlighting and marking measures and measures of sight-singing. It also has a nice background of theory presented at the beginning of each chapter so the reader knows the purpose of each exercise. It is good for both use inside and outside of class. The explanations and rules on the inside are not written in lengthy prose. Rather, they are written in short, poignant sentences that are precisely to the point. Basically, it screams "Hey! I'm a textbook! I'm not something you really want to pick up for leisure reading."
Singers' Italian: A Manual of Diction and Phonetics takes a slightly different approach. It is a small, very compact, one hundred and fifty page book, that resembles a novel or a casual reading book. the pages are filled with tiny letters, so it is not very easy to write in or highlight. It is set up in chapters. Each chapter begins with a rule, and then the author, Colorni, gives examples, exceptions to the rules, and plenty of practice for the reader. The only thing this book lacks is a great explanation of the technique of making certain sounds. Colorni uses a lengthier style of writing, which is very different from the direct Musicianship book. The strategy of this style of textbook seems to be an appeal to those who do not want to read a textbook. This book seems to have more "coffee table" appeal, if you will.
I do not have a preference when it comes to my learning style. I can learn from either style, but I found it interesting to compare the two.


I guess I'll start off with my Theory book -
Like most of us, I havnt spent more than five minutes in my theory text book. But, in those five minutes, I enjoy how things are set up in the book, and how all the important things are outlined somehow. Up to this point, I haven't had too much of a reason to stick my nose in the book, but I know for sure I will be thumbing through it and studying it in the very near future.
My other text book would be my geology book. I really like how this book is put together. The author does a really great job of explaining key words and concepts to people like me, who have never had geology before. He doesn't expect you to already know things about the subject, unlike lots of other textbooks I have used. The illustrations in this book are very detailed and easy to understand. Overall, If it were'nt for this book, I don't know how I would be getting through this class.

Textbooks. blah.

Due to the fact that my theory book is my only actual textbook, I went with that one and my German book that claims to be a textbook but really isn't.

I have to admit, my theory book has probably been opened once before right now outside of class. That time was when we were trying to figure out what a doubly diminished interval actually was. I'm not saying it doesn't teach well, I just have never been the one to actually open the book a lot. I have noticed, however, that the information in the blue boxes is quite useful. It picks out the important points of the chapter for those of us who don't quite have the motivation to read all of the text. I'm also quite sure that if I didn't have a teacher who actually explained the contents enough for me to understand, I would have to read. And from what I've looked at in class, if I actually sat down and concentrated on the text, it would teach me sufficiently.

Now my German book is a totally different story. It is actually made for German students, so the only English I've found is about 7 words on the front cover. The examples are in German, the stories are in German, and the dictionary defines the German words in German. If I did not have a good German teacher there would be NO way that I would have the slightest clue what was going on, and not because I'm dumb. It uses the most rare words that only people who have studied the language intensely for years would no. I mean, you know it is bad when they have to define 10 words per page for people who speak German as their first language. Once I figure out what it is talking about, everything makes sense, but getting there is a journey in itself.

So I guess textbooks are good for some people, but I'd much rather depend on the teacher teaching me and be able to rely on the text for situations where I just need to reassure myself I'm doing my work right.

I don't read...so yeah

I have huge vision problems so reading is very hard for me. So I don't do it much. But here goes. Musicianship is such a hard textbook to write. How do you teach someone to use their ears in that manner? I think that the text is very good because it asks for rhythm and pitches and both as well as melody and harmony. I do think that it goes too fast though. It went from simple melodies to more complex harmonies and rhythms in just a few lessons.
My only other textnook is the theory text and I think it is pretty good. Sometimes it doesn't explain topics fully but Dr. Carrillo explains those points in class. I don't use the text much because I know all of these things so far, but I'm sure it will come in handy eventually.

textbooks... blah

Well hello classmates! The end of our break is here! Ahh! Anywho... onto the blog!

Considering I have two textbooks this semester.... I suppose I'll talk about theory and musicianship.

Theory... I've only looked at one page... page 47. The page with the key signatures. That one page has indeed come in handy so I'm just going to assume the rest of the book is the same. Sorry this is short... but one page is the truth!

Musicianship... a completely different story! I probably know our musicianship book very well (doesn't mean i know the material, mind you.) Actually, the reason I know the book so well is because I hate the way it's set up. I feel like I spend more time flipping through pages looking for the assignments than I should. And then, when I do finally find the assignment, if I have a question about the material... I have to spend another ten minutes flipping through pages looking for an explanation of my problems.

So... I like theory... hate musicianship... that be it!

Text... woot

OK, I will admit... I've never been that much of a reader. It's not because I don't enjoy it. It's just that I really suck at it. My reading level is nowhere near where it should be. I'm working on it though. I try to "joy read" as much as I can. I'm assuming I'm getting better, but I can't really tell. So with that note, I'll say I'm kind of against textbooks to begin with. A second note: I don't really have hardly any textbooks this semester (which is lovely).

First I’ll talk about my theory book, since it seems to be the trend. It’s not bad. It does its job I suppose. I do like my high school theory book better though. I still refer to it every now and then. Maybe that’s just because it was my first book and it’s hard to get used to change. As far as this book goes though, it’s at least understandable. It explains everything thoroughly. I probably would like it more if I had known about all the examples and answers thing in the back. I’ll just say this, if I hadn’t been through a lot of theory before this point, I sometimes wonder if I would currently be lost.

Let’s see, I have to think of another textbook. I think I’ll talk about Katz. It counts! I’d have to say that I might have enjoyed that book if I didn’t dislike the seminar so much. I’d also have enjoyed it more if we hadn’t somehow skipped over the jazz improve chapter. I don’t know how that happened. I do think the text went along exceptionally well with Dr. Balensuela’s class, however. It went along so well actually, that I wonder if the lessons were formed first and then the text chosen or the other way around. The book served its purpose though and it didn’t do a bad job. So I won’t say I hated it, it just wasn’t my favorite either.

So in conclusion, I think that as long as textbooks serve the purpose they are meant to serve, then yay for textbooks. I have never really enjoyed textbooks or liked them. I can say I’ve disliked quite a few. But just because they are torture doesn’t mean I can say they’re bad. If they do what they’re supposed to do and teach what they’re supposed to teach, like both our theory book and the Katz book, then they are fine by me.