It’s Your Choice.
Yes, it is your choice, and it’s between ‘memorize and practice’, and knowing exactly what you are doing every moment you are playing. The study of music theory, however is study about theory, not music… by definition.
“Theory, as it is called, has always been upheld as the promised gateway to this broad understanding, but there are thousands upon thousands of eager young musicians as well as disappointed older ones who will testify to the seemingly unbridgeable gap between their theoretical studies and the living experience of music itself.” … from Dr Leopold Mannes’ Preface to Dr. Felix Salzer’s book, ‘Structural Hearing’.
The problem has been defined but not the solution, since any ‘solution’ is generally a re-hash with the same errors and omissions of the same ‘theory’. It’s a merry-go-round that leads nowhere.
If I may make a direct comparison between the spoken language and the language of music, we find certain relationships. Have you noticed that the verb gets the emphasis when speaking, even slight? Yes, other parts of speech may be emphasized, but it’s the verb that normally gets the emphasis. Try a few sentences and see if you agree. The dominant is the verb in music. Whenever there is a ‘V-I’, ‘V’ will be given emphasis normally since the leading-tone is the tone of resolution. ‘I’ is not normally emphasized, since it is the ‘object’, so to speak.
‘Study’ is what one does to ascertain what is there in a piece of music. So, in order to ‘study’ a piece of music where does one start? Well, I don’t think it’s with a theory manual, nor with its theorems of types of cadences, secondary dominants, figured bass, etc. Indeed, I don’t think any pianist resorts to that, but maintains the ‘memorize and practice’ routine, insisting the piece has been ‘studied’.
If one would begin with the key signature… a great start! Then work with chord functions; I-IV-V, etc., and not get into fancy stuff, like ‘ii V’, etc. ‘Function’ is position… look it up, so II-V simply indicates the relative position in the key. If that alone were done, the music would be more easily memorized and retained while playing. For example, when recognizing a I-VI-II progression when playing it tends to take away the fear of forgetting notes, if that is all one has memorized. It’s not medical science (getting away from ‘rocket science’), but just a willingness to, well …study.
The post ‘Learning the Language of Music with Bach’, along with the post, ‘Rudiments’ will give the pianist, and the teacher the pragmatic tools to yes …study as one is learning a piece of music, then using it while playing or performing. Memory will be a far less an issue both in performance and with memory, since while studying, memory becomes automatic.
Another huge value to study is that music becomes meaningful, and not just a meaningless concatenation of notes. And… practice itself becomes more of a joy than a dreadful task of endless repetition. I have prepared a video to show this. And next, I recorded the Bach ‘Kleine’ prelude nr 5 in D minor showing practicing the three types of the D minor scale, along with improvising on the scales and the chords. I have also recorded the Chopin Waltz Op Posth. in E minor, using these principles.
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