Basic Training in Music Skills

Basic Training in Music Skills is an introductory aural skills and musicianship curriculum and interactive computer application currently in use at North Carolina Central University.  The program and curriculum were developed for the Vocal Skills Lab at the University of Oklahoma School of Music and were beta-tested at Sweet Briar College. This introductory curriculum has been successful in quickly and securely instilling basic musicianship skills (music fundamentals, music theory and aural skills) in beginning students regardless of previous musical education or experience. Basic Training in Music Skills can be used a classroom curriculum for any two-year theory and aural skills sequence as well as for independent study and remedial instruction on an individual basis.  The program and curriculum can be used by a trained instructor or teaching assistants to lead classroom seminars and can also be used by students for practice and preparation.

Basic Training in Music Skills consists of two separate elements: a comprehensive workbook for music fundamentals and undergraduate music theory and a computer application for aural skills and music fundamentals.

As the name implies, Basic Training in Music Skills is a regimented programmed designed to quickly instill the basics of music in beginning students. The curriculum stresses aural perception and analysis techniques for practical application to sight-singing, dictation and the understanding of function in tonal music. This “boot camp” for musicians instills a strong intuitive understanding of the fundamentals of tonal music and an active appreciation of the discipline necessary for advanced study of music at the collegiate level.

The Basic Training in Music Skills Music Theory Workbook is a step-by-step breakdown of musical structures and concepts into individual worksheets.  Each worksheet is accompanied by a second self-study worksheet which duplicates the tasks of the first but with an answer key for immediate reinforcement.

The Basic Training aural skills computer applicationintroduces the essential elements of musical fundamentals and notation.  Pitch recognition, key signature, solfege syllables, intervals and inversions are presented with concise explanations applicable to quick assimilation of the basic concepts of musical study. These materials are then drilled to instill their usefulness in the further study of music as well as performance.

The computer application leads the regimented exercises and real-time drills by improvising chord progressions and providing solutions to sight-singing and dictation examples. The texts displayed  by the Virtual Trainer serve as an electronic textbook with practical examples and advice to aid active perception and audiation of music. An instructor using the software is freed to monitor the progress of each student and lead through example. Self-monitoring is also provided for students working independently.

This software curriculum is targeted at the beginning collegiate music student and can be employed for remedial music fundamentals courses or introductory music theory at the pre-college level. Its pedagogical method is based on the author’s own experiences as a performing musician and his exploration of traditional methods of mentoring young music students in cultures throughout the world.

The Basic Training method stresses two concepts, enculturation and affective quality. Enculturation is learning by drilling and repetition with the goal to produce an awareness of music on an intuitive as well as intellectual level. By recognizing the particular evocative response induced by musical structures, that is the affective quality, the young musician employs the very cultural and acoustic characteristics and associations of tonal harmony which were the motivation for creating those structures.

The Basic Training in Music Skills curriculum is created in Max/MSP, which functions on either Microsoft or Apple computers. There is no licensing fee for this software environment.