Transcribing Ties and Dotted Notes
Rebecca G., Colorado
I am at the end of the Reading Rhythm TTM in my own learning process and have a question about transcription. I see that ties and dotted notes (like all the other ingredients) include the step of “Continuing to process transcriptions into MOR.” As someone who is really learning how to read music formally for the first time despite having performed for years, my brain is getting scrambled when I think about trying to voice and transcribe ties and dotted notes as well as how to distinguish half notes vs. quarter notes when a rhythm is voiced with no context for what the actual beat/quarter note is. I would love some help with the confusion I’m feeling about the following issues regarding transcription in general.
-When all of the ingredients have been taught and we’re doing transcription, is it customary for the speaker to clarify the beat/quarter note value first? Otherwise, how would one be able to distinguish whether a student or teacher was speaking, say, a half note followed by 4 eighth notes vs. a quarter note followed by 4 sixteenth notes? Do we always need to voice an entire measure of music (or state the beat/quarter note value at the beginning) to avoid this confusion?
-Along similar lines, how would students know whether a rhythm voiced for transcription was using a tie or a dotted note?
-At a more basic level, can students even be expected to create a rhythm on the spot that includes a tie or a dotted note? I’m having a little bit of trouble doing this on my own right now; is it safe to assume such rhythms will spontaneously occur to me more readily after I’ve processed ties for a while?
Gordon Harvey, Australia
These are great questions and I’d be interested to see how others address these issues. I tend to stick with relatively simple transcriptions at this level. I agree that it’s very easy to confuse and overwhelm a student at this point. To handle the stage thoroughly would involve moving very slowly and in very small increments, which could result in getting bogged down with ties for a long time. So I tend to work mostly with notes no smaller than eighths. When we are trying to read ties, we can handle smaller notes by seeing them as if they were larger notes – I won’t go into that here, but my point is that that process is hard to apply to transcription projects, so I tend to just stick with larger notes for transcription. For me, if they can transcribe down to eighths and can do MOR projects at the level of pages 28 & 29 of the Reading Rhythm book reasonably confidently, they have at least shown you that they understand the process and have a basic grasp of applying it. They will get plenty more experience with real pieces in the future.
Your question about specifying the beat first is a valid one, although in practice I haven’t found it to be an issue. When I lead transcriptions in the lesson, I am foot-tapping eighth notes, which gives the student a guide. Sometimes I have had to slow it right down to CTE speed so students can observe how my notes relate to the foot taps.
The tie/dotted question is easily dealt with by telling the student which kind of note we will work with in the project.
I do find that having students generate their own transcription projects can be an extra challenge, but keeping it to eighths or bigger, going slowly and foot-tapping all help. If they have to do it super-slowly, no problem. I agree that it will come more naturally for you and for students with practice.
I am happy for others to completely disagree with this approach.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I can appreciate that parts of the curriculum will feel challenging to teachers without a music background. But it is very doable. My number one suggestion is to take it very slow yourself; don’t move on to the next project until you feel reasonably confident in the previous project. You won’t want to rush through the book with students anyway.
I have some specific suggestions below –
In my classes, we always clap the quarter note beat while voicing so everyone can hear the rhythm. This is also the way Neil does it on the CD.
Yes – again just copy what Neil does on the CD. When transcribing, I usually tell my students how many beats they will be transcribing, count in one measure, then voice the rhythm. Then they repeat the rhythm (voice it) before transcribing it.
Those are tricky to transcribe. In the beginning stages of learning these rhythms, I give a lot of information. For example:
• Transcribe a rhythm with no ‘extras’ (ex: D D Q S)
• Make sure everyone has the correct thing transcribed, then give another rhythm using those same components in the same order, but with a tie added. For example, I might voice the 2nd note of the first D tied to the 1st note of the second D, then voice the Q and S as before. All they do is figure out where to add the tie.
• For dotted notes, I will say “I’m going to voice 4 beats, and there will be one dotted note” so they know to listen for it.
Also, use rhythms from foundation songs to reinforce. I’ll Be There uses a tied rhythm in the repeating pattern. Look through the music books for ties and dotted notes. During class, have students look at the music – they should already know the rhythm; now they can make a connection to the visual representation.
After they have processed them for a while, then yes.
I don’t know if you’ve tried the Read ‘n Play supplemental materials, but there is a lot of extra practice there if you and/or your students need it.