Corey Dargel posts about trying to find new ways to teach theory, if teach it we must. And we must, otherwise we're limited by habit.

Kyle Gann responds with an excellent idea--teach acoustics first. More specifically, the acoustics of interval. All pitched music, whatever tuning system or style, is based, at least in part, on interval (the "distance" between two notes). So, if you teach interval first, you can go in most any direction you want or need.


  1. I like his ideas to a point. The only problem I see with his method is that it has the danger of propagating the idea that "pitch" is the most important element in music. I wonder if, historically, composers trained thoroughly in theory have been any more/less "experimental" than those that were self-taught. I think that, like the recent Dalls Morning News article on straight vs. gay composers, there is no evidence for splitting the history of composition into those two categories. There isn't a "sound" that resulted from, say, Nadia Boulanger's students or Franco Donatoni's (to name but two of the most studied with teachers of the 20th century).

  2. How do you teach interval? Play the "steps" over and over until a student can recognize them?

    Seems tedious.

  3. A good bit about learning and practicing music is tedious.

    Drilling is one part of teaching intervals, but the more important part is taching about the concept. What the intervals are and what they mean.