Figuring Out Melody makes an incredible course textbook!
Figuring Out Melody began about 30 years ago, when I was teaching counterpoint at the Berklee College of Music. The school’s recommended text was Species based. My students nobly dug into the exercises. But I had a hunch that working with more overtly tonal materials (i.e., chords and chord tones) would help them more in the long run, especially as so few worked in styles that used contrapuntal textures.
So I tried an experiment. I began introducing my own exercises along with those in the assigned text. My exercises focused on writing melodies with chord tones rather than intervals.
To my surprise, when it came time to write counterpoint, the Berklee students – jazz/pop/rock/country musicians who had barely heard of J.S. Bach – consistently wrote counterpoint that was far superior to anything by any of the students at the classical conservatory I attended – including me!
And I was dead wrong about them not seeing the value of it. Not only that, my students told me that my book helped their improvisational skills, sight reading, ear training, and ability to understand music. I left there in 1998, but still get the occasional letter of thanks from various parts of the world.
I came very close to getting Figuring Out Melody published with several scholastic presses, including OUP. While reviewers saw its value, they pointed out something obvious. Very few teachers will want to abandon the approach that they learned to try something new.
Why not, if it works “better,” meaning that it ignites the imagination while providing guidelines that align better with actual practice than currently-approved methods do?
This was something that I realized even before I tried to get FOM published. So I wrote a flyer that addressed three concerns:
- why a new approach is needed
- an overview of the main principles
- answers to commonly-asked questions
Below, you’ll find that (somewhat rickety) flyer. I offer it because it’s still the best way to get a quick overview of the underlying principles.
I remain firmly convinced that music educators need to reevaluate what we offer our 21st-Century students. I invite you to explore Figuring Out Melody and consider how it might equip this bright and talented new generation of students to make the music of the future.
I am happy to send you a desk copy. Please use the form below to contact me.