Getting Inside Harmony 1

August 19, 2005

"Overall, I would say the goal is to make the study of harmony something that is very practical and immediately applicable to what the student wants to do in music," says Rendish. "Teaching them to hear chord progressions, hear tonality and modality, and know where they are in a piece of music is profoundly important for any musician, whether they are songwriters or players. It's an essential tool. And approaching music without it, it's almost -- to use a paraphrase -- like going through music colorblind."

While the course is designed to be easy to follow, students should have some basic knowledge of music theory in order to keep up with the instruction and assignments. They should know how to read music, and be able to match and hold pitch in a falsetto voice, according to Rendish. It is also helpful to have some experience building chords. Having a mastery of such musical basics will give students the platform and the confidence to learn the kind of methodical approach to harmony that he advocates, which is not about memorization, so much as learning how to work out what is happening in a piece of music based on their knowledge of the theory behind it. "When I say, having an understanding of harmony, I don't mean having it at your finger tips, memorized," says Rendish. "The whole reason for the title, Getting Inside Harmony 1, is that through the course activities, harmony becomes a real tangible experience for students."

To help his students get inside harmony, Rendish has them complete a variety of interactive assignments that include listening, thinking, visualizing, vocalizing, writing, and playing. These activities help them to hear and recognize chord progressions, so they can learn songs more easily and transpose them on sight. Because Rendish is sympathetic to the fact that many of his students are busy with full lives, he encourages them to complete the assignments whenever it is convenient for them, but he also provides regular live chat times, so that students can interact with him in real time and ask any questions that they might have. He believes that student-teacher interaction is particularly important for this course. "We bear in mind that the teacher is really a coach, and that the student will be continuing to build on their knowledge of the subject," says Rendish.

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