Here we look at how different ways of learning music affect what we learn and how we think about the music. This is a topic that seems to generate strong opinions, but it's also a topic for which it's possible to do empirical (observation-based) research. In the previous page we looked at the importance of backing up opinions about observable phenomena with valid evidence.
On this page I want to summarize the evidence I was able to find that's relevant. On the next page I will go beyond the evidence in places, but I will make it clear when that happens and include some hopefully interesting exercises to support what I'm saying.
Learning Tunes (By Ear & Reading)
Remember the comparison between what's in the sheet music and what's in the playing of a fiddler? If not I strongly encourage you to click on the link and do the comparison exercises. It will make what I'm saying much more salient.
Let's start with the evidence: what have music education researchers found that might be of use to us? This will be based on research discussed in the Musco paper I talked about on the previous page. For the most part I'll present results and conclusions without going into all the details of the studies being discussed.
First of all I have to repeat what she concluded: many or most of the studies had methodological or logical problems that interfere with being able to interpret them very clearly. I suspect that many of the researchers are much better at teaching music than at researching the teaching process. But there were some good studies, and some clear evidence was produced.
Alogether these studies provide evidence for the beneficial effects of ear training, and it was also associated with improvement in sight reading despite fears to the contrary. It made students think more, and it was more fun. All this shows the beneficial effects of ear learning.