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Ideas for Aural Skills Transcription Projects

Hi all,

I'm interested in your thoughts about the implementation of transcription projects in aural skills that are centered around transcribing music for which there is no accessible score. I'm hoping to use music for which there is no score for several reasons:

  1. I'd like to try to diversify the kinds of music that my students are engaging with.

  2. I've had a lot of issues with cheating in other classes at my institution, and I'm concerned that students will just have Google listen to the recording, tell them the piece, and then simply find the score and copy directly from there.

  3. There is also something very artificial and contrived about having students transcribe music for which scores are easily accesible. When would they ever need to do this in real life?

The main issue that I'm thinking about is assessment. I don't have time to try to transcribe lots of music, and even if I did, the idea of grading the accuracy of a transcription of music for which there is no score seems problematic. I like the structure of Megan Long's project that she uses here: https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:27839/, but she doesn't provide much information on grading something like this.

I guess I don't have any specific questions at this point, but am more interested to hear what other people have done and what you've learned in the process.






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  • 3 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Hi David,

    I don't have anything that addresses your exact questions, but I asked my students in the fall to do a transcription of a piece of music that could be broadly understood as "not using functional tonality as we've learned it." This was a group project designed to encourage the students to think creatively about how the skills we'd learned might apply to repertoires we hadn't studied. Several groups chose music by Indian musicians (both popular and classical), several chose European modernists (Béla Bartók, Johanna Beyer), and a few chose other repertoires.

    For each week, I gave a certain number of minutes I expected the students to work and a specific outcome to share with me (a reflection on how they'd represent the meter/rhythms/pitches, their notation so far, etc.) for feedback. The final result was graded half for "thoughtful and reasonably accurate engagement with meter and rhythm" and half for "thoughtful and reasonably accurate engagement with pitch." They also presented these transcriptions to each other.

    The grading wasn't particularly picky, which seemed appropriate since I didn't feel I'd given them detailed listening skills for all the repertoires they chose. Instead, since my goal was for them to start applying their skills in creative and new ways, I mostly graded on completion.

    I hope that's a little bit helpful!


  • Hi Tim,

    That is helpful, thanks! I like the idea of having weekly goals and presentations at the end. I'll definitely file those away.

  • During the pandemic, I tried a very different format for assessing transcription projects. I was happy with the learning that happened, the students did good work, students were considerably less stressed, and I'll be keeping it.

    I made a time based project. If they spent 10 hours, they got all the points. 8-10 hours got 80% of the points, and less than 8 was no points. There was also a required reflection. It really evened the playing field between the people with absolute pitch and notational fluency and those without all put in the same number of hours. I encourage students to check their work on a piano and encourage them to make the best product they can. I have to remind them it's not about quanitty. They may or may not finish their piece. It's about flexing the muscles they need for transcription for 8-10 hours.

    Did some of them lie? Probably. But they still did some work. And it's probably about the same number of those who cheat.

    Happy to answer questions or share the reflection questions.