the true one, and all successful teachers must adopt it in some form in
teaching instrumental as well as vocal music. This, however, was not
original with Mr. Curwen and is not peculiar to the Tonic Sol Fa system.
We are alike indebted to the French Cheve system for this idea. While
upon a careful examination of the Tonic Sol Fa system, we find the prin-
ciple of associating sounds and the idea of teaching time with a time
language to be correct, we find that the system itself has been vastly
overestimated by its zealous advocates. The methods of presentbifj, nam-
hiff, and rej? resent in f/ the subject of music in the Tonic Sol Fa system are
BO unpedagogical and faulty, that no practical teacher of other subjects
would think of teaching music in this way if fully alive to these defects.
If the President of the American Tonic Sol Fa Association represents the
system correctly regarding the units of thought in that system, upon
which the two fundamental ideas of tune and time are based, then the
Tonic Sol Fa methods are not in accordance with established law^ in
teaching other subjects. The unit or object of thought in studying the
pitch of sounds is the wJiole major scale. It is not a single sound. It is
not a succession of sounds in the form of a melody. It is not the chord as
claimed by the leader of the Tonic Sol Fa movement in this country.
Whatever the Tonic Sol Fa has accomplished, has been done upon an en-
tirely different basis, and those who do not know it cannot fully under-
stand the system. The transitions in Tonic Sol Fa cannot be made upon
the principle of regarding the chord as the unit or object of thought.
Again â€” The position taken by the Tonic Sol Faists, that the beat or pulse
is the unit or object of thought in teaching rhythm, is not correct and
cannot be maintained from the pedagogical standpoint. A unit or object
of thought must be some thing that the mind can conceive and grasp as a
whole thing. It cannot do this of a single beat or pulsation. A single
beat or pulse has no end until it is marked by a return or another pulse, â€”
then it becomes a two part measure. The different forms of measure
must be established in the mind as units composed of groups of accents.
Again â€” The Tonic Sol Fa system unites the two subjects of tune and
time long before the unit of thought is completed upon which tune is
based. This is done in such a way as to compel the use of very monoto-
nous, meaningless, and unmusical exercises and songs. This is no less
596 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION
objectionable and vitiating to good musical taste, than equally objection-
able sentences in teaching language, which in teaching language would
not be tolerated for a single moment. This elementary work in the Tonic
Sol Fa is also objectionable on account of keeping the voice a long time
.practicing monotonous concords. Voices can be very much more easily
and effectually tuned, and perfect intonation and tuneful singing is
secured, by comparing and resolving discordant notes than by practicing
concords. Music composed entirely of concords is very stale and mean-
ingless. It is very important that children should sing from the beginning
none but well-written exercises and songs. Everything should be musical.
Children learn to appreciate good music much more readily than adults.
We can never establish a true musical taste so long as we give children
â€¢unmusical exercises and songs for practice. The quality of the musical
food given to children in their early years is a subject which has not re-
ceived the attention which its importance demands. Let us see to it that
we go forward and not backward in this important matter. The condition
of musical education in England some forty years ago when the Tonic Sol
Fa was introduced, was very different from what it is to-day in this coun-
try. Great improvements in educational methods employed in teaching
other branches have been made in both countries. The application of
Ihese educational principles and methods to the teaching of music has
-not kept pace with the advancement made all along the line in other
studies. Ignorance of these educational principles and their application
to music in England, made the introduction of the Tonic Sol Fa system
â™¦possible, and under the same conditions it would grow and thrive any-
where. Nothing but a continuance of this ignorance will keep the sys-
tem alive, for it can feed upon nothing else. While the Tonic Sol Fa
should have full credit for whatever it has accomplished, the fact that it
â€¢ exists at all is the saddest possible commentary upon the manner in which
music has been taught from the established notation in England. There
are two questions which no Tonic Sol Faist has seemed anxious to answer.
The first is this, â€” Do you propose to do away with the staff* notation, and
substitute the Tonic Sol Fa altogether, and finally for singing ? If not,
just when do you propose to drop the Tonic Sol Fa and take the staff*?
"Now Brother Tonic Sol Faists I you must take your position definitely
upon these questions, then we shall know just where you stand, and what
you propose. If it is your claim that the Tonic Sol Fa is necessary in
order to get better results with the staff* notation, let us know it. If it is
useful only to conceat ignorance in teaching at the expense of the little
â€¢ones let us know that also, and go to the teachers of America with the
ipsue. They are certainly too loyal, too earnest, and too devoted to the
rgrand work to which they are called, to consent to any device to conceal
inefficiency or ignorance on their part. My principal objection, only ob
BETTER TEACHING OR A NEW NOTATION, WBICU ? 59t
jection, and final objection to the Tonic Sol Fa sjBtem, in addition to the
defects named, is that better results can be produced without it This
can certainly he done.
How can this be accomplished ?
(1) Instruction in music must be put upon an educational basis with
other school studies and taught as other branches are taught by the regular
teacher. When our methods of teaching are made to conform to the best
educational methods in teaching other objects, the regular teachers will
be successful in teaching music.
(2) The teaching of vocal music must be divided into its two natural
and distinct divisions â€” Tune and Time. These subjects must be taught
separately at the beginning.
Rote-singing is not the best means of developing tone perception either
in pitch or rhythm, and it should only be used as a means of recreation
and entertainment with very young children. Continued rote-singing is a
positive hindrance in teaching children to sing Intelligently,
(3) Children should be given daily systematic practice in the study of.
tune or the pitch of sounds. They should not only know and be able to
give instantly the sounds of the scale in their relation to each other, but
should be perfectly familiar with each sound in its relation to every other
key. This knowledge can be gained during the primary school course
(three years), so that all problems in intervals will ever after be easily-
solved by the pupils.
A thorough knowledge derived from training in musical sounds, should*
precede the technical study of harmony and the playing of musical instru-
ments. There is no place so appropriate for this training and none where
it can be so well and successfully accomplished as in the public schools,
and by the regular teachers. The knowledge of musical sounds thus
gained, stands in the same relation to intelligent singing, as an intelligent
knowledge of simple numbers and their combinations bears to mathematics.
If we would secure the best results in teaching music in our schoolsi we
must withhold the Â«se of musical instfuments as a means of instruction or
as aids in singing. Prompt, self-reliant singing is never heard where an
instrument is constantly used. The golden opportunity for developing tone
perception and training the mind in music, and thus laying a sure foun-
dation for a niusioal education is in the lowest class in our primary schools.
Here individual training can be as easily and successfully done in music as
in numbers, reading, or any other study. If we neglect this training here
it can never be so successfully accomplished after this period is passed.
But this growth and development must be from within and not from with-
out, A musical artist is not necessary but a skillful teacher is Indis-
I have endeavored in this paper to point out what soem to me to be
598 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.
some of the errors which have seriously hindered in the past that general
progress in music education in this country, which we all desire so much
to see, and to indicate in a few brief hints how these errors may be avoided
in the future. 1 have also given some of the reasons which have led me
to the conviction after careful consideration, that the introduction of the
so-called Tonic Sol Fa system cannot yield the slightest assistance, where
music is taught as it is taught to-day by those who are applying real edu-
cational principles in their teaching. In the light of this view I might
declare my belief that such persons, viz., those who are applying educa-
tional methods to the teaching of vocal music, without discarding the
staff, are so far in advance of Tonic Sol Methods that the latter notation
Cannot be of the slightest value to them and must be a hindrance to the
pupil's progress. I trust that I need not add in justice to myself that the
examination and discussion of methods and systems in this paper are
undertaken in no spirit of controversy, but solely with the hope that 1 may
in some measure help to clear away from the subject some of the mist and
smoke that have surrounded it, and to aid in enlisting the active interest
and co-operative efforts of the great body of our teachers and educators,
to secure economy of time and effort, and to hasten the time when all our
children in all our schools shall learn to sing intelligently.
It seems to me that we have abundant reason to take courage in oar
great work. At no previous time has there been so much interest mani-
fested by educators and by the people generally as at present. Parents
are beginning to appreciate the value of music in their homes, and educa-
tors as they see how universal is the musical talent among the children,
which is now dormant and only needs the magic touch of the skillful
teacher to bring it forth, are more anxious to develop this great educa-
tional p:)wer for the good of tlie children and the race. The time is now
at hand when, through good teaching, this long neglected study shall have
its rightful place and yield tlie best results.
THE TONIC SOL-FA NOTATION AS A FACTOR IN MUSICAL
BY THEODORE F. SEWAKD, OF NEW YORK.
Man's relation to music is twofold. It may be objective or it may be
subjective. He may be a mere listener, or he may be a participant. It
is the latter characteristic which gives music a unique place among the
arts. We may receive an impression â€” an uplifting â€” from a musical
performance as from a painting. But the painting must ever remain an
outward and separate object, while, with music, we may enter into and
become a part of that which delights and inspires us.
But the distinction goes much farther than this. While all people can
be trained to a degree of appreciation of painting, sculpture, or fine
architecture, the great majority of mankind cannot themselves be paint-
ers, sculptors, or architects. Music is the one art that may enter into the
personal experience of every individual. Music is keyed to the whole
range of human faculties. On the side of nature its simple melodies may
be on the lips and in the hearts of the humblest. On the side of art its
symphonies rise to a colossal height of bewildering complication that
taxes the appreciation of those who are most richly endowed by nature
It is with nature's side of the art that we, as teachers of the rising
generation, have to do. A great awakening has suddenly become appar*
Â«nt on all sides with regard to the value of music as a factor in education.
As a nation we are unquestionably taking a new start in the history of
music as related to our school system. How important it is that this
new departure should be on the soundest possible basis. As a teacher of
thirty years' experience, as one who has been led by editorial work for
more than half that time to look upon music in its broadest aspects, as
one who has made an earnest study of the school methods of the various
European countries, I wish to present certain considerations which have
been proved to be vital to the interests of popular music.
I have said that man's relation to music is twofold : the relation of a
listener and the relation of a participant. But beyond that division there
is a subdivision which has never received a proper consideration till the
present day, although it is based upon the most marked distinction that is
to be found in the whole constitution of our nature. The distinction that
600 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.
I refer to is the one that grows out of the difference between the human
h and and the human voice.
A curious statement, you will say. But it will not take you long to
realize that the distinction, so far from being fanciful, leads directly to
one of the greatest reforms in method and result that has ever been
witnessed in the history of education.
Have you ever duly considered the almost supernatural qualities of the
human voice ? Think of its capacities. It has the gift of speech. It
has the gift of song. It can lament. It can rejoice. It can imitate all
other sounds. The aim of all musical instruments is to reproduce as
nearly as possible its godlike tones. And in the art of music itself how
it towers above all our puny inventions. The little bundle of muscles
and cartilages in the human throat produces almost without conscious
effort that which in the piano or organ requires a hundred or a thousand
pieces of mechanism. We see on the key-boai*d of a piano a complicated
array of black and white keys â€” sharps, flats, and naturals. Has an
examination of the vocal apparatus ever brought to light any sharps or
flats in that marvelous piece of mechanism ? This question seems to
you almost an unpardonable absurdity. Yet such is the slow progress of
human development, in the direction of simplicity, that it has taken a
thousand years to discover that this vital distinction between the voice
and the hand in the expression or production of music should also be
made the foundation of a system for studying it.
After a natural method of treating music is established, the world will
look back with amazement upon the artificial period, and will never cease
to wonder that it should have been so long continued.
Let us review the musical history of a child. The mother begins the
unconscious training of its musical perceptions by her soft lullabies, while
it is still in her arms. Soon it tries to imitate her. If the nature is
inclined to be musical, it will gradually join its voice with hers, and will
thus use correctly the language of music before it gains the power of
speech. This is a common experience. It is not possible to overestimate
or to describe extravagantly the simplicity, the grace â€” in a word, the
naturalness of the language of music.
At length, in childhood, in youth, or in maturity, it begins to study the
laws of this language of nature. But the moment it does so, all sim-
plicity disappears. Why this sudden change ? It is because the written
language of music is a language for the hand, and not for the voice. The
staff representation of music is au outgrowth of instrumental complica-
tions. Musical instruments require separate mechanical appliances for
twelve different keys. Therefore the staff has varying signs to corre-
spond. Musical instruments cannot give out the scale â€” the alphabet of
nature â€” at different ranges of pitch without mechanical variations â€” that
THE TONIC SOL-FA NOTATION. 601
is, each scale has tones that are foreign to all other scales. This is una-
voidable. It is a part of the dirine order. It is something to admire
and not to criticise. We look at the key-board of a piano and are filled
with wonder at the thought that the utmost range and possibility of the
art of music are represented within that sweep of a man's hand.
But we must not carry our admiration too far. We must not be led by
it to forget that God has'written another law of music in our members,
and one that is a more direct expression of His order and method than
the cunning instrument of man's invention.
Human methods are invariably complex. In God alone is absolute
simplicity. He came to the earth two thousand years ago, gave to man-
kind a fewjplain rules for living, and showed by His own life how they
could be carried out. Human nature took possession of those simple laws
of love to Godjand man ; manufactured vast theological systems out of
them ; tortured them into excuses for persecuting and killing each other ;
did everything but use them as a plain way to happiness on earth, an
abundant entrance into eternal life.
Do net imagine^that I am wandering from my subject. I stand here to
plead for a restoration of divine order to the heavenly art of music. It
is necessary for me to show that the principles I advocate are as deep as
the human soul itself, and that they lie at the very foundation of our
I have said, and you all agree, that song is a simple language. Being
emotional and moral in its iirst elements, rather than intellectual, little
children can receive and use it with delight, and minds of the humblest
capacity are not hindered from enjoying it. Now, since you concede that
point of the simplicity of music, how do you account for the fact that so
few people understand it ? Why do you. representatives of the highest
culture of our land, know less about music than of any other subject to
which you have given even a small degree of attention ? i
The burden of the proof lies with you. It belongs to you either to
show that this state of things is necessary and unavoidable, or, if you
cannot make it so appear, to cordially greet a movement that proposes to
" reform it altogether." At least, it is clear that you have no right to
treat such a movement with indifference till you have thoroughly exam-
ined its credentials.
I can show you, by a very simple illustration, why the mass of the
people cannot understand music.
Suppose the values of the numerals 1, 2, 3, etc., were continually
changing. After teaching your pupils to add, subtract, multiply, and
divide, you would be compelled to say, " When you see two crosses at the
beginning of an example, it shows that two now means 1, 3 means 2,
and so on. After working the problems in that way for a time, you
602 TEE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION
announce another change, in which 3 shall stand for 1, 4 for 2 ; and so
with the whole nine integers. I do not need to ask you how the subject
of mathematics would prosper in our schools on that basis.
Friends and fellow-teachers, this is the simple gospel truth with regard
to the staff representation of music. Most of you are aware of it,
although you have never realized its educational significance.
The staff begins by presenting certain signs for the tones. The tone
1 (so named, usually by elementary teachers) on the first added line
below, 2 of the space below, 3 on the first line, etc. But after a time the
teacher is obliged to say, " When you see two crosses (sharps) or five flats
at the beginning, it shows that 2 has now become 1, 3 has become 2," and
so with the rest. After puzzling their brains over that a while, the
pupils are informed that four sharps or three flats indicate the change of
5 to 1, 4 to 2, and thus throughout the scale. Every unfortunate sign is
required to exchange meanings with its equally unfortunate fellows. And
there is not the slightest alteration in the appearance of the notes to
indicate or suggest their altered meaning. If the signature at the begin-
ning is concealed, the notes are ch^s. They may mean anything, and
therefore they mean nothing. The complications and perplexities of this
scheme are so vast and overwhelming that many musicians have sought
refuge in the ^p'xed Do plan. At first sight this would seem to be a solu-
tion of the difficulty. But never was there a greater delusion. The
movable Do is difficult ; the fixed Do is, to the average human mind, im-
possible. To continue the mathematical comparison, while the movable
Do changes the powers of the numbers, the fixed Do gives perpetually
<5hanging results : 2 is always 2, but 2 and 2 sometimes make 4, sometimes
5, sometimes 6. Nothing less than an inborn musical genius will enable
one to grapple successfully with the problems of music through the unnat-'
ural fixed Do process.
Let us not lose sight of the aim of our discussion. I will restate it in a
word. Music is simple. Yet most people cannot understand it or read
it. Why this discrepancy ? I have shown that it arises from the com-
plexity of its representation, or written signs. You may meet me at this
point with the question, " Do not the signs correspond with music as it is ?
Music is simple as a language, but as an art it is complicated. There are
different keys, and in the changes of those keys, 2 actually does become 1,
jand so through the variations you have described. Can the representation
of music be more simple than music itself ? "
This brings us back to nature again. It is true that there are different
keys, yet it is also true that to the voice they are all alike. You cannot,
if you try, make yourself conscious of any difference between singing in
the key of D, two sharps, or the key of D flat, five flats. With musical .
instruments, and with the hand, each change of key involves a change of
THE TONIC SOL-FA NOTATION. 603
constituent tones and a change in the manner of performance. With the
voice the various keys bring no change of mental impression, and call for
no different powers in the manner of execution. Yet, as I said before, it
has taken the world a thousand years to realize that there must be a
method of writing music corresponding with the simplicity of the vocal
method, before the human race, as a race, could understand it.
The first suggestion of this thought is always startling. It occasions a
sort of shock. The mind shrinks from it as something too revolutionary.
But as we continue to dwell upon it, the reasonableness of the theory
begins to take possession of us, and we soon come to realize it as inevit-
able. Then we are led to exclaim, " How strange that such an obvious
idea should have remained concealed to this late day ! " And truly, it is
a mystery that is not easy of solution. It can only be accounted for by
the disinclination of the human mind to follow the laws of simplicity.
It is not only the "heathen Chinee" who is inclined to ways that are
dark and tricks that are vain, â€” it is a universal tendency of the human
race. Hence it is found that although every word we Tonic Sol-faists say
on the subject is merely the statement of a demonstrated truth, as much
so as if we asserted that the three angles of a triangle are equivalent to
two right angles, yet our words are doubted by the mass of the people,
and strongly opposed by a majority of the musical profession. With the
former â€” the people â€” it is merely a case of inertia. They are slow to
move on the same principle that all large bodies are slow to move. As to
^he method itself, they are merely indifferent. With the music teachers
another element comes in. A new method seems like an encroachment
on their rights. Their first instinct is to regard it as an enemy, and to
oppose it on that ground. What points are they able to make in oppo-
sition to it? Not one, that I have ever heard. The burden of their
argument, if such it may be called, is to assert that the staff is not so
complicated as we claim it to be, and that, with proper teaching, the
ability to understand and read music can be gained in connection with the
lines and spaces, clefs, flats, sharps, naturals, transpositions of the scale,
and all that catalogue of sweet simplicity.
We do not pretend to deny this. What folly to do so when thousands