Analogy is key

The depth in which a new musical concept is explained varies greatly depending on the age of the pupils. Often, the first encounter of a concept contains little in the way of technical data, the main concern being to see whether or not the pupils can hear the concept.

One such concept is tonality – or the idea of a piece of music being in a certain key. In the first instance I mention no more than the fact that in most pieces have there exists one note which is the leader, the centre and the foundation of the piece. This seems to do the trick. I play a short extract and pupils then rummage around the fingerboard until they locate the centre of the piece. The gravitational pull is usually sufficiently strong to ensure that most will eventually get there. In fact, the pull is so strong that the key note does not even have to be present in the tune. If you play this extract, you will hear what the key note (aka tonic) should be and that, in fact, should have been present as the final note: click

This fact bewilders most pupils. An implied planet cannot exert a gravitational pull, so how can a note do it? Normally an analogy would be pulled out here to illustrate the point. The problem is that I can’t think of a convincing one. The nearest I can get is that in certain sentences, a missing verb is so obvious that it feels more or less present:

He ****** the ball so hard that it broke the crossbar

But even this sentence has room for doubt.

Can anyone out there think of a parallel situation in another subject?

One thought on “Analogy is key”

  1. This got me thinking – First I thought of people’s birthdays falling on a certain month of the year, forming a “base” month – then I thought of mixing different colours of paint from the rainbow to form a given colour or “key”.

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