David Newman shares his music theory and aural skills teaching songs, as well as some of the stories behind them, in this laughter-filled episode of Notes from the Staff.
The Well Trained Ear on BandCamp
0:02:03 How did you begin writing teaching songs?
0:03:48 David's most popular song: The Periodic Table Rap
0:11:00 Greg and Leah's favorite songs of David
0:11:46 The Dominant Seventh Song
0:14:13 Hinting at future topics in songs about more basic topics
0:15:57 Sophie Lay on My Sofa
0:20:00 Collaborators on the songs
0:23:47 Third Away song
0:26:22 Navigating singing Bach professionally, and recording these popular style theory songs
0:30:25 Intervals in Inversions song
0:34:00 David's favorite song: Second Inversions
0:38:45 The Chord Spelling Song
0:42:51 How teaching songs can help students hear and recognize things as they're happening.
0:46:41 Where can listeners find your songs?
0:49:30 The Notes from the Staff theme song
0:00:20.0 Leah Sheldon: Welcome to Notes From The Staff, a podcast from the creators of uTheory, where we dive into conversations about music theory, ear training, and music technology with members of the uTheory staff and thought leaders from the world of music education.
0:00:33.9 Greg Ristow: Hi, I'm Greg Ristow, founder of uTheory and associate professor of conducting at the Oberlin Conservatory.
0:00:40.6 LS: Hi, I'm Leah Sheldon, head of teacher engagement for uTheory.
0:00:44.6 David Newman: Hi, I'm David Newman. I teach at James Madison University and I write code and create content for uTheory. A quick thanks to listeners for all your comments and episode suggestions. We love to read them. Send them our way by email at notes@uTheory.com and remember to like us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
0:01:03.7 GR: In our second to last episode for the season, we're turning the tables one more time. And Leah and I will be interviewing our co-host Baritone David Newman. David teaches aural skills, music theory and voice on the faculty of James Madison University. He's famous for his teaching songs, which have millions of views on YouTube. He released his music theory songs in a 2019 album, The Well Trained Ear. They're widely used by elementary, middle, high school and college teachers. Previously, David taught at the University of California Davis, San Jose State University, University of Virginia and Shenandoah Conservatory. He maintains an active performing career as a classical singer and can be heard on the Philips, Dorian, Analecta, K617, and Nexus Labels. Despite COVID-19 precautions, David continued to make music and inspire others to join in the harmony with his innovative drive and choir concept profiled in both the LA Times and New York Times. David thanks for joining us.
0:02:01.5 DN: I'm so glad to be here.
0:02:03.6 GR: So, we're gonna talk about your teaching songs which are just utterly delightful. I think this is a lovely follow up to our episode a couple of weeks ago with Jed Dearybury about The Playful Classroom. How did you get started writing teaching songs?
0:02:16.6 DN: Oh, wow. I mean, I could go really far back and say that I initially went to music school with the thought of that being a backup for my great career as a singer-songwriter, but really it started when my daughter was in third grade and she brought me a study packet for science and asked me if I would help her study for a test. And we looked at the... I looked at the packet and there was a lot of stuff to memorize. And I said, "You know, we could probably turn some of this into a song." And so I wrote a quick little ditty about soil, [chuckle] and its components and recorded it. And I threw it out on YouTube just to share it that night and got such a positive response that I wrote another song the next day. And I wrote four songs in four days and then I completely burnt out.
0:03:25.2 DN: But then I did it again several times, and this was also in the first year that I was teaching aural skills. And so, later in that year, I just thought, "If I can do this for my third grade daughter, why can't I do this for my aural skills students?" And then I wrote a few songs for them and it just kept going from there.
0:03:48.8 GR: What's your most popular song? Is it one of your music theory songs or is it one of your songs for other... [laughter] A uTheory advantage of having YouTube statistics, right? So.
0:04:00.6 DN: You know, I know... And it's... I don't know if I should be embarrassed about this or not, but my... Yeah, my most popular song is me rapping the periodic table of elements. I have over a million views on that song alone.
0:04:15.4 GR: Can we take a listen to that?
0:04:18.2 DN: Sure. [chuckle] And there's of course... I also wrote that in one afternoon/evening, and I was finally ready to record the female vocal parts at midnight, which meant that I accosted my wife at midnight as she was wanting to go to sleep, and I said, "Please, I just need you to sing these few things." [laughter] Yeah. And then I just think it's funny that my entire career as I view it has been as a classical singer, singing Bach, but I probably have reached more people with my rap stylings.
These are the elements, the periodic table, in order
So we got hydrogen, helium, lithium, berylium, boron, carbon, nitrogine and oxygen, flourine. Now stop snoring... this isn't boring, and this is stuff you shouldn't be ignoring. Neon ("noble"), sodium, magnesium, aluminum, silicon, phosphorous, sulfur, chlorine. That's under Flourine. Hey, we're up to 17! You've never had it better for remembering the elements.
These are the elements...
Then we got argon ("nobel"), potassium, calcium, scandium, titanium, vanadium, chromium. Manganese, iron, cobalt nicketl cpper zinc, gallium, germanium, arsenic, selenium, and bromine. That's under chlorine and flourine. Just keep storing the order for your mortar board.
Krypton, rubidium, strontium, ytrium zirconium niobium molybdenum, technitium (it's radioactive, woah). Ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver ("bling"), cadmium and indium. Tin, antimony, tellurium and iodine.
0:06:29.6 DN: I love watching your reactions.
0:06:33.2 DN: Well, that was the... Yeah. I don't know. And I would feel totally guilty writing a rap. Which is not my wheelhouse at all, except that, I know what I like about rap. I'm frustrated by educational music that doesn't honor the musical side of things. And so I did try to make it interesting. And I did try to do things like internal rhyme and the kinds of things that make rap enjoyable for me. And I loved so much, sorry, I loved so much watching your reactions. 'Cause I guess you hadn't seen that before. [laughter] And I do try to work humor into my songs. And I really do love sharing some of them for the first time with people who haven't heard them before, and just seeing them react to things that they get. The little inside jokes. I think sometimes the inside jokes are useful for students, too, because if they don't get them, then they want to get them. They wanna know why everyone else reacted at that moment.
0:08:00.6 LS: Or why that "Noble" was such a moment.
0:08:08.9 DN: Which I did after every noble element.
0:08:10.5 LS: That will help me remember the noble moments.
0:08:14.4 DN: Of course, I wrote this, what, 11 years ago? And... 12 years ago, maybe? And now it's incomplete. [laughter] There have been eight more... No six more named elements since then, so 118 completes are all of the table.
0:08:40.0 GR: I'm sure that people have made the comparison of this to Tom Lehrer's Element song just made me think of his last verse, 'cause like, there may be many others.
0:08:50.2 DN: These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard, and there may be many others, but they haven't been discovered.
0:09:00.3 GR: Yeah. That's right. Yeah.
0:09:01.0 DN: Which is, of course, a Gilbert and Sullivan tune. Yeah, I was aware of that. And Tom Lehrer is, of course, one of my huge influences. But the frustrating thing about the Tom Lehrer version of that song is that it's not in order. It's not only very incomplete by today's standards, but it's also not in order. So it's more just a witty thing that you can do naming a bunch of elements and not particularly useful for learning anything. Or no, you could argue that memorizing the table isn't particularly useful for anything either. But memorizing it in order is something that Virginia students have to do. And so I was writing it specifically in response to a request from my sister who said, "Kids need this." I thought, "Okay, challenge accepted, I will come up with something."
0:10:07.3 GR: And you said, you started writing these teaching songs, right at the same time as you're starting to teach aural skills. And so I presume that's what led to all of your music theory and aural skills songs as well.
0:10:18.5 DN: Yeah. And also, I think there's something... Teaching a new course, especially when it's not something that you've spent a long time thinking about how you were gonna teach, I feel like I grew a million brain neurons [chuckle] that year. I think there's something about learning something new, digging deep into something new that just fosters creativity. And that was an incredibly creative year for me.
0:10:54.1 GR: I know Leah and I have both listened to probably all if not most...
0:10:58.1 LS: I think so.
0:11:00.5 GR: Of... Probably most if not all of your teaching songs. Leah, do you have a favorite?
0:11:07.4 LS: Well I like a lot of them but I do think that... I'm gonna put Sophie up there.
0:11:20.4 LS: And maybe The Dominant 7th.
0:11:24.8 GR: Yeah, I was... Yeah. For me the... For me... Yeah, I love Dominant 7th would be totally top of my list, partly 'cause it's just so darn useful. You just play this once as students are coming to the classroom and they never forget what the notes are of that Dominant 7th.
0:11:41.3 DN: Right. As long as you're using movable do.
0:11:46.4 GR: As long as you're using movable do, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. Should we listen to it a bit?
0:11:50.8 DN: Sure.
This is a I chord and a V in first inversion,
Then a vi, a passing I 64, then IV.
But this song might get boring and you’d prob’ly start ignoring me
If I tried naming every single chord.
But there’s one chord that’s terrific, and its function is specific,
And it hangs around in cadences for fun.
With solfege we can state it if we just arpeggiate it, and
Sol-ti-re-fa is a dominant 7, which brings us home to I.
Of course the IV chord (FA-LA-DO) can be pleasant to the ear.
Then there’s V7/V (RE-FI-LA-DO)
That’s a chord we’re going to learn about more next year!
We’re back to I now, and there’s that V in first inversion,
Just repeating what we’d played when we’d begun.
And this path that we had charted’s going to finish what we started
‘Cause SOL-TI-RE-FA is a dominant 7, which brings us home to…
OH NO! That cadence was deceptive!
It went to minor vi instead of I!
That sort of trick can be effective
At making things last longer when we thought that we were done!
0:13:34.1 GR: I love that deceptive cadence, David.
0:13:35.9 DN: [laughter] I have to give credit to Matt Grisset, one of my students, for that. I was still writing the song... I don't know. It was written over a period of time, and I shared my initial thoughts, maybe the first verse or two with my students that year, and Matt said, "You need to put a deceptive cadence in there," and challenge accepted. [laughter]
0:14:10.2 GR: [chuckle] Nice.
0:14:13.1 DN: But that was great, and the... It was so useful... It is useful in the classroom, if you're teaching in movable do, to be able to say "So ti re fa," and just... Then... People... Yeah, it just gets stuck in their heads, which is the thing that you want to have happen. [laughter]
0:14:34.1 GR: Totally, totally.
0:14:35.6 LS: But you also acknowledged other concepts in there without taking away from the Dominant 7th, but really staying true to what's happening musically.
0:14:45.0 DN: Yeah, and pedagogically, we talk about spiraling, or coming back to the same concepts and seeing them with new eyes, and I... Add into that the... I think it's totally fine, in fact, admirable to introduce... To throw out a concept that they haven't learned yet, so that when they get to it, you can say, "Hey, remember when we listened to that song? Remember when it did "Re fi la do"? Now we're gonna talk about what that is. That's secondary dominant, and it gives them a hook to go, "Oh, this is a thing I already know." And I hope, when we're teaching aural skills, that a lot of it can be, instead of, "Here's a theory thing that you have to know," it's, "Here's a thing that you know and love. And now I'm gonna put a name to it. I'm gonna give you a way to name it and understand that it's happening. You already love it. You already know what it sounds like. It's just here's a context for it."
0:15:57.7 GR: When we were talking with Megan Long a couple of weeks ago about hexachordal solfege, and she started talking about [0:16:07.1] ____ and solfege puns from the Renaissance era. Of course, you know, that brings to mind Leah's favorite song, Sophie Lay on My Sofa, which is just... Can you introduce that for us a little bit, David?
0:16:24.5 DN: Oh gosh. Well, I had already written one solfege pun song, but that was just a sort of attempt to do Sound of Music, Do-Re-Mi, but, you know, in a different way.
0:16:39.4 GR: Is that the silly solfege song?
0:16:39.8 LS: The silly solfege?
0:16:41.5 DN: The silly solfege song.
0:16:42.0 LS: I love that too.
0:16:43.3 DN: Which is fine, although it still bothers me that I had to use bad grammar in order to keep the solfege puns going. I mean, it really, really pains me, [chuckle] but I wanted to see if I could incorporate a solfege pun song with lots of chromatic solfege and... Get, yeah, more of those relationships in there, and then, that became a fun challenge, just to see how to write the story in a way that it would make musical sense. And also, I really, really wanted to get "Fa li" in there, which of course means that the li has to be followed by a ti, so how can I make a story that has "Fa li" followed by the word tea. And the version that I recorded and put on YouTube was just me and a guitar. But the version we recorded for the album turned out to be kind of a really fun, bluesy song. [chuckle]
0:18:04.9 GR: Nice. Well, let's have a listen.
Sophie lay on my sofa
Eating raw dough, and drinking tea
Sophie don't lay on my sofa so...
Don't tease me so!
Let yourself fall for me.
Eating raw dough is folly.
Tea's not so bad.
But Sophie, don't lay on my sofa
0:19:27.4 GR: [chuckle] Love it. I love it. Of course, if you're a la bass minor person, that one is going to be very confusing, for us do bass minor people. [laughter]
0:19:38.5 DN: Well, I'd also... I mean, I think it sort of modulates there in the middle, and I don't modulate the syllables at all, but whatever.
0:19:45.7 GR: Yeah.
0:19:46.7 DN: I achieved my pun goal, and that was the important thing, [laughter] right? So I don't know if that one's pedagogically, you know, super useful, but...
0:20:00.6 GR: I mean, I think just the experience of listening and saying "Oh my god, that is actually so. Oh, that's fi." Right? And yeah, it is totally fun and valuable, pedagogically.
0:20:13.9 DN: I also think this is a good place to give a shout out to Jacob Rose Meisel, who was one of my voice students at JMU, who came to me in the middle of his senior year and said, "Hey, I arranged one of your songs, and I want you to see what you think of it," and it was the Non-Dominant 7ths, and he had created this elaborate progressive rock kind of arrangement of it, and I was... I just thought, "Wow, this is amazing. Can you do this with other things?" And he ended up producing and playing instruments, and he was the driving force behind making this album happen out of a bunch of YouTube videos that I, you know, mostly wrote and recorded in the same day. [chuckle]
0:21:18.5 GR: And you said your backing vocals, those are your wife and daughters, is that right?
0:21:27.1 DN: Depending on the track. Sometimes, it's my wife and daughters. There were a couple songs where I got... I just asked for student volunteers and community... Student and community volunteers, I think. I just had a bunch of people on the album. I got a bunch of people together, and we just recorded all of the backing vocals together, including at the end of the Second Inversions song, Manny Davis did this great, completely ad-libbed riff of Amen [chuckle] at the end of the Second Inversions song, and it's fantastic. I'm just so grateful for all those amazing people who sort of stepped in and helped. Oh my gosh, and... Sorry, if I'm talking about amazing people who stepped in and helped, my friend and colleague Sam Suggs came in and played bass on a bunch of tracks. My friend and colleague, Dave Pope, came in and recorded a sax solo. He came into the recording studio, he did one take, we listened to it, and he said, "Yep, that's good."
0:22:53.2 DN: And I'm sure I'm forgetting someone. Who else came in? Oh, Casey Cangelosi, my friend, colleague, and neighbor, came in. He wrote a whole sort of aleatoric drum thing, percussion thing for the first piece.
0:23:20.3 GR: Nice, nice. I was thinking, you know, one of the ones that I love is... Sometimes, when we're trying to convey an idea to students, like for instance, "If you're having trouble finding a note, don't just blindly leap for it, but use your reference pitches of one and five or Do and So in the scale," you know, that's a big concept to convey to them, and it's hard to make it fun.
0:23:47.3 GR: So, I was just thinking, I love your Third Away song for that idea, because it does... It says so clearly, and in such a fun way, that any note you need is never more than a Third Away from one or five, from Do or So. And, you know, yeah, it makes it joyous to think about it that way. Should we listen to it a little?
0:24:10.5 DN: Sure.
When you're trying hard to sightread and see a leap
to a Fa, La, Ti, Mi, or a Re...
Well as long as you can always find So and Do,
You're never more than a third away.
You can try and sing big intervals that you see,
And if you're good at it, well that's okay.
But as long as you can always find So and Do,
You're never more than a third away.
So if you're leaping to "Mi," you can think "So Mi"
And if you're leaping to "La," you can think "So La"
And if you're leaping to "Ti," you can think "Do Ti" yeah...
as long as you've got So and Do, you'll go far!
So keep working on your intervals big and small
And try to practice them every day
But as long as you can always find So and Do,
You're never more than a third away.
Yeah, as long as you can always find So and Do, yeah...
You're never more than a third away.
0:25:24.0 GR: We really get a sense of your vocal range through these songs from a very low to a very high David.
0:25:30.3 DN: I did sing that high C just 'cause I could.
0:25:31.9 LS: 'Cause you should.
0:25:32.0 GR: What's the low note like on Sophie? Was that a low F? What was that?
0:25:42.6 DN: I don't know. The Dominant 7th song is a low F. I don't really think about it. Either I can sing it or I can't. I mean, I can probably... Well, if I cheat, I can get close to four octaves now, but that means having to do, [pitched vocal fry] "Ahhhhh," can't get any lower than that today.
0:26:11.3 GR: Okay.
0:26:15.2 DN: But that's a trick. [laughter]
0:26:19.2 LS: And that's a whole 'nother episode.
0:26:22.3 GR: Yeah. Exactly.
0:26:22.4 DN: Right, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No... It is funny, I was afraid. When I first started sharing these songs, my biggest fear, and something that almost held me back from sharing them, was I make my living singing Bach. And I thought what if someone hears these and thinks, "Oh, that's not the voice I want." But I decided, and I hope I was right, that someone who hears that I have the flexibility to sing all these different styles will go, "Oh, and he sings Bach well. Okay."
0:27:06.7 GR: Yeah, I have to say, as we've gotten to know each other, I just continue to be blown away by the variety of things that you do and do well, it's...
0:27:22.4 DN: I fear sometimes that I do too many things and don't do any of them well, but I guess that's the life of a musician is having to explore all opportunities. [chuckle]
0:27:40.2 GR: Yeah, there's so much fun wordplay in your songs, have you always been one for puns and wordplay and that sort of thing?
0:27:49.4 DN: Boy, I haven't thought of that. I do enjoy it. Have I always enjoyed it? I think I've always enjoyed it, but I don't know that... I think it was especially writing educational songs that I felt both the desire and cultivated the ability to engage in wordplay. But thinking about the best educational songs that I knew and grew up with, the best ones were really compelling both musically and lyrically in ways that made me want to hear them again, or that would make them stick in my head, and I think especially the Tom Lehrer-esque wordplay, for me, was something that just went hand in hand with good educational songs.
0:28:49.2 GR: Yeah.
0:28:49.9 LS: And that's so important that holding true to the musical side of things, because there are a lot of creative lyrics out there that are not musical or are just spoken and auto-tuned and they are very hard on the ears even though the information in the lyrics is good.
0:29:13.9 DN: Yeah.
0:29:14.7 LS: Yeah.
0:29:16.3 DN: It looks like I'm gonna be co-presenting for a conference in the fall that is about music and education, but a challenge in educational music is sometimes that it's written by educators or scientists who maybe didn't think about as much about the musical side of things. And there is even a sense in some aspects of that community that it doesn't matter, that it's all about the content and not about the musical side of things, and I think the musical side of things really does matter, and you can... I just would hate to force my students to listen to music that wasn't very good, just to get a point across. Now, that sounds like I have a high flute in opinion of my own music. And I don't love all my own songs, but I do try really hard to make them good.
0:30:25.1 GR: One of the ones I find most musically impressive, frankly, is the Intervals Inversion song that you were able to make all of these inverted intervals work melodically, which can't have been an easy thing to do.
0:30:40.0 DN: You know the irony is that one wrote itself in about 15 minutes, it just...
0:30:45.6 GR: You're kidding. [chuckle]
0:30:46.1 DN: It wasn't a puzzle to be solved. I was actually reading an old theory textbook from, like, 1920 and looking at its explanations of chords and inversions, and I just, sort of, like, that opening line I was just thinking, "Ta-ta-ta-taa. Ta-ta-ta-taah. Oh." And that just makes such a natural thing and the rest just flowed right out of it in 15 minutes. [laughter]
0:31:22.3 GR: We should listen.
A minor third is a major sixth in inversion
A major third is a minor sixth in inversion
A perfect fourth is a perfect fifth in inversion. Oh.
A minor second's a major seventh
A major second's a minor seventh, and oh...
A perfect unison's an octave in this game
But what we call a tritone stays the same.
0:32:24.5 GR: I think one of the things I love about that is that totally takes me back to '90s cheesy pop, right? There's something about that that just speaks to the music I loved in my childhood, the music theater, that time period and, yeah.
0:32:43.9 DN: I was listening to that and just remembering, oh yeah, the introduction is all showing different inversions in both hands, and I guess it's not in the left hand, but in the right hand, it's doing inversions deliberately. And I've been asked about the tritone bit because of course, technically a tritone is three whole steps, and so only one of those is a technical tritone. This is though why I said what we call a tritone because in aural skills class when it's out of context, that interval is a tritone.
0:33:24.3 GR: Mm-hmm.
0:33:25.3 DN: At least in my class. Yeah I understand how someone could quibble with that, but I deliberately said what we call a tritone for a reason. [laughter]
0:33:36.5 GR: Yeah.
0:33:37.1 DN: If you wanna listen to... You may not have heard my science song "Erosion", but you'll like that one too. It's got the same era vibe. [laughter]
0:33:47.7 GR: Nice. I'd say the acoustic base on that, I love. When that just comes in, it's so good.
0:33:52.9 DN: Thank you, Sam. Oh my gosh, yeah.
0:33:57.4 GR: Yeah.
0:33:57.8 DN: He's amazing.
0:34:00.7 GR: David, what's your favorite song?
0:34:04.0 DN: Oh wow. What is my favorite song? I've been asked this and I... But I like Second Inversions a lot. I like it because it's got a great groove. I feel like it's extremely pedagogically useful, even though some people disagree with me. [chuckle] And I feel like it just works.
Second inversions are chords I adore
I write them down with a 6 and a 4.
These chords we encounter in four different ways…
You can tell from the context you hear,
From the chords that are near,
And the movement you hear in the bass.
The first we’ll call pedal (or stationary)
‘Cause the bass stays the same.
But when bass notes move stepwise
Often passing’s the name.
When the bass goes a leaping, arpeggiated’s what we’ll say.
And when we come to the end of a section, my friend
A cadential 64 can help carry the day….
(IV 64)... well that IV 64 was stationary, oh…
(I 64)... a passing I 64! Passing I 64!
(vi 64)... ain’t it great when we can arpeggiate!
And for the next one I’m just going to savor it
‘Cause a cadential 64 is my favorite second inversion….
Mmm, Second inversion…
0:36:39.0 GR: And that was the famous "Amen" that you were talking about earlier, yeah?
0:36:43.2 DN: Yeah. Oh gosh.
0:36:46.3 GR: That's great.
0:36:48.6 DN: I do enjoy this. The criticism that I've gotten for this is that it's not the way some people wanna teach second inversion chords, or they may even say that they don't even believe in second inversion chords. And it's very much the way it was taught in the book that I was using at the time. And of course, people have different names for these things. I've even learned new terminology that I didn't know before through responses to some of these songs.
0:37:20.3 GR: Mm-hmm.
0:37:21.7 DN: In the Dominant 7 song, the deceptive cadence, I got a note from someone in England saying, "Is that what we call an interrupted cadence?" "Oh, apparently it is."
0:37:37.4 GR: See, and now this is gonna take me right back to my Schenkerian training, because an interrupted cadence is... An interruption in Schenkerian terminology is effectively a half cadence, right? 'Cause the phrase is interrupted before it's able to complete its normative motion of three, two, one or five, four, three, two, one.
0:38:00.1 DN: And some people will insist on calling it deceptive motion.
0:38:06.1 GR: Mm-hmm, or deceptive resolution, yeah. Mm-hmm.
0:38:09.0 DN: Right. The funny thing is, when I'm teaching, at least, I just sort of say there's lots of names for things and there are many lenses to view it through and not one of them is correct.
0:38:22.7 GR: And I think probably at the heart of it, it matters less what we call it, and more that we know what it is as a thing.
0:38:30.5 DN: Right, right, or that you recognize... Yeah, yeah, ideally, we would recognize these things happening musically and just sort of know why they work and not in a limited fashion but in a holistic fashion to go, "Oh, this has a lot of aspects to it."
0:38:48.3 GR: Mm-hmm. So the other one that I find just delightful is the Chord Spelling song because Like...
0:38:58.9 GR: Can you tell us about that? 'Cause this one is so clearly to me like this is a pedagogical song, this is a song that I would totally just pull out and use within my classroom. In fact I'm thinking about just transcribing, so that I can do this in singing with my students.
0:39:13.4 DN: It has been transcribed. Mark Boyle has transcribed it, and I will talk to him, but I think maybe we can put up a transcription so that people can use it, he uses it as a warm-up with his choirs.
0:39:29.4 GR: Yeah, can you tell us a bit about the song?
0:39:31.3 DN: Yeah, I think it was my second year of teaching aural skills and I was heading into school. At that point, I had an hour commute, and I was heading into school, and the topic of the day was going to be spelling all the different chords, and as I was driving into in school, I thought, "I cannot stand the thought of standing in front of a blackboard and spelling out one chord after another, each diatonic chord and singing them, there's gotta be a more interesting way to do this." And I basically wrote the song on my commute, and by the time I got to school, I had the general framework of it written, and I taught it to each of my classes that day, and then we sang it at the end of class and recorded it and put it on YouTube.
0:40:30.5 GR: Nice.
0:40:31.5 DN: So, that was... Yeah that was composed and recorded within a couple of hours.
0:40:39.2 GR: And when we hear that on The Well Trained Ear Album, are those of your students we're hearing singing?
0:40:46.7 DN: Those are my students although that... And honestly, I think that the recording on YouTube that was recorded within a few hours is probably better than the one on the album.
0:41:02.2 DN: The album was recorded very much on a budget, and that particular song suffered because I recorded it without people singing along, I played the piano part and I played it way too fast, and so it's a little bit too fast on the album for my taste.
0:41:23.2 GR: Well shall we listen to the YouTube version?
0:41:25.9 DN: Sure. Yeah, let's listen to the YouTube version. I mean, what's cool about the YouTube version anyway, it's just that students really... I taught it to them. That was the end of class.
Do Mi So
Fa La Do
So Ti Re Ti So Do Do Do
Do Mi So
Fa La Do
So Ti Re Ti So Do
La ... La Do Mi
Re ... Re Fa La
La ... La Do Mi
Mi Si Ti
So Ti Re
Do Mi So
Fa La Do
So Ti Re Ti So Do Do Do
Do Mi So
Fa La Do
So Ti Re Ti So Do
Do ... Do Mi So
Mi ... Mi So Ti
La ... La Do Mi
Re ... Re Fi La
So So Re Ti
So So Do
So So Fa Re Ti
So So Do
So So Fa Re Ti Si Mi
La Do Mi
Do Mi So Te
Fa La Do
So Ti Re Ti So
Do Ti Do Ti Do Ti Do Ti Do Ti Do!
0:42:45.6 GR: I love it, I love it.
0:42:51.7 DN: And that has more of that cycling, spiraling idea of, but introducing concepts ahead of time. Because at that time you just need to know, here's what I have to sing here, but then later I'm... I could say, well remember when we sang, do re mi so ti, but that's, that's a five, seven, zero, four. And then when they hear that sound they can connect it with the place in the song where they've heard it. And, I mean for me, that seems like a... I just thought why hasn't anyone done this before? , and a little bit the answer is that, people had done it before and I just didn't know. [laughter] And so it's been really cool like to meet Joseph Downing, who has written a bunch of music theory songs, but they're not on YouTube. I probably should... He's sent me the sheet music for his songs, so I should probably record some of them and put them on YouTube. [laughter] But hearing things in context, that's the other tricky thing about aural skills, is that you can't understand any of these things out of context. It's all about hearing them in context. And then, how do you get someone to recognize it in context? So, that's q place, where I think that the songs are useful, because it's just naming things as they happen.
0:44:27.1 GR: Yeah.
0:44:29.0 DN: And to a degree naming things... I was surprised to share my International Chord song with some people and to point out things that were being explicitly named in the, in the song and to discover that some of my colleagues didn't, didn't even recognize what was happening. Didn't recognize, what that those things were being named as they happened, or didn't recognize all the subtleties, I don't know. You know, when I, when I do, sometimes I... Like, sometimes I want to hear some German, sometimes, you know, sometimes I like to hear some French, and then I on the French, you know, I... French is the note that distinguishes him from German.
0:45:27.0 GR: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That's reality too.
0:45:29.6 DN: But understanding those chords and how they work, It's just helpful to hear them in context.
0:45:37.8 LS: And surely that will help students make the connection to their rap.
0:45:41.9 GR: And also to hear that I think in more popular styles were so often we're teaching these concepts with reference to Western classical music, which frankly, maybe our students aren't listening to that much.
0:45:52.9 DN: You know, I forgot until just now that, you know, I showed you my second inversion song, but that the predecessor to that [chuckle] was the first year I taught, I wrote a chorale. I wrote a chorale that did all four of the second inversions that we were supposed... That I was supposed to teach. And I gave it to them as a dictation. And I wrote little words, you know, about second inversions are chords I adore. I write them down with a six and a four. [laughter] But I didn't... Yeah, the chorale wasn't quite as catchy as the gospel-ly song.
0:46:39.2 GR: The bluesy. Gospel. Yeah.
0:46:40.5 DN: Yeah. [laughter]
0:46:41.1 GR: But this has been really fun to where if people want to hear more of your songs, where can they find them? Where can they find you?
0:46:49.1 DN: They're scattered all over YouTube. And, of course, I have the album on Bandcamp The Well-Trained Ear. If you google The Well-Trained Ear, you will find it. And, of course, I would be deliriously happy if anyone wanted to buy the album on Bandcamp, but you can also listen to it for free. [chuckle]
0:47:14.3 GR: Awesome. So, yeah, hopefully our listeners will support the creation of these wonderful music theory teaching songs. And, yeah, I certainly... I have the album in my iTunes and...
0:47:27.0 GR: Yeah, yeah, I hope. Hope others will as well. It's always a little funny when like I'll have it on shuffle at a party and then suddenly, you know, up pops David Newman singing the Silly Solfege Song.
0:47:39.9 DN: That could be particularly shocking if it turned out to be The Locrian Song.
0:47:45.9 DN: In what on an any normal album would be shockingly inappropriate. I love that, it goes straight from a poly meter heavy metal song to a swinging jazz tune.
0:48:09.9 LS: And let's not forget about TikTok.
0:48:13.5 LS: One of my favorite little things is David Newman singing his office number for his students to remember, now I have it memorized as well.
0:48:23.1 DN: That's fantastic. Yeah, no, it's great. And you know, I did write it for my students. Although, actually, I wrote it for me, because I got moved into a new office and then COVID hit. And then I wasn't in that office, and I knew where to find it, but I couldn't remember my own office number, so I thought I need to share this, and then of course, when I realized I was in office 213, re do mi. So that is not on the album. I guess I could add it, add it to the album. Yeah, I put it on TikTok. I have a couple of things on TikTok that are not on the album. So yeah, follow me on TikTok. And if people start following me on TikTok, maybe I'll start making more content for it. [chuckle]
0:49:18.1 GR: Well, I wonder should we close out by hearing The Locrian tune, what an unsettling way to end.
0:49:25.1 DN: I'm not sure. That might be something people have to seek out for themselves.
0:49:30.0 GR: Alright, that's fair, that's fair. You know, our listeners may not know or may not realize it, of course, you wrote the theme song for Notes, Notes From The Staff. So that's...
0:49:41.0 DN: You know, I wanted to talk about that.
0:49:42.4 GR: David's voice in here.
0:49:43.1 DN: Do we have time to talk about that?
0:49:44.5 GR: Yeah. Sure.
0:49:46.2 DN: As we close up? I mean, obviously. I started with a surprise.
0:49:55.8 GR: In the form of the Surprise Symphony?
0:49:58.7 DN: And I figured that everyone upon hearing, you know, tun tun tun tun tun tun tun they know what to expect. And then I don't give them what they expect. And the way I think about writing these, I am really inspired also by Bach. And, when I thought about writing this I had already seen the the logo with a treble clef and notes on the staff. So I decided that I was going to make the melody do all of the notes on the staff, on the treble clef staff. So that is the opening line is, these are the Notes From The Staff da da. So I did every single note that is on the staff.
0:50:48.5 DN: You know, I think sometimes maybe it doesn't add anything, but I think sometimes, I think, what we learn as creative people, is that a blank page is scary, and so it's great to give yourself limitations like that, and out of that, springs creativity.
0:51:13.9 LS: Notes From The Staff is produced by uTheory.com.
0:51:16.0 GR: UTheory is the most advanced online learning platform for music theory.
0:51:30.9 LS: With video lessons, individualized practice, and proficiency testing, uTheory has helped more than 100,000 students around the world master the fundamentals of music theory, rhythm and ear training.
0:51:37.0 GR: Create your own free teacher account at uTheory.com/teach.
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