See That Note Right There?

In band class, Shane and his friends are working on a project. They choose a song, and then each writes his own music for an “original” rendition of that song. It’s a smart idea that teaches teamwork, composition and performance.

It took them several days to agree on a song. When they finally did, they chose the Star Wars Cantina.

Shane worked for an hour, at home, to create his percussion part. Then he went back in to share his part with the other members of his team.

He came home sad. “That whole hour making my drum part was just a waste,” he said. “Apparently everybody else has music that’s from a remix of the song, and it’s not the original song at all.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the music they printed out isn’t like my music at all.” Shane launched into a detailed explanation of the way the music was written. I don’t understand written music, and certainly not percussion, so I didn’t understand anything he was saying. The gist of it was, Shane’s music took substantially less time to play than the music of the trumpets and trombone.

“I’m sorry,” I told him. “What can you do about it?”

“I guess I just have to rewrite the whole thing, but I don’t know how to do that if I have the wrong music.” He eventually just wandered off, frustrated. He didn’t work on it much, because he had no idea how to fix the problem.

But the next day, Shane came home from school nearly elated. “Apparently I really do have the right music,” he said, pulling out his music and showing me. “See that note right there?”

There was a tiny half-note at the top of the page, in the upper left corner, above the song title. “Yes,” I said. “I see it.”

“Well I read that note like it was colored in,” Shane said, excited. “That’s why my music was too fast!” He started spouting numbers – sixes and twelves and fours – that made no sense to me.

“So that’s why you thought it was a different song?”

“Yeah,” he said. “So now all I have to do is make it fit. I don’t have to rewrite anything!” He bounced upstairs.

The issue he had, I guess, is that he didn’t read the instructions right. In this case, it was in music lingo, or I could have helped.

But this has been a problem that’s plagued both of my kids since they started school. Rather than read the instructions at the top of the page, they look at the first problem and guess what needs to be done.

Then, quite often, they have to go back and figure out what they did wrong.

Brilliance does have its problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *