The Role of Sheet Music in Advanced Instrumental Studies

Open Access
Lin, Hannah
Area of Honors:
Music Education
Bachelor of Music Education
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Robert Dale Gardner, Thesis Supervisor
  • Ann Callistro Clements, Honors Advisor
  • music
  • music education
  • rote learning
  • sheet music
When teaching classical beginner instrumental students, some teachers find greater success teaching repertoire by rote than with sheet music. They find that removing the aspect of sheet music frees beginners to focus on their technique and their sound. Instead of reading and playing at the same time, they can give their undivided attention to the playing. Yet, by the time these students reach advanced studies on their instrument, they will learn repertoire primarily with sheet music. If removing sheet music as a resource helps beginners focus on their technique and sound, why do we not have advanced students learning by rote? Could sheet music not be as distracting for advanced students as it could be for beginner students? Should advanced students not be allowed to freely focus on their technique and sound? This thesis sets out to investigate the role sheet music plays in advanced musical studies. As an experiment, seven students studying instrumental music at the collegiate level will spend a summer learning two pieces (comparable in level) of their choice. One piece they will learn with the use of sheet music and the other without the use of sheet music. Based on their experiences, we will explore the roles sheet music currently plays in advanced musical studies, the roles it should play, and the roles it should not play.