I am getting stuck with melodic dictation. My process goes:

1.) listen to melody during the first playing. But, do I try and memorize the melody or the rhythm?

2.) I try to memorize the first half of the melody (whatever I feel like is a good amount to focus on memorizing). But, then the melody continues and I have a hard time keeping the memory of the beginning

3.) The teacher will write down the bottom half of the time signature and what key the melody is in. By this time I wish I had all the rhythm down on protonotation. This way I can focus 100% on pitches during the last playthrough.

I am stuck because I am trying to practice but I get stuck in my own practicing. Any tips on how I can practice effectively. I am also practicing my solfege. But I would like tips for how to not waste time in my dictation. I feel like I have tried everything.

Thanks so much! :D

  • How long is this? It could range between a couple of notes and 12 bars! Often the rhythm (and occasionally the theme) is repeated, with different notes, at some point.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 16:52
  • @Tim how long are the melodies I am trying to dictate? Or how many notes am I trying to remember in the first half of the melody? Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 17:12
  • 1
    Well, any info will help!
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 17:32
  • Seems like it might help to start practicing dictation with shorter bits of music until it becomes easier and then gradually work on longer and longer melodies Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 18:04
  • 1
    Not an answer, but may be of interest, because it has progressive dictation exercises imslp.org/wiki/… Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 4:05

2 Answers 2

  1. Whether to start with melody or rhythm is genuinely individual, and one must discover through practice which strategy is more fruitful.

  2. Rather than attempting to memorize from the beginning, a couple of alternatives to experiment with:

    A. Try working from the end. Getting the exact pitches might be more difficult, but getting the last few intervals and corresponding rhythm gives a target for the rest of the dictation.

    B. Similarly, try working both ends first. Get the first few notes of the beginning and then an approximation (intervals and rhythm) of the last few. That relies less on memory and more on what one hears immediately.

    C. Try starting with the melodic contour. Instead of memorizing the pitches, just note whether they are moving up or down. A mark that can be make quickly is advisable: for example, / = up; \ = down; _ = same.

  3. Given the wish to have rhythmic proto-notation done first, try something like 2.C above using an invented notation that can be quickly written. It could be something very basic like L = longer and S = shorter. A more detailed alternative would be something like _ = half-note, | = quarter-note, ^ = eighth-note.

  • Thanks! 2 C is something the teacher has recommended. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 1:22

Personally, I'd write out the rhythm first, with each bar being split, (in 4/4 time) into four. Leaving room for quavers, etc., between each of the four dots reprsenting 4 beats. Slashes work well, with an O for a rest, and a line for longer notes - finishing at the appropriate time dot in the bar. Either by hand (easier!) or on screen.

The actual notes? Assuming you're at the stage where the melody is within one octave, either numbers - 1 being root - or solfege - movable do. And don't bother with the full words - d r m f s l t are all different! Then it's easy to transpose that into notes in the real key.

Being capable of playing an instrument helps a lot here, too. Particularly piano. Knowing the key (which ought to be told prior), it's making life simple to have that keyboard in your mind's eye, and imagining playing the tune as you hear it.

Still don't know how advanced you are - is it a couple of bars long, or what? But keep it as short as it needs to be for success, and gradually increase its length. It's somewhat like sight-reading. Far better done in the presence of someone who knows what they're doing. How do you know you're sight-reading something accurately playing by yourself?

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